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The rampant beauty of Hamilton Island – nature’s gift to Australia

Here at AllAbroad, we’re so often inspired by the travels of those around us, friends, friends of friends, family, readers.. You all take such amazing holidays that we are constantly having to add to our own travel bucket list.

So we decided it was time to turn the blog over to you! This is the first in a regular new series – You’ve been where? – where we get you to share your travel experiences with the AllAbroad community.

Thanks to Emma Barton for taking us to Hamilton Island this week. We challenge you not to want to go once you’ve read this post.


Who are you and what do you do for a living?

I’m Emma, a brand and communications professional, mummy of one, lover of travel, wine, and wannabe interior stylist.

Where is home?

Melbourne’s been our home for the past 16 years, but little pieces of my heart are scattered across the globe, in the many places I have lived. Especially Scotland.

Where have you been? When did you go?

Hamilton Island, Queensland, for a long weekend in June.

Who did you travel with?

My partner Paul and our four-year-old daughter.

What were the highlights of your trip?

Cocktails at sunset atop One Tree Hill, drifting in the crystal-blue waters off Whitehaven Beach and seeing the magnificent Great Barrier Reef as I’d never seen it before – from above.

In fact the whole trip was a highlight. Apart from the idyllic location, everything was so… easy. We flew direct to the island and from the moment we landed, everything was well organised, particularly for families. Transfers to our accommodation, luggage taken care of, pram-friendly footpaths, plenty of free activities for the kids and an abundance of colouring sheets and crayons everywhere you went (you know, it’s the little things). We stayed at Palm Bungalows – the perfect choice for a young family.

What did you least like about your trip?

Coming home.

Oh, and the cheeky cockatoos who stalked you for your breakfast.

What were the locals like?

The native koalas and Green Turtles are irresistible.

But the young folk running the island are very impressive, too. What a surprise to see the airport, the bars and restaurants, the water-activities and tour companies all being run by enthusiastic young Aussies. Likeable youngsters cutting their tourism teeth right here at home, in a world-class destination, with a relaxed-but-attentive approach to hospitality: they genuinely want you to have a good time. Yes, folks, it would seem Australians can do hospitality with the best of them!

(I did wonder where all the British backpackers were – back of house, scrubbing the pots, perhaps? I’m allowed to say that, I used to be one!)

The Hamilton Island I recall – playground for the rich and famous of the 1980s (a la Paul Hogan, Greg Norman) – has had one hell of a re-brand. The high rises are (regretfully) still there, but they now sit alongside eco-resorts and make use of the state of the art sewage, energy-saving and on-island recycling facilities.

More than 70% of the island is preserved natural bushland. Thank goodness the young people are here, taking better care of this place.

What was the food like?

For a small island there’s lots of choice when it comes to food. We generally stuck to the places where kids eat free with accompanying adults.

The local pub (Marina Tavern) has a limited menu, but a breezy Island vibe you’d expect to find in the Caribbean, which means you easily forgive them for their very ordinary menu. Bob’s Bakery in the main street has some delicious goodies – but you need to get there early as all the best stuff walks out the door by noon.

The stand-out for us was Coca Chu, serving up delicious Asian hawker-style dishes as we watched the moon rise over Catseye Bay. I wish we hadn’t saved it for the last night.

The beautiful Catseye Beach at Hamilton Island

Did you learn anything about yourself or the world on this trip?

I used to lament at no longer having Europe on my doorstep. But this big-skied land we call home is rich in a deep and rampant kind of beauty. The Whitsundays rival anything you will find further afield: pristine beaches; uninhabited national parks; exclusive marine life; and of course the Great Barrier Reef: nature’s gift to Australia (we better bloody look after it).

I fell in love with Australia all over again.

Would you recommend others travel here?

If you’re a sailor, a swimmer, a kayaker, a golfer, a diver, a bushwalker, a beachcomber, a pool-side lounger or a cocktail-lover; go. If you dream of lazy days cruising the seas; love wildlife or have someone you’d love to share a spectacular sunset with; go.

Thinking of Fiji? Go here instead. I’ll come, too. 

Do you have any tips for people thinking of travelling here?

  • Golf buggies are fun but expensive and unnecessary if you’re staying in or near the resort: there’s a regular, efficient island bus service and it’s free.
  • Get out on the water, there’s loads of great tours to choose from.
  • For an unforgettable experience (and if you can justify the splurge), go see the Great Barrier Reef from the air. We did this one.
  • Go to Whitehaven, wear the stinger suit and float about in the water like you’ve no cares in the world.
  • Take the bus up to One Tree Hill for a spectacular sunset across the water – get there early, the place gets rammed. The $10 cocktails are a must!
  • If you’re staying at the resort, make the most of the all-inclusive breakfast buffet and use the free water activities. Kayaking off Catseye Beach with your little one onboard was a lovely way to while away an hour or two.
  • Take snacks for the kids. The general store is as expensive as you’d expect.
  • Leave the high heels at home: this is one hilly island! Same goes for the striped t-shirt dress: every second mummy is wearing the same one.
  • There’s a beautiful little church perched on a hill, overlooking Catseye Bay…wedding anyone?
  • You’ll need to book ahead for some of the restaurants, particularly during busy times.
  • They’ve got an app! Download it here.

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