Hamilton Island#4 in Best Things To Do in Great Barrier Reef
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If the diving spots closest to the Queensland coast are too crowded for you, consider trekking a few miles east of the mainland to Hamilton Island. It's the largest inhabited island of the Whitsundays (a collection of 74 islands situated off central Queensland's coast), yet 70 percent of it remains undeveloped. Besides its phenomenal diving, Hamilton Island is a prime spot for sailing and features amenities like bars and restaurants, a marina and Catseye Beach. Australia's only 18-hole golf course on a private island is also situated just off shore on Dent Island.
Previous visitors loved checking out the shops and restaurants at the Hamilton Island Marina and hiking to the top of Passage Peak, the island's highest point. Many also suggest renting water sports equipment like kayaks, paddleboards and snorkeling gear at Catseye Beach during high tide.
The fastest and most convenient way to get to Hamilton Island is by plane. As the main air hub for the Whitsunday Islands, Hamilton Island welcomes flights from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns via Jetstar Airways, Virgin Australia Airlines and Qantas. You can also hop on a regional flight from other central coastal towns like Mackay, Prosperine and Airlie Beach. If you'd rather enjoy an extended scenic route, take a coach bus from Brisbane, Townsville or Cairns to Airlie Beach and catch a ferry to Hamilton Island from Shute Harbour.
Cars are not permitted on Hamilton Island, so plan on walking, renting a golf cart or using the island's complimentary shuttle service. Buses travel along two routes every day between 6:50 a.m. and 11 p.m. The island is free to visit, and six accommodation options are available if you wish to stay on-site. Visit Tourism Whitsundays' Hamilton Island page for more information about area hotels, activities, events and transportation options.
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#1 Diving and Snorkeling
Many visitors say the Great Barrier Reef is best seen through a scuba mask, but it's no small feat to traverse the area's dive spots. When choosing which regions to explore, consider your skill level, the amount of travel involved and the trip length in that area. Two of the most popular diving and snorkeling locales are listed below:
Hosting a kaleidoscope of fish, sea turtles and humpback whales, Cairns' reefs are teeming with wildlife. Known locally as the Outer Barrier Reef, these reefs are ideal for first-time divers and families because of the one- to three-hour travel times from Cairns' Reef Fleet Terminal. Popular spots by Cairns include Michaelmas Cay, Moore Reef, Green Island and Hastings Reef. Ocean Free, Seastar Cruises and Tusa Dive all offer a variety of half- to full-day cruises; diving and snorkeling cruise packages start at 205 Australian dollars ($152) per adult and AU$120 ($89) for each child.
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