The Whitsundays is a chain of islands off the Queensland coast in the heart of the Great Barrier Reef. There are 74 islands, most of them uninhabited, all of them beautiful. Hamilton Island is one of the larger islands and is essentially a giant resort. Hamilton is a good base for investigating the Whitsundays and the Reef. There are all sorts of activities available: sailing around the island, yachting between the islands, sports fishing tours, helicoptor tours, and of course a trip to the reef at some point is a must – although some people, like me, need to conquer seasickness and a fear of being so far from land. The Reef is truly amazing, the coral isn’t as colourful as I expected it to be the first time I went but it is still amazing to see, and the fish are outstanding. Every bit as colourful and abundant as any brochure claims.
What I love most about Hamilton is that you can just hang out there on the island. You don’t have to do any tours or go anywhere else. Being there can be enough – there are swimming pools all over the island (the one with the cocktail in the middle is my favourite) and doing nothing aside from lounging around enjoying the view with a good book and a cold beverage is a fine way to spend a holiday.
This trip, during the last week of June, was well into winter. Winter in Hamilton is reputed to be very mild and sunny, with reported average maximum temperature of 24 degrees C (74 F), but we were most unlucky to have cold wet and windy days – and a house with no heater! It was still beautiful, but not ideal. It didn’t stop the kids from jumping into every swimming pool they could, or taking the catamarans out, and we even had one day good enough for a hike out to the reef.
However the bad weather gave us lots of time indoors, and plenty of time to think about food! We were hoping to go to try Bommies at the yacht club while we were there, but discovered that the minimum age for dinner reservations was 13, which ruled out taking our family.
One restaurant that we did go to was Mariners Seafood Restaurant. I had been there before and loved it, and so I was keen to go back. Mariners is on the main street in town – Front Street and has a lovely view by day looking out over the marina to the islands beyond, and at night sparkling in the marina lights. The service at the restaurant is a joy. Friendly and attentive without being obsequious.
I began with the seered scallops and pork belly. The scallops were juice and plump with a subtle sauce. I expected the pork belly to be over-powering against the lightness of the scallops but found I enjoyed the contrast. The only failing of the dish was that there were only two scallops, when three would have been satisfying.
For mains I had the Thai-style Jungle Curry with Queensland tiger prawns. The prawns were fresh and cooked perfectly, but the sauce was a little heavy on the fish sauce for me, alhtough Wal thought it was fabulous. I also thought the presentation was bland, but the portion size was very generous.
And just because we were there I couldn’t go past dessert. A pear and caramel tart with a berry coulis.
I am normally not a huge fan of pears, but I do love caramel and any kind of berry, so I thought it was worth a try. It was very rich, so I was glad I was sharing with one of the sprogs, and had some unusual flavours in it (still haven’t figured them out), but was delicious.
It was a lovely meal and a great night out, but overall I felt the food wasn’t quite at the same standard as my previous experience. Still worth a go if you are visiting the island. I would go again…