5 reasons to take a family holiday to Hamilton Island

"How was your holiday?"

It's a simple enough question, but one I'm having trouble answering. After a few days on Hamilton Island, I'm thinking in superlatives – everything was the best. The sights were all stunning, the people really friendly, the food delicious, the activities fun and entertaining. As clichéd as it may sound, Hamilton Island truly does offer something for everyone, from honeymooners to babymooners, young families through to retirees.

Hamilton Island from the air.
Hamilton Island from the air. Photo: Andrea Black/traveller.com.au

So when a holiday is so good, where do you start? Here's a look at what makes Hamilton Island a great choice for a family trip away. 

1. The reef 

You can take a beach family holiday to countless spots around Australia, but very few actually sit on the edge of one of the great wonders of the world: the Great Barrier Reef. We took a day trip to Reef World, on Hardy Reef, where we spent hours snorkelling and watching the amazing coral and underwater life (yes, we managed to spot a few dozen Nemos!). While we weren't in the water, we checked out the action in via the semi-submersible boats and underwater viewing rooms. 

For yet another magical experience, we took a short helicopter ride to see the reefs from the sky, right from the Reefworld pontoon – and we were thrilled to spot the much-photographed Heart Reef.

2. Animals everywhere - on land and in the sea

You don't have to go far to see native birds and animals on the island – gangs of cockatoos roam the skies, and may wander into your hotel room to check things out if you're not careful to shut your balcony door!

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Families can also get up close and personal with Aussie animals at WILD LIFE Hamilton Island. There's a lot to see, but the good news is that once you pay the park entry fee, you have unlimited access for the rest of your stay on the island. Kids can have breakfast with the koalas between 7 and 10am every day, and special talks and tours give them the chance to pat a dingo and see McCulloch the saltwater crocodile get his dinner. There's also a nightly BBQ and spotlighting tour for guests to see the nocturnal animals in action.

Otherwise, you can also take advantage of what the reef has to offer right from the island: family snorkelling tours leave from Catseye Beach every day, taking you to spot turtles and tropical fish not far from the mainland.

3. Island hopping adventures

It's easy to get around the other islands in the Whitsundays group for a bit of exploring. Take a quick trip over to Daydream Island, where you can see the bronzed mermaids on Mermaid Beach, and spot the local common wallaroos hopping around the mini golf course or shelly beaches. Daydream Island also has a large living reef, where you can see 140 species of fish and more than 80 types of coral, and can take part in the educational feeding sessions twice a day.

To get out into nature, you can take a cruise over to Whitsunday Island, home to Whitehaven Beach, which has some of Australia's whitest sands and clearest water. If you're feeling energetic, you can go for a walk up to the lookout at Hill Inlet, keeping an eye out for native wildlife along the way – otherwise, just enjoy the 7km stretch of gorgeous beach views.

4. The food (it's free for kids!)

Unsurprisingly, the seafood on Hamilton Island is oh-so-fresh and tasty – and when it comes to cooking it, the local chefs know what they're doing. Our favourite was coca chu, which sits right on the beautiful Catseye Beach; offering south-east Asian cuisine with an Aussie twist, and a fun, relaxed environment, it was right up our alley.

While there are lots of great places to check out, including pubs, hotel restuarants and a steakhouse, there's also one big factor to keep in mind: at many venues, kids eat for free! Some of the restaurants take part in a program that means children under 12 will eat for free when choosing from the kids menu and accompanyied by a paying adult. It's win/win! 

5. You won't hear "I'm bored"

If all the snorkelling and day trips aren't enough, there are plenty of other activities to keep everyone occupied, including go-karting, bushwalking, mini-golfing, swimming, and fishing. Download the Hamilton Island app to find an up-to-date guide filled with everything you need to know about what you can find there.   

Even getting around is an adventure – guests on the island use golf carts to get around, which makes every trip just a little bit more fun. You can hire by the hour, but if you're staying on the island for an extended time your best bet is to hire by the day. Otherwise, shuttle buses run regularly between the main hotels, main street/marina, and popular spots.

Looking for a bit of child-free time? The kids will be in safe, experienced hands at the island's childcare centre, the Clownfish Club. Catering for children for babies through to 14 year olds, the club offers a variety of entertainment and activities for kids in half-day or full-day care. You can also organise a babysitter, pram or port-a-cot hire through the club.

The basics

Accommodation: There are several hotels and resorts on the island. We stayed at the Reef View Hotel, which offered spacious and clean accommodation, as well as sweeping views of the Coral Sea and beach below. The large pool was, as you'd guess, a popular spot for families!

If you'd rather, you can hire a holiday house, unit or villa for your visit – there are even homes on Hamilton Island listed on airbnb.com.au.  

Getting there: Fly directly to Hamilton Island Airport from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns, with Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantas.

The writer was a guest of Hamilton Island ... and really did love every second of it. hamiltonisland.com.au.

PHOTOS: On an iPhone or tablet? See the gallery here