Having been a bit stressed lately, I accepted the offer wholeheartedly, and off we went.
I had heard of Hamilton Island, but knew not what to expect. Apparently it looks like Hawaii and it smells like Hawaii, but it's on the Great Barrier Reef, and no ALOHAs are ever extended as a greeting.
Our flight from Melbourne was approximately three hours long. We arrived to a microscopic airport, which much to my surprise, had no luggage carousel. When the luggage arrived, we descended on it like ants on a pic nick basket. It was a bit of a pandemonium.
The local temperature can be compared to any tropical city in the world...Cartagena, Honolulu, Miami or Denpasar. They all have that common balminess to them, which you experience upon exiting a temperature controlled aircraft.
My hair immediately becomes wiry and out of control in all of these places. I must have been a desert Bedouin in another lifetime, for in this current one I cannot be exposed to humidity. My body rebels against it. I absolutely adore the tropics, but my body does not.
It's the hair first, then the face (pores produce way too much oil), and eventually the local mosquitos detect my presence and descend on me to feast on my internationally renown 'sweet' blood, marking my flesh up with itchy red welts for the next month or so. There must have been one mosquito somewhere who tasted my blood and sent an email to his buddies around the world, telling them to keep a lookout for me. An almost "top ten best blood"...and I'm number one.
My Hamilton Island adventure thus far (thank God all mighty) has been mosquito free. Almost too good to be true, and I have not spritzed one drop of mosquito repellant. Go figure. However, the hair is beyond repair and my face shines from a mile away, I'm sure light can be reflected off it at night to act like a lighthouse.
The island is lush and very green; apparently 75% of the island is bush land and it is intended to remain that way. The tallest buildings are hotels, but they are a far cry from Honolulu's skyscrapers, which allows for the nature to outshine the man made structures.
There is a quaint marina, with the strip of shops and restaurants. The restaurants are beyond expensive, unfortunately, so I have opted to cook most of my meals.
There are no true locals. Most people living here are from other parts of Australia, brought to the island to work in the tourist industry. They are for the most part friendly and helpful, all except one...there always is one, isn't there? The free shuttle bus driver lady...she is a little 'challenging', to say the least. I've attempted to engage her in conversation, to no avail. On the other hand, the night bus driver is super friendly, and plays Elvis music ALL the time. The foreign tourists absolutely love him! His bus can be heard blocks away, because of the roaring laughter from its passengers.
As this is a work holiday, I've been dutifully working wherever I can find free WiFi. My favorite hot spot has been the Reef Lounge, a large open area with comfortable rattan chairs spread throughout. I sit in the same spot, see the same bartender and wave at little kids who wonder in with their folks looking for the bathroom and recognize me. My favorite though, is the daily group of newly arrived Japanese tourists and their guide.
Around 10:00am each morning, a soft spoken young Japanese woman (different each day), brings in about a dozen Japanese couples, and she begins her presentation. I don't understand Japanese, but because I've heard the instructional speech several times so far, I've been able to decipher the word 'restaurant' and 'buggy'. I'm sure she lists the restaurants in the marina, then warns them of the rogue buggies.
There are approximately 1,500 golf buggies on the island - this according to my Elvis aficionado bus driver - and all road rules which apply to regular cars, do also to the gulf buggies. They seem innocent enough, but apparently folks drink quite a bit, and accidents happen. I don't doubt it...I've heard lots of spine chilling screeches of sudden breaks being applied. I know that, if i see one on the road, I run for cover. But, buggies are better than cars, since they don't produce toxic exhaust fumes...so, I give the idea a great big thumbs up.
Cockatoos are native to Australia, and I think they have found their ideal paradise here on Hamilton Island. They are everywhere! The reception desk girl actually warned us about them, stating that we should always close our balcony doors before leaving our rooms. The cockatoos have been known to wonder into the hotel rooms looking for food and completely trash it. As many as 40 cockatoos have been found in one room, going at pillows, drapes, whatever they can destroy, they do. They are the 'rock stars' of the animal kingdom.
The water surrounding the island is crystal clear, turquoise blue. Breathtaking! The tide goes out toward the evening and families go sea shell scavenging.
I haven't ventured to the actual coral reef yet, because of my unfortunate experience on a boat while in Apollo Bay back in October, but if I find a really big boat, I'll go.
My take on this celebrated island is, that it is what Hawaii (Honolulu) may have been 40 years ago. Hamilton Island is tranquil, natural, quaint and family friendly. It's definitely worth coming back with the kids some day, even if no one says ALOHA to us.