Recreation on Hamilton Island is weighted heavily toward sailing and boating, since the area is so great for it, but you’ll also find a plethora of other activities from the usual vacation pursuits such as walking tours or a round of golf, and some not-so-usual pursuits such as art classes, Go-Kart racing, and various events organized by resorts.
Cruise Indigo (tel. 07/4946-9664) offers cruises setting off from Hamilton Island Marina. Options include snorkeling trips, sunset tours, dining tours, and tailored private charters.
Be your own captain and explore the island’s hidden coves and beaches in a motorized dinghy. Dinghy hire (tel. ext. 58305 or 07/4946-8305, from $139 per half day for up to six people, minimum age of driver 18) comes complete with fishing essentials and fuel.
Jet Ski tours (tel. ext. 58305 or 07/4946-8305, from $219 per ski, $39 for additional passenger, minimum age of driver 18, minimum age of passenger 10) give you a chance to see the island from a different perspective and have an adventure on the sea. Tours take you around the bays and beaches.
Sea kayaking tours (tel. ext. 58305 or 07/4946-8305, from $59) are a great way to experience the island. Go on an adventure paddle for a couple of hours, visiting nearby islands and stopping for a swim or snorkel along the way, or try the serene sunset paddle, kayaking while sipping a glass of sparkling wine.
Sailing the Whitsundays is simply the best sailing experience you can get. With Adrenalin Rush Sailing (tel. 07/4946-9664, from $75 for 40 minutes), you can try a short trip on the catamaran to get a taste and maybe follow it up with a sailing lesson or two, or hire a sailboat for a group of experienced sailors. Alternatively, you can go with a skipper and explore the neighboring islands.
Become a spectator of stunning sailboats descending on the islands during August’s famous Hamilton Island Race Week, started by Keith Williams in the 1980s. Hundreds of yachts, from 30-foot boats rented for the week to billion-dollar super yachts, compete in some serious racing.
Walking trails (daily 6:30am-5:30pm, pick up map at your resort) cover some 20 kilometers of the island. Climb up to the Resort lookout, the second highest point on the island, with stunning views; head to Escape Beach at low tide with a picnic; or find Coral Cove Beach with views across to Lindeman Island. There are plenty of options. You can order picnic lunches at your resort 24 hours in advance.
Audio tours (free, ask at your resort desk) will teach you about the island’s history or about the nature you’ll encounter on the set bushwalk.
If you want to go exploring the resorts and activity centers, and want the freedom of driving yourself rather than waiting for the shuttle, look into buggy hire (tel. ext. 58263 or 07/4946-8263, from $45 per hour). Golf carts are the standard mode of transport on the island.
Quad bike tours (tel. ext. 58305 or 07/4946-8305, 15 minutes from $109 adult, $32 child 6-14) are available for kids and adults. Drivers must be 16 years old and hold at least a learner’s permit. With the quad bikes you can set off along the bushland trails across the island and enjoy otherwise inaccessible views and secluded nooks.
Have fun on the purpose-built track for Go-karts (tel. 07/4946-8305, from $47 for 10 minutes, minimum age 11 and minimum height 140 cm, duo karts minimum age 4 years with adult) at Hamilton Island’s Palm Valley. Take the wheel on the exhilarating outdoor track, reaching speeds of up to 45 kilometers per hour.
Playing golf (tel. ext. 59760 or 07/4948-9760, from $100 for 9 holes and $150 for 18 holes, $90 for professional lesson) in the Whitsundays includes a trip to the neighboring Dent Island, either by boat or helicopter. But once you’re there, it offers a championship course, par 71, measuring 6,120 meters. Private lessons, a driving range, club house, and pro shop are all available on the island, making for a great day out.
The purpose-built 9-pin (not 10-pin) bowling alley (tel. ext. 58440 or 07/4946-8440, 1 hour $59) offers a bit of a challenge, with seven lanes, an amusement arcade, a licensed bar, food and snacks, and glow-in-the-dark lanes at night.
Art classes (tel. ext. 59657 or 07/4948-9657, adult $69, child $39) can be arranged at the dedicated space, the Art Gallery. Learn how to capture the beauty of the islands and work on a special souvenir. Classes can be adult only, for children, or even for families. All materials are supplied.
There are also daily activities organized by the resorts, such as spin classes, mini-golf championships for kids, buggy rallies, trivia evenings, and countless others, some at extra cost, a lot of them free to resort guests. You can also hire snorkel equipment at Catseye Beach, get windsurf boards and paddle boards and much more, all free for guests.
Excerpted from the First Edition of Moon Sydney & the Great Barrier Reef.