First Impressions of Hamilton Island

Hamilton Island’s airport is a wonderfully small, single-runway operation, with that one runway jutting out into the water. (Landing was fun: You don’t see any land beneath the plane until a few seconds before touchdown. Just a bit unnerving.) There are six flights every day to and from the mainland, as well as numerous ferries and helicopters, making it easy for guests to get here. Better yet: Some airlines are timed to allow for day trips. Guests can arrive in late morning or early afternoon, and depart in the evening.


Hamilton Island, with the Reef View Hotel to the Right

Upon arrival in Hamilton Island, I was picked up by Katie Cahill, a representative of the island, who drove me around the developments and neighborhoods. Golf carts are the main mode of transportation on the island, and some villas and rental properties will include a cart for guests to use. (Fun fact: The carts are made in America, so the driver sits on the left side, but this is Australia, so the cars have to drive on the left side of the street. It gets a bit confusing to watch.)

The island, Katie explained, has only been a significant tourist attraction for about 25 years, and is wholly owned by the Oatley family. There are plenty of restaurants and shops for locals and guests alike to explore, and rental options on the island range from three-star villas (great for families staying several days) to high-rise hotels to qualia, a three-year-old five-star resort on a peninsula.

qualia, Katie continued, is considered a refuge from the “hubbub” of Hamilton Island. (For the record, the “hubbub” is less than what one would find in any average American town.) qualia is made of 60 one-bedroom “pavilions” (not villas) that look out over the ocean. The pavilions are spacious and bright, with huge tinted windows that let in plenty of light and offer great views, but also ensure privacy. (Amusing touch: Right at the corner of two floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay is a flat-screen TV. It’s almost like a challenge: Just try to watch TV with that vista behind it.) On the patio outside of the living room is a private plunge pool, and a day bed for relaxing al fresco. In the open beach house, there is no reception desk; guests unwind with a drink in a lounge as they are checked in. Good to know: While most of Hamilton Island is very family-friendly (lots of kids running around), qualia is exclusively for the 16-and-up crowd.


A living room at qualia

After the tour of the island, Katie dropped me off at the Reef View Hotel, a four-star high-rise property with amazing views of the island from every room…and even from the elevators. (The outdoor glass elevators are a real treat to ride. No, seriously. Would I make that up?) The rooms are big and bright (huge windows help) and have enclosed balconies. Cute detail: Guests are strongly encouraged to keep the doors to the balconies closed when they step away (even just to the bathroom), because cockatoos tend to sneak into rooms and steal things.

And now, jet lag is attacking hard. That 14-hour time difference really does take it out of you. Pardon me. Must collapse.