Hamilton Island, Queensland, things to do: 20 reasons to visit

1 TAKE A HIKE

There are 20 kilometres of bushwalking trails to explore, best is the Passage Peak trail, a challenging climb punctuated by spectacular views. Take up a packed lunch and set up at the Hill Top Viewing area picnic table which offers views to the north and south. Hiking tours can be downloaded onto smartphones within the Hamilton Island app when you arrive on the island from one of their many free  Wi-Fi hotspots. An audio tour for the Village Trail walk highlighting the flora – including 35 different colours of hibiscus and 20 species of  palm - and fauna along the route is recommended. 

2 LEARN FROM THE BEST 

If personal plunge pools, fresh seafood and private pavilions with views out to the Coral Sea wasn't enough, qualia has recently introduced a concept called Weekends of Wonderment bringing bespoke experiences with artisans who are willing to share their skills and passions. On May 29-31, 2015 Maison Balzac's Elise Pioch, a candlemaker originally from the south of France will be imparting her expertise. Melbourne's multi-award winning Chef Andrew McConnell (thrice Chef of the year in The Age Good Food Guide) will be there to pull mudcrab pots with you and then cook up the catch and Dr Lisa Cooper will be offering a hands-on class in floral arrangements. See qualia.com.au

3 GO CLUBBING

An impressive 18-hole championship course, designed by five-time British Open champion golfer Peter Thomson occupies all of nearby Dent Island which, like Hamilton Island is owned by the Oatley family. The Hamilton Island Golf Course, a 5-minute ferry ride away, recently signed Robert Blain as the resident pro. For those  who just want to tinker, head to the mini golf course set in a maze of plants and palms on Hamilton Island or the Hamilton Island Golf Driving Range. hamiltonislandgolfclub.com.au

4 SAIL AWAY

Dreaming of competing in the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week one day? You can complete a learn to sail course in the calm waters off Hamilton Island or for the super-keen, earn internationally accredited qualifications with Hamilton Island's expert sailing crews. For those   who  prefer to sit back, hire a skippered yacht charter to cruise around the islands and stop off at deserted beaches for a swim and a snorkel. If you prefer to watch, August is the time to head to Hamilton Island for the Audi Hamilton Island Race Week - Australia's largest offshore yachting regatta. See hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au

5 CULINARY FEASTING

Hamilton Island prides itself on food and hospitality, there's even a training college on the island. There's a choice of 14 eateries, the newest being Coca Chu.  Executive  chef Adam Woodfield bases his cuisine on hawker stands from south-east Asia, think small plates and bold flavours using local produce such as Whitsundays scallops and Airlie mud crab. The ultimate dining experience has to be dinner at qualia's Long Pavilion where executive chef Alastair Waddell serves such delights as a jam jar filled with scampi, pumpkin and sweet corn, appropriately known as the 'joy jar'. 

6 GO FOR A PADDLE

Any guest staying in Hamilton Island-owned accommodation including qualia, Beach Club, Reef View Hotel, Palm Bungalows or one of the Hamilton Island Holiday Homes has free use of not just kayaks but catamarans, paddleboards, windsurfers and kayaks. Pick up from the Hamilton Island Beach Sports stand at Catseye Beach and you can explore the waters at your own pace spotting manta rays and tropical fish along the way. You can also book in for a guided Sea Kayak Sunset Paddle where you'll enjoy a glass of sparkling wine while stopping off at a northern vantage point to view the sun setting.

See hamiltonisland.com.au/kayaking/sea-kayak-sunset-paddle

7 TAKE AN ARCHITECTURE TOUR

Take your own self-guided Hamilton Island architecture tour where you can view such photo-worthy structures as the Harry Seidler-designed Waves apartments which are eight curved multi-level dwellings looking over the Dent Passage. Down Melaleuca Drive is the house once owned by Beatle George Harrison. Although sold after Harrison's death, you can stand outside where he would have stood and admire the cliffside view. Always keen to welcome friends, Harrison called his South Pacific thatched roof home "Letsbeavenue," a pun on a line by British comedian Tommy Cooper, "Let's be having you." Finish your tour by visiting the 'Opera House of Queensland', the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, designed by Australian architect Walter Barda alongside famed yachtsman Iain Murray. See hamiltonislandyachtclub.com.au

8 MEET A KOALA

At Wild Life Hamilton Island you can take a tour with an expert keeper and pat a koala, see and learn more about other marsupials, and meet lizards as well as Cleo and Medusa, the resident snakes. During the warmer months, the star of the tour is McCulloch, the saltwater crocodile. If you combine your visit with breakfast or lunch you may get to hear some wise cracks from Freddie the talking cockatoo and look out to the koalas lazing in the trees while you enjoy your meal. wildlifehamiltonisland.com.au

Advertisement

9 BOOK A DAY SPA

Set in lush tropical gardens, Hamilton Island's Spa wumurdaylin offers a menu of treatments using organic Australian-made products. The calming effect is immediate upon entry, they've effectively used a clay-themed colour palate with bamboo and stone to blend in with the natural surrounds. For the pinnacle in spa treatments though, book into qualia. Testament to the true definition of qualia  - 'a collection of deeper sensory experiences', their treatments, some known as ceremonies, can involve surrendering to an indulgent three hours of being pampered.

