Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays Australia

Hamilton Island, Australia

Hamilton Island has earned the award as the "Most Desirable Island Escape" in 2015 for its natural location inclusive of all the comforts of the modern world, from extravagant resorts to homey stays. As the largest settled of the Whitsunday Islands right in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton Island also comes with its own commercial airport taking in flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Cairns. 

Location Of Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island.
Aerial view of Hamilton Island.

As one of the majestic 74 tropical islands in the Coral Sea between the Queensland coast and the Great Barrier Reef, Hamilton Island is 4.5 km (3 miles) by 3 km (2 miles) in size or 750 Ha in area. It is set 890 km north of Brisbane, 1528 km north of Sydney, 1965 km north of Melbourne, and only 16 km southeast of Shute Harbor. The ultimate getaway destination is full of sights and activities, including island hopping and idyllic coral fringed beaches for an ideal tropical experience.

Tropical Island

Hamilton island bird
Flying Cockatoo in Hamilton Island, Australia.

With a warm tropical climate, the average annual temperature of 27.4 degrees Celsius does not vary much throughout the year. During the summer months of December, January, and February, the maximum temperature is around 30 degrees Celsius, while the wintertime maximum is at 23 degrees Celsius through June, July, and August. The glorious weather offers a year-round appreciation of the unmatched beaches with azure waters, inspiring coral reefs, flora and fauna. In town, one will be pleased to find some of the finest dining, drinking, and active pursuit options imaginable. With motor vehicles prohibited on the island, it is best explored by foot, while hundreds of golf buggies can also help get around. 

Whether exploring the activities on Whitehaven Beach or discovering the beautiful Heart Reef abundant with ocean life through snorkeling, scuba diving, or swimming, one will feel spoiled in the unique tropical environment of the island. From July to September, one can catch the sight of the migrating whales making their way through the warm waters of the Whitsundays, while another unique experience comprises breakfast with the Koalas at the Koala Gallery. 

History Of Hamilton Island

It all began 10,000 years ago as the last ice age was easing off that the Coral Sea rose over the coastal plain to expose the sheer, rocky mountain tops that make the surface of the Whitsunday Islands today. Fast-forwarding eons ahead, the island was owned and operated by Keith Williams and Bryan Bryt., upon buying it in 1975 to commence the construction of the Hamilton Island Harbour three years later. After gaining the government's approval in 1982 to develop the Hamilton Island Marina, Williams built the Resort in the same year. Devastated by a fire in 198, the resort complex was completely rebuilt by 1986 when the current Whitsunday Holiday Apartments opened.

The Reefview Hotel commenced its operation in 1990, while in 1996, the island became a public company's property with shareholders, followed by the five-star Beach Club opening in 1999. Mr. Bob Oatley, an Australian winemaker, first noted the island's potential cruising past Keith Williams' early stages of development while on a yacht. Headed by the Oatley family, the 21st Century Resorts Holdings Pty Ltd. won the bid to acquire 100% of the shares in Hamilton Island in November 2003. Major recent developments include the Hamilton Island Yacht Club completed and opened by former Queensland Premier Anna Bligh during Hamilton Island Race Week and the Hamilton Island Golf Club as the new Championship resort course opened in August 2009. 

Tourism In The Hamilton Island

Although catering to a growing number of residents, including retirees and employees of various businesses, Hamilton Island is almost exclusively utilized for tourism. It is on a long-term lease from the Commonwealth Government by the Oatley family, with the Oatleys owning and running Hamilton Island Enterprises that operates all island's major accommodation and businesses. The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park daily cruises from the island are provided by Cruise Whitsundays and Explore. 


The main pool and resort centre are set in the vicinity of the Catseye Beach, with other hotel accommodations being the Palm Terrace and Palm Bungalows, the 1 bedroom Whitsunday Holiday Apartments, the Reef View Hotel, and the 5 star Beach Club. The variety of hotels and apartments cater to all budgets and tastes and offer an endless array of activities.


Hamilton Island
Holidaymakers eating their lunches in Hamilton Island. Editorial credit: PomInOz / Shutterstock.com

A foodie's paradise with an epicurean experience for every palate, Hamilton Island comes with an array of over 16 restaurants serving cosmopolitan cuisine in a variety of international styles. There is fresh seafood, gourmet pizzas, brunches, fine dining options, and a range of casual takeaways, and bars. The Hamilton Star Dinner Cruise offers a sunset dinner cruise through the Whitsunday waters, while waterfront options include the casual Mediterranean-themed Manta Ray, the healthy snacks and coffee at the Marina Café, Marina Tavern, as well as One Tree Hill overlooking Passage Peak and beyond serving light snacks and refreshments.

