Hamilton Island won “Most Desirable Island Escape” in 2015 for its natural location featuring all the comforts of the modern world, from extravagant resorts to intimate staycations. As the largest colony in the Whitsunday Islands right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton Island also has its own commercial airport taking flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns.
Location of Hamilton Island
As one of 74 majestic tropical islands in the Coral Sea between the Queensland coast and the Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton Island measures 4.5 km (3 miles) by 3 km (2 miles) or 750 Ha of area. It is located 890 km north of Brisbane, 1528 km north of Sydney, 1965 km north of Melbourne and only 16 km south-east of Shute Harbour. The ultimate getaway destination is packed with sights and activities, including island-hopping excursions and idyllic coral-lined beaches for the perfect tropical experience.
With a warm tropical climate, the average annual temperature of 27.4 degrees Celsius does not vary much throughout the year. During the summer months of December, January and February, the maximum temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius, while the maximum winter temperature is 23 degrees Celsius in June, July and August. The glorious weather provides a year-round appreciation of unparalleled beaches with azure waters, coral reefs, and inspiring flora and fauna. In town, one will be delighted to find some of the best food, drink, and active pursuits imaginable. Motor vehicles are prohibited on the island, so it’s best explored on foot, while hundreds of golf carts can also help get around.
Whether it’s exploring the activities on Whitehaven Beach or discovering the beautiful Heart Reef teeming with ocean life through snorkeling, scuba diving or swimming, you’ll feel spoiled at the unique tropical island environment. From July to September, migrating whales can be spotted making their way through the warm waters of the Whitsundays, while another unique experience includes breakfast with the koalas at the Koala Gallery.
Hamilton Island History
It all started 10,000 years ago, as the last ice age receded and the Coral Sea rose above the coastal plain to expose the steep, rocky peaks of the mountains that today form the surface of the Whitsunday Islands. Fast-forwarding the eternities, the island was owned and operated by Keith Williams and Bryan Bryt., when purchased in 1975 to begin construction of Hamilton Island Harbor three years later. After gaining government approval in 1982 to develop the Hamilton Island Marina, Williams built the complex the same year. Devastated by fire in 198, the resort was completely rebuilt in 1986 when the current Whitsunday Holiday Apartments opened.
The Reefview Hotel began operations in 1990, while in 1996 the island became owned by a public company with shareholders, followed by the opening of the five-star Beach Club in 1999. Mr. Bob Oatley , an Australian winemaker, first noted the island’s cruising potential. passed the early stages of Keith Williams’ development while on a yacht. Led by the Oatley family, 21st Century Resorts Holdings Pty Ltd. won the bid to acquire 100% of the shares of Hamilton Island in November 2003. Hamilton Island Race Week and Hamilton Island Golf Club as a new resort championship course opened in August 2009.
Tourism on Hamilton Island
Although home to a growing number of residents, including retirees and employees of various businesses, Hamilton Island is almost exclusively used for tourism. It is on a long-term lease from the Commonwealth Government by the Oatley family, with the Oatleys owning and managing Hamilton Island Enterprises which operates all major accommodation and businesses on the island. Daily Great Barrier Reef Marine Park cruises from the island are operated by Cruise Whitsundays and Explore.
The main pool and resort are located close to Catseye Beach, with other hotel accommodation being the Palm Terrace and Palm Bungalows, the 1 bedroom Whitsunday Holiday Apartments, the Reef View Hotel and the Beach Club 5 stars. The variety of hotels and apartments caters to all budgets and tastes and offers an endless range of activities.
A foodie’s paradise with an epicurean experience to suit every palate, Hamilton Island offers an array of over 16 restaurants serving cosmopolitan cuisine in a variety of international styles. There’s fresh seafood, gourmet pizzas, brunches, fine dining options, and a range of casual takeaways and bars. The Hamilton Star Dinner Cruise offers a sunset dinner cruise in Whitsunday waters, while waterfront options include the laid-back Mediterranean-themed manta ray, healthy snacks and coffee at the Marina Café, Marina Tavern, as well as One Tree Hill overlooking Passage Peak and beyond serve light snacks and refreshments.
