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Hamilton Island, QLD

Popular holiday resort destination in the Whitsunday Islands

For many Australians Hamilton Island, located in the Whitsunday group, is the commercial heart of the Great Barrier Reef. The reason: it has a major airport where Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia all fly on a daily basis. The airport is served by flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns. It is the only island which is easy to access from the major cities on the east coast and, as far as accommodation is concerned, it offers hotel suites, luxury apartments, private villas, self-contained suites and bures with eating available at everything from a la carte restaurants to coffee shops, a seafood restaurant, pizza parlour, snack bar and cocktail bar. The activities range from snorkelling to reef fishing, sailboard riding, tennis, squash and 20 km of walking trails. There is also a church (people can get married on the island) and still over 70 per cent of the island remains in its natural state apart from walking trails to such delightfully out of the way destinations as Coral Cove, Passage Peak and Escape Beach. The island had a permanent population of 1208 in 2011. It has a kindergarten and primary school for the children of residents. 

Location

Hamilton Island is located in the Whitsunday group. It is 25 km south-east of Airlie Beach, 40 km east of Proserpine and half way between Mackay and Townsville. 

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Origin of Name

No one is sure who Hamilton Island was named after. There is an argument that the "Hamilton" was a crew member on the survey vessel which charted the area in 1866. The Whitsundays were named by Captain James Cook who passed through the area in June, 1770. He traversed the Whitsunday passage, a narrow channel which lies between the mainland coast, South Molle and Daydream Islands to the west and Dent, Whitsunday, Hook and Hayman Islands to the east, on Sunday 4 June which happened to be Whit Sunday (the seventh Sunday after Easter).

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Things to See and Do

Description of the island
A substantial island which is 4.5. km long and 3 km wide. It covers 750 hectares much of which is still untouched. The island has two forested summits, the easterly one  is known as Passage Peak and is 234 metres. 

How do visitors access it?
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin Australia  fly direct to Hamilton Island daily with services from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Cairns. Ferries operate 63 times a week with departures from the Hamilton Island Marina at Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour. The ferry trip takes approximately 55 minutes. For more information about the ferries check out https://www.cruisewhitsundays.com/transfers.

Activities on the island
There are over 60 different activities to enjoy on Hamilton Island including bushwalking, go karts, mini golf, tennis, wildsurfing, ten pin bowling, an 18 hole golf course, art classes, swimming with turtles, sunset yacht cruises, catamaran hire, kayak and paddle board hire, visits to Whitehaven Beach and snorkelling. There is also buggy hire for those people who want to get around the island on a hired golf buggy. The total list can be accessed at https://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/things-to-do/all-tours-and-activities.

History of the Resort
Hamilton Island Resort was the brainchild of Queensland developer Keith Williams who created a multi-use island with everything from private dwellings to a diverse range of hotel and resort accommodation. 
As early as 1953 Williams had hired a fishing dinghy on South Molle Island and explored the pristine Whitsundays. He was only 24 at the time.
He saw the potential of Hamilton Island which, at the time, was little more than an old farm and degraded grazing land populated by red deer, a few Brahmin cattle and voracious feral goats.
In October, 1975 Williams and his business partner, Bryan Byrt, bought the island’s grazing lease and by April 1977 they had applied to the Queensland Government to build a tourist resort. The plan was approved in April, 1977 but Byrt fell ill and died from cancer the following year.
In 1979 Keith Williams acquired the lease over the island and before the year was out he had applied to the Queensland Cabinet to build “three tourist hotels, 300 condominium or cluster development sites, an airstrip, a lake to be at constant level fed through a valve system from adjoining tidal waters, an oceanarium, a cyclone-proof boat harbour and sporting and recreational facilities.” Three quarters of the island was to remain untouched parkland.
The proposal was approved and Williams wanted to add a helipad, tennis and squash courts, a gymnasium, an airstrip for regular jet aircraft, a fauna park, a marina, a marine park, a golf course, nightclubs, fashion shows and talent quests, saunas and piano bars.
Williams was both larger-than-life and eccentric. He wore a pith helmet and often appeared with a gold monocle. He attracted high profile clients including motor racing champion, Sir Jack Brabham, who bought a unit off the plan before it was built; Sir Reg Ansett who became a joint venture partner in the Hamilton Island Airport; and former Beatle, George Harrison, who had a home on the island and who loved the lazy, peaceful, tropical ambience.
The resort officially opened in 1984 with Peter Allen as the star attraction. In 2003 the island was purchased by the Oatley family. 

