Adventure · Restaurants · Travel

Island dreaming

Whitsundays (19)

Oh Hamilton Island, just pour me a cocktail (make mine a mocktail) and let me bask in your sunshine a little longer.

I may have mentioned once or twice how I tend to hibernate during South Australia’s winter. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a weather-ist! I love a crackling fire, cosy jumper and glass of red as much as the next eskimo, but as a Queenslander I do struggle a bit when SA delivers a stretch of cold/windy/rainy/sleety (is that a word?) weather.

So, when the long, dark winter was upon us, I booked a trip north for a hit of Queensland’s rather pathetic attempt at cold. The main reason was for my mother’s 70th birthday, but Mr M and I managed to squeeze in a few days in the Whitsundays where, the locals informed us: “winter fell on a Wednesday this year.”

Daydream Island, home to gorgeous views and ‘savage’ wallabies with a taste for Italian.

Mr M’s sister works on Daydream Island, so we spent a couple nights visiting her before heading to Hamilton Island at the brilliant suggestion of the lovely Mrs S.

I would describe Daydream as the retro little sister to Hamilton Island. Daydream is a tiny island with one resort, a gazillion ‘tame’ fish who gather in the shallow waters of Lovers Cove to be hand-fed, and a charmingly kitsch mini golf course. With major renovations on the cards for the resort, it will be interesting to see how Daydream evolves in the next couple of years.

The retro mini golf course at Daydream was a 19-hole journey around Australia’s iconic destinations, complete with budgie-smuggler-clad lifeguards.

In comparison, Hamilton (or, as the locals call it, ‘Hamo’) delivers island living for all tastes – from hotel rooms through to luxury resorts, served up with a delicious range of restaurants and cafes.

A FIRST-TIMER’S GUIDE TO HAMILTON ISLAND:

What we did:

Mr M and I certainly ticked the ‘relaxation’ box – he was recovering from an operation and I was sporting a six-month baby bump so chilling by the pool/beach was just what the doctor ordered. The most difficult decision was the order in which we read/swam/ate/slept. However if staking out a pool-side daybed doesn’t, err, float your boat, there are plenty of water activities available, from jet-skiing to paddle boarding.

What we ate:

Hamilton’s main restaurant precincts are at Catseye Beach and a five minute walk away (but over a hill so if you are less mobile or travelling with little kids hop on the free shuttle bus or grab a golf cart) at the Marina. There are plenty of amazing places to pick from, but bear in mind most of the restaurants are only open for dinner.

Some of the amazing meals we had were:

  • Prawn tagliatelle and slow-cooked beef ribs at Romano’s on the Marina
  • Creative, delicious south-east Asian dishes such as caramelised spanish mackerel with pork belly & chilli at Coca Chu, overlooking Catseye Beach
  • Tempura fish and chips for lunch under the palm trees at Sails
  • Macadamia pancakes at the Marina Café for breakfast.

I don’t usually like Asian-inspired desserts, but Coca Chu’s selection was amazing – after much deliberation we settled on the palm caramel coconut bavarois and the chocolate chilli ganache!

Where we stayed:

Unfortunately our budget didn’t quite stretch for $4000-ish/night rooms at Qualia, so we opted for an apartment at WAHI for our three-day visit. The spacious unit had a big veranda with fabulous ocean views and a private lagoon pool. It was across the road from Catseye Beach and public lagoon pools and a short walk to restaurants.

Our apartment overlooked Catseye Beach and came with its own cockatoo.

How we got around:

Hamilton is home to a fleet of golf carts – our shuttle bus driver estimated there are 1600 on the island. Many of the resorts provide golf carts for guests and they are also available for hire. Alternatively, the island shuttle buses provide an easy, free and frequent way to get around the island. We flew in to Hamilton Island from Brisbane – there are also direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Cairns. Of course, you could always hire your own private plane or helicopter! Passenger ferries run regularly between Hamilton and Daydream Island (30 min) and the Port of Arlie (60 minutes). More information can be found here.

Whitsundays (1)

The golf carts of Hamilton Island, spotted in their natural environment.

What I wore:

I was pretty excited to dust off some summer clothes for this trip! Styling the six-month baby bump for a tropical getaway called for colour and comfort:

Mrs M’s island style: Left – Sancerre kimono, Anthropologie turquoise necklace. Top right – Mara Hoffman beaded dress. Bottom right – Anthropologie embroidered top, Witchery layered necklace, vintage turquoise ring, silver feather ring from Potato Studio, Laidley.

Our ‘must do’ list for next time we visit:

  • Cocktails at One Tree Hill: We planned this for our last night but I was very sick – a shout-out to the Hamo paramedic for getting me back on track.
  • Stand up paddle boarding: When I don’t have a bump to offset my centre of balance…
  • Mexican at Tako Taqueria and Cantina: Note to anyone travelling with a pregnant lady – check what nights the restaurants are shut to avoid having to drag her sobbing away from the locked door which stands between her and the tacos! It wasn’t pretty!

More Mrs M travel tips:

  1. Fancy a cheese plate on the veranda? Hamilton Island does have a grocery store but prices can be double what you would pay on the mainland, so think ahead and bring your own supplies. Our accommodation also suggested organising a Coles Online grocery delivery to our apartment, which we would consider for our next visit.
  2. Check the calendar: We enjoyed gorgeous, mild weather for our early-August visit to Hamilton. It was cool enough for a light jacket in the evening, but shorts weather during the day. No humidity was a plus, but if you like your holiday climate more tropical then check out the weather guide here.
  3. Feeling racy? Hamilton Island is home to big events such as the upcoming Audi Race Week, triathlons and ocean swims, so keep this in mind if you want to avoid the crowds or soak up the buzz. Check out this events guide for more info.
  4. Beware the wildlife: Keep the glass/screen door shut on your veranda – the local cockatoos love coming inside to help themselves to the mini bar!

What destination are you dreaming about at the moment?

Love, Mrs M xx

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