Whitsunday Dreaming - Hamilton Island with Kids
If you are craving a relaxed, sun-drenched Whitsunday Islands holiday where your worries can melt away then Hamilton Island with your kids may just be the perfect solution.
We have just returned from a blissful week on Hamilton Island and highly recommend it as a top family destination for a relaxed and carefree holiday. The tropical vibe combined with loads of family friendly activities will keep everyone entertained and the opportunity to spend some quality down time away from every day life is made easy with the conveniences on the island.
Getting to Hamilton Island
Travel to Hamilton Island is simple and easy with multiple flights a day arriving from Sydney and Brisbane Airport with Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar all servicing the busy regional airport.
To broaden your search for the best deal you can fly into the Whitsunday Coast Airport at Proserpine and then connect via an island transfer operated by Cruise Whitsundays. The Airlie Beach to Hamilton Island Ferry service will connect you via a scenic 1-hour cruise.
Note the ferry transfers are not cheaply priced so it may work out less expensive to pay more for direct flights into Hamilton Island.
Hamilton Island airport transfers are included with most resort bookings so check this when you book. A shuttle driver will provide complimentary return airport or marina transfers to your accommodation which is super convenient and easy.
Family Accommodation on Hamilton Island
Our family stayed at the perfectly located Whitsunday Apartments Hamilton Island just a stone’s throw from Catseye Beach on the resort side of the island.
With panoramic pool and water views from every room and modern self-catering apartments we found this an amazing place to stay.
For families the apartments have a large king-sized bed in the main bedroom along with 2 lounges that convert into single beds for the kids in the living area. There is also a third single bed option inside the main bedroom for larger families.
Rooms have all been recently updated with full kitchen facilities and there are laundry options on many floors.
Whilst resort guests have access to the three main resort pools on Hamilton Island, you will also have exclusive access to the WAHI lagoon pool which we really loved swimming in. This pool is often less crowded than the resort pools and is new, clean and a beautiful place to hang out with the kids.
Getting Around Hamilton Island
One of the great parts about Hamilton Island is that it is car free meaning the streets are very pedestrian friendly and the whole island stays very peaceful and clean.
A fun option whilst on Hamilton Island is to zip about the island doing your own sightseeing in one of the hire-able buggies.
If you don’t have a buggy then it is also very simple to get around the island by foot with great footpaths and trails zigzagging all over the island. The walk between the resort area and the Marina only takes approximately 10 minutes.
In the heat of the day, it is worthwhile utilising the Hamilton Island Shuttle Bus which is a free service connecting major points on the island. The Green Shuttle transfers guests between the Marina and Catseye Beach and main resorts every 15 minutes during peak seasons.
The Blue Shuttle circles the island approximately every 20-40 minutes to encompass the whole island including One Tree Hill.
Fun Things to Do on Hamilton Island with Kids
On Hamilton Island it is really up to you how busy you want to be. You can snooze on your balcony overlooking the picturesque Whitsunday vistas, read a book by one of the stunning lagoon swimming pools or get active by donning your hiking shoes and heading into the bushland to discover stunning mountain peak lookouts and secluded coves with gently lapping waves.
Here is our list of the best things to do with kids in Hamilton Island:
1. Great Barrier Reef Adventure with Cruise Whitsundays
An essential Whitsunday experience is to take a trip to the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef to marvel at the aquatic marine life and corals of this beautiful part of the world. Organised trips depart from Hamilton Island daily and are a fabulous outing for families with the opportunity to snorkel, scuba or observe the reef from the underwater observatory or semi-submersible.
Included in your tour is a buffet lunch, morning and afternoon tea as well as all gear required for your adventures through the day.
Keep an eye out for the green sea turtles that frequent the waters!
2. Water Sports on Catseye Beach
The main beach on Hamilton Island is Catseye Beach found on the resort side of the island and only a lazy stroll from much of the island accommodation. Catseye is a sandy beach with amazingly beautiful views out to the Whitsunday Islands. The water is opaquely clear and vividly turquoise when sunny allowing for awesome snorkelling and water sports. You can spend hours relaxing or having fun on this stretch of beach trying out the different water sports.
The beach sports hut hires out catamarans, stand-up paddleboards and kayaks as well as snorkelling gear and stinger suits if required. We swam daily in December without the stinger suits but just touch base with the lifeguards to check if there have been any incidents of box jellyfish on the beach before you head out.
Kayaking and SUP off catseye beach is a beautiful experience with sunny weather and calm waters. We were fortunate to spot a large sea turtle from the kayak on our first day so keep your eyes peeled for friendly visitors.
Catseye beach does have a large number of sting rays which are best spotted during low tide. Once the tides recede it is fun to wade out amongst the shallows and watch the sting rays and fish scuttle their way around the sandy shallows.
3. Hiking Hamilton Island
One thing many people don’t realise about Hamilton Island until they arrive is that it is particularly hilly. This makes for some fabulous hiking trails traversing across the island particularly over the eastern section of undeveloped land.
Collect yourself a trail map from your hotel on arrival and you will easily be able to plan some adventures by foot. Remember that it is a very hot destination so prepare accordingly - it is wise to have some water on you and to sunscreen or cover up to protect from the hot sun. It is worth heading off early in the mornings or later in the day to avoid the hottest parts of the day.
