Tuesday, February 7, 2017

(Not so) Cheap Thrills at Hamilton Island - Australia


We were in Australia for our Honeymoon in Feb 2016. Actually we covered Melbourne, Hamilton Island, and Sydney (in that order) on our 10 day-trip. However, I am starting the Australia series with Hamilton, because I couldn’t contain the perfection of the island within me any longer.

Bird's Eye View of the Island While Landing

A brief introduction to this island on Whitsundays, because not a lot of people end up visiting this place when in Australia, and I feel the place needs much more publicity than it already has. A probable reason could be cost, because it is in no way in-expensive. But it is an ideal place to visit for those special occasions when you don’t mind splurging a bit for one of the most magnificent experiences that awaits you. The water is as turquoise as it can get, and so clear that you can see the turtles and fishes a little away from the beach.

Hamilton island is a private island owned by a single owner – hence, wherever you go and whatever you do anywhere across the island, you can charge it back to your room and settle it at the end of your stay when you are checking out. Qantas Airlines has a partnership with the island. In fact I am not sure, if there are other airlines that take you here. Weather is pleasant all across the year, however it is warmer in the Australian summers. We went there in the month of Feb and day temperature was around 27 degrees Celsius.

Total Trip Cost (excluding Airfare; all prices in AUD)
Category
Cost
Total Cost
Cost Per Person
Accommodation
AUD 400 per night
AUD 1,200
AUD 600
Food
AUD 70
AUD 210
AUD 210
Transport
Free
Free
Free
Attractions (Great Barrier Reef Cruise)
AUD 150

AUD 150
Total
$ 885
*We booked with Krisia.com and got much better prices than mentioned on the website. Prices are approximate, since we were charged a lump sum for the entire tour



Places to Stay – There are several places to stay – The Coral Reef, the Beach Club, and Qualia, being the most popular ones. We had booked Beach Club, but here is some of my research findings for others as well.

Qualia  – This is the expensive one – has attached pools with every room. Beautifully secluded from the rest of the island and price is ~$1,200 per night. You get the Golf-buggy free with stay here, which is otherwise $ 90 per day.

Beach ClubThis is a perfect place for couples – the minimum age to stay here is 18. I was actually amazed to know that such places are a reality! This place is a luxury treatment right from the moment we landed at Hamilton. We were taken to the hotel in a buggy, and someone just picked up the luggage on our behalf. By the time we reached, our stuff was in our rooms! We were welcomed with a drink and shown around a bit – the lobby area with tons of board games and books, the infinity pool where breakfast is served, AND the private beach for Beach Club residents.
There are rooms in 2 story’s – while most people have claimed on their experiences that the ground floor rooms have easier access to the beach (which they do, you come out of the door and you are in the beach!) – However, I found the 1st floor rooms to have better privacy. The bedroom opens to a balcony facing the ocean. It was such a delight to wake up every morning to this magnificent view! Even pictures will not be able to do justice to the views – leave alone words.

The Room - Plush and Cosy - Pic Taken from Balcony

Spectacular View from the Room Balcony

Inclusions in the fare – A-la-Carte breakfast, watersports gears, mineral water, beach towels, sunscreen. They even gave us a set of candles as honeymoon gift.

Breakfast with a View
Price - ~$600 per night, but we had made our bookings through Krisia  and were able to get a good deal.

Reef View Hotel – this is the best place to stay if you are here with family and want to spend time at the beach. There are 2 types of room – the Coral Sea View rooms are the sea-facing ones, and hence, slightly more expensive than the others. Tip – try to get a room as high on the floor as possible, in order to get a better sea view. It is NOT located right across the beach. The Beach Club is right across the beach, then there is a lane separating, and right across the lane is the Reef View hotel. The place is pretty noisy, with kids running around, and we were glad we chose the Beach Club for our stay.



Itinerary
Now coming to our itinerary for each of the days, 3 day were too less to do justice here. When we were leaving the place, we wished we had 2 nights more.