See qualia.com.au

10 JUNIOR THRILLSEEKING

Children needn't spend their whole time at Hamilton Island frolicking in the water under the sun. There is a mini quad bike adventure course in Palm Valley suitable for ages 6 and above as well as the slightly faster go-kart racing. And a 9-pin bowling alley with an amusement arcade is open day and night for family entertainment. The island's childcare centre, Kids Clownfish Club keeps the kids happy with books, toys and crafts.  During school holidays they  show movies and hold discos.

11 CAST A LINE

Fishing enthusiasts can choose a half-day or full-day safari with Renegade Fish Charters where they will be ferried directly to where the fish are biting. The bonus is they will also clean and fillet your catch – ready for you to cook in your kitchen if you are staying in one of the island's holiday homes or to be presented to the chef at one of the islands restaurants who can cook to order. Those preferring to fish on their own can hire a tinny from Hamilton Island Dinghy Hire.

12 RIDE TO THE REEF

Explore the world heritage listed wonder of the Great Barrier Reef by taking a day trip to the coral walls of the outer reef by an advanced eco-certified operator. You'll arrive by catamaran and then be anchored at one of two pontoons called Reefworld. Ready to explore the corals and fish, including a giant grouper, you can learn to scuba dive with a fully certified instructor or just choose to snorkel. For those who don't wish to get wet, there's an underwater viewing chamber as well as semi-submersible submarines. All the while there's an onboard chef preparing lunch. Cruisewhitsundays.com

13 MAKE A DASH

Watch some of the world's best in action as they compete in what could be the most scenic triathlon available - a 750-metre swim at Catseye Bay followed by a 20-kilometre cycle and then a 5k kilometre run through Hamilton Island Marina Village to a beachside finish line. The weekend concludes with a Whitehaven Beach ocean swim and all fitness levels can take part in their Dent Dash which involves running or walking the course of the Hamilton Island Golf Club on Dent Island. The Fujifilm Hamilton Island Triathlon takes place each November. Kids can also get involved, there's a junior version for little athletes. 

14 HAVE A SUNDOWNER

Hire a golf buggy - which is a treat in itself (even Oprah remarked on how much she loved driving them when she visited the island), and mosey on up to the One Tree Hill lookout for sunset cocktails. At dusk, a makeshift bar is set up and cocktails such as Summer Love as well as Champagne, Wild Oats wines and beers are served while keen photographers snap frames of the spectacular sunset over the Whitsundays. The bar opens at 4.30pm. The free island bus can also take you to One Tree Hill, one of the highest points on the island. 

15 SOAR LIKE A BIRD

Choose to get a bird's eye view of Hamilton Island and surrounds by taking a heli-tour. Scenic helicopter flights provide many a photographic opportunity and you'll fly low enough to be able to spot turtles, sharks and manta rays.  Trips to Green Island, which is near Cairns, last 30 minutes, or you can choose to fly to a remote coral cay and picnic with champagne before choppering back. Another option is to book a seaplane excursion to the Great Barrier Reef and jump overboard to explore the reef. 

16 A NIGHT AT THE BALLET

It could be the world's most beautiful stage under a blanket of stars with the Whitsundays as a backdrop. Every October for the past seven years, The Australian Ballet has been performing a pas de deux in paradise. It's an exclusive event at qualia where participants get to go behind the scenes with The Australian Ballet, and attend an exclusive outdoor performance by this world-renowned dance company. Dates are still being finalised for the 2015 event. See qualia.com.au

17 GO OFF-ROADING

If the golf buggies aren't giving you the adrenaline rush you need, hire an all-terrain vehicle and take a guided off-road adventure biking tour through the scenic fire trails and to the Resort Lookout. Here you can experience panoramic views of the Whitsundays. The all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, offer access to the lesser-visited parts of the island, including an opportunity to venture deep into bushland to find the secluded beach at Coral Cove. Drivers must be 16 or over. 

18 BROWSE BOUTIQUES

Being a haven for yachties, there is a good range of resortwear available  for purchase on the island. Think smart casual deck and golf wear, kaftans and swimwear. Drive the golf buggy to the main shopping district on Front Street and browse the boutiques for designer brands. Gift shops selling souvenirs from magnets to beachbags as well as art also abound. Those staying at qualia can shop for labels such as Zimmermann, Collette Dinnigan and Camilla in their boutique. 

 19 SWIM WITH TURTLES

Explore the fringing reef which surrounds Hamilton Island, a short paddle off Catseye Beach on a Deep Water Turtle Discovery tour. Not only will you swim with turtles, you'll see other marine life used to human interaction as well. Fish have been handfed here for more than 20 years. The snorkelling adventure is recommended for adults and children and for $15 for adults and $10 for children, includes snorkelling equipment, life vest and tour guide. 

20 INDULGE YOUR INNER ARTIST

They say beauty can inspire creativity, you can put this theory to the test by booking into an art class and take home your island-inspired work on canvas. Art classes for adults and children in the Hamilton Island Art Gallery are conducted every week under the tutelage of a visiting Artist in Residence. For those  who want to better their photography skills, sign up for the Away the Art of Photography course. Suitable for all levels, you will spend time in the field including a chance to shoot aerial photos of the Whitsundays working hands-on with some of Australia's best-known photographers - including Clare and David Oliver. To check dates for 2015, see hamiltonisland.com.au/events/arts-culture/away-the-art-of-photography

The writer was a guest of Hamilton Island 

hamiltonisland.com.au

Explore Hamilton Island in the photo gallery above

Comments