A free shuttle serves approximately 80% of the island daily from 7am to 11pm. It is available to all island visitors and passengers with plenty of room on board and operates every 15-40 minutes. Each flight and ferry also has a complimentary transfer service from the Hamilton Island airport or marina to any of the hotel accommodations. 2- and 4-seater golf carts are available for rental to anyone 21 and older with a driver’s license. They are also included in the rates of some hotels on the island.
Major attractions in nearby ocean waters include Fringing Reef Island (about 50 minutes by boat), Great Barrier Reef (about 1.5 hours by boat or 30 minutes by plane), Whitehaven (about 30 minutes by boat), and the Heart Reef (about 30 minutes by helicopter or seaplane).
Being the only island with a marina, it is a famous spot on Hamilton Island, also featuring its own yacht club with a relaxed taverna vibe. The marina welcomes arrivals and departures of more than 20 boats per day and has mooring space for more than 130 vessels up to 40 meters each. An instant hit when it opened, the contemporary Australian restaurant, the Mariners, is located on Front Street and next to the marina. It’s the ultimate for any occasion, with shared seafood platters, cocktails and beautifully presented dishes. For shopping enthusiasts, there are twenty boutiques and shops, including a general store, local art and fashion, in the Marina Village and Resort Centre. The marina is also popular for its paragliding sessions 150 feet in the air.
The natural world
The most accessible in every way of all the surrounding islands, Hamilton Island also has a lot to offer in terms of natural surroundings. With over 80% natural tropical Australian bush, it is home to many native Australian animals such as kangaroos and wallabies, as well as colorful birds such as cockatoos, kookaburras and lorikeets. There are also 35 different colors of hibiscus and 20 species of palm trees that grow on Hamilton Island. One can engage in all of nature through bushwalking, including planned routes such as Passage Peak featuring a challenging climb and 20 kilometers of bushwalking trails with spectacular views.
Activities on Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island’s scenic landscapes, hidden wonders and great weather are perfect for exploring the island through outdoor activities, sightseeing excursions and scenic helicopter rides. After getting to know the island geographically via golf cart, one can venture further inland, where a myriad of hiking trails await. The famous Passage Peak, accessible via the scenic trail east of Catseye Beach, is a route full of views of white sand beaches, lush hills and nearby tropical islands, while a platform newly renovated observation deck welcomes you at the end. Best known for its hypnotic turquoise waters and active marine life, they can be discovered through different types of boating experiences or even in a glass bottom boat.
Other activities include Great Barrier Reef cruises, golf-waterskiing, catamaran sailing, tennis, fishing or just relaxing at the beach or pool. For something tougher, the Hamilton Island Endurance Series includes four endurance events held from May to November, the Hamilton Island Hilly Half Marathon, Great Whitehaven Beach Run, Hamilton Island Triathlon and Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim. In August, Australia’s biggest offshore yachting event, Hamilton Island Race Week, sees a record number of national and international yachts competing each year.
There are over ten ceremony venues and 15 reception venues on Hamilton Island which host some 500 weddings each year, including a non-denominational church and All Saints Chapel overlooking Catseye Bay. Muriel’s wedding (1994) and Fool’s Gold (2008) films have been filmed on the island, as have the film’s vacation bits sabrina (1999) and the Sabrina, the teenage witch series. The island was Oprah Winfrey’s very first stop on her ultimate Australian adventure in December 2010, with her 93 fans. Taylor Swift starred in an intimate island show in 2015, while the aerial view of the island is also the popular Windows 10 lock screen.
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin serve Hamilton Island daily from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with Qantas also offering daily flights from Cairns. One can choose to fly into Whitsunday Airport (Proserpine) and take an available transfer to and from Shute Harbor or the Port of Airlie and then travel to Hamilton Island Marina.
Hamilton Island is a place of beauty both above and beyond the waters. Including white sandy beaches, contrasting sunsets over mesmerizing turquoise waters, not to mention the rainbow reef wildlife, make this the kaleidoscope of the tropics and an idyllic tourist paradise, so affectionately known as “Hamo by its inhabitants.