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One of my dreams when I got to Australia was to swim and snorkel in the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the world. I was ecstatic to do that on a recent trip to Hamilton Island in Queensland, about a two-hour plane flight north of Sydney.
Hamilton Island is often called one of the most beautiful places to visit in Australia by travel sites, and I totally understand why. Staying on the island, where golf carts dominate the transportation and only about 1,300 people live, is a little slice of heaven. Jungle-like scenery, an abundance of cockatoos and sea birds, turquoise waters, gorgeous yachts at the marina, never-ending beaches and a generally happy atmosphere everywhere you turn makes you never want to leave.
I stayed at the Reef View Hotel, where indeed, the room had a beautiful view of sparkling waters and pristine sands. The privately owned island has several diverse restaurants, serving pizza and Italian, fish and chips, pub food and more. The Bommie Deck at the Hamilton Island Yacht Club, where Taylor Swift performed last year, is a fun place to get a cocktail because of the stunning marina views.
I enjoyed the rowdy trivia night at the Marina Tavern, which served great pasta for a pub. The veggie burger and wedges at Popeye’s Fish and Chips were massive and delicious, and I enjoyed the saganaki and pizza at Manta Ray. The Ice Cream Parlour on the island serves tasty sundaes, and TAKO, a Mexican spot, has winners with every dish. Try the haloumi quesadilla, jalapeno poppers, black bean tacos and chips.
Tours are really fun at Hamilton Island when you’re not doing water sports on the beach. The all-day tour to the Great Barrier Reef was a blast. It’s about two hours away from the hotel and serves a delicious tea and buffet lunch on the boat. Once you get to the Reef, grab a wet suit and some snorkeling gear, and dive in. You’ll be surrounded by colourful fish and coral.
I wasn’t planning on going scuba diving. I’m not certified and have never been. I was interested to hear about the scuba introduction, which you can do even if you don’t know how to swim. An instructor holds your hand the whole time and guides you through. Daring to do it, it was definitely a new sensation to breathe while fully submerged in water. It’s a little odd at first, but once you get going, it’s absolutely amazing. I would tell anyone to face their fears and do it. Being so close to fish, clams and coral is something words can’t do justice.
The Reefworld tour also included an underwater boating experience which was really fun because it gave a great view of the reef. The pontoon we were on also had an area where you could walk down and see the sea. To get an up-close view of a sea turtle was exciting. The staff on board were so friendly and accommodating. From beginning to end, the tour was a blast.
I also took a half-day tour to Whitehaven Beach, about a half-hour boat ride from Hamilton Island. The sands were pure paradise, so lovely to walk on. The water was crystal clear and fun to swim in. It was one of the most serene beaches I’ve hung out on.
If you have the chance to go to Hamilton Island, jump. If you love island life and places like Hawaii and Bali, this picture-perfect destination won’t disappoint.
Learn more about Hamilton Island here.