There's something fishy about Hamilton Island. And no, I'm not trying to be punny or facetious since it is, well, an island that naturally has an abundance of fish.
Sometimes I do my research about a place SO WELL before I decide to travel there. Other times I see a photo, fall into a state of awe, make my travel commitment without much more thought. Such was the case with Hamilton Island. A few photos of Whitehaven Beach and a helicopter view of the tropical Whitsundays left no question in my mind - I NEEDED to see this.
I sensed Hamilton Island's "fishiness" before we arrived. Just take a look at their website - perfectly branded and informative; Social media accounts brilliantly managed. Nearly anything I wanted to know about the island or needed to book for the island was centrally located.
We discovered that we could swim in any of the nearby pools and our complementary breakfast buffet could be enjoyed at multiple restaurants. Every kayak and SUP and sailboat matched with that well beachy blue, palm tree green, and sunshine yellow. Even the golf-carts bumped around like a happy little Utopian transportation zooming past the free shuttle service.
During the second day of feeling slightly perturbed over this paradise-esque island, we flipped on the TV (it was raining). On played an infomercial (which replayed and replayed and replayed) about Hamilton Island’s history and activities…
Hamilton Island is owned by Bob Oatley. And therefore, many of the businesses on Hamilton Island are owned by the Oatley family as well. The Oatleys are winemakers and sailors… and they purchased Hamilton Island (sounds like a good gig to me). It’s a tourist island and was developed for the purpose of… just guess… tourism! Rich guys with lots of money buying islands and making more money. Sure, there are a few people who live there, but they’re either voraciously wealthy or island workers. As far as I know.
It wasn’t always owned by the Oatleys. The island was first* possessed by Keith Williams, an entrepreneur who charged in during the 1970s to develop the island into a tourist magnet full of hotels, restaurants, a boat harbor, airport, golf course and more. He essentially laid down the blueprint/vision of Hamilton Island’s future. If there’s one thing that stands out on Mr. Williams’ resume, it’s his role in designing & developing Sea World on the Gold Coast. Theme park. Tourist destination. Okay, NOW I’m understanding the origin of the fishiness of this island…
It seemed slightly inauthentic and forced, but that’s probably because it was – this “destination” wasn’t established organically. It was pushed there with a purpose, for… tourism! There’s nothing wrong with some good ol’ entrepreneurship to commercialize your own island into a tourist mecca. Shoot, if I had the money… But that’s why the island seemed fishy. It was so perfectly put together, so well-crafted, so designed with the tourist-escapist-mindset. I suppose I wasn’t anticipating the loudness of the commercialization. Maybe I predicted more local charm. We were completely in the company of fellow tourists enjoying their vacation and island workers catering to these vacations. Hamilton Island is a holiday island.
The beauty of Hamilton Island made me breathlessly gasp, “This place is unreal!” And then I found out the beach wasn’t exactly “real” but manmade… yep, totally unreal. Knowing the beach wasn’t natural didn’t make it less beautiful. It just built on the fishiness.