Enjoy all the experiences you’d expect from a paradise island, plus plenty more surprises besides.
The largest inhabited island in the Whitsundays is a consummate holiday destination: a tropical paradise at the heart of the Great Barrier Reef with its raft of accommodation offerings and resort facilities, buzzy marina, renowned restaurants and white-sand beaches all beckoning. And while Hamilton Island may be the ideal launch pad for exploring all that this stunning part of the world has to offer, there’s plenty to keep you entertained on the island itself. Here’s our pick of things to do on Hamilton Island.
1. Hike to Passage Peak
While you’ll find no shortage of restaurants to dine in, pools to swim in and beaches to lounge on, seventy per cent of Hamilton Island is in fact made up of pristine bushland. Explore it through its network of bushwalking trails, an absolute highlight of which is a hike to Passage Peak – the highest vantage on the island. Starting at the Scenic Trail entrance at the east end of Catseye Beach, this challenging walk winds through sea grass and light forest before a steep flight of steps to the top affords spectacular 360-degree views of the Whitsunday Islands. Allow up to one hour 15 minutes to reach the top and consider timing it for sunrise for a truly memorable experience, when all the colours of first light break over the Coral Sea.
2. Beach sports at Catseye Beach
Close to most of the island’s accommodation, Catseye Beach is one of the main beaches on Hamilton Island and also one of its most beautiful: a curved swathe of sand fringed by palm trees that’s a perfect spot for relaxing. Or, dabbling in a range of beach sports.
Located right on the sand, the Hamilton Island Beach Sports hut is your one-stop shop for hiring catamarans, windsurfers, kayaks, snorkelling equipment and stand-up paddleboards; the guys here also offer windsurfing lessons and guided snorkelling tours where you can explore the local fringing reef, to set you up for some aquatic exploration at your own pace.
3. Take a jet-ski tour or off-road adventure around the island
A jet-ski tour is one of the most thrilling ways you can experience Hamilton Island. Riding on your own jet ski, you’ll be accompanied by an instructor who will lead you around the island to uncover secret destinations including hidden coves; plus you’ll have the chance to spot marine life like turtles and whales. Tours run multiple times daily and last an hour.
Another way to explore the island’s secret spots is via a guided or self-guided Offroad Adventure Tour, which takes you deep into bushland through scenic fire trails to find the pristine and secluded beach at Coral Cove.
4. See Hamilton Island by air
If all of the above has given you a taste for adventure, don’t miss the chance to see Hamilton Island from the air – on a parasail. An easy, fun activity that requires no previous experience, HI Watersports Parasailing will take you on a speedboat ride out to the best spot, determined on the day, before seeing you ascend 45 metres in the air for a bird’s-eye view of the island and Whitsunday surrounds.
Alternatively, take a breathtaking 10-minute helicopter tour over the island with Hamilton Island Air and zoom over Passage Peak, Catseye Beach and Coral Cove.
5. Make a splash
Given that a large percentage of your time on Hamilton Island is going to be spent poolside, it’s imperative you know where to find them. There’s the accommodation-specific beauties – such as those at Yacht Club Villas, a prime spot for watching sunset over neighbouring Dent Island and Beach Club, with its infinity pool overlooking Catseye Beach – and then there’s a great selection open to everyone.
Main Pool is the largest swimming pool on the island and, with its free-form shape, offers a little bit of everything: from space for kids to splash to chilled-out nooks and shady spots flanked by tropical gardens. There’s even a swim-up bar and live music sessions.
An oasis a little further away from the more popular swimming pools, Bougainvillea Pool is a perfect family spot just behind Catseye Beach. It’s neighboured by the Beach Pavilion Kiosk, which serves snacks as well as hot food, including burgers, between 11am and 3pm each day.
6. Meet the wildlife
Hamilton Island Wildlife, located on the resort side of the island, is an ideal family activity where you’ll get to meet some iconic Aussie wildlife: from koalas and kangaroos to snakes, lizards and crocodiles and from dingoes to Freddie the talking cockatoo.
Or, departing from Catseye Beach, take a Turtle Discovery snorkelling tour to explore the fringing reefs around Hamilton Island, and see turtles sculling above the seabed. This tour is open to children 12 years and over, but private tours are available for younger families.
As well as offering pristine scenery and unique underwater treasures, Hamilton Island is home to an array of wildlife – including wallabies, goannas, sea eagles, kites, ospreys, sulphur-crested cockatoos and kookaburras. Keep an eye out on your bush walks and around the island.
If you’re holidaying with the family, play your stay away with Hamilton Island’s fun range of activities: there’s a bowling alley, with seven lanes and an amusement arcade attached located in the Resort Centre near the Main Pool; go-kart racing and kids’ quad bikes in the tropical setting of Palm Valley; and mini golf, with its maze of plants and palms and all types of challenges. See our family guide to Hamilton Island for more reasons parents will want to holiday here.
8. Indulge in a spa session or two
Relaxation on Hamilton Island isn’t all just poolside cocktails and lazy beach days: it also boasts day spas with serious credentials that you should definitely book into for a treatment or two. For qualia guests, Spa qualia puts the luxury resort’s name – a Latin word for a collection of deeper sensory experiences – into practice in truly tranquil surrounds. It offers a range of treatments, including full-body massage, mud wraps and marine mineral facials, as well as holistic therapies like reflexology and Indian head massage.
Non-qualia guests can head to Spa wumurdaylin – which means dragonfly and symbolises renewal – for a range of treatments including body scrubs and wraps, facials, massages and signature packages: the three-hour Island Escape combines sugar exfoliation with a full-body massage and facial, plus an express manicure and pedicure.
9. Have sunset cocktails
Sunset cocktails are a paradise island prerequisite and on Hamilton Island you’re spoilt for spots to take them. Bommie Deck is an architectural extension of the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, appearing to levitate over the marina for unadulterated water views and offering a front-row seat to sunset; the outdoor deck bar is open daily from 4pm to 8.30pm. Or head up to the perfectly located bar at One Tree Hill, which offers legendary Whitsunday views to soak up with early evening cocktails and a cheese platter, while the sky turns as peachy as your passionfruit caprioska.
If you want to feel like A-lister for a week, time your visit to coincide with Hamilton Island Race Week, one of the world’s most famous yachting events and Australia’s largest offshore keelboat regatta. Each August it draws spectators, yachties and celebrities alike from all over the world to Hamilton Island, creating a party atmosphere and pulling together a diverse calendar of onshore events to complement the offshore racing action.
The island’s marina and architecturally striking Hamilton Island Yacht Club (inspired by the colours of the Coral Sea and the silhouette of sails) are home to the regatta: expect lunches and dinners presented by celebrity chefs, fashion, golfing competitions and wine tastings. As you’d expect, accommodation for this week fills up so book early.