Hamilton Island vs Daydream Island
When you’re piecing together your itinerary for Australia's east coast, it's pretty much a given that you'll be looking to spend some time in the Whitsunday Islands. And why wouldn't you? This is where you'll find one of the world's best beaches - Whitehaven Beach. Being on the Great Barrier Reef, the diving and snorkelling opportunities are terrific. And, well, the islands themselves are nothing short of gorgeous. The hard part is deciding upon which island to base yourself while you explore. The two Whitsunday heavyweights are Hamilton Island and Daydream Island. So let's see how they measure up against one another...
Access to the Reef
One of the main reasons you’re all the way out here… How easy is it to experience the Great Barrier Reef from these islands? Well, you can get out on the reef from both, however, the majority of tours depart Hamilton so, purely for choice, that’s your best bet. Having said that, Daydream has only just opened its doors after a multi-million dollar refurb so it’s sure to expand its offering over time. What Daydream does have is a huge, private living reef within the resort, home to over 100 species of marine life. They offer guided snorkelling encounters and feeding opportunities but if that sounds too close for comfort then you can keep dry and check out the underwater observatory instead.
Hamilton Island is big. It’s got four separate hotels and residential properties. It’s got a go kart track, an 18-hole golf course and even its own airport. But before you start imagining gridlocked roads, let me put your mind at rest. There are no cars here. Your transport options are either to walk, you could wait for a complimentary shuttle bus or, my personal favourite, hire a golf buggy. By contrast, Daydream is a fraction of the size and therefore much more intimate. In fact, you can walk from one end of the island to the other in less than 15 minutes. Of course, you’ll have fewer options for dining and entertainment as a result but you will get more of an authentic tropical island experience. Simply put, it really feels like are staying on an island.
One of the most exciting aspects of any trip Down Under is that you might be lucky enough to spot some local wildlife. High on the list for most visitors are kangaroos and wallabies. Well, you can get ready to tick them off because there’s every likelihood you’ll catch sight of one or two of the resident roos on Daydream or wallabies on Hamilton. You’ll really up your chances on Daydream as the island is small enough that you can regularly spot kangaroos bounce through the resort grounds or looking for a shady spot to snooze out of the sun. One animal you are likely to come across on Hamilton is the sulphur-crested cockatoo. But be wary, these quirky parrots are quite cheeky, especially when there’s food within pecking distance.
Kangaroo on Daydream Island - Image: Chris Steel
Kangaroo on Daydream IslandImage: Chris Steel
With four different properties on offer, Hamilton Island pretty much has this one covered. There’s qualia – the super stylish, high-end, adults-only retreat. The Beach Club – also adults-only, right on the beach. Or the Reef View Hotel – loads of space so it’s ideal for families plus you get a great view from the higher floors. Or, lastly, there’s the Palm Bungalows – cute, apartment-style bungalows that are great for couples or small families. Daydream is always going to struggle to compete with that scale of choice but with stylish interconnecting rooms and beautiful suites, it caters for families and couples with ease.
Qualia, Hamilton Island - Image: Chris Steel
Qualia, Hamilton IslandImage: Chris Steel
So, Where Should You Stay?
It all comes down to the type of holiday you want. If you’re travelling with kids but you also value a relaxing environment, Daydream Island is fantastic – the Living Reef, free-roaming kangaroos and massive pool area make it a great choice for families. However, if you want a holiday with lots of activities, plenty of dining options and the reef on your doorstep – Hamilton has you covered.