Queensland’s Whitsunday Islands are such a treasure trove of experiences and views that it’s sometimes difficult to know where to begin. Never fear, with the help of our friends at Tourism & Events Queensland, we put together a four-day itinerary – tried and tested – that will make sure you hit all the high notes, with a little bit of gazing-out-to-sea time thrown in.
Fly in to Hamilton Island
Hamilton Island has its own airport, with direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns, operated by Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantas. Grab a morning flight to make the most of your stay.
When you arrive, you’ll be met by a battalion of shuttle buses to take you to your hotel. If you have kids, try the Reef View Hotel. It’s one of a very few high-rise buildings on the island but once you’re in those glass elevators, watching the ocean punctuated by green islands appear before you, you’ll know you’re in paradise. The rooms are massive, and you may find a cockatoo dancing on the balcony – but resist the urge to feed him.
Couples might enjoy the exclusive Beach Club (ages 18+) just across the road, with an infinity-edge pool and direct access to a reserved area of Catseye Beach.
Once you’re settled in, pick up your golf buggy (book at least 72 hours in advance). The offices are a short walk from the Reef View or Beach Club. Then go for a spin around the island to get your bearings.
If you’re staying at the Reef View, kids stay and eat free, so grab some lunchtime snacks at the hotel’s Pool Terrace. Beach Club guests have access to the Beach Club Restaurant, and for those staying at the even more upmarket qualia resort, lunch at Pebble Beach restaurant is a must. Settle in around hot and cold seafood platters and charcuterie boards for an exquisitely presented feast to match the exquisite views.
Swim at Catseye Beach
After lunch, take an afternoon stroll along beautiful Catseye Beach, which feels like you’re sitting in a big green basin. You can hire catamarans and the like from Hamilton Island Beach Sports on the sand, but simply wading out into the calm water is divine.
Sunset at One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill is where every man and his dog gather to watch the sun go down, and there’s a handy bar serving refreshing cocktails to get you in the mood. Gaze at the nearly 360-degree view, as the mounds of islands fold upon themselves in differing shades of green and grey, and the sky blushes pale pink. On the other side of One Tree Hill, the horizon lies straight as a dye, and the palm fronds below wave goodnight.
Ask around the island’s staff and they’ll tell you that coca chu is their latest fave. It serves hawker-style Asian street food and the son-in-law eggs are a must. Enjoy it with an elderflower and ginger cocktail.
Breakfast with the Koalas
Head to WILD LIFE Hamilton Island, one of the few places you can cuddle a koala (baby Jedda is the cutest). Breakfast with the Koalas is on daily from 7am-10am and no bookings are required.
Whitehaven & Hill Inlet
Drive your buggy down to the marina and board your catamaran at 8.20am for a full-day cruise to Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet with Cruise Whitsundays. A picnic lunch is included, as well as afternoon tea on board. Snorkel off the sand at Chalkies Beach; visit the swirling sands and shallow waters of Hill Inlet where baby lemon sharks come to play; count the butterflies swooping above the shallows at Whitehaven Beach; and walk up to the lookout for a view beyond compare.
Back to One Tree Hill
You won’t get back from your cruise until 5pm. Whiz back up to One Tree Hill for a quick sundowner, before freshening up for dinner.
Dinner at the pub
You could splash out and head to the architecturally marvellous Hamilton Island Yacht Club to dine at its award-winning Bommie restaurant, but for a more relaxed affair, head to the Marina Tavern for more varieties of parma than you can imagine. The fish and chips aren’t bad either.
More Whitsundays inspiration
Grab a quick breakfast in your hotel or hit Bob’s Bakery at the marina for a bite before boarding your Cruise Whitsundays catamaran and cruising out to the Reefworld pontoon on Hardy Reef.
Spend the day snorkelling, scuba diving, counting fish in the underwater observatory, motoring past walls of coral in the semi-submersible, spotting turtles and giant groupers from the deck, tucking in to a fresh buffet lunch, or just lazing about in the sunshine. Another top option is a massage at sea – be sure to book on board before you arrive.
At 3pm watch all the other guests depart and get ready for your ReefSleep adventure – a night on the pontoon beneath the stars. Numbers are strictly limited, with only 12 guests sleeping in swags on the top deck. A delicious dinner is provided, and the staggering views of the Milky Way, sunset, moonrise and sunrise are complimentary.
After your barbecue breakfast, jump in the crystal-clear water for a one last snorkel before the new days’ guests arrive. You can head back on the return boat journey, or make like a movie star and take a scenic helicopter flight back to Hamilton Island Airport, before flying home. If you’re lucky, you’ll fly over Whitehaven Beach and the world-famous Heart Reef. Words really cannot convey the sight of the Great Barrier Reef from above, spotting rays and turtles among its intricate patterns.
So there you have it – just one way to spend four days in the Whitsundays. Stay any longer, and you’ll never want to come home.