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Day trips from Airlie Beach to Hamilton Island

Updated Thu 25 May 2023

Yes, day trips to Hamilton Island are an ever-popular itinerary option for holiday-makers staying on the Whitsundays mainland!

Holiday-maker taking in the view of Hamilton Island from the resort escalator

With passenger ferry services departing from Airlie Beach and Shute Harbour, and an abundance of jaw-dropping sites and activities to enjoy it is easy to see why Hamilton Island is one of Australia’s most desired tropical island destinations!

Eager to start planning your ultimate day out indulging in the laid-back and luxurious Hamilton Island lifestyle? We have a range of Hamilton Island day tour packages with something for every type of Whitsundays traveller!

Let us fill you in on all you need to know - how to get there, getting around, and the top things to do! 

Getting to Hamilton Island

Sailing map route from Airlie Beach to Hamilton Island

Passenger ferry services depart from two convenient locations on the Whitsundays mainland, the Port of Airlie Marina and Shute Harbour, with multiple services departing for Hamilton Island throughout the day.

From Airlie Beach, the ferry service takes approximately 60 minutes to reach Hamilton Island, dropping passengers off at Daydream Island along the way. All Hamilton Island day tours depart on an early morning ferry to give visitors ample time on Hamilton Island’s tropical shorelines!

The Port of Airlie Marina is a 15-minute walk or a short taxi ride from the main street in Airlie Beach. Long term parking is also available at the Port of Airlie terminals, in addition to on-street parking within the Airlie Beach precinct.

Check out some of our top rated Hamilton Island tours!

Two people on the Cruise Whitsundays passenger ferry to Hamilton Island

Although there are multiple services running between Airlie Beach and Hamilton Island Marina each day, we recommend pre-booking your tickets with Cruise Whitsundays during the Whitsundays peak seasons if you aren’t booking a day tour!

Getting around Hamilton Island

Signposts at Hamilton Island

One of the best things about Hamilton Island, apart from its post-card perfect gleaming waters and decadent resort bar scene, is how conveniently you can walk from one island attraction to the next. Getting around Hamilton Island is easy, with visitors either choosing to walk, shuttle bus, or hire a golf buggy to get around!

For those on foot, directions to Hamilton Island’s attractions are signposted throughout the island for your ease! Most visitors find that a combination of walking and catching one of the complimentary island shuttle buses is the easiest way to get around Hamilton Island. The shuttle bus departs from the Resort Center opposite the Hamilton Island Tour Desk. Hop on and off around the island to cruise and explore at your own pace for the day!

Golf buggies parked at Hamilton Island

Okay so we’ve discussed the most convenient way to get around Hamilton Island, but what about the most enjoyable? Golf buggies! Hamilton Island is renowned for idyllic sites of golf buggies zipping up and down Front Street. Ideal for small families, couples, or friends, the best way to see all the island has to offer is behind the wheel of a cruisy golf buggy. The Buggy Hire office is located just past the resort centre, and with rows of buggies parked outside it is hard to miss!

Top things to do on Hamilton Island

The tropical haven of Hamilton Island has something for every type of Whitsundays traveller, from world-class beaches laden with sun lounges to lush national parks galore! For those dreaming of venturing at your own pace from one iconic Hamilton Island destination to the next, we recommend the CW: Hamilton Island Freestyle or CW: Island Hopper Pass.

Check out our list of top things to do on Hamilton Island to start building your unforgettable day trip itinerary!

1.   Snorkel at Catseye Beach

Swaying palm tree at Catseye Beach, Hamilton Island

Time to make those Hamilton Island daydreams of you lounging underneath sprawling palm trees come to life! Catseye Beach stretches divinely along the resort side of Hamilton Island and is easily accessible by foot from the marina. Spend some time lazing blissfully on the pristine white sands, before submerging into the dazzling Whitsundays waters for a playful snorkel!

Hamilton Island Beach Sports is located on Catseye Beach and offers an array of exciting watersport options for guests to hire at their own cost, such as snorkelling equipment, paddleboards, windsurfers, and kayaks. For families and groups, Catseye Beach is the ultimate spot to spend the day - relax or explore, you truly can have it all!

2.   Try kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding

Person paddle boarding in the Whitsundays

Hamilton Island is situated in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef, the largest reef system in the world! Both inner fringing reefs and outer reefs flourish in the enormous stretch of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Surrounding Hamilton Island, especially around the idyllic rocky headlands of Catseye Beach, are biodiverse and exotic inner fringing reefs that are just calling your name!

Another fun and quirky way to spot vibrant corals and curious marine species, aside from snorkelling, is from above by hiring a kayak or stand-up paddleboard! Stand-up paddleboarding is quickly becoming a crowd-favourite amongst holiday-makers worldwide, combining fitness, leisure, and a whole load of laughs!

3.   Take in the view from One Tree Hill

Three tourists taking a photo at One Tree Hill, Hamilton Island

As you travel through the Whitsunday Islands you’ll be sure to admire the abundance of lush cascading islands that naturally flourish in the balmy tropical Queensland humidity. Hamilton Island is home to a sensational number of national park walks and trails that all reveal a secluded, quiet side to the glamorous ambience of Hamilton Island!

For those visiting Hamilton Island on a day trip the best way to take in the astonishing panoramic sites of Daydream Island and Whitsunday Island along the Coral Sea horizon is from One Tree Hill. From the main strip on the island, One Tree Hill is a relaxed 20-minute uphill walk, simply follow the signs to paradise and don’t forget to bring along your camera!

4.   Say hello to the animals at the Wildlife Park

Koala perched in a tree, Hamilton Island Wildlife Park

Perfect for the whole family, the Hamilton Island Wildlife Park is your opportunity to get up close and personal with iconic Aussie animals! Say hello to cuddly koalas, unique dingoes, slithering pythons, and Hamilton Island’s favourite - Freddie the babbling Cockatoo!

For those with kids wishing to get a photo taken with friendly Aussie wildlife, or simply eager to enjoy the popular wildlife tour we recommend the CW: Hamilton Island Family Day tour. Take ample time to explore Hamilton Island at your own pace, meet the island’s resident wildlife on a Wildlife Park tour, play a game of Kegel 9 pin bowling, and indulge in an inclusive light lunch! A fun-packed family day in cloud nine!

5.   Enjoy a cocktail by the poolside

Two people enjoying a cocktail in the pool, Hamilton Island

What comes to your mind when you think of the ultimate holiday in a tropical wonderland? Colourful cocktails by the poolside, sunkissed skin, rows of comfortable sun lounges, swaying palm trees and luxurious resorts in the distance - absolutely everything that Hamilton Island’s world-renowned shorelines are known for!

After you have filled your day with island exploring, make sure to take some time before departure to order a cocktail in one of the many swim-up bars and unwind into the balmy Whitsundays temperature with a refreshing beverage. Exactly what holidays are for!

Dreaming of visiting both Hamilton Island and Daydream Island from Airlie Beach? Be sure to check out the CW: Twin Island Escape from Airlie Beach tour!

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