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Hamilton Island picture in Great Barrier Reef
Catseye Beach picture in Great Barrier Reef
Hamilton Island picture in Great Barrier Reef
Catseye Beach picture in Great Barrier Reef

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  • Natural Wonders, Recreation, Neighborhood/Area Type
  • More than Full Day Time to Spend
4.5
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    5.0
  • Food Scene
    4.0
  • Atmosphere
    4.5

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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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qualia

qualia ...

  • 1.4 Miles Away
  • 5.0-star Hotel Class
Whitsunday Apartments

Whitsunday Apartments ...

  • 0.2 Miles Away
  • 3.5-star Hotel Class
Beach Club

Beach Club ...

  • 0.3 Miles Away
  • 4.5-star Hotel Class
See all hotels in Great Barrier Reef »

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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 ... Read more » chameleonseye / Getty Images

#2 Cairns If you plan on exploring the far northern half of Queensland, Cairns (pronounced "Cahns") offers a convenient home base. About 1,500 miles north of Sydney, Cairns boasts the closest ... Read more » artherng / Getty Images

#3 Whitehaven Beach It's the most photographed beach in all of Australia, and after one look at its white sands, you'll understand why. Stretching across more than 4 miles of Whitsunday ... Read more » DarrenTierney / Getty Images

#4 Hamilton Island 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 ... Read more » Tanya Ann Photography / Getty Images

#5 Townsville Located by the central section of the Great Barrier Reef, Townsville is conveniently situated between Cairns and the Whitsunday Islands. It sits a short ferry ride away from Magnetic Island ... Read more » Phil Copp / Getty Images

#6 Sailing Picture it: As the wind-powered craft clips along the Coral Sea, a tropical breeze teases your hair while the ocean spits sea spray on your arms. You drop anchor within ... Read more » RugliG / Getty Images

#7 Air Tours After getting a fish-eye view of the reef, experience a bird's perspective of unique sights like Heart Reef and Hook Reef with an air tour. According to recent travelers ... Read more » Gonzalo Azumendi / Getty Images

#8 Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas The Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas is a wildlife sanctuary that strives to promote conservation through up-close encounters with its creatures. You'll have access to four immersion exhibits – the Woodland ... Read more » Louise_Lantz / Getty Images

#9 Hartley's Crocodile Adventures Visitors who want to enjoy a close encounter with Australia's unique animals will love checking out Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. Though the main draw of this wildlife habitat is ... Read more » Darren Puttock / Flickr

#10 Kuranda Scenic Railway If you need a break from exploring the reef, why not go 1,076 feet above sea level with a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway? Departing from Cairns, the ... Read more » chameleonseye / Getty Images

Diving and Snorkeling picture in Great Barrier Reef
Cairns picture in Great Barrier Reef
Whitehaven Beach picture in Great Barrier Reef
Hamilton Island picture in Great Barrier Reef
Townsville picture in Great Barrier Reef
Sailing picture in Great Barrier Reef
Air Tours picture in Great Barrier Reef
Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas picture in Great Barrier Reef
Hartley's Crocodile Adventures picture in Great Barrier Reef
Kuranda Scenic Railway picture in Great Barrier Reef
Diving and Snorkeling picture in Great Barrier Reef
Cairns picture in Great Barrier Reef
Whitehaven Beach picture in Great Barrier Reef
Hamilton Island picture in Great Barrier Reef
Townsville picture in Great Barrier Reef
Sailing picture in Great Barrier Reef
Air Tours picture in Great Barrier Reef
Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas picture in Great Barrier Reef
Hartley's Crocodile Adventures picture in Great Barrier Reef
Kuranda Scenic Railway picture in Great Barrier Reef

The Great Barrier Reef boasts more than 5,000 dive sites, meaning your possibilities for exploration are nearly limitless. chameleonseye / Getty Images

While the Great Barrier Reef offers an extensive array of underwater sightseeing, don't forget about the mainland. The Queensland city of Cairns is a convenient home base that offers some tourist hot spots of its own. artherng / Getty Images

With just one look at its milky white sands and swirling azure waters, it's easy to see why Whitehaven Beach is Australia's most photographed beach. DarrenTierney / Getty Images

Surrounded by its fellow Whitsunday Islands, Hamilton Island is a playground for adventure-seekers. Snorkel, hike, sail or simply relax on its soft, sugary sands. Tanya Ann Photography / Getty Images

For some of the best views of Townsville and Magnetic Island, climb to the top of Castle Hill. Phil Copp / Getty Images

Take to the seas on a Great Barrier Reef sailing adventure. Whether it's a daytrip or a multiday excursion, there is nothing quite like clipping along the Coral Sea. RugliG / Getty Images

Enjoy a thrilling bird's-eye view of the Great Barrier Reef while on an air tour. Gonzalo Azumendi / Getty Images

At the Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas, you'll encounter a variety of Queensland's local residents, including kangaroos, wallabies, crocodiles and koalas. Louise_Lantz / Getty Images

Large and small crocs, plus quintessential Aussie creatures like kangaroos, koalas and cassowaries can be seen at Hartley's Crocodile Adventures. Darren Puttock / Flickr

For some of Queensland's best views away from the reef, take a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway. chameleonseye / Getty Images

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