Day 1 – We landed around 10:30 AM and after checking in, decided to spend some time at the infinity pool, have lunch and explore the island once the sun went down. The pool was such a nice place to just cool down, and enjoy the beach sights, people snorkeling and enjoying other water sports, etc. after which, we headed to the Sunset point where the free resort vehicle takes you to. Needless to mention, the views from anywhere is remarkable. After sunset, we just took a walk along the island, explored the souvenir shop, and tried to find a place for dinner. That is when we realized that some of the places need prior bookings (which happens online, or at the reception counter of respective hotels), and most of them shut down sooner. Basically days start and end early in the island.

The Infinity Pool Facing the Private Beach

The Sunset Point

The Sunset, The View, The Golf-Buggies - Cannot Get Over Them

Day 2 – We had a cruise booked on day 2 to the Great Barrier Reef and had an early start to the day. Just want to emphasize, that it is easy to dismiss this tour, with so much happening at the island itself, but I would strongly recommend against it. Great Barrier Reef is one of the 7 natural wonders of the, and rightly so!

It was a ~2 hours journey to reach the Great Barrier Reef. At this point, the launches give you like 2 hours to enjoy the reef, have lunch, indulge in water-sports, before taking you back to the island. Snorkeling came in package with our tour, but we had to pay extra for ‘Scuba Diving’. And not for a moment did I regret paying ~AUD 120 per person for this, because if you have to do Scuba once in life, what better place than the Great Barrier Reef! Once inside, we were awestruck by the play of bright color corals, fishes which I had seen only in Aquariums, turtles, and what not! They send one instructor with 2 Scuba-divers. However, I do regret spending $ 60 for getting a go-pro on rent. They gave us the memory card to keep, but we could hardly get any good pictures/videos. Not sure if it was our lack of skills  or the camera. It did keep getting discharged every 30 minutes and we had to get a new one to replace.

After Scuba, we spent some time snorkeling around our launch. Both I and my husband like being in the water, so overall was a fun day for us. By the time we reached back to our hotel, it was 4 PM and we were exhausted to do anything else.

However, with so many other activities going on we felt bad to stick up in our room for long. There was a movie screening right by our hotel, and what a romantic experience it was to lie down in our blankets, gaze at the stars and watch the movie with some snacks and drinks. We ended the night with some awesome food at one of the restaurants we had pre-booked.

Day 3 – Frankly, on day 3 we were literally panicking because there was still so much to do, and so less time left J We started with some breakfast with the Koalas. They have a mini zoo and some Koala bears on the trees in that arena. Koalas are the cutest (not to mention the laziest) animals in the world. Infact, it is difficult to point out a Koala soft-toy from a real one!
After breakfast, we moved towards water-sports. The gears and attires were complimentary with our stay, and we tried Kayaking and paddle-boarding first. It was not just fun, but a lot of exercise as well. And once you venture inside away from the beach, the serenity totally envelops you. Initially I was afraid, I will fall down, but towards the end, just did not want to come back to the shore.
Water sports left us totally exhausted! Thankfully, we had a 30 minute spa session (because we couldn’t find a longer slot) booked for us post that. Just to give an idea of the price, it is AUD 75 for a 30 minute session. Quick tip here – the no. of slots for the spa are limited; better book sooner or before reaching the island if you really want to do it. The rest of the day was for us to pick up some souvenirs, relax and walk around the island.

Who Can Tell it is Real!

Day 4 – Well, there was no day 4 for us, since we had to check-out pretty much after breakfast. But we really wished we had another day, specifically to book a Golf-buggy and go around the island. We heard from people who did that, that there are some amazing spots in the nooks and corners of the island to take pictures, and if nothing, just sit and chat and have an ice-cream.

The Golf-Buggies - Wish we had Another Day to Ride this Around
Bidding Adieu - Till Next Time
All in all, we found Hamilton Island to be an ideal place to dissipate into the nature and the sea from the hectic life we lead today. Since we were coming from India, we did club it with visiting other Australian cities, but for folks staying closer, it is a perfect place to spend the extended weekends.



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