Exploring the Whitsundays: our favourite trips from Hamilton Island
With the beautiful Hamilton Island as my base, I was spoilt for choice when it came to researching what I could do in the Whitsundays.
From half-day tours to Whitehaven Beach to a Great Barrier Reef overnight experience on the outer reef, I struggled to decide how to spend my days.
Thankfully, I was visiting a friend who lives and works on Hamilton Island, and she prepared a superb itinerary for us which covered everything I could have hoped to experience.
Across from the Hamilton Island marina sits Dent Island, home to a challenging 18-hole golf course and a breezy clubhouse. The lunch special offers return boat transfers, a tour of the first or last nine holes of the golf course and a two-course a la carte lunch.
Winding our way around the path with our golf buggy revealed some spectacular lookouts, and the food served by the Clubhouse was terrific.
The soft, silica sand squeaks underfoot, and the clear, blue water is bathwater-warm. Turtles roam not far from the beach, munching on jellyfish, and there's some great bush walks inland.
Even with the amount of boats that stop off here, the 10km stretch means that you can always have a patch of paradise to yourself.
Snorkelling the great barrier reef
A trip to the outer reef was high up on my bucket list long before I touched down in Australia. After snorkelling at Pit Stop Bay, a quiet and colourful spot near Whitehaven Beach, I was keen to travel further afield to the outer reef.
The Cruise Whitsundays Reef World pontoon is based on Hardy Reef and offers the chance to snorkel, dive and take a helicopter ride over the reef. It's a no-frills two-hour boat ride from Hamilton Island and up to 400 people can fit on the pontoon at any one time, so it may not be for those who are after a tranquil experience.
When Matt and I drove the Great Ocean Road in November, we were offered a short flight over the Twelve Apostles for around $140. We couldn't see the attraction, and were not prepared to pay that price when we could see the limestone stacks pretty well from ground level...
Flying over the Great Barrier Reef was a different story. I (naively) didn't even think about spotting marine life when I slipped into the front seat of the helicopter. Yet, once up in the air, the pilot pointed out sharks and manta rays below, vivid in the clear water. We flew over the famous heart-shaped reef and the different hues of blue that stretched for miles were outstanding. It was an unforgettable experience - if your budget can stretch to cover the cost, you won't regret it.