The Whitsundays is one of the most beautiful regions in all of Australia. It is home to more than 74 remote islands, stunning resorts, and spectacular attractions like Whitehaven Beach and the Great Barrier Reef. Right in the heart of the Whitsundays is where you can find Hamilton Island, the ultimate resort island and the perfect place to base yourself to explore this incredible region.
Hamilton Island has everything you need to the perfect island getaway. With beautiful beaches, golf carts scooting around the island, great snorkelling opportunities and almost perfect weather all year around, there is always something new and fun to do
To help you plan your ultimate island holiday, here are the best things to do in Hamilton Island.
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The Hamilton Island App
When you arrive in Hamilton Island, make sure you download the Hamilton Island App, which is available for both iPhone and Android, and is the perfect little guide in your pocket for everything you need to know about the island.
It includes live weather updates, an events guide for everything that’s happening on the island and their locations and start times, a bus timetable and map to all of the bus stops, guides and listings for the bars, restaurants, services and points of interests around the island, ferry timetables and even live flight information for all flights arriving and departing from Hamilton Island airport.
This little app will come in very handy during your stay on Hamilton Island, and you’ll probably be pulling it out to check details way more than you expect. During covid times you can also use the app to make dinner reservations, as they are required at many of the restaurants to ensure you don’t miss out.
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1. Take a day trip to Whitehaven Beach
The Whitsundays are not only one of the most beautiful, popular and exciting places to visit in Queensland, but in all of Australia. The 74 islands of the Whitsundays are home to some of the best views, beaches and reef sites around the world. No trip to Hamilton Island is complete without a day trip out to Whitehaven Beach, where the infamous white sand beach made up of 98.9% silica and the water is crystal clear.
Make sure you book yourself onto a trip that includes a trip to Hill Inlet and Betty’s Beach, which might just be our favourite place in all of Queensland. The views from the Hill Inlet lookout are absolutely stunning, so much better than you’ve seen in any photo. Visit at low tide if you can, to see the white sand swirling extra prominently around the blue hues of the ocean.
There are all kinds of tours that you can take out to Whitsunday Island and to explore the Whitsundays, so choose one that sounds good to you and book it. It will definitely be a day to remember. Cruise Whitsundays knows this part of the world better than anyone, so they are a great place to start if you’re looking for all kinds of tour options.
We can highly recommend the Cruise Whitsundays Whitehaven Beach & Hill Inlet Chill & Grill, for the ultimate tour of this area.
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2. Rent a golf buggy to explore more of the island
Without a doubt, the best way to get around any island is on a golf buggy. It makes you feel like you’re living the ultimate island life. It doesn’t matter if you get in your buggy all wet and sandy from the beach, it’s the perfect way to air dry between the pool and your dinner spot.
Golf buggies are the only independent way to get around the island, as there are no cars available to rent. You can pick one up from just outside the Resort Centre or straight from the airport with prices varying depending on your hire time.
We rented our buggy for 48 hours, which cost us $87 AUD per 24 hours, and had a great time zipping up and down all the streets of the island. You will need to be over 21 with a valid drivers licence and credit card to rent a buggy, but then you’re off! It’s a good idea to pre-book your buggy if you’re visiting during the school holidays or summer months as they can book out in advance.
If you decide not to rent a buggy there is a couple of free shuttle buses that will get you around the island. You can jump on or off them wherever you choose and they run from 6:50am until 11pm each day, so you shouldn’t find yourself stranded anywhere. The whole island is definitely walkable though, so if you do find yourself stranded for some reason it won’t take you very long to walk back to where you want to be.
The green shuttle bus pretty much just goes back and forth between Catseye Beach and the main hotels and the Marina Precinct every 15 minutes, while the Blue Shuttle bus does a bit of a loop around the island and is the one you want to jump on if you need to head back to the airport.
3. As friendly as they seem, don’t make friends with the local cockatoos
These yellow and white birds might seem like they just want to be friends, but they will steal anything you leave out and destroy your hotel room if they get inside. They’re super cute though and can give you some beautiful photo opportunities.
The cockatoos on Hamilton Island are used to people being around, so they do not have a problem getting up close and personal to you if you have something you want. We found this out first hand when a cockatoo landed on our balcony, picked up Thom’s iced coffee bottle and dropped it over the other side before we could stop it! They are wild animals though so please don’t feed them.
Most hotels will give you a reminder and have signs on the doors telling you to always keep your balcony door closed to avoid cheeky cockys breaking into your hotel room, stealing your belongings and just generally damaging the resort – and there can be some hefty fines if they do get in.
4. Grab a drink at the Main Pool
There are several pools on Hamilton Island that are open for anyone on the island to use, and one of the best ones is the Main Pool. With beach views, palm trees surrounding the pool and lots of space for everyone to spread out and move around, this was also one of our favourites.
There’s a swim up bar in the middle which is open from 12 to 4pm each day and offers some of Hamilton Island’s delicious signature cocktails as well as music and more of a day party vibe. Definitely try the blue margarita if you’re looking for a recommendation. Delicious!