In what turned out to be wonderful bonding time my 12yo daughter headed out with me at 6am on a number of mornings to tackle three of the main trails on offer.
Passage Peak was definitely our favourite hike on Hamilton Island. With some steep, challenging climbs it requires some fitness but still easily achievable. This hike hugged the coastline providing pretty vantage points along the whole way.
The best part is reaching the summit of Passage Peak, the highest point on the island which allows for 360’ views of Hamilton Island and the surrounding Whitsunday Islands.
It is super stunning and worth going early in the morning to get the lookout to yourself as the sun is rising. The passage peak hike is 5.4km return.
This more secluded walk is 6.2km return and although not too difficult was still a hot and sweaty workout due to the temperatures. Walking early in the morning we did not pass another person which was quite lovely and the beach itself finds you at a pretty cove (as the name suggests) with views out to Lindeman Island.
Take some time on the giant swing before heading back along the same trail.
I recommend checking when higher tide is for this walk as it would be a great snorkelling or swimming spot when the tide is up. There are also picnic tables to spend a little longer.
The resort lookout is the closest hike to town and rises steeply behind the Catseye Resorts. We found this walk the most challenging simply because the trail was a lot more slippery and unstable. Coming back downhill in particular was half walking and half sliding but still very much worthwhile for the views over the island and back out over the airport.
This walk is 3.4km return.
If you are searching for a beach with the finest, whitest sand then you will find it at nearby Whitehaven Beach. Simply sublime this beach is well worthy of a visit and is postcard perfect. Swim in the crystal waters and picnic on the white sands.
5. Hire a Dinghy
You will need to book in advance but a great way to explore the neighbouring islands and discover your own little snorkelling patches is to hire a dinghy from Hamilton Island Dinghy Hire. Priced from $169 for a half day this is an independent way to get out on the water as a family and cruise over to Beautiful Beach for a snorkel and picnic before skirting the other small islands.
6. Take a Jetski Tour
If you are travelling with kids who are over 12 then a fun-filled adrenaline option is the daily jetski tours. Zip around the island at speed and give the kids a thrill to remember.
Sadly my kids were too young for this activity but hubby raved about the trip and found it loads of fun.
7. Hire a Buggy and Explore the Island
Hamilton Island Buggy Hire can set you up with your own buggy hire. Get behind the wheel, drop the visor and feel the wind in your hair as you cruise about the island in style. The kids fit on the back and if travelling with toddlers you can even fit a child restraint so you don’t need to miss out on the fun.
It’s a great option for picking up some groceries from the IGA or stopping in at the local bakery to get geared up for a picnic with a view.
One Tree Hill is renowned as the sunset place-to-be on Hamilton Island but we found it a bit over-crowded. Instead cruise in your buggy until you find your own secluded outlook. There are some good viewpoints on the road that heads to the airport looking back over the Marina and setting sun.
8. Visit Hamilton Island Wildlife
Small in size but fun and educational Wildlife Hamilton Island was a hit with the kids. Ticket entry allows re-entry as many times as you like during your stay and it is worthwhile going back at different times of the day.
On our first visit we breezed through pretty quickly but on the second visit we struck feeding time and watched all the reptiles including Mac the 4m saltwater crocodile being fed.
The kids were also able to pat the friendly cockatoo and a newborn wallaby.
9. Splash in the Resort Lagoon Pools
Hamilton Island offers some spectacular resort pools with access to three of the main pools plus if you are staying at the Whitsunday Apartments you can also use the WAHI pool.
Start with a refreshing dip at the beach, stop in at the huge main pool behind the beach hut for a morning swim and then finish your evening at the tropical oasis of the Bougainvillea Pool overlooking the beach.
Take a book and some floating tubes for the kids and you are set for some serious down time.
10. Table Tennis Family Challenge
Nothing raises the competitive juices more than some family table tennis. Paddles in hand, steely eyes and a willingness to win at all costs surface in the table tennis hall at the resort centre. A free and fun activity for the whole family.
If games are more your thing then the resort also runs scheduled family game activities and an educational kids club for varying age groups. Perhaps a good opportunity for a kid-free dinner.
11. Hit the skies for a Scenic Flight
If you want to experience the Whitsundays for an eagle eye view then you need to buckle up for an aerial adventure. With an airport just moments from town, Hamilton Island is the easiest of places to take a scenic flight or private helicopter tour over Hamilton Island and the Great Barrier Reef.
Places to Eat on Hamilton Island
There are some fun and family friendly places to grab a bite to eat on Hamilton Island. Tako serves up fresh Mexican cuisine in the centre of the Marina. The Marina Tavern with classic pub-style meals is a good bet or for a more casual/takeaway option the Pizzeria and Gelato Bar is a great option. Take your food to go and sit on one of the many picnic tables to watch the setting sun.
For a quick bite or sweet treat there is a great bakery in town and ice cream parlour in the main street. The only difficulty we found was that much of the food options were on the Marina side of the island so it pays to be a little organised and stock up in your apartment for your food needs to avoid having to make too many trips back and forth.
There is a really great IGA on the island as well to cater for snacks or to stock up on food to prepare your own meals in your apartment accommodation.