Surreal Seas and Welcoming Sands
It’s only a two-hour plane ride from Sydney, Australia, but it’s a world away from anywhere. The final approach to Hamilton Island’s privately owned airport makes you realize you’re in the tropics.
The sugar-sand beaches and seemingly infinite shades of bathlike, teal water call out and put you in a welcome trance of peace and tranquility.
Hamilton Island is part of the Whitsundays, which is a group of 74 islands that are just a hop, skip and a jump from the Great Barrier Reef and right off the Australian coast in Queensland, the northeastern part of the country.
This Down Under seaside nirvana is the brainchild of Bob Oatley and his son Sandy. After the Oatleys sold their wine business on the mainland in 2003, they purchased Hamilton Island with the goal of making it one of the most luxurious resorts worldwide. And they’ve succeeded.
They expanded the island’s marina and built a stunning yacht club plus qualia, a world-class facility that was voted best resort by Conde Nast Traveler in 2012. The island consists of several hotels, resorts and private houses.
The marina and village offer a perfect place to dock your boat and provision it before starting a cruise of the surrounding islands. It’s a long haul to get here from the United States, but it’s a must-do for cruisers looking for that once-in-a lifetime trip.
Toward Heaven’s Shores
I was taken to my private villa overlooking the beach and the distant islands that form the Whitsundays.
The villa was a lavish, one-bedroom affair with a private pool and outside deck. The bathroom, bedroom and lounge all had full-glass walls facing the ocean, which was framed by native trees. And as beautiful as the land is here, that turquoise sea beckoned.
I boarded the 70-foot catamaran On the Edge for a sail to Chalkies and Whitehaven beaches. My ride looked more like a French offshore racing catamaran than a charter boat, and she sailed like a racing cat too: super fast and very comfortable.
Ben Harper, the skipper, showed me beautiful snorkeling at Chalkies Beach, and after a delicious lunch of shrimp and wine, we were off to the seemingly infinite Whitehaven Beach.
Unlike in the Caribbean, you have most anchorages and sand to yourself. A crowded spot has six boats! The photographer in me had to see this nautical nirvana from the sky.
In a helicopter, I flew over Dent Island, adjacent to Hamilton Island, to see the island-spanning golf course. (Yes, the island is one giant golf course.) The next stop was the Whitsundays with their iconic Hill Inlet and multicolored sandbars covered with traces of ocean water.
They look like a perfect seascape painting. Hamilton Island (and its surrounding waters) seems untouched. It’s pristine, unspoiled and uncrowded. If you’re looking for cruising grounds that are lost in time, come here. You’ll never forget it. I won’t.