Right next door you can also take a dip in the Sails Pool, which is often a lot quieter but also offers great views over the water. The Sails Restaurant has some great food as well if you’re looking for lunch or a snack, with dine in and takeaway options available.
5. Take a helicopter flight over Heart Reef
There’s no better way to gain a greater perspective of the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Barrier Reef than on a helicopter flight with Hamilton Island Air. Departing from the Hamilton Island airport, a scenic helicopter flight takes about an hour, giving you a beautiful aerial view over some of the Whitsundays most incredible sights, including Whitehaven Beach, Hill Inlet, Hardy Reef and the iconic Heart Reef.
For the most incredible, unforgettable way to experience these places, book yourself on the exclusive Journey to the Heart Tour with Hamilton Island Air. After a helicopter out to the reef you land on the private Heart Island pontoon helipad, where you get to go snorkelling in some of the most beautiful parts of the Great Barrier Reef. As we flew over the Heart Reef pontoon we could see reef sharks, stingrays and sea turtles from the sky, so I can only imagine how incredible the marine life would be snorkelling in this area.
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6. Watch a sunset from One Tree Hill
Only a short golf buggy ride from the marina or the resort street of the island, One Tree Hill is the perfect place to grab a cocktail, bring a picnic and watch the sun go down over the neighbouring Whitsunday islands. One Tree Hill boasts 360 degree views across the water, with beautiful panoramic photo opportunities everywhere you turn.
There’s a small café at the lookout where you can buy drinks and snacks, and you should definitely try the Hamilton Island Iced Tea. Otherwise, you can bring your own picnic and esky, grab a picnic table alongside the lookout and wait for the magic to start.
As you can imagine, it gets pretty packed up here during the actual sunset, so it’s a good idea to arrive at least an hour before the sun actually sets to get yourself a good spot and set yourself up for the evening.
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7. Watersports on Catseye Beach
Catseye Beach is the main beach on Hamilton Island, which can be found in front of all the main resorts. Right from the beach front you can rent all kind of equipment to spend some time out on the water.
You can find the Hamilton Island Beach Sports hut just in front of the Main Pool, where you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, snorkelling equipment, catamarans and windsurfers. The beach hut is open from 8:30am until 5pm each day.
Paddleboards and kayaks are complimentary for guests staying at the Reef View Hotel, Palm Bungalows, Beach Club, Hamilton Island Holiday Homes or Qualia. If you’re staying somewhere else on the island you can check out the rental rates here.
8. Hike to the Passage Peak Lookout and watch the sunrise
Considered the ultimate location on Hamilton Island to see the sunrise, Passage Peak Lookout is the place to be in the early hours of the morning. It’s a bit of a hike to get up there, with the round trip taking you along a 5.3 kilometres incline trail to 200 metres above sea level, but watching the sun rise over the Whitsundays Islands is the ultimate reward.
The trails are the safest during the daylight, so if you’re planning to be at the top for the sunrise and hiking in the dark make sure you’re extra careful and bring a torch light with you. The hike can take around 90 minutes depending on your fitness level. There are lots of stairs throughout the walk and it is definitely one where you need to ditch the thongs and pull on some actual shoes.
There are a few other hiking trails around the island that can take you to secret beaches and parts of the island that are a little more remote. Check out the information board where the road ends before the Passage Peak hike begins, and it will give you an overview of all the different hikes and hidden spots around Hamilton Island.
9. Eat with the koalas at Hamilton Island Wildlife Café
Stop by the Hamilton Island Wildlife Café to have a snack with the koalas. These cute koalas hang out in the café most of the day, giving you a great chance to get some cute photos. But just so you know, they are so not bothered by anyone and will probably just keep sleeping.
The wildlife park connected to the café is home to all kinds of Australian animals and you can get up close and personal to some Aussie icons that you might not have seen before, including crocodiles, cassowaries, kangaroos and all kinds of snakes and lizards.
The park is open from 8:30am until 4pm each day, with all different presentations throughout the day, so check the schedule before you go to make sure you don’t miss out on anything. The café is open until 3:30 each day, and you can just quickly pop in to see the koalas if you like.
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10. Play a round of golf on Dent Island
Next door to Hamilton Island is Dent Island, which is home to one of the most unique golf courses in the world. The golf course takes up the whole island, and is a very unique experience as you can see the beautiful blue water surrounding the island from almost every hole.
If you’re not really into golf you can also just head across to Dent Island for lunch at the Clubhouse Restaurant. It gets spectacular reviews, offering stunning views over the Whitsundays and Passage Peak, and can also be one of the best places to see humpback whales between July and September.
A ferry departs from Hamilton Island Marina to Dent Island every hour on the hour, and then returns again on the half hour. If you’re playing a round of golf, the ferry transfer is included in your green fares.
There is something for everyone on Hamilton Island and there is really always something new going on and somewhere new to explore. As one of the most breathtaking, relaxing and beautiful places in Australia, surrounded by the gorgeous Whitsundays and some of Queensland’s most iconic attractions, Hamilton Island can not be missed on any Aussie itinerary.