The Hungry Wanderers

Eating and exploring our way through the world

Posts Tagged ‘Hamilton Island’

Departing Hamilton Island, a Cyclone Approaches, and Lovely Mainland Airlie Beach

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on March 20, 2010

On our last morning in Hamilton Island, we had to be up early to catch the shuttle to the ferry jetty (dock), so we could catch the ferry back to the mainland, so we could head on our 6+-hour road trip to Mission Beach.  Our bags were to be picked up at 6:30 am from the room, so we were up before 6, getting packed and showered.  We really haven’t had a hard time getting up early on this trip, as we have always had an easterly facing room, looking over the ocean, and we’ve been sleeping with our blinds open.  So we said good morning, and good-bye, to our balcony view for the last time.
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Evidently, there was a miscommunication with the desk between a handful of the staff, and the shuttle left without us.  No worries, though.  The porter grabbed a buggy (golf cart) and drove us down to the jetty himself.  Finally, we were down in the “downtown” area when there was some light, so we got a couple pictures of the limited shopping area on Hamilton Island.

IMG_5574 Across the harbor, there’s a bakery and a couple restaurants.  The bakery was only open from 7 am – 10 am, though, so we never made it over to check it out.  By the bakery, there was also some beachwear, souvenirs, and boutique clothing shopping to be had.

IMG_5575This is one of the other hotels on the island, and while I don’t believe it’s the tallest hotel, because of its location on the island, I believe it’s the highest.

IMG_5587 There was a little deli available for sandwiches and the like.

IMG_5588In general, the island was laid out a quiet island resort street, with all the establishments right on the water, with a harbor view.

IMG_5589 At the end of this street, you can see Romano’s, where we had dinner the night prior.

IMG_5593 There was a nice, quaint ice cream parlor, which we never made it to.  They had some great-looking ice cream, and it was one of the more flexible establishments, in terms of operating hours, but ice cream just wasn’t in the cards for us.

At the ferry jetty, they had the sea state for FantaSea’s ReefWorld, where we saw the Great Barrier Reef.  The incoming Cyclone Ului (category 3 hurricane), was headed right for Hamilton Island, and was coming via ReefWorld.  The same reason our trip to the reef had been so rough, had now closed ReefWorld for the day (and probably through the Cyclone’s entire track), and was going to make our ferry right a bit interesting.

IMG_5596 I know it’s hard to read, but it says 3.5-4 meter swells, and wind speeds from 30-40 knots.

Our ride back to the mainland, despite the fact that it was only 20 minutes, and despite the fact that the passage is largely protected by other islands, was rough.  Several times our catamaran yawed hard, causing things to slide, and in one case, causing the five-foot high luggage cart to overturn.  The crew was remarkably responsive, but completely unpanicked, which made the Wife and I feel a lot better.  Both of us ended up feeling a little queasy.  We had brought books, and were reading them during the trip, and by the time we realized that the reading and rolling wasn’t a good mix, we felt just the slightest bit uneasy.  Not to worry, though, the short trip kept us from having any real problems.

From Shute Harbour, where the ferry dropped us off, we drove to the adjacent town of Airlie Beach.  It was a fun little beach town, and we walked around looking for petrol (gas) and brekky.

IMG_5597 The nice, quiet beach town was asleep when we got there at 8:30 am.

IMG_5598 It had all the typical beach town amenities, though, including bright pastel signs.

IMG_5602They also had a Subway.  We’ve heard that Australia has more Subways per capita than any other country, to include the U.S.  For those of you that don’t know, I worked at a Subway in my hometown on and off for about five years, so Subway holds a special place in my heart.  The smell of its fresh bread means more to me than just “eat fresh.”  It also represents dozens of nights crawling into bed after a long day of school and subsequent work at Subway, drifting off to the smell of bread.   I suppose there are worse things to drift off to sleep to.

As a side note, after years and years of FREE Subway food, though, I have a REALLY hard time paying for anything from Subway.  Consequently, I love smelling the stores, but I rarely enjoy any of the food.  To be fair, the owner of “my” Subway was a complete stickler for cleanliness.  Our store was always remarkably clean, and high quality was always one of his big points.  So I do NOT suffer from the problem that so many fast-food employees suffer from, of being unable to stomach food from my previous employer.

