In the spotlight: Hamilton Island ( Whitsunday Island)
Hamilton Island is very close to my heart as my family had a string of businesses way back in the 80’s when the tourist trade was in its infancy. I remember being so excited when mum would fly me up for the school holiday breaks.
Those were the glory days when Keith Williams still owned the place. You would step off the plane into the open air terminal and be greeted by friendly guest relations staff. Music played, bags were whisked away and you hopped on you bus to your accommodation. Keith and his team made you feel like you were someone really special.
That was then .. 25 years later
On my recent trip to the island, I noticed that things have changed quite a lot from the early days. The airport is still friendly but it’s a lot more commercial and designed for quick efficiency. Once you take your bags off the trolley and get marked off, you hop on the bus to your nominated hotel.… sadly no welcome reception, island music or a welcome cocktail and cold towel!
I arrive at The Reef View hotel, the hotel looks a little tied and in much need of some TLC. The rooms are enormous – very popular with families and American guests – but the lobby is not quite the glamorous ‘Fantasy Island’ extravaganza it used to be.
After check-in, i decided to head out and walk down to the “Main Pavilion” the hub of the island where once, all the action happened. The lobby would be buzzing with music playing, guests checking in, Guest Service and Concierge Staff walking around having a good old chat...
Today, it's a different story. The reception desk is now the resorts information center , where you can book daily activities and tours.. The once glamours Club Lounge has been turned into a casual cafe and games area, there one or two retail shops left and the old function room where they used to have weekly dinners and shows has now been converted to a bowling alley. The main pool area hasn't changed that much over the years.
On the upside, Happy Hour at the new bar on One Tree Hill is a lot of fun - cocktails in a really special location. It’s equal parts romantic and Instagram gold.
On the downside, the island recently copped some severe weather damage. Qualia ( luxury 5 star resort) was completely gutted by Cyclone Debbie and is offline for at least another month, and there is damage to other parts of the island as well.
Apart from the new yacht club , a few new restaurants and retail shops the Marina really hasn't change all that much through-out the years.
Major accommodation developments is constantly undergoing over the other side of the island with new villas and apartments being built,. this is sure to attract a lot more tourist to the island wanting more of a home away from home feel.
I am in two minds about the ‘new’ Hamilton Island. I have very fond memories of the early days - it’s hard to beat the sun-drenched nostalgia of my youth - but I can see that there’s still a lot to love. Hamilton Island is fabulous for families and international visitors and I would wholeheartedly recommend it for this.
Ideal for: International families who want to visit an island in the Whitsundays.
Highlight: The views and sunsets are magnificent.
Best time to go: Unless you’re a family, go out of school holiday time after the cyclone damage has been repaired.
Details: Hamilton Island (link to http://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/)
Note: I pay my own travel expenses. These are my own objective views and not sponsored in any way.