Discovering the Whitsundays - Hamilton Island
In ten days we’d raked up over 24 hours of airtime. Eaten two dinners, two breakfasts and a lunch at altitude, with minimal seasoning. Slept in one airbed (cheers Virgin!) and sat upright whilst attempting to grab 40 winks (groan). Short winded it ain’t (can you fly any further than Sydney from the UK? TBC) - but after plucking our dream itinerary out of thin air, we always knew it was going to be worth it.
We’re halfway through our killer trip now, and we’re having the BEST time. Hamilton Island served as our longest stop off of the trip, at 5 days/4 nights (we’re not really ‘settlers’…) and as our go-between to the ever so ‘Great’ Barrier Reef, we’d always been extra excited about *this bit*. The main thing which spurred us on to embark on this mad mission was the reef, so we always wanted to go ‘all out’. Boy oh boy, did we do that…
We settled on Hamilton Island due to it’s flexibility. Both Virgin Australia and Jetstar fly there directly from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane with flight times which hover between the 1-3 hour mark - which is a snip in Aussie travel times. Want to head to Cairns? ‘Oh, it’s just 5 or so hours there and then back from Sydney, madam’ - which in relation to UK flight mathematics accounts to flying to the Middle East, and then back again. MISSION. You don’t really get a sense of the size of Australia ’til you’re actually here - and frankly choosing to ditch off the standard Cairns for Hamilton was a good call. Travel brainiac, 1 - the standard stereotype, nil.
The airport’s tiny - and by tiny I mean, one room. Two desks. A small little cafe, which sells packaged bakery goods and a vending machines worth of Coke and Gatorade. The hotels are all within a five minute transfer from the airport, so from runway to hotel room we’re talking half hour, tops. Unheard of.
We stayed in the Reef View Hotel, which is one of three major hotels on the island. Claiming to be a four star joint (try three, at best) - the Reef is the only eyesore on the island, standing at 18 stories tall over the pretty Catseye Beach. The Beach Resort is the islands middle ground (an ‘actual’ four star) whilst qualia serves as the islands piece of luxury, and is by a run away mile rated as one of the top hotels in Australia - swish with a capital S!
Like prize donuts, we’d decided to fly to Hamilton Island over Easter Weekend (oops). By the time we’d started looking at hotels, the Beach Resort was fully booked - half of the place was cornered off due to refurbishment, and qualia retails at over $990 a night, without board (erm, think we’ll pass on that one, thanks).
To be fair to the Reef, it did what it said on the tin. It was on the island. We got a free buffet breakfast, and we were a five minute bed-to-sunbed flop away from the beach. Can’t really complain.
We had a Garden View room, with two mega comfy queen beds and enough space to swing multiple cats. We were plonked on level 3 so the view didn’t live up to much, but once we’d left the hotel we saw what all the fuss was about…
We’d both budgeted to spend a large portion of our spending money on activities galore in the Barrier Reef, so we booked up a load - and sensibly decided to tally up the costs later. After all, we came all this way for *this* - so why skimp? (Cue: scare at check in at *THAT* cost. Sheesh)
Over the five days, we…
Parasailed - We spent ten minutes getting all high and mighty over our new favourite place. SO, MUCH, FUN.
Sunset Cruise - Bit of a given - we drank red wine and soared through the islands on a Catarmaran as the sun went down. Cheers!
Turtle Deep Sea Snorkel - We swam next to turtles. Can’t complain!!
Whitehaven/Chalkies Beach Cruise - We spent five hours visiting an array of islands, hopping between different parts of the Barrier Reef. Whitehaven has been rated as one of the top beaches in the world - so couldn’t miss out on that one!
Zoo’ed it up - David cuddled a koala. I avoided my Hep B jabs last year, and have been riddled with fear ever since - cuddling anything with claws? Thanks, but I’ll pass (sob).
Trekked - We decided that trekking 6km+ up and down hills, in 30c heat was a good idea. Luckily we both have a strong sense of preservation (or David does, I just moaned and wanted to turn around) - but once we hit Passage Peak, we saw what all the fuss was about. Will never forget those 360 degree views of this incredible space.
Sunbathed - Caught some rays on Catseye Beach. Standard. (And burnt. Little kids - put on your sunscreen like your mummy always tells you to, yeah? You’ll only end up go crispy, and ageing before your time)
Hired a Golf Buggy - There are three ways to get around the island. One involves using your legs (boring), getting a shuttle (even more boring) and thirdly - grabbing a Golf Buggy and whizzing around the island. ERM, yes please! We grabbed our buggy on Day 1 and paid for 24 hours with our new best friend. It was AWESOME. We got to see parts of the island we’d have never accomplished on foot, like a random swamp (?) and houses that’d make Angelina and Brad blush.
Watched sunrise, and sunset - We got up early and went to bed early - what can we say? Our first morning, we set our alarms for 5:50am, grabbed buggy and whooshed up to One Tree Hill, the ultimate view point. Definitely one of those ‘Mastercard’ moments!
Did we enjoy it?
You’d have to be a cave dwelling hermit not to enjoy a hefty slice of Hamilton. Weirdly, the Marina area of the island feels a little American - think the Bahamas in the Caribbean, but the rest of the island is pretty peaceful with gorgeous little hideaways. If you’re all ‘bout the beach - I’d forget it, camp on Whitehaven. However, if you’re about the boat trips and the water sports (and flying to a place which won’t account for a trillion layovers) then hit up Hamilton.
I’m not going to lie and say going to Hamilton isn’t expensive. My activities cost $320 alone, and with flights (after mess ups, $550 in and out - oucchhhhh) and accommodation (£85 a night, each) you’re talking about a lot of money. But was it worth it? YES. The likelihood of me visiting Australia again anytime before I secure my free London Travel Card at the age of 6-0 is slim to none, and so the chances of me seeing the Reef in good condition? Even slimer. This wasn’t something I was prepared to miss out on. I got my stubborn mule on, and made it my mission. And as we flew out of Hamilton onto our next adventure- Melbourne, I already have the fondest memories of a place incredibly dear to me. Cheers for the laughs, Hammy.