IMG_5606Once again, being a beach town, there was a pretty laid-back feeling to it all.  Here is a picture of what, as best as I can tell, is a hive for backpackers and caravaners.  This place helped travelers get travel caravans, find hostels or backpacker hotels (of which Airlie Beach had plenty), and provided some additional traveler services for backpackers and caravaners.  Travel caravans have been very popular along our road trip.  Think of a Volkswagen Vanagon, only a little smaller, with three or four people inside, along with a couple folding beds, cupboard, etc.  Everywhere we’ve gone, there are caravan parks available for travel caravans.

IMG_5610As we walked around, looking for breakfast, we came across a couple interesting places.  We decided on Capers, at the Airlie Beach Hotel.  Really, what roped us in, was that they had percolated coffee on the menu!

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They also had bagels on the menu, which we hadn’t seen anywhere.  While we’re all about trying, experiencing and enjoying local cuisine and customs, sometimes it’s nice to have a slice of home in a foreign land.  With a couple North American delights on the menu, we were hooked.  Interestingly, the assistant manager (who handled our order), commented that they catered to North American.

IMG_5635 So, this is the ONLY place I have seen brekky spelled like this, but I thought I would at least include the shot.

IMG_5611They were nice enough to define how to order and pay.  We still haven’t gotten the hang of it, but it is getting easier.

IMG_5621 It had a nice inside and outside seating area.

IMG_5614 Once we sat down, CLEARLY they cater to North Americans, because they had ketchup (catsup?).  This is the first time we’ve seen ketchup in Australia.  Normally, if you want something like it, you ask for “tomato sauce,” and something very similar, but distinctly different is served to you.  It’s usually a little thinner than ketchup, and definitively less sweet.

IMG_5619 The Wife had a nice cappuccino and a bagel sandwich.IMG_5628Both the bagels were served with hollandaise, as the sandwiches came with eggs Benedict on them.  Interestingly, the eggs come completely cooked, with no soft yolk, which really significantly changes what we think of when we order eggs Benedict.

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I had a bacon, Swiss, and eggs Benedict.  I knew we probably wouldn’t be able to have lunch, as we would be pushing to get to Mission Beach before it gets too late, so I added a couple eggs on the side.  Everything was so remarkably fresh, we could barely believe it.  We were pretty hungry, but it didn’t change the fact that the food was delicious.

IMG_5629 And finally, my percolated coffee in my beloved mug.  The coffee was STRONG, but it had that distinct filtered texture, and I savored every drop.

IMG_5622After breakfast, we headed out to the beach, just to take a quick walk around before getting on the road.  The beach was directly across the street from Capers.  There was a nice park and a pleasant, manicured path all along the beach.

IMG_5638The weather doesn’t appear to be too rough, but it was somewhat windy.  Otherwise, though, the weather was fantastic while we were in Airlie Beach.

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IMG_5644 We set up our tripod and got a quick picture of us.

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IMG_5653A handful of landscapers were putting up this billboard showing the dangers of both the box and irukandji jellyfish.  We thought it was interesting that while the box jellyfish is considered to be the most agonizing sting of any beast on earth, all jellyfish stings should be treated as an irukandji sting, when in doubt.  Vinegar is used to flush the venom from a sting, and a bottle of vinegar was provided attached to the sign.  Keep in mind, this wasn’t a small flyer, but an eight-foot tall sign.

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Overall, we were remarkably pleased with Airie Beach and figured that, if given the option again, while Hamilton Island was fantastic, we probably could have spent a couple days in Airlie Beach, too, saved a couple nickels, and still had a fabulous time.

After Airlie Beach, we were off on another road trip, heading to Mission Beach.  Stay tuned for our next post about our trip.

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A Day on Hamilton Island

Posted by gingerbreadpirate on March 18, 2010

After our long day out on the Great Barrier Reef, we decided to take it a little easy the next day.  Besides, this is the only stop on our journey that we’re staying 3 nights, so having another day that we didn’t have to jump out of bed, pack, and get on the road was a welcome treat.

After sleeping in a little bit, we headed down to the Koala Gallery for breakfast.  At the Koala Gallery, one can enjoy a nice breakfast, as well as see and pet live koala cubs.

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Seeing live, WILD koalas is definitely on my list of things to do while here in Australia, but they are very hard to see in the wild.  It’s not so much that they’re “rare,” as much as it is that they sleep 20 hours a day, high in trees, and their fur is the same color as the eucalyptus tree bark.  So unless you KNOW where to see them, then you spend a lot of time looking high up into treetops wondering if the lump you’re seeing is a koala bear, a tuft of leaves, or some kind of tree malformation.  I’m still hopeful to be able to see a live koala once we get down toward Melbourne and the Great Ocean Road, but for now, I figured I would settle for seeing a koala in semi-captivity.

