It’s an early morning start to catch the sunrise from Passage Peak, on a circuit of Hamilton Island that combines a number of Hamilton Island’s bushwalking trails. I set off from the Hamilton Island Resort Lookout Trail entrance, torch in hand, at 6am. (Allow 45min to an hour to get from the resort to the peak, depending on how fast you walk.) The narrow but well-constructed trail ascends steadily from the resort towards Saddle Junction. There are views from the track toward Whitsunday Island and Whitsunday Peak to the east.
After a kilometre the walking trail meets a maintenance / 4WD road that follows the ridge, and shortly afterwards there’s a small detour along the road to the Flat Top Hill Lookout. Although it’s still a bit dark, there are views over Hamilton Island resort and Catseye Bay.
With the sky starting to lighten I fear I’ve started the walk a bit late (shouldn’t have hit the snooze button three times on my phone before finally getting out of bed!). I push on towards Saddle Junction: from here there’s just under a kilometre to go to Passage Peak, but it’s the steepest part of the walk. I can see my destination ahead – what looks like a small hill in the distance.
There’s more views from the trail to the north-west as it climbs up towards Passage Peak.
The last 200m is quite steep, but I make it just in time to see the sun rising above the ocean, behind Haslewood Island.
There’s 360-degree views from the top of Passage Peak – the highest point on Hamilton (although it’s only 234m above sea level).
To the south-east is Perseverance Island, the closest one to Hamilton Island, and in the distance Pentecost Island and Lindeman Island.
To the west is Catseye Bay and Hamilton Island Resort, and just behind the resort is Dent Island (home of the Hamilton Island Golf Club), with Long Island and the mainland in the distance. You can also see the maintenance road that goes along the ridge to the end of Hamilton Island.
I spend ten minutes or so on at the lookout, before heading back – it’s much quicker going down 🙂
I’m only re-tracing my steps for 200m, back to South East Head Junction. From here I’m taking the long way back, via South East Head and Escape Beach. The first few hundred metres is a wide maintenance track, and then I turn onto a narrow walking trail that roughly follows the coast south.
Halfway along the trail, there’s an abrupt change from light forest to a sea of grass trees (these are quite common on the sandy and infertile soil of ridges on Whitsunday islands).
A sulphur-crested cockatoo is enjoying the large flowering spike of the grass trees.
The trail is getting closer to the coast as it nears South East head, with Perseverance Island just across the narrow channel.
The trail rounds the headland, with South East Head jutting out into the ocean. The track is still fairly exposed here, although it’s only 7:30am so it’s pleasant walking even without shade.
The track drops into a small valley, crossing a small stream before ascending very gradually through a section of forest. Soon Escape Beach is visible below the trail.
There’s a very obvious (but not sign-posted) track down to the secluded Escape Beach. At this time of the day there’s no-one here – and I suggest there’s a good chance of having the beach to yourself for most of the day. It’s not particularly picturesque at low tide – high tide would be the best time to visit.
From Escape Beach the walking track ascends gently up to Saddle Junction, which will complete the circuit of South East Head.
From Saddle Junction I’m re-tracing my steps along the walking track to Resort Lookout Junction. Except now it’s daylight, while two hours ago I was walking up the same track by torch-light.
Once I reach the Resort Lookout Junction, I take the left fork towards the Resort Lookout – this part of my route is on a graded maintenance road (also used by ATV tours) and it not particularly nice walking. It adds about 4km to the walk, but I want to go back via one more lookout…
…Resort Lookout is a huge cleared area, that’s above the Hamilton Island airport and is also used for weather monitoring equipment. There’s a picnic table here, but it’s not a particularly nice place. The views are pretty good though, if you walk around the edge of the large lookout area. The lookout is almost directly above the resort and Reef View towers.
In the opposite direction is the mainland.
The quickest way back to the resort would be to return to Resort Lookout Junction and take the trail down to the Resort Trail Entrance. In hindsight, I should have done that… but instead I follow the maintenance road to Palm Valley. I’m heading away from Passage Peak, at the other end of the island, and towards the airport.
The trail leaves the park near the southern end of the runway, on Palm Valley Way. From here it’s about 2km along the road, past the Hamilton Island Airport and past the marina back to the resort. It means I’ve done a second big circuit rather than returning the same way from the Resort Lookout – but the walk from the last lookout to the resort isn’t particularly nice walking.
More information on Passage Peak (and Escape Beach)
Passage Peak is the best spot on Hamilton Island for sunset or sunrise (I think the the views to the east as the sun is rising are slightly better than those to the west at sunset). If you prefer to watch the sunset without the walk, head to One Tree Hill, which isn’t as good but it’s a lot easier to get to…