Hamilton Island: Party central

By Leah McLennan

There's always something happening on this island beauty in the Whitsunday chain.

Hamilton Island's Catseye Beach. Photo / Supplied
Hamilton Island's Catseye Beach. Photo / Supplied

Like honey, time is running thick and slow. It's one of those dreamy island days.

I've spent the morning cooking and eating eggs and then whiled away several hours sitting on the balcony of my rented apartment on Hamilton Island - one of the 74 Whitsunday Islands that sits at the southern limit of the Great Barrier Reef.

There might be a visit to the pub later and some take-away Singapore noodles.

But what about now? How to spend the rest of the day?

If that's the toughest question I've to answer today, life must be pretty good.

I wander out my front door and down to the beach and then towards the shopping street.

"Enjoying the island?" a man with his head in a bush, who must be a gardener, asks along the way.

"I most certainly am," I reply.

On Hamilton Island's main street there is a buzz in the air.

It's June and about 400 paddlers are on the island for the annual Hamilton Island Cup, a gruelling 42-kilometre canoe race.

On the water or on the land, from sporting highlights to cultural performances, Hamilton Island has an extensive, year-round events calendar.

During each of the events the island puts on free entertainment at pop-up stages, sets up food stalls - selling everything from pasta to noodles for A$12 (NZ$15.50) a dish - and throws various welcome and prize-giving parties.

The next big happening on the island is the long-running Hamilton Island Race Week in August, an annual sailing regatta attracting "yachties" and sailing enthusiasts. In recent times it has become just as popular as a fashion and celebrity mecca.

Many of Australia's rich and famous fly to the island aboard regular and private planes and spend the week doing a little bit of race-watching aboard luxury, decked-out cruisers.

The apres-sail activities keep the celebs and socialites flat-out relaxing. There are fashion shows, spa treatments, black-tie dinners and other red-carpet events to attend.

But if you're not on the VIP list, it's still fun to be on the island and soak up the carnival atmosphere when an event is in full swing.

This island leads a double life - at certain times of the year it's a relaxing, quiet hideaway spot; at other times, it's party town.

Visiting during an event makes the need for an itinerary unnecessary. You just wander out your front door and follow your nose.

"What are you up to today?" the waitress asks after I order a coffee.

I tell her I don't know.

"Well, you could visit the island's new day spa," she says.

"Or the new Yacht Club, which has an amazing new executive chef. The Hamilton Island Golf Course is a great spot for lunch. There is also a new bowling centre."

At this rate, I'll be flat-out relaxing for days.

COMING UP ON HAMILTON ISLAND

Great Barrier Feast, July-November

Peter Gilmore (Quay), Frank Camorra (MoVida) and Dan Hunter (Royal Mail Hotel) will host three separate gourmet weekends, offering guests the opportunity to learn directly from world-class chefs.

Hosted by restaurant critic and columnist Simon Thomsen, each weekend begins on a Friday evening with a welcome dinner designed by qualia's executive chef, Jane-Therese Mulry, featuring wines paired by wine critic James Halliday.

AWAY Photography Course, July-August

Hosted by David Oliver, Peter Eastway and Bruce Pottinger, AWAY in the Whitsundays is a hands-on way to improve your photographic skills, whilst embracing the natural wonders as subjects.

Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, August

Every August the Hamilton Island Race Week draws yachts from around the globe to the Whitsundays. In addition to the excitement of offshore racing, a vibrant program of social events is held on land to celebrate Australia's largest yachting regatta.

Fujifilm Triathlon and Ocean Swim, November

With three gruelling events held over eight days, the Hamilton Island Triathlon is held every November and includes a triathlon workshop.

IF YOU GO

Getting there: Jetstar, Virgin Blue and Qantas operate flights daily into and out of Hamilton Island from major Australian cities.

Staying there: Accommodation and activities can be booked at any of the island's resorts by visiting hamiltonisland.com.au.

Things to do: Sailing, golf, scuba diving, snorkelling, luxuriating in the spa.

Don't miss: Lunch at the Hamilton Island Golf Club for $65 a head, including transfers. You don't have to play golf, you can just enjoy the views and food.

The writer was a guest of Hamilton Island.

- AAP

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