Paradise, for many of us, comes in the form of white sand beaches lapped by limpid turquoise waters which sparkle and flash with silver in the sunshine. For others it is a land dotted with idyllic and luxurious beach houses, lodges and villas with infinity pools, spas, tropical gardens and jaw-droppingly beautiful views. This kind of paradise also goes by another name – Hamilton Island, the largest inhabited of the Great Barrier Reef-nestled island group known as the Whitsundays. Days here are typically full of cruising, sailing, golfing, pampering, snorkelling, relaxing or running a half marathon. Just in case you’re thinking that last item is a typo – I’ll write it again and yes, you read it right – a half marathon. We could just as easily have written outrigger marathon …..or even a triathlon because this little slice of heaven, it turns out, is also the home of the ‘Hamilton Island Endurance Series’ – a calendar of five hard-core endurance events spanning 7 months.
This picture perfect terrain of hills and mountains, coupled with its vast ocean environment are collectively the stage for ‘The Hamilton Half Marathon’, ‘Clash of the Paddles’, ‘Great Whitehaven Beach Run’, ‘Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim’ and the ‘Hamilton Island Triathlon’. Established athletes come from far and wide to test their mettle but such is the variety of events that holidaying families with kids are also invited to the party whether they want to compete or simply soak up the wonderful atmosphere at these times. Kicking off the annual programme is the Hamilton Hilly Half Marathon. Taking place in 2015 on 3 May, this challenging race leads its competitors up and down over roads, fire trails and walking tracks..
Next up and beginning on June 10 is one of the Endurance series most iconic events – the mighty four day Clash of the Paddles. The somebodies in the world of outrigger canoes gather here for a Whitsundays whirl, each determined to out-gun their rivals in an impressive water-based spectacle. With more than 100 events scheduled no-one is excluded – included in the ocean race menu are 250m and 500m sprints along with 6km, 8 km and 16 km contests. The pinnacle of the event is an unbelievable 42km marathon, recognised by those who know about these things as one of the toughest outrigger races on the planet. Surf- and ocean-ski athletes of all levels also get to join in the fun with a set of events which includes 3 km and 7 km sprints and a gruelling 25 km race.
If getting your feet wet doesn’t register as fun though, no worries. Come along to watch, choose some-one to cheer for and join in with all kinds of off-water social happenings. There’s a ‘Fun Zone’ for the kids, a range of viewing facilities, live entertainment, big screen highlights and a closing ceremony party which is not to be missed. For the events’ duration there is a whole host of food and drink options dished up by the marina’s nightly food stalls or any number of bars and restaurants.
Wind forward a couple of weeks to June 20 and get ready to kick up some sand or sit back and watch those energetically inclined with the Great Whitehaven Beach Run. This truly is an everyone’s-invited day – from families with young kids to focused competitors – with events ranging from a 500m race to a 21.1km half marathon for the more seriously intent. And of course everyone gets to enjoy the idyllic setting of the spectacular Whitehaven Beach on neighbouring Whitsunday Island.
Event number four is the ultimate in endurance tests – the Hamilton Island Triathlon which takes place on 21 November. A 750m swim in Cateseye Bay is followed by 20km of pedal pushing as competitors cycle around the southern part of the island. The race concludes with a 5 km run on a route which takes in the marina.
Young aspiring tri-athletes have their very own event – a junior triathlon, open to under 14s – of swimming, biking and running while the ‘Dent Dash’ is a run or walk around the Hamilton Island Golf Course on Dent Island
The Endurance series is rounded off on 22 November with the Whitehaven Beach Ocean Swim which includes a 350m fun swim for under 13s and a 750m or 2 km event for adults. Settings for swim events probably don’t come any more idyllic than this so whether you’re competing in one of the races or shouting your encouragement from the beach be sure to gaze around you every so often to remind yourself of just where you are.
Now as if this wasn’t all enough action, tucked in the middle of the Endurance series is another week long iconic event – actually one of the world’s most famous yachting events as it turns out – the ‘Audi Hamilton Island Race Week’. A party atmosphere abounds as yachties and spectators from all four corners of the globe and its oceans gather for a wide range of events, serious racing and water-themed fun which take place both on and off the water. The week of 15 – 22 August is set but as yet not all the details are finalised so check out www.hamiltonislandraceweek.com.au for the latest news and information.
As annual events go, Hamilton Island appears to be amassing quite a collection. Rubbing shoulders with the challenging Endurance series and the buzzing Hamilton Island Race Week is a real treat for culture vultures – the Australia ballet open-air performances at luxury resort ‘qualia’.
Forget clunky, 2D stage props – all that forms the ballet scenery backdrop here are the stunning whites and blues of the marvellous Whitsundays’ sky and beach along with the star-studded natural canopy overhead as night falls.
I could go on….for such a relatively small island, Hamilton Island seems to pack an awful lot into its 5 square kilometre-sized paradise package. Getting here is easy with short hop flights available from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Cairns whether your intention is to do nothing but laze and drink in the views or huff and puff your way through each and every one of its sporting events. The choice is yours – but either way, welcome to paradise.
As the last word, if you are looking for some more information regarding the Endurance series you can find all you need to know along with race schedules, off-water events listings, hotels offers, entry registration and much more at http://www.hamiltonisland.com.au/sports-events/endurance-series
Alternatively, for further information about the unique Hamilton Island race week or for details about their great value accommodation please contact Jerry Bridge.