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Cairns first week of April - or Hamilton Island?

Austin, Texas
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11 posts
39 reviews
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Cairns first week of April - or Hamilton Island?

Hi,

We're undecided between Cairns / Port Douglas and Hamilton Island for the 4 day GBR leg of our trip to Australia. We're flying into Sydney and out of Melbourne, want to throw in a few beach/snorkel and reef days. We are considering Airlie Beach, Port Douglas and Hamilton Island. Benefit of HI and Airlie are proximity to Reef and Whitsundays...but we want to make sure we're not being dismissive of Cairns or overlooking any major 'pro' Cairns considerations...any thoughts/insights you are willing to share would be greatly appreciated!

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: Cairns first week of April - or Hamilton Island?

Hi Manuel,

I think it depends on your budget and style of travel - both are quite popular destinations. Cairns (and nearby Port Douglas) give you by the most options for reef tours - this is the center of Australia's GBR tourism. Cairns has a wide variety of accomodation to suit any budget, and there are many more flights; it is an international airport and has several flights to most Australian capitals, so it may be easier to get in and out of. It has lots of other tourist destinations beyond the reef - Kuranda/Skyrail, Daintree rainforest, Atherton Tablelands, etc. Cairns itself doesn't have a beach but nearby locations do. Snorkeling/diving is mostly done from the outer reef (2 hours on a boat), not from the mainland.

If you visit the Whitsundays, as you note you can stay in Airlie Beach which has a wide variety of accomodation options - it's a backpacker town and not ashamed of it. Hamilton Island is a resort - a fairly large, well equipped one - but prices are quite high for both accomodation and meals. There are plenty of activities however; check out the Hamilton Island web site for details. Hamilton Island is quite easy to access with direct flights in to its own airport, without the normal taxi/shuttle/traffic hassles, something it definitely has going for it over other locations.

From either Airlie Beach or Hamilton Island you can take a reef tour for snorkeling/diving, again this is a boat ride to an outer reef, as well as trips to Whitehaven Beach, typically listed as one of the world's best beaches. If this is something that attracts you it's one reason to choose the Whitsundays over Carins, as Far North Queenlsand's beaches are nice, but not world-class. But there aren't nearly as many options for reef tours from the Whitsundays (though some limited snorkeling is possible around Hamilton Island itself, an advantage over Cairns). The Whitsundays have a number of sailing trips too if that intrigues you.

As far as weather, the first week of April is the tail end of the wet season but Cairns will probably be acceptable though a bit hot and humid (you will still need stinger suits). The Whitsunday region will also be fine at this time of year, with less worry about stingers and possibly not quite as much humidity.

Good luck - personally I don't think you can go wrong with either choice. But if budget is not a big concern, and your focus is on relaxation - Hamilton Island is great. If you're being a little more careful about spending and you can get good flights, Cairns has so many options that you won't be disappointed there, and it's the best for snorkeling/diving on the outer reefs.

Austin, Texas
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11 posts
39 reviews
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2. Re: Cairns first week of April - or Hamilton Island?

Thank you very much, Jeremy512, very helpful and thorough! We may go with HI as less worrying about stingers does sound appealing (the budget part not so much, lol).

Sydney, Australia
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for Sydney, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Business Travel, New South Wales
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3. Re: Cairns first week of April - or Hamilton Island?

The Whitsundays still has stingers. www.marinestingers.com.au

Sydney, Australia
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4. Re: Cairns first week of April - or Hamilton Island?

That is true, hence I wrote "less worry" - but not zero worry! Near Hamilton Island itself it doesn't seem people are too concerned, but you should still use stinger suits when on the outer reef snorkeling/diving trips. Ask the operator for their advice and the conditions at the time.

You should definitely not swim alone and make sure vinegar is available in case of a sting. See here for some specific information for the Whitsundays about this: tourismwhitsundays.com.au/visitor-informatio…

5. Re: Cairns first week of April - or Hamilton Island?

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