Getting Around

A free shuttle services some 80% of the island daily from 7 am to 11 pm. It is available for all island visitors and guests with plenty of room aboard and operates every 15-40 minutes. Each flight and ferry are also met with a free transfer service from Hamilton Island airport or marina to one of the hotel accommodations. Golf Buggies coming in 2- or 4-seaters are available for hire to anyone 21 and older with a driver's license. They are also inclusive in the rates of some of the island's hotels. 

The major attractions in the nearby ocean's waters include the Island Fringing Reef (around 50 minutes away by boat), the Great Barrier Reef (around 1.5 hours by boat or 30 minutes by air), the Whitehaven Beach (some 30 minutes by boat), and the Heart Reef (some 30 minutes by helicopter or seaplane).


marina in Hamilton Island Australia
Marina in Hamilton Island. Editorial credit: Claudine Van Massenhove / Shutterstock.com

Being the only island with a marina, it is a celebrated place on Hamilton Island, also featuring its own yacht club with a relaxed tavern ambience. The marina hosts the arrivals and departures of over 20 boats daily, and has a berth space for more than 130 vessels of up 40 meters each. An instant hit when it opened, the contemporary Australian restaurant, the Mariners, is set on the Front Street and adjacent to the marina. It is the ultimate for any occasion, with shared seafood platters, cocktails, and beautifully presented servings. For shoppers, there are some 20 boutiques and shops including a general store, local art and fashion, in the Marina Village and Resort Centre. The marina is also popular for its 150 feet-in-the-air paragliding sessions. 

The Natural World

Hamilton Island.
Large Groper swimming with scuba divers, over tropical reef near Hamilton Island.

Most accessible in every sense out of all the surrounding islands, Hamilton Island also has a lot to offer in terms of its natural environment. With over 80% being the natural tropical Australian bushland, it is home to many of the native Australian animals such as kangaroos and wallabies, as well as colourful birds like cockatoos, kookaburras, and lorikeets. There are also 35 different colours of hibiscus and 20 species of palm growing on Hamilton Island. One can engage with all the nature through bushwalking, including planned routes such as the Passage Peak comprising of a challenging climb and 20 kilometres of bushwalking trails with spectacular views.

Activities On Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island's picturesque landscapes, hidden wonders, and beautiful weather are perfect for exploring the island through outdoor pursuits, sightseeing excursions, and scenic helicopter rides. Upon getting geographically acquainted with the island via a golf buggy, one can venture further inland, where the myriad of hiking trails await. The famed Passage Peak, accessible via the Scenic Trail set east of the Catseye Beach, is a route full of vistas over the white sandy beaches, lush hills, and the nearby tropical islands, while a newly-revamped viewing platform greets one at the end. Best known for its hypnotic, turquoise waters and active marine life, one can discover those through various kinds of yachting experiences or even in a glass-bottom boat.

Snorkelers at the Great Barrier Reef. Editorial credit: EQRoy / Shutterstock.com

Other activities include the Great Barrier Reef Cruises, golf-water skiing, catamaran, tennis, fishing, or just relaxing at the beach or a pool. For something more hard-core, the Hamilton Island Endurance series comprises four endurance events held from May through to November, the Hamilton Island Hilly Half Marathon, the Great Whitehaven Beach Run, the Hamilton Island Triathlon, and the Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim. In August, Australia's largest offshore yachting event, the Hamilton Island Race Week, is annually attended by record numbers of national and international competing yachts.

Pop Culture

There are over ten ceremony locations and 15 reception venues for Hamilton Island that host some 500 weddings each year, including a non-denominational church and the All Saints Chapel overlooking the Catseye Bay. Muriel's Wedding (1994) and Fool's Gold (2008) motion pictures were filmed on the island, as were the holiday bits and pieces from the movie Sabrina (1999) and the Sabrina, the Teenage Witch series. The island was Oprah Winfrey's first-ever stop on her Ultimate Australian Adventure in December 2010, along with her 93 fans. Taylor Swift performed in an intimate show on the island in 2015, while the aerial view of the island is also the widespread Windows 10 lock screen.

Getting There

Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island
Catseye Beach on Hamilton Island.

Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin fly to Hamilton Island daily from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, with Qantas also offering flights from Cairns every day. One can choose to fly into Whitsunday Airport (Proserpine) and take a transfer available to and from either Shute Harbour or the Port of Airlie, thereon transferring to Hamilton Island Marina.

Hamilton Island is a place with beauty both above and beyond the waters. Inclusive with the white-sand beaches, contrasting sunsets over the hypnotic turquoise waters, not to mention the rainbow fauna of the reef, make it the kaleidoscope of the tropics and an idyllic haven for tourists, so affectionately called "Hamo" by its locals.


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