Hole lot of fun on Hamilton Island
AFTER living so near and yet so far from Hamilton Island for many years, I have just paid my first visit, and my head is spinning.
Terms like tropical island, getaway or retreat are entirely inadequate when trying to describe the place affectionately known as Hamo.
It seems its creators have captured the class of a big city, softened it with the relaxed comfort of a retreat, then sought out a tropical paradise in which to place it. The result is an island for all seasons, all occasions, all interests, which provides a collection of experiences like no other.
Symbolically, it would be hard to pick one thing to typify this island in the sun.
Step back 25 years and the one that reigned supreme was a bird called the phoenix, a reminder of the island's ability to rise from the ashes after its main complex was destroyed by fire in 1985.
Now, though, the fight for supremacy seems to be between a bird and a buggy.
In the left corner, we have those magnificent but highly mischievous sulphur-crested cockatoos which perch on trees outside the Reef View Hotel, waiting to invade your room and knock off the complimentary bottle of wine and anything else they can lay their beaks on if given half a chance.
But my hunch is the top contender will be the one which is on every corner: those bustling buggies which are essential for your daily island commute.
On any given day, about 1000 of these little electric people purveyors are quietly zooming, darting and occasionally screeching their way up hill and round bend on the island's 750 hectares.
In peak season, chuck another 200 into the mix, just to up the ante. I'm not sure what it is about small vehicles with limited abilities (20kmh peak speed, slowing to a tad under 10 on a hill) but they're a tonne of fun.
My first adventure with this new mode of transport is on nearby Dent Island, home to that wonder of the golfing world, the Hamilton Island Golf Course.
I hope the club-wielding tragics will forgive me if I say, “Hang the golf, I'm just here for the stunning views of the Whitsunday islands from a dozen amazing vantage points around the course”.
When we arrive at the clubhouse on Dent, we are greeted by a smiling young woman bearing a tray of scented face towels to cool our brows after the exertion of doing nothing more strenuous than inhaling some salty air.
There's time for a drink while soaking up the vista of islands and Coral Sea stretching out in all directions, and I make a mental note: next visit, make time for the golf club's two-course lunch in this rarefied patch of peace.
But today we must away to a buggy conga line around the course, ably led by Simon.
We cruise gracefully around the postcard setting, apart from the odd buggy butt bump, as Simon points out the highlights of the course.
In short: the 4th hole is treacherous but the views of Long Island are stunning; the 13th has the most spectacular 360-degree views; courage is needed on the 14th; and on the 16th, more tremendous views.
This brings us back to everyone's favourite, the 19th, and yet more vistas of heaven.
There's so much to love here and yet all this is just one fragment of all that Hamo has to offer.
So much to see, so little time.
The next day, I am introduced to another Hamilton symbol when I head to one of the island's newest drawcards: spa wumerdaylin (pronounced woo-mer-day-lin).
This word means dragonfly, to symbolise renewal and freedom, which seems entirely appropriate.
Honestly, I haven't met a spa I didn't like, and wumerdaylin has all those beautiful soothing qualities – the aroma of essential oils, gentle music, hushed tones and products which sound good enough to eat.
Who would have thought it would feel so good to have pressure brought to bear on your glutes as each leg, bent at the knee, is gently turned in circles.
A one-hour Swedish relaxation massage leaves me feeling totally relaxed, and having to think about moving again seems entirely unfair.
I've sampled just a fragment of Hamo life, and much more could be said about attractions. So I can see no way out of it: I must return.