The gateway to the Whitsunday Islands is world famous for its sophisticated collection of restaurants and hotels—Qualia Resort may have invented “barefoot luxury”—as well as nature experiences from hiking up Passage Peak to hugging koalas at Wild Life Hamilton Island. It’s also the perfect basecamp for other Whitsunday adventures such as digging your feet into the silica sands of Whitehaven Beach; spending the night on the floating Reefworld pontoon; a five-star pamper fest at Hayman Island (set to reopen in early 2019); flying over Heart Reef in a helicopter; skippering your own sailboat around the archipelago; and mountain biking plus beach camping on South Molle Island.
Just a 45-minute ferry ride from Airlie Beach, cosmopolitan, family-friendly Hamilton Island is full of surprises. Although best known as a resort island, only a third of the island is in fact developed, with the rest left in its natural bushland state. Wander past ancient cycads and gum trees, or head to the water’s edge to glimpse turtles and humpback whales. If you manage to tear your eyes from the heavenly views, there are copious activities to fill your time. Snorkel, play world-class golf or go sailing—or simply get a spa treatment and sip a cocktail as you watch the sun set over the ocean.