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Thursday, 16 February 2012

Hamilton Island Highlights

I recently realised how weird this blog actually is. The journey I have written about so far is considered, by most Australians, to be one of the most barren and uninteresting parts of their country. On the flip side I have been living on one of the premiere domestic tourist destinations and have said nothing positive about it at all. Its true that the grass is always greener. Whilst I can see that living on a tropical island on the Great Barrier Reef is an enviable situation to be in, I have a confession to make: for the last couple of months I've been totally sick of it. This is for a number of reasons.

1. I came here to make money and then save it. This is not an easy place to save. Everything costs money. A lot of it.
2. Staff are somewhat limited on what they can and can't do here. However they also have a lot of benefits that guests don't
3. When you're working the tropical temperatures are less bearable that when you're lazing about on a beach or by a pool. Also the air con hasn't worked in our staff housing since November.
4. Due to the afformentioned money making, I have been working A LOT. This has given me a lot less time to enjoy the touristy side of things.
5. Imagine living in a place with one general store, one phamacist, one pub, one night club and one takeaway restaurant. The choice is somewhat limited.

However I have to look at the last 6 months from an outsiders perspective and remember all the amazing things I've done and seen. So here it is. I'm going to pretend for a moment I haven't become jaded and bored by this bubble, and tell you all about my Hamilton Island Highlights.

When we first arrived at Hamilton Island I remember writing myself a mental list of all of the different things I wanted to do whilst here. Our first couple of days were packed full of company inductions, which were designed to not only get us ready for working here, but also for living here and of course spending all our money here. I've worked for a number of companies that do the same thing; basically they want to pay you, and then get that money right back into their own pockets. Fair enough (Whistler Blackcomb well and truely succeeded in this aim, here I feel like I've had the last laugh, I'm definitely leaving with more money than I came with!) Anyway, I said I was going to pretend I hadn't been jaded, so I'll get back on point. In the induction they made us as a group list all the activities that were available to guests on Hamilton Island. We were all pretty excited by the idea of going to the reef to snorkel with the fish and see all the amazing colourful coral. We were given training forms to fill out and told that when our forms were completed and handed in we would all recieve a discount coupon for a visit to the reef.

Our first visit to the reef was with a company called Fantasea, who also run all of the ferries to the mainland. They have a floating pontoon at Hardy Reef which they call Reefworld. For extortionate amounts of money you can stay the night at reefworld, fly to or from there by helicopter and have scuba diving lessons. I would suggest that none of these options are really worth the price you will pay for them, and all can be done much cheaper elsewhere. Included in the price of the Reefworld experience is a free lunch, snorkelling equipement, a tour in a makeshift submarine, entry to an observation room and a few other things. Now I'm a pretty adventurous person, but the one thing that does scare me is claustrophobic situations, and snorkelling is one of those things that tends to trigger my claustrophobia. I'm usually happily snorkelling along, feeling fine, and then I get water in my tube and end up panicking and thrashing about. I've never really seen the appeal of the whole thing. Until now. Getting to see all the beautiful colourful fish darting around you as you swim along is really something I think everyone should experience, and it makes the whole harrowing breathing underwater ordeal worthwhile

Myself and The BF. Literally swimming with the fishes

Aside from this, and if we hadn't secured our tickets for just $50 thanks to our vouchers I wouldn't call the reefworld experience great value for money. I would instead reccomend Cruise Indigo's Day Sail and Snorkel. Instead of taking you out on to the reef, the snorkelling is done at Chalkies beach, adjacent to the famous Whitehaven Beach. I actually felt that this area was far more beautiful and unspoilt that Hardy reef- the coral was more colourful and the fish seemed somehow less aloof (yes, I am aware I am a crazy person, but the fish at reefworld seemed like they were celebrity fish who didn't have time for the little people, whist the ones here seemed to interact a lot more with you as you swam with them) I even followed a blue tang as it reenacted the scene from finding nemo where Dory shoots Marlin suspicious looks over her shoulders as he trails her. Pretty cool. As well as the snorkelling being superior on the Cruise indigo trip, the amazing On the Edge catameran far outranks the boring Fantasea ferry as a travel vessel. I also thought the lunch offered on On the Edge was better although I know most people aren't quite as obsessed with eating as I am. As if that wasn't enough, after the snorkelling, sailing and eating, you even get to visit Whitehaven Beach itself which is considered amongst the best beaches in the world by whichever people decide that kind of thing. So, Hamilton Island Highlight number 1: Swimming with the Fishes and sailing on the wonderful On The Edge.

Staying with the theme of sea based fun, another of my highlights is thanks to Hamilton Island Dinghy Hire and their range of motorised craft. Myself and the BF celebrated our third anniversary during our stay here, and decided to rent a motorised boat for the day. We were given a very thorough safety breifing, shown how to operate our boat and sent on our way. I would reccomend it greatly as a fun day's activity and the shop also rents fishing and snorkelling gear if you are that way inclined. We just used the boat to cruise around nearby islands and sip champagne on secluded beaches! Don't expect to be able to go too far or too fast though. The Dinghys are very slow and there are strict rules on how far you are allowed to travel in them.

 If you're after something more fast paced try the Jet Ski Safari. As a bit of an adrennalin junky, I don't think I could have lived it down if I lived on a luxury tropical island for 6 months without ever having tried jet-skiing...and it is just as exciting as it looks. The slightest of choppy waves make you feel like you have no control at all over the skis and our instructor urged us to go as fast as possible at all times, as this makes the crafts more stable. Hamilton Island Highlight number 2: Exploring the sea with motorised vehicles!

