From scenic flights to yacht charters to total immersion in the Great Barrier Reef, here’s how to make the most of your Hamilton Island holiday.
Located in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef and close to the world-famous Whitehaven Beach, Hamilton Island is an ideal base for exploring all the wonders the Whitsundays have to offer. And while there’s plenty to keep you entertained on the island itself – between sunset cocktails, bushwalking, spa treatments, pool time and paddleboarding – your off-island adventures are going to make for some truly unforgettable experiences. Here’s our pick of the best day trips from Hamilton Island.
An introduction to the Great Barrier Reef
It’s the world’s largest coral reef, and one of the reasons you’re here: so get acquainted with the Great Barrier Reef through Cruise Whitsundays Great Barrier Reef Adventures. This whole day out begins with a catamaran cruise from Hamilton Island out to Reefworld, a pontoon located on the beautiful Hardy Reef. From here you can dip your toes into a whole range of activities both above and below the water. Snorkel or dive to your heart’s content among the tropical fish – all gear is supplied, along with wetsuits and stinger suits – or take a guided reef safari to get a deeper insight into what you’re seeing. If you don’t fancy getting wet, that’s fine too: instead, descend into Reefworld’s semi-submarine, take a seat in its underwater viewing chamber and peer down into the groper viewing hole. The trip includes a buffet lunch, morning and afternoon tea.
Sleep on the reef
Upgrade your experience on Cruise Whitsundays’ Reefworld by opting to stay overnight – above deck, or below at Australia’s first underwater hotel. After the day trippers depart, you’ll have the pontoon to yourself to relax with a sunset drink and enjoy an al fresco dinner prepared by the on-board chef.
Come nightfall, choose the Reefsleep experience to sleep under the stars in a Reefbed swag, or head below deck to Reefsuites, where your underwater room with floor-to-ceiling glass walls offers an unparalleled perspective on the Great Barrier Reef. Depart Reefworld for Hamilton Island at 11am the next morning.
Snorkel or dive the day away
For a whole day spent snorkelling or diving, join Explore’s Full Day Snorkel or Dive the Great Barrier Reef small-group tour of less-visited areas of the reef. Suitable for both beginner and certified divers, this tour includes a stop at Bait Reef – a special management area with pristine coral structures and an incredible display of marine life – as well as the renowned dive sites at Stepping Stones, Paradise Lagoon and Banjouras Lagoon.
Explore also offers a half-day snorkel tour of the Whitsundays that begins with a cruise along the Whitsundays Passage – the waterway that carves through the heart of the islands – before stopping off at some of the world’s best dive sites around northern Hook Island.
Boat out to Whitehaven Beach
A 30-minute trip on a high-speed catamaran from Hamilton Island, Whitehaven Beach is one of the star attractions of the Whitsundays and, with its white silica sand and jewel-coloured water, an Instagrammer’s delight. Hamilton Island offers several day trips and tours including Cruise Whitsundays’ Whitehaven and Hill Inlet Adventure. This full-day experience allows you to hike to the Whitehaven Beach lookout, take in the spectacular swirling views of Hill Inlet, snorkel the fringing reef at Chalkies Beach and ultimately, explore Whitehaven Beach at your own pace. Alternatively, charter your own private yacht from Hamilton Island to really see this famous beach in style.
See the Whitsundays from the air
Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet, with its otherworldly swirls of creamy sand and turquoise water, are a sight to behold from above: hop on a seaplane or helicopter from Hamilton Island to see for yourself. And then go one step further. Hamilton Island Air Reef and Beach Explorer by Seaplane is a thrilling scenic flight around the Whitsundays that takes in the scale and majesty of the Great Barrier Reef, the iconic Heart Reef, and an exciting water landing on Whitehaven Beach.
Visit Heart Reef
A flyover of the stunning Heart Reef – a coral composition naturally formed into the shape of a love heart – has long been a Whitsundays non-negotiable. But now guests of Hamilton Island have the exclusive opportunity to see it up close from a whole new perspective with a trip to the newly opened Heart Island: a luxury and sustainably designed pontoon located in a neighbouring lagoon.
Just six guests at a time will experience a 30-minute helicopter flight over Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet and Heart Reef, before landing on the pontoon’s private helipad to a Champagne and canapé reception. From here, guests have 90 minutes to do as they please: snorkel and swim in the lagoon, sunbathe on the pontoon, or – the main event – take a glass-bottom boat ride around Heart Reef itself.
Hire a dinghy
Hiring a motorised dinghy via the Hamilton Island Tour Desk might just give you the ultimate freedom to explore the Whitsundays as you please. With half-day and full-day rentals available and with no licence or experience required, you’re free to sail at your own pace in local waters between Hamilton and Dent islands: snorkel at Plum Pudding Island, picnic and swim on beautiful Henning Island Beach, or simply putter along with the gentle sea breeze.
Charter a boat to explore the Whitsundays
Keen to go a hop, skip and jump further? Charter a vessel from any number of operators working out of Hamilton Island, including Freedom Charters (good for families and small groups, with a range of boat types to choose from), Ricochet (a boutique sailing experience) and Alani (luxury for large groups): all come with an experienced skipper or crew and the freedom to customise your own itinerary.
For something a little bit different, charter the heritage yacht Lady Enid, a beautiful timber boat launched in 1961 with Sydney to Hobart miles under her belt. Available to hire for six or eight hours for groups of up to 24, enjoy a full day’s sailing to Whitehaven Beach and the opportunity to help set the sails and helm the boat yourself – or just kick back and relax.
Learn how to fish
With its raft of tropical islands, reef drop-offs and estuaries, the Whitsundays are all about fishing for some people. If you’re keen to drop a line but don’t know where to start, take a half- or full-day excursion from Hamilton Island with Renegade Fishing Charters.
Join a shared charter, or book a private charter if you’re travelling with extended family or friends, to fish around remote Whitsundays spots. Get ready to reel in anything from coral trout, snapper and cod to tuna, trevally, black marlin and Spanish mackerel. Whale sightings often provide an additional thrill during June to September.
And at the end of the day, Renegade’s crew will prepare your catch for you to take back to your accommodation, or for a small extra cost, can arrange for a local restaurant to cook up your fish.
Golf or yoga on Dent Island
One of the most unique – and not to mention scenic – of its kind in Australia, Hamilton Island Golf Course occupies its very own patch of paradise: Dent Island, a five-minute ferry ride from Hamilton Island. Enjoying an elevated position, this 18-hole championship course (designed by five-time British Open winner, Peter Thomson) offers incredible views across the Whitsundays – just don’t let them distract you from your swing. Follow your game with a long lunch at the Clubhouse Restaurant, which looks out over Passage Peak and the Coral Sea and is one of the best spots to see humpback whales during their migration.
Golf not your style? Dent Island also offers sunrise yoga sessions on its helipad. Catch the ferry from Hamilton Island at 6.15am for an hour of hatha yoga in the beautiful outdoors, followed by a healthy breakfast at the Clubhouse with options including a tropical chia smoothie and avocado smash.