Hamilton Island isn’t all about elitist accommodation. It turns out there’s a mainstream wing as well.
Since Keith Williams set about constructing his dream on Hamilton Island more than 25 years ago, it’s become a tourist haven with exclusive resorts, private homes, and more mainstream hotel-style accommodation. As a guest, there’s a range of dining, free activities and paid tours. Resort living, it seems, can easily become a way of life.
When staying at Reef View Hotel, there is a pool and gym exclusive to guests, but it’s worth escaping the crowds to find a space in the resort’s communal – and 3m deep – pool by Catseye Beach. Most visitors lash out the $80/day for a golf buggy to transport them around the island. This means easy access to the shopping and dining district by the harbour, activities centre near the airport, and Catseye Beach area where the hotel is located. There are also a few lookouts well worth driving to.
The 363 rooms at Reef View Hotel on Hamilton aren’t overly different to chain properties on the mainland, albeit spacious and built to capture every bit of available breeze in the tropics. There are two comfortable king-size beds ideal for families, cable television and a regular bathroom. There are lounge chairs next to the bed, a small table and chairs, and more seating on the balcony.
The hotel rooms are homely enough, particularly when it comes to preparing for busy days of island living. Let’s face it, there is snorkelling to be swum, catamarans to be sailed, and boards to be paddled – some of the free activities which come with all hotel bookings. And for those not into the water, there are cocktails to be consumed at various locations, not least at One Tree Hill – one of the key lookout spots on the island – where a van sets up each evening for sunset.
Some of the dining spots Hamilton is noted for are exclusive, and not accessible to all. And there are a couple on the pricey side. But there’s a particular gem well worth visiting for its exceptional food and service. Coca Chu was opened in August 2012, and chef Adam Woodhead has managed to do with Asian fusion what many before him have failed to do. He’s taken some traditional Asian dishes and given them a contemporary twist, resisting the temptation to westernise the flavours. The spicy sweet and sour pork mince dish combines two popular Thai dishes, and flavours are as close to authentic Thai as you’d want. Salt and pepper soft shell crab with papaya salad and nahm jim is another treat. With mains at less than $30, it shouldn’t break the bank. Breakfast can be eaten in the hotel, but Sails on the beach is a nice option. For a different touch, the Wildlife centre on the island will bring out a few koalas while it serves up a reduced version of the Sails buffet.
WORTH STEPPING OUT FOR
There are tours to Whitehaven Beach, the outer reef and to other parts of the Whitsundays. But there’s plenty of fun in jumping in a golf buggy and exploring – whether it be the more crowded tourist spots such as the main wharf area, or in some of the back streets where some people have poured their hard-earned into some very nice homes perched on the sides of mountains, overlooking the Coral Sea. There’s a small primary school which is testimony to the economy which has been built around a successful tourist industry. You might find window shopping for real estate almost as fun as buying it for real.
It’s easy to get caught up in the Hamilton Island hype before actually seeing it. There are quite clearly different levels of accommodation – Qualia being the flagship and which is probably guilty of building a perception that the island is elitist and unaffordable. That’s not necessarily the case for all the island, and Reef View Hotel is evidence of that.
HOW TO GET THERE
There is an airport on the island and flights leave from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Alternatively, ferries run from both Airlie Beach in the north, and Mackay in the south.
Reef View Hotel, Hamilton Island. Off-peak prices kick off at about $360-$380 for a basic garden view room and about $520 for a family room overlooking the ocean. Keep in mind the price includes hire of non-motorised water equipment, including snorkel gear, catamarans and kayaks. Phone 137 333, see hamiltonisland.com.au
- The writer was a guest of Tourism and Events Queensland.
- View other great Queensland escapes.