Obviously when most people think of a holiday on a tropical island they imagine sitting in the sun on a beach or by a pool. When we first arrived on Hamilton Island we were a bit disappointed with the size and quality of Catseye beach (which is really the only beach here for the tourists) and immedately tried to find other, more exclusive beaches. Coral Cove is a good 20 minute walk from anything else but offers a far better beach experience than catseye. There's hundreds of meters of white sand, fun rocks to clamber over and most importantly, there's noone else there!  

Coral Cove- Worth the Walk!

If you weren't put off by the idea of walking to Coral Cove, there's a whole network of bushwalks available on Hamilton Island. I enjoyed the hike to passage peak but am very glad that we did it in september, when the temperatures were far more bearable than in horrifically humid wet season. If on the other hand, you can think of nothing worse than walking all the way to Coral Cove then the far more easily accessable Pool Bar might be more up your street. Is it a pool??? Is it a Bar??? it's both! You can relax at submerged bar stools with a nice cold can of beer or even bob up and down in the water with a cocktail during happy hour. And you don't even have to deal with the sand afterwards. Hamilton Island Highlight 3. Relaxing in the sun!

I am not a golfer. I've never golfed and I don't intend to. If you are a golfer then your Hamilton Island Highlight would probably be Dent, the island next to Hammo, which has been turned into a full golf course. I have visited Dent on two occasions and would greatly reccomend a trip even if, like me, you don't golf. Dent is extremly hilly, I would think this would be a drawback for golfing but what do I know? This hillyness (real word?) gives you the opportunity to take in some breathtaking views of the Whitsundays and beyond, and makes for a very challenging running course. Despite this, Dent Dash is one of my definite highlights of my Hamilton island stay. One Sunday a month, the sports centre charges $20 for transport there and back, as well as a free breakfast and the opportunity to stay for as long as it takes you to run, jog or walk the course. It is a total of 10.6km, although you are welcome to choose to just complete the 4.2km front nine or 6.4km back nine. If running isn't really your idea of fun then the $60 clubhouse 2 course lunch is another Dent highlight, and includes a tour of the island on golf buggies and lots of photo opportunities.
Hamilton Island Highlight 4: Dent Island

I am a person who very much sees eating and drinking as leisure activities. I often wish I could write them on job applications and surveys in the "interests and activities" column. Hamilton Island is a bit of a foodies dream. Unfortunately due to the afformentioned lack of funds I haven't been able to sample all of the Food and Beverage options on the island but those that I have tried have made me feel extreme gratitude for the existance of tastebuds. There is a real cocktail culture here, with Sails making a staggering array and Romano's having some very inventive monthly offerings. The nightly sunset cocktails is a must if only for the standard facebook profile pictures that it will produce. The best cocktails I have had here have actually been coffee based and so delicious that they fall somewhere between dessert and cocktail in a bizzare grey area. The Espresso Martini can be found at most restaurants here on Hammo and seems to involve espresso coffee, vanilla vodka and a lot of ice. The Affagato is stunningly simple consisting of just vanilla gelato, espresso and Frangelico.Yum!

Espresso Martini- Who knew coffee could be sooooooo good

Other personal food highlights include the massive pile of beef nachos at Sails, Romanos' seafood linguini of the day, yummy fruit smoothies at the Marina Deli, the innovative Brunch pizza at Manta Ray and the amazing Spicy Mussels at Mariners.Hamilton Island Highlight 5: stuffing myself silly!
My final Hamilton Island Highlight isn't actually on Hamilton Island at all. Bit silly really, but a lot of the best times I've spent whilst living here have been on day trips to the mainland and the nearby town of Airlie Beach. Airlie is a backpacker town through and through and very much makes money off hedonistic pleasures. Bars and tour desks line both sides of the main street and campervans with parking tickets litter the roads. Since I was a child I've always wanted to go skydiving, but have never before been able to justify the cost for just a few seconds of enjoyment. The combined forces of 3 months of saving safely in the bank, the amazing scenery of the great barrier reef and the relaxed yet impulsive atmosphere of Airlie finally convinced me to shell out the cash, and I'm so glad that it did!
My Skydive :o)

Aside from skydiving, Airlie is worth a visit just to sit at one of the pavement bars and watch all the different characters go past. From scruffy hippies with multi-coloured hair, to the local teenagers wearing scarily short hotpants and all carrying a skateboard, from drunken football teams on tour, to groups of confused looking Germans with matching backpacks and sunburns, I promise you won't be bored. My favourite shop in Airlie is the kooky little bead shop, where you can make your own jewelry from the startling array of trinkets, shells and charms available. I decorated my hat with beads there (or more accurately watched as The BF decorated my hat to my specifications- I'm not good with fiddly little things like beads) and it is my favourite item of clothing ever now.

Hamilton Island Highlight number 6: Airlie Beach day trips.

So there you have it. Maybe this old rock isn't so bad after all!


  1. come on Hamos not too bad..cocktails at sunset hill,drinks with friends around the pool,eating at Romanos, the amazing scenery as you jog each morning, golf carts, Australia Day and New Years fireworks :-)

  2. ..amazing storms, and getting soaked in a monsoon that finishes as fast as it starts....

  3. These are all must-see places in the Hamilton Island and are worth to add in the travel itinerary. Thanks.