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The Ultimate Travel Guide: Hamilton Island, Queensland

Catseye Beach, Hamilton Island. Supplied by Tourism and Events Queensland. Photographed by Jason Hill.

Australia, this tropical island paradise is ready for your next getaway.

So pack your swimmers and head north to Hamilton Island, the perfect place to restore some good vibes, bask in the sun and swim on the magical Great Barrier Reef.

The Great Barrier Reef is one of the seven natural wonders of the world, so if you haven’t seen it yet, what are you waiting for? Queensland boasts some of the most magical island getaways in Australia, and Hamilton Island ranks very highly on that list. Well known for its towering palms, pristine beaches, lush jungle and proximity to the reef; since the 80s, Hamilton Island has become a world-class resort destination with sophisticated accommodation, incredible restaurants, infinity pools and all the resort amenities you could wish for.

Owned by Australian wine-maker Bob Oatley, Hamilton Island is one of 74 islands within the tropical paradise that is the Whitsundays, a lush archipelago nestled among the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. The island has been inhabited for over 8000 years by the Ngaro Aboriginal tribe and, still today it possesses a rich flora and fauna history. With rich architecture of world-renowned hotels and establishments surrounding modern visitors, you can almost forget that 70 percent of the island is preserved natural bushland.

How to get to Hamilton Island, Queensland?

Hamilton Island is easily accessed by ferry from Airlie Beach, by plane from Hamilton Island Airport or by private boat if you’re feeling extra luxe.

Where to Eat in Hamilton Island, Queensland

After soaking up the sun, snorkelling along the reef or taking advantage of the island’s many facilities, there are plenty of excellent restaurants to sample the best seafood and local produce. Hamilton Island has a variety of high-end restaurants and relaxed bistro-style eateries to suit any occasion.

Marina Tavern

For a laid-back, relaxed atmosphere and a gorgeous view of the Hamilton Island Marina, Marina Tavern is a great choice. Think pub-style meals prepared in generous servings with high quality ingredients, such as steaks, schnitzels and fresh salads. This is a great place to refuel after a day of adventuring. The chill atmosphere also makes Marina Tavern ideal for families or groups. The best tables overlook the beautiful harbour, so this is a great place for a sunset meal on a budget.


Marina Tavern – 172 Front St, Whitsundays, QLD 4803


Romano’s Italian Restaurant

Romano’s is a warm and inviting restaurant serving up the best of contemporary Italian cuisine. When you need some carbohydrates to fuel your next island adventure, look no farther than the mouthwatering gnocchi and superb pasta at this picturesque venue right on the Marina. Italian cooking tends to focus on the quality of the ingredients, prepared with skill and attention to detail. Romano’s is no exception, with house-made pasta, locally sourced produce and the influence of modern Australian cuisine served up with flair. To top it off, this great little restaurant features mid-range prices and a lively atmosphere.


Romano’s Italian Restaurant – Front St, Hamilton Island, QLD 4803


Bommie

Located within the exclusive Hamilton Island Yacht Club, award-winning restaurant Bommie is one of the best places to dine in the Whitsundays. The modern Australian menu is designed to showcase fresh, locally sourced and seasonal produce. For something special, check out the seven-course tasting menu designed by executive chef Trent Dawson. In addition to the exquisite menu, guests are treated to spectacular water views and the opportunity to get close to Bommie’s very own floor-to-ceiling sculptures designed by Australian artist Glenn Murray. If you’re after an even more unforgettable experience and can wrangle a group of your friends or family to join, try the private dining options available for up to 16 guests.


Bommie – Front St, Hamilton Island, QLD 4803


Where to Drink in Hamilton Island, Queensland

Synonymous with sunset sessions, Hamilton Island knows how to put on a show – especially with their array of waterfront bars.

One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill is Hamilton Island’s renowned hilltop lookout. This is the perfect place for sunset cocktails as you gaze out at the panoramic ocean views. Or, why not indulge in a glass of Champagne as the sun sinks below the horizon to celebrate the end of another wonderful day in paradise. Looking out at the 360-degree views of the Whitsundays, you may even spot whales drifting past or the occasional sea turtle.


One Tree Hill – Whitsunday Blvd, Hamilton Island, QLD 4803


Sails Restaurant and Bar

Sails Bar formerly known as Verandah Bar, is an idyllic spot to relax while overlooking the Sails Pool. Just next door to the Sails Restaurant and only a short walk to Catseye Beach, the Sails Bar has got you covered for refreshing cocktails and a wide range of spirits and wines. This Hamilton Island classic has been a go-to for guests before a relaxing dinner for years, and serves well for a post-dinner night-cap as well.


Sails Bar – Resort Dr, Whitsundays, QLD 4803


Island Bar

Nothing says a tropical holiday quite like a swim-up bar. Located at Hamilton Island’s Main Pool at the Reef View, the Island Bar is the perfect place to cool off while indulging in a refreshing beverage or two. With tropical décor and a Bali-style thatched roof hut, this is where guests can live out their beach holiday dreams. Relax with a cocktail in hand poolside, or paddle around listening to live acoustic music.


Island Bar – 12 Resort Dr, Hamilton Island, QLD 4803


What to Do in Hamilton Island, Queensland

When we think of tropical island getaways, we think of relaxing days by the pool, secluded beaches, spa treatments, exploring the gorgeous reefs and beautiful walks through lush rainforest. Hamilton Island has all of this and more. Read on for the best ways to explore Hamilton and the surrounding islands by sea, sky or street.

Snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef

Topping the list for the best thing to do in the Whitsundays is, of course, to explore the magical reef. The Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef system in the world, so it’s no wonder that this is the best place to see colourful coral formations, exotic fish, manta rays, dolphins, whales and more. Hamilton Island is the perfect stepping stone to snorkelling, diving and exploring on the Great Barrier Reef. Only a short paddle away from the island’s main beach, Catseye, visitors can find schools of colourful fish at low tide. There are also countless day trips from the island to prime snorkelling and diving sites.

For an unforgettable encounter with one of the seven wonders of the natural world, check out the Reef Sleep experience. On this tour you get the best of both worlds: the reef by day in all its busy colour as well as the reef by night in all its serenity. Limited to 30 guests at a time, you’ll be tucking in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience thanks to Reef Sleep and their pontoon above Hardy Reef. The package includes all equipment, full breakfast, buffet lunches, daily morning and afternoon tea as well as wine, beer and unlimited access to diving, snorkelling and the semi-submersed coral viewing chamber.


Scenic Flights over the Whitsundays

For breath-taking 360-degree aerial views of the Whitsundays and the Great Barrier Reef, check out the scenic flight options. Visitors can view this island paradise from above in a seaplane or helicopter and snap some jaw-dropping pictures that will be cherished forever.

There are a variety of tours for different budgets, starting with a fly-over of the reef and the pure white sands of Whitehaven Beach. The higher-end options include an optional stop to swim and sparkling wine for your flight. A scenic flight is the best way to see one of the most remarkable and most extensively googled places on the Great Barrier Reef: the Heart Reef. The coral here has naturally grown into a heart shape, which has got to be one of the most romantic spots in this island paradise.


Offroad Adventure Tours

A unique way to explore Hamilton Island is through an all-terrain vehicle tour. More than half of the island is pristine bushland, so a fun way to get around on this car-free paradise is by hiring an automatic off-road vehicle. Experienced tour leaders will guide guests to all of the best vantage points on Hamilton, and reveal some of the island’s interesting history. Many guests choose to hire golf-buggies as a mode of transport too.


Swimming At Hamilton Island

For most visitors, the majority of their island vacation is spent relaxing poolside. There are three pools open to all visitors and others that are accommodation specific. Main Pool is the largest swimming pool on Hamilton and is a great place for families with its tropical gardens and free-form shape. There is also Sails Pool, which is located next to Sails Restaurant, and has beautiful views of Catseye Beach. Just behind the beach visitors can also find Bougainvillea Pool. This secluded spot is close to the Beach Pavilion Kiosk, perfect for a speedy post-swim lunch before heading out on the next adventure.


Where to Stay in Hamilton Island, Queensland

With its sparkling white-sanded beaches, inviting expanse of ocean and towering palm trees, Hamilton Island is renowned as a getaway for the rich and famous. While the island offers high-end luxury accommodation, there are also mid-range and family-friendly options. No matter your preferred accommodation style, there is something for everyone at this tropical paradise.

Qualia

For those who love luxury, meet Qualia – a decadent, six-star luxury resort on Hamilton Island with countless awards to their name for their premium service and many amenities. This adults-only escape is an oasis of open floor plans, locally imported timber and infinity pools both consumed by the sea and infused by its eucalyptus tree surroundings. With only 60 pavilion spaces and houses to choose from, absolute serenity and exclusivity are guaranteed. The high-end facilities at Qualia include a private beach, access to Spa Qualia and a selection of bespoke dining areas that keep you both relaxed and refuelled.


Qualia – 20 Whitsunday Blvd, Whitsundays, QLD 4803


Reef View Hotel

For a holiday hotel that won’t break the bank, check out Reef View Hotel. This spacious mid-range hotel is located directly opposite Catseye Beach, the main beach on Hamilton Island. It’s hard to look past the Reef View Hotel for comfortable, family-friendly accommodation close to many of the island’s restaurants, activities and entertainment. Every room has stunning views, with the options of either the Coral Sea or Hamilton’s tropical forest. The hotel offers shuttle transfers from the Marina, use of kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, snorkelling gear, tennis court hire and more. As an added bonus, children under 12 enjoy free dinner at participating restaurants around the island.


Reef View Hotel – 12 Resort Dr, Hamilton Island, QLD 4803


Palm Bungalows

For private, affordable accommodation on Hamilton Island, look no further than Palm Bungalows. These modern bungalows are bright and breezy, and replete with the basic facilities you need to feel like you’re in a home away from home. Bungalows include a kitchenette, bar fridge, microwave and tea and coffee making facilities. Just a short walk away from Catseye Beach and the resort pools, you can relax in this lush tropical rainforest setting between island adventures.


Palm Bungalows – Resort Dr, Whitsundays, QLD 4803


Ready to explore more of what Australia has to offer? Start by immersing yourself in Queensland’s most perfect summer island getaway, Fraser Island. Or, to keep up with your swimming, snorkelling, diving, sailing and sunning opportunities, these 10 beautiful islands around Australia are a must visit in 2021.

We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land mentioned in our article, the people of the Giya Nation, and we recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

Feature image: Catseye Beach, Hamilton Island. Photographed by Jason Hill. Supplied by Tourism and Events Queensland.
This article was first published on December 01 2018. It was updated and edited by Hunter and Bligh on December 10 2020.
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