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Reef View Hotel

The Reef View Hotel, beachfront

Hamilton Island, Whitsundays, Australia
If you're after great Ozpitality in a picture-postcard setting, then look no further than this desert island resort.

first impressions
Car-free and carefree ... what a Great Barrier Relief.

This four-star, family-friendly hotel on picturesque Hamilton Island is not only Australia's largest island resort, but it's also one of the most popular – and for good reason. Nestled amongst palm-fringed beaches and lush tropical rainforest, it's part of that iconic picture paradise: sun, sea and sand.

Hamilton also boasts the biggest and best outdoor swimming pool in the world: the Great Barrier Reef. With more than 1,500 types of fish and 400 species of coral, it's little wonder why this underwater kingdom is among the world's seven natural wonders.

And if it's the Reef and surrounding oceans you've come to see, you're in the perfect place. As its name suggests, the hotel enjoys uninterrupted views of the calm, azure waters of the Coral Sea that cradles Hamilton and the 73 other islands of the magnificent Whitsunday archipelago. The island's bustling harbour – home to hundreds of glamorous yachts – also acts as an ideal gateway to the Reef. If you forget to pack your own boat, don't worry: the resort operates reasonably-priced, daily tours on board a high-speed catamaran.

There's a wide selection of dining and shopping experiences – and a huge variety of activities to suit every taste and budget, from water sports and spa packages, to action-packed day trips. One thing's for sure: you'll always be entertained on Hamilton Island.

The hotel itself dominates the skyline over 'tantastic' Catseye Beach, the sweeping stretch of white sand that makes Hamilton so instantly recognisable – and such a hit with sunbathers.

Those with a head for heights should take a ride on the hotel's own rollercoaster – a glass lift – to the 18th floor. Unsurpassed views over Catseye and the Coral Sea await, but be warned: this is incredibly addictive!

Three words: location, location, location ...

The Reef View Hotel, bedroom

Coral Sea View rooms – from floors four to eighteen – are spacious, modern, and well decorated. Yet most important of all, they offer hard-to-beat views over the Coral Sea and the Whitsunday Passage.

Each comes with air conditioning as standard; a queen-sized bed with luxurious linens; a writing desk and chair (with complimentary stationary); a state-of-the-art flat-screen TV on a handy, 360-degree movable stand; comfortable sofa and wooden coffee table – complete with a selection of free magazines; tea and coffee-making facilities; CD player; hair dryer; safe; iron and ironing board; direct-dial telephones with voicemail; pay-per-view movies; and a mini-bar stocked with wine, beer, chocolate, crisps, and other goodies. There's no wireless in the rooms, but you can connect in the hotel lobby.

But it's the huge, sliding glass doors – and the wonderful balconies beyond – that makes these rooms so special. They're the perfect place to unwind with a glass or three of wine, and enjoy one of the most sensational sights anywhere earth: sunset over the Whitsundays.

En-suite bathrooms are large, well-lit, and tiled throughout. They boast deep baths and a large, square-glass shower unit with power-shower. Complimentary 'Serendipity' bath and shower products as standard.

Garden View Rooms – those on floors one to three – offer much of the above, save for the lofty ocean vistas. They nevertheless have wonderful views of – you guessed it – the resort's landscaped, tropical gardens. Families might also consider the larger, one and two-bedroom Reef Suites, or the Terrace Suites, all of which can be found on the hotel's upper two floors.

There's also the grand Presidential Suite – perfect for a visiting dignitary, or that special someone. Other accommodation options at the resort include the three-star Palm Terrace; the three-star Palm Bungalows; the three-and-a-half star, self-catering Whitsunday Holiday Apartments; and the exclusive, five-star Beach Club.

But if the budget allows, splash out on two nights at qualia, Hamilton's newest addition, and an impressive benchmark of a five-star luxury. Set apart from the main resort, qualia's boutique, ocean-front villas are tucked away on the island's secluded northern tip. It's pricey, but guests are guaranteed VIP treatment from the moment they arrive. Hotel bosses call this 'the qualia effect' – we call it being spoiled!

food and drink
Finding somewhere to eat on Hamilton Island is easy – choosing what to eat is another matter. You'll find every conceivable dish on offer here, from fresh seafood at Mariners Restaurant, pasta and pizza at Romano's, and hearty pub snacks at the Marina Tavern.

But here's a tip: enjoy a mouth-watering, buffet breakfast at the hotel's Pool Terrace Restaurant, then ask the concierge to organise a picnic for lunch on the beach. And in the evening, head to the harbour for a traditional fish and chips at Popeye's. Then relax with a few glasses of fine, Australian wine at the Manta Ray Cafe as the sun sets over the harbour.

Leave a gap for something sweet from the Ice Cream Parlour, or a cake from Bob's Bakery.

Families can take advantage of the snack menu at the Pool Terrace Restaurant, which serves-up a number of dishes with children in mind. When the kids are asleep, weary parents can sneak back for cocktail and a well-deserved dinner, a la carte.

Spend at least one morning having breakfast at the Koala Gallery Wildlife Experience, where koalas can be seen close-up. Watch out for the merry kookaburras – these Kings of the Bush are expert sausage-stealers!

service with a smile?
The Reef View Hotel breaks all the rules when it comes to service – by doing it right. Unlike many large resorts which – due to passing trade – think poor service is acceptable, the Reef View takes customer satisfaction seriously. Guests here are treated exactly as they should be – like guests – which is refreshing when it comes to a complex of this size.

If you really must work, you'll find a business centre with conference and faxing facilities on-site, while wireless internet is available for a charge. Note there are no plug sockets in the lobby: if you plan to surf the net there, be sure your laptop is already charged.

There is, however, free internet access on a guest computer in the lobby.

The concierge desk is useful for arranging spa and hairdressing appointments, and for organising the resort's baby-sitting service. Meanwhile the Tour Desk is a must for those looking to explore the Barrier Reef.

The Clownfish Club offers activities for tots aged between six weeks and 14 years, such as fishing, swimming and beachcombing.

The hotel also boasts comprehensive disabled facilities, while wedding planners can arrange the perfect beach ceremony.

local attractions
You could call Hamilton the Whitfunday Island – there's every kind of activity imaginable. From sea kayaking, twilight sailing, fishing, scuba diving, scenic flights and snorkelling, to waterskiing, parasailing, tennis, pumping iron, and more.

The Reef View Hotel, sea view

Cruises on board the Fantasea catamarans operate daily to Whitehaven Beach – one of the Whitsunday's best natural attractions – and to Reefworld on the Barrier's unspoilt Hardy Reef. Here you can snorkel, swim, dive (or just marvel) at the array of wildlife beneath the surface. Water temperatures rarely drop below 25C, while the area is safe from stinging jellyfish and dangerous sharks. From August to October, you might even catch a mighty humpback whale on their annual migration to their southern breeding grounds.

Cars are (thankfully) banned on Hamilton, but guests who don't feel up to par with tackling the hilly roads on foot can (thankfully) rent an electric golf buggy.

The more adventurous may like to explore Hamilton's 20km of bushwalking trails, to such places at Passage Peak and Coral Cove. Others may prefer to explore...the pages of a good book.

Either way, you're spoilt for choice.

will it break the bank?
The Reef View Hotel is one of the world's best, affordable, family-friendly hotels.

Rates begin at around AUD$350 per night for Garden View Rooms; and AUD$400 for Coral Sea Rooms. The Presidential Suite costs from AUD$1,100 per night; while a minimum stay of two nights at qualia costs from around AUD$2,500.

Wedding and Barrier Reef packages are also available. Check the website for details.

Reef View Hotel
Hamilton Island

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