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With a large marina, an airstrip, tons of motorized sports and several high-rise apartment towers, Hamilton Island is the only brazenly commercial spot on the islands. Privately owned, its businesses operate under a lease: development includes a quaint colonial waterfront with bank, post office, bakery, nightclub, a handful of overpriced restaurants  and six hotels. The twin towers of Reef View Hotel loom over the east beach complex, and the best view of the whole area is from one of its external glass lifts, which run up to penthouse level. To explore the island, you can rent a motorized dinghy from the marina or a golf buggy from opposite the ferry terminal to ride around the residential roads twisting along the northern peninsula. The best option, though, is the well-used walking track to the 239m-high Passage Peak, which offers the finest 360-degree panorama in the Whitsundays.

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