I’m now back in cold, grey Melbourne after a week away on Hamilton Island, part of the Whitsunday Islands off the east coast of Queensland, Australia. Anyone who follows me on Instagram will probably be able to tell that I was completely besotted with this paradise island – it is quite simply the most beautiful place I have ever been. I have so many photos I thought it would probably be best to split this up into a couple of posts, so here is the first: our arrival and our first day on the island.
So let’s go back to the very beginning! I was invited on the trip by a lovely new friend who had already done some research on the best places to go. She had been advised it was best not to stay on the mainland (Airlie Beach) and do a day trip to Hamilton Island, but to reside on the island itself to get the full experience.
We followed this advice and flew directly from Melbourne – which took around three hours – into the tiny airport on Hamilton Island. As the plane came into land we had our first glimpse of the lush green Whitsunday Islands surrounded by turquoise waters, and the much longed-for sunshine that is currently amiss in the Melbourne winter.
There is a range of accommodation to choose from on the island, from self-catering bungalows to the super-deluxe Qualia resort (which was once voted the best resort in the world with prices from a mere $1100 a night… that’s about £570!). We opted for the Reef View Hotel – a happy medium. We arrived at the hotel from the airport within minutes and checked in. We had originally booked a garden view room, but to our delight, we found we’d been placed in a sea view room – and this is the view we had from our balcony!
We couldn’t believe our luck! Having dropped off our bags and stared open-mouthed at the view for a while, we set off to spend our first afternoon exploring the island.
The island has hotels and resorts on one side and a marina surrounded by restaurants and shops on the other. The whole vibe is very relaxed – no cars are allowed so everybody travels around the island by golf buggy! Except, of course, if you are a millionaire with a shiny yacht moored up in the harbour…
After a delicious dinner and a few cocktails, we were up the next day bright and early ready for our boat trip to the Great Barrier Reef. We went to the local bakery and sat and ate our breakfast overlooking the marina. We couldn’t believe it when these beautiful wild birds flew up to greet us! Their personalities were hilarious: they were absolutely intent on stealing everybody’s food and were not shy in the slightest. One even grabbed the paper bag that my croissant was in and we had to chase after it! Pretty funny!
After our breakfast it was time to board the boat for our snorkelling experience. There are two different companies that offer trips to the Great Barrier Reef. We went for the Explore Full Day Snorkel Tour, which included a boat trip to the Reef and a stop in two different locations for snorkelling. I can’t recommend this tour enough: I am a bit of a nervous swimmer, especially when it comes to the ocean, but the team put us all completely at ease and clearly knew exactly what they were doing. We were kitted out with wetsuits (so we could snorkel comfortably for a length of time without getting cold), lifejackets (so we could float on the surface without having to swim to stay afloat), flippers and the all-important snorkelling equipment. Then, it was time to take the leap off the back of the boat into the unknown!
Now, I’m absolutely gutted because I bought an underwater camera specially to capture some snaps of the reef, but in my flap to get in the water I bloody dropped it! Gahh! So, I’ve borrowed this image from Australia.com to give you an idea of what we saw under the water. I have to say, once the initial panic at dropping into the ocean and breathing through a tube had subsided, all of my worries completely disappeared once I was submerged into this magical world underneath the surface. In fact, I couldn’t tear myself away! The coral was unbelievably beautiful and I saw fish of every colour and size, from a school of tiny metallic fish flickering through the water to huge, brightly coloured ones. I even saw a huge turtle floating by – just like in Finding Nemo! Snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef goes down as one of the most amazing experiences of my life and it’s something I’ll always remember.
As the sun set on our first full day on the island, we were already completely in love and excited for what the following days would bring.
Stay tuned for more adventures to come!