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After breakfast, our daily agenda consisted of four things: an island hike, a dip in the pool, a sunset cruise, and a nice Italian dinner.  So, first things first, we got ready to go on our hike.  We headed off to the trails, and swung by the beach for a quick look at the peak we were headed to.

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We hit the trail, and the beginning section, labeled on the map as “moderate” difficulty had the Wife and I reconsidering our decision.  The trail was steep and rocky, and not particularly well worn.  The trek to Passage Peak (the aforementioned summit) had several sections listed on the map as “steep,” and we figured that if the opening section wasn’t considered “steep,” then maybe “steep meant you needed climbing equipment!  Well, after about the first kilometer, the trail leveled out to something more what we would consider “moderate” at a family resort.  We then arrived at some stairs to announce our entry to the “steep” climb toward the summit.

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To our surprise, these are all the stairs there were (pictured).  We somewhat expected the stairs to extend further; it was certainly steep enough.  As we moved on and on, the trail became less and less worn, and more and more “natural.”  We did eventually come across some more stairs, but more rustic than the first.

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Finally, after a break or two, we came to the top.  It was gorgeous, and well worth the ~3 km hike.  Hamilton Island really isn’t all that big.  Only about 4 km long, but the peak is about 750 feet high (234 m).

IMG_5505It was an awesome view of the Whitsunday Islands.

IMG_5522 We set up the tripod, which was a challenge with the wind and rocks, and got a picture of us to prove we were there.

IMG_5534Then we picked up and headed back to the bottom of the trail.  As always, the way down was easier than the way up, but with ALL the rain the Whitsundays have had, the path was still very muddy, and hence fairly slick.  We did have time to get some pictures of the natural beauty.  The majority of Hamilton Island is National Park, so there is an awful lot of nature to see.

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We also saw a Kookaburra, and got a couple pictures, but none of them came out.  We got to the bottom, and decided it was time for a little rest, a quick shower, and some water before heading off to the pool.

IMG_5438The pool was nice and pleasant for the first 30 minutes, but then it began to pour rain.  We jumped in the pool for refuge from the downpour, but it was pretty cool; far cooler than one might expect at a tropical island paradise.  We adjourned to our balcony to read for the remainder of the afternoon.  One of the local cockatoos came to join us, too.

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At 5, it was time for our sunset cruise.  We looked at the weather, and wondered if we would see any sunset at all, but figured we’d check it out anyway.  We were supposed to be on a sailboat called the Banjo Patterson, which according to the brochure sizable, but not particularly large.  When we got to the jetty (dock) and there was no Banjo Patterson in sight, we were a little concerned that the cruise had been cancelled because of the impending crummy weather.  No so!  Evidently the Banjo Patterson was undergoing significant maintenance, and so a different boat, a large catamaran named the First Light, would be taking us out on the water.  It has a huge catamaran for the 20 or so passengers.

IMG_5586 We got on board, got our safety briefing, and off we went.  We were hoping the weather would hold up, but to be honest, I don’t think any of the passengers had delusions that the partly cloudy sky was going to hold.

As we left the harbor, we had a great view of Hamilton Island, so I snapped a shot.  Notice the dark clouds in the background.  They were coming right for us!IMG_2090

As we were heading out the channel, one of the crew explained to us that the island directly adjacent to Hamilton Island is the only privately-owned of the 74 Whitsunday Islands.  Most of the islands are leased from the Australian Government, but this island has been deeded.  It has had multiple owners, but its most recent owner, a cattle family from Cairns, purchased the island about 14 years ago for $650,000 AUD.  Today, it is worth an estimated $8.9M AUD, and there’s only three buildings on the entire island. Now THAT’S an investment!

IMG_5560 The island’s in the background, and the boats and sandbar are in part of the Hamilton Island harbor.

As we cruised on, the clouds just got more and more ominous.  Eventually, we just watched as a wall of rain collapsed on the boat.

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This, sadly, was as much of the sunset as we were able to see.  We did meet a lovely couple from Victoria, though, celebrating their honeymoon.  We chatted with them for the duration of the cruise, and the complimentary drinks made the entire trip quite enjoyable.  Besides, I don’t know when we’ll have another opportunity to have free run of a catamaran that large!

After the cruise, we headed off to Romano’s Italian Restaurant on the island, for which we had reservations.  Come back and check out our post on Italian food in Australia!

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