Last year I had the pleasure of visiting a very well known tourist hotspot in Queensland for the very first time. I had always heard a lot of well-to-do Australian women talking about ‘going up to Hamilton darrrrling‘ for a girls’ weekend or a romantic getaway and now I can pass on the story to you. The accommodation on Hamilton Island and overall experience may or may not suit you…. read below.
Overall First Impression
Upon first arriving, you’ll notice there are almost no cars on the island: just golf buggies, which means your accommodation’s representative will be waiting for your group with your name printed on a sign. You’ll load up the buggy and drive to your Hamilton Island accommodation. Once you depart on the buggy, you have the feeling that it’s time to relax. You’re on island time.
Hamilton Island: The Ups and Downs
If you select the right Hamilton Island accommodation, you will be delighted to find waterfront views. But they cost a pretty penny. Originally, our group of six had booked a much cheaper house further back in the hills and without too much of an ocean view. At 500-something Australian dollars per night, we thought it was already fairly pricey. But then came a horrendous Australian storm which allegedly destroyed the home and many others on the island. Following an email from Whitsunday Holidays, we were told we had to re-book. Oh, and our next best option for “cheap” accommodation was now going to be $750AUD per night.
I guess we can’t blame this on the weather as freak Aussie storms happen regularly and I definitely saw the aftermath damage firsthand after arriving. But just keep in mind that Hamilton Island accommodation isn’t going to be cheap if you want a house.
On the major plus side, however, our replacement house was DEFINITELY an upgrade. We were treated to a beautiful view (see below) every day from our balcony. We had a lot of beautiful natural encounters, too. On our first night, a possum came to say hello. During all four days on the island, we had some local and very outgoing cockatoos nosing their way along our railing.
And on the final day, we witnessed the magic of a humpback whale in the shallow bay with her new baby. After confirming this with some locals, we were told the humpbacks usually keep their babies in the shallow water for safety until they grow a bit bigger days later. Then they move out to the deeper ocean.
We were there at the beginning of August, which is by Australian standards, ‘winter’. (If you can call it that!) This is a great period to visit Australia if you don’t love humid heat and you’re keen to have animal encounters. This part of Queensland is around 20-25 degrees each day in August.
This is the house we rented for $750 AUD per night. It came with one free golf buggy for four people. For extra money, you can rent a second one.
As you can see from the air (below), Hamilton Island has some pretty ordinary accommodation too. The block housing apartments are cheaper and definitely less beautiful than those rather expensive holiday homes I mentioned above.
It’s also possible to visit Hamilton Island from Airlie Beach for a day trip if you just want to come and check it out. But my subjective opinion is to focus on other surrounding spots like Whitsunday Island. It’s great to stay on Hamilton with your golf buggy in a holiday villa and head out for dinner with your large group, but the island is very expensive and frankly, the beaches here are not as beautiful as the others in the Whitsundays.
Following this post, I’m going to write you a couple of ‘day trip options’ from Hamilton Island. Trust me when I say, these will all be mind-blowingly beautiful. Many of the same day trips which depart from Hamilton Island are all possible from Airlie Beach, too. The only difference is that they are cheaper.
In fact, this is the perfect chance to segue onto my next topic.
The Hamilton Island ‘Business Monopoly’.
Our group of six desperately wanted to hire a small and local boat owner to take us out for the day. Every time I found one and called them, I was told ‘Sorry, I’m not allowed to come to Hamilton Island and pick you up.’ After a bit of investigating, I found out that the island is 90% owned by a super-rich conglomerate which basically owns most businesses on the island. The little guys aren’t allowed to come here even if they’re requested to do so. This explained very clearly why the prices on the island are so exorbitant.
One Airlie Beach private tour operator even sent emails and tried to call the island’s management to allow for one-off permission to come and work with our small group. It was still a no.
Hamilton Island Tours: What are my options then?
Basically, there are three options for you to leave Hamilton Island for the day.
- Pay a ridiculous sum of money and charter a private yacht like a millionaire and spend thousands of dollars. Undoubtedly, it’ll be a heavenly experience if you have the money.
- Use a large operator catering to bulk tourists leaving at 8AM and returning at 5PM each day. We did this on our visit to Whitehaven Beach as we had no other choice. The care of the company was brilliant so I can’t fault them on that, but it would’ve still been nicer to take a smaller operator.
- Take a ferry to Airlie Beach, walk 25 mins from the harbour to the centre of town and work with another local and smaller operator. We did this once for a scenic flight over the Great Barrier Reef.
Hamilton Island Accommodation: to stay or not to stay?
If you’re asking for my opinion, I think Hamilton Island accommodation is perfect for a four-night stay. If your budget allows it, book a beautiful ocean front villa with your group of friends and enjoy cooking at home with those beautiful sunsets. You can also click here to see another website with accommodation options.
As we arrived, we were delighted to find the island’s first real supermarket IGA had just opened. This made life a lot easier! When we didn’t head out for restaurant fare, we went grocery shopping and made food at home. This is part of the joy of renting a real house with a fully contained kitchen.
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