Holiday Spirit

WORDS Matt Shea

Multimillion-dollar yacht clubs. Beguiling adults-only resorts. The sell for Hamilton Island is often so exclusive it’s easy to forget this Whitsundays paradise has also long been a mecca for families. The island has more than 100 self-catered homes and apartments available for holiday rental, while the Reef View Hotel, with its sea views, and the bucolic Palm Bungalows are both angled towards family stays. There’s an IGA supermarket, a stack of approachable cafes and restaurants, and easy access to both family activities and a kids’ club for when you want to get away on your own.

Here’s how to make the best of a stay on Hamilton Island over the coming school holidays and future family getaways.

With a domestic airport, marina and regular ferry services to the mainland and other islands, Hamilton Island is a brilliant base for family adventures on and around the reef. But there’s also a stack of things to do on the island itself.

A good place to set up camp for a day is at Hamilton Island’s Main Pool. This large, freeform-shaped swimming pool is surrounded by lush tropical gardens, has a swim-up bar for
adults, and is open to all guests on the island. It’s also adjacent to buzzy Catseye Beach and Hamilton Island Beach Sports. From here, you can hire kayaks, mini catamarans, snorkelling gear and windsurf boards, with the equipment free of charge for guests of the Reef View Hotel, Palm Bungalows, or any of the island’s holiday rentals – you just need to present your room key.

Elsewhere, there’s a go-kart track at Palm Valley, with two-seat karts so the kids can ride shotgun; a well-balanced 18-hole mini golf course that zigzags through plants and palms; and water skiing, wakeboarding and tube riding with HI Watersports on the crystal calm waters that surround the island.

There’s also a stack of great eateries scattered around the island – with many restaurants accommodating kids up to 12 years old for free when they dine from the kids’ menu. Bob’s Bakery is the place for flaky croissants and danishes, and homemade gourmet pies and sausage rolls; Popeye’s Fish & Chips has a generous menu of fish and chips, fried chicken and burgers; Marina Cafe elevates a bunch of breakfast classics, such as eggs benedict, bacon and egg muffins, and smashed avo on sourdough, washed down with baristamade coffee, and freshly made smoothies and frappes; and Manta Ray is a buzzy Mediterranean restaurant that boasts terrific views out over the Hamilton Island Marina.

“Hamilton Island is a brilliant base for family adventures on and around the reef.”

You’re in the Whitsundays, and a trip off the island to explore the Great Barrier Reef is probably part of why you’re here. Cruise Whitsundays’ Great Barrier Reef Full Day Adventure is one of the most popular options. The company’s Seaflight catamaran will collect you from the island in the morning and take you around two hours north to the company’s Reefworld Pontoon on Hardy Reef. There, you can snorkel, tour the reef in a semi-submersible, or relax in the pontoon’s underwater observatory, seeing all sorts of brightly coloured tropical fish and more than 1400 species of coral up close. The day includes stinger suit and snorkelling equipment hire, and morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea. Guided snorkelling safaris and scuba diving are available as optional extras.

If you’re interested in exploring one of Australia’s most famous beaches, Cruise Whitsundays’ offers two tours aboard catamarans to Whitehaven Beach. A half-day trip gives you two hours to snorkel or explore spectacular Whitehaven and its surrounds. But for those looking for a full-day adventure, the Chill & Grill tour offers a 1.3km-return guided hike to Hill Inlet lookout, a gourmet beach burger and precious time to snorkel and explore and the island.

Hamilton Island also boasts the Clownfish Club, a fabulous kids’ activity centre that accommodates children from as young as six weeks, either for a few hours or the whole day. Activities include painting, baking, animal dress-ups and souvenir making. The club frees up parents and carers to explore the island and the reef at their own pace. You can hire a stand-up paddle board from Hamilton Island Beach Sports; book yourself in at Spa Wumurdaylin, which offers aromatherapy massage, full body massage, exfoliation rituals, mud wraps and a stack of other treatments; or head up One Tree Hill for sundowners, snacks and stunning views of the Coral Sea as the sun dips beneath the azure waters.

Why not take the opportunity to explore the wider reef kids free? Perhaps most exclusive is the Journey to the Heart helicopter tour, which takes just six guests at a time on a scenic flight across Whitehaven Beach, before landing at Heart Reef, the iconic heart-shaped coral formation that has become an advertisement for the reef in recent years. The tour will set you down on the spectacular mirrored Heart Island Pontoon, where you can take a glass-bottom boat tour, or snorkel at your own pace.

During the school holidays, Hamilton Island runs a daily activity guide, which lists the days and times of everything there is to do, from sunset drinks to various tours, lessons and fitness classes. Just be sure to book tours, activities and restaurants in advance.

There’s also a School Holidays Island Passport, with kids receiving a stamp for each activity they complete, such as watching movies under the stars, taking part in beach games or pool games, or attending an art class. On departure, if they visit the Resort Centre Tour Desk and show their stamps, they’ll receive a reward to take home with them.

For 2023 Easter school holidays, activities extend off the island, too. Every day during the holidays, Cruise Whitsundays is throwing a Find the Golden Egg hunt on each of its tours, with the first person to find the egg winning a trip for two on another Cruise Whitsundays product of their choice.

Treat the whole family and receive 15% off Cruise Whitsundays’ Great Barrier Reef Full Day Adventure tour departing Hamilton Island, Daydream Island and Airlie Beach. Enter BEYOND15 at the checkout to redeem the offer on a family of four fare. Book by 30 June 2023 and travel by 31 December 2023. Book Here today. 

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