How big is it?
Beach Club, 57 beachfront rooms; Reef View Hotel, 386 rooms and suites; Hamilton Island Holiday Homes - self catering houses for families; Palm Bungalows, 50 free standing bungalows, qualia, 60 pavilions - Luxury Resort (adults only). See https://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/accommodation/compare-hotels-and-rooms for comparisons of the various accommodation options.

Who does it appeal to?
The resort is essentially a family resort with enough activities to keep every age occupied all day long. However it is not exclusively for family and has enough facilities to cater for couples as well as people wanting to relax. The new Beach Club appeals to the upper end of the holiday market (it is adults only - no children allowed); the Reef View Hotel appeals to families although it has very upmarket options and Palm Bungalows and qualia attract couples who want privacy.

Eating on the island
There are ten restaurants on the Island. 
* Bommie –  fine food and wine at the Hamilton Island Yacht Club
* coca chu – modern South East Asian
* Mariners – marina views and a fresh seafood menu
* Romano’s – Italian cuisine by the marina
* The Clubhouse – light meals and lunch at the Hamilton Island Golf Club
* Manta Ray Café – casual Mediterranean-style on the waterfront
* Marina Deli – snacks and coffee by the marina
* Marina Tavern – casual pub-style dining
* Pool Terrace – breakfast, lunch and dinner overlooking the Reef View Hotel pool 
* Sails Steak & Seafood Grill – overlooking the Dolphin Pool and Catseye Beach 
* Wild Life Hamilton Island Café – breakfast and light snacks within the island’s wildlife sanctuary

Takeaway Outlets
* Manta Ray Café 
* Popeye’s Fish & Chips 
* Ice Cream Parlour 
* Marina Deli 
* Bob’s Bakery

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Other Attractions in the Area

Whitehaven Beach on Whitsunday Island
The winner of seemingly endless “Best Beach in Australia” awards, Whitehaven is one of those magical places where the pristine silica sands are wonderfully white and the crystal clear water looks like it has been specially cleaned and coloured just for the visiting tourists. The beach is seven kilometres long, is considered the “most photographed” beach in Australia, and was named the “world’s top eco-friendly beach” by the CNN television network. Whitehaven is everyone’s image of what a perfect tropical beach should be. Impossibly white, clean, glowing and unforgettable. It is accessible from Hamilton Island. Check out https://www.cruisewhitsundays.com for more details.

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History

* Geologically the Whitsunday Islands are all drowned mountains. Prior to the last Ice Age the islands were connected to the mainland and would have been prominent mountains. When the polar caps melted the valleys between the mountains were drowned and a collection of 74 islands appeared. 
* Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to the Ngaro and Gia Aboriginal people from the Biri and Giya language groups.
* The first European to explore the area was Captain James Cook who passed through Whitsunday passage, a narrow channel which lies between the mainland coast, South Molle and Daydream Islands to the west and Dent, Whitsunday, Hook and Hayman Islands to the east, on Sunday 4 June which happened to be Whit Sunday (the seventh Sunday after Easter).
* The Whitsundays were charted in 1866 and Hamilton Island was seen as part of Dent Island and named Passage Island.
* In 1868 it was recognised as separate and named Hamilton Island.
* From 1898-1920s the island was used for sheep grazing.
* In the 1950s holiday cottages were built on the island by the owner of Daydream Island.
* Keith Williams and Bryan Byrt obtained the lease over the island in 1975.
* In 1978 Byrt died and Williams became sole owner of the lease.
* In April 1977 Williams and Byrt applied to the Queensland Government to build a tourist resort. The plan was approved
* In 1979 Keith Williams acquired the lease over the island and before the year was out he had applied to the Queensland Cabinet to build “three tourist hotels, 300 condominium or cluster development sites, an airstrip, a lake to be at constant level fed through a valve system from adjoining tidal waters, an oceanarium, a cyclone-proof boat harbour and sporting and recreational facilities.”
* As the resort was built  Williams attracted high profile clients including motor racing champion, Sir Jack Brabham; Sir Reg Ansett who became a joint venture partner in the Hamilton Island Airport; and former Beatle, George Harrison.
* The resort officially opened in 1984 with Peter Allen as the star attraction. He even put on a special performance for the men who had built the resort.
* Today the whole area is part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and the uninhabited islands are all controlled by National Parks and Wildlife.

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Visitor Information

Hamilton Island Resort Centre, Resort Drive, Hamilton Island, tel: 13 73 33 Open 9.00 am - 5.00 pm seven days a week. 

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Useful Websites

There is a useful local website which is idea for accommodation bookings. Check out https://www.hamiltonisland.com.au and there is a useful, downloadable brochure - https://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/HamiltonIsland/media/PDF-Files/PR/hamilton-island-factsheet.pdf.

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