Heron Island is the only island resort on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Heron Island is itself a natural coral cay 89km off the coast of Queensland. The entire island is an exclusive resort for guests – no day trippers allowed! You can snorkel right off the beach!
Our family has had the very great pleasure of visiting the island three times while we were living in Gladstone. Our two eldest sons learned to snorkel right there in the pristine waters surrounded by lemon sharks, rays and huge shoals of fish.
The catamaran (Heron Islander) to take you on the 2 hour trip out to the island leaves from the marina in Gladstone at 2pm on Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun. Return trips leave Heron Island at 10am. Transfer times are subject to weather conditions (we had one rough trip where an awful lot of people suffered motion sickness – but don’t worry the staff are used to it!) If you suffer from motion sickness take a remedy in plenty of time before your journey. Although the initial trip through the harbour is usually quite pleasant as is the rest of the journey. We choose natural options whenever possible so had ginger on hand and acupressure bands. You can choose from a wide variety of options online (e.g. see which travel sickness remedies Amazon sellers ships worldwide).
If you have the funds or really can’t do boat trips then there is a seaplane or helicopter charter available.
Heron Island annual temperatures range from 22 to 30 degrees C (70-86 F) all year round as it is sub-tropical. The warmest months are January and February.
A visit to Heron Island is a nature wonderland with a huge variety of resident and visiting birds and aquatic wildlife. Highlight would have to be a visit in turtle season especially when the baby turtles hatch and make their way to the ocean. Turtle season is October to March each year. We were lucky enough to see a baby turtle making it’s way to the ocean on one visit and saw adults in the water when on a boat cruise around the island. You can walk around the island in 20 minutes!
The island has a thriving bird population and during nesting season you will be walking along the paths from your room to the restaurant or pool and be side-stepping burrows in the ground made by the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Mutton Bird). Nests are protected by boards which you must not disturb or risk disrupting the hatching process and stressing the adult birds. I have to say the noise the birds make at night is an unforgettable experience. The island was named in 1843 by the geologist on HMS Fly after he noticed the large numbers of Reef Herons (Eastern Reef Egret) feeding on the cay’s reef. Visitors to Heron Island need to be aware that the island is a bird sanctuary and can be home to over 100,000 birds! So no complaints please about the noise or droppings and remember to walk quickly under trees!
If visiting during June through to September you may be lucky enough to spot Humpback whales on their annual migration north from Antarctic waters for breeding in warmer tropical waters. All from the comfort of the Jetty! A truly amazing experience is swimming in the water with huge shoals of fish, lemon sharks and different species of rays. My eldest son took this next shot with our underwater camera as I was standing in the shallows with my daughter.
The less brave or non-swimmers can still get an amazing view of the fish shoals keeping out of the way of the sharks from the jetty.
109 rooms catering for everyone from couples to families. All rooms have a balcony or terrace but not necessarily a seaview. The vegetation is kept reasonably natural to help reduce light pollution so as not to disturb the turtles on the beaches. Rooms are all ensuite, have ceiling fans (some have air conditioning), fridge, tea and coffee facilities, mini-bar, beach towels and more… For a special treat you could book a suite or even the Beach House which have water views and usually direct beach access. All rooms include breakfast at the Shearwater Restaurant. Keep an eye out for special offers with food and accommodation deals. I love not having to cook or wash up the whole holiday!
Shearwater Restaurant and Baillies Bar provide food and drink for island guests. Restaurant runs a buffet breakfast each day with buffet or a la carte dining for evening and lunch. Dietary requirements can be catered for just give notice with your booking. As a family we are all gluten free (with son also anaphylactic to peanuts) and we had plenty of options to choose from and the chefs were so friendly and helpful. The bar has a small menu including pizza and chips and the yummiest hot chocolate for warming he children up after a swim.
Yes, there is a spa on the island and yes, my husband treated me to a leg pamper (very nice for a 35 week pregnant lady to put her feet up and be thoroughly spoilt for a while). The Aqua Soul Spa is very popular and provides a range of relaxing and rejuvenating treatments for men and women. Book early to avoid disappointment even before you get to the island.
Diving and snorkelling are very popular on Heron Island with over 20 top dive spots popular with visitors. You can snorkel from the beach or go out on a boat trip and for both activities you can hire gear. Non-swimmers can take a boat trip around the island as we did with our four young children (they now have a semi-submersible boat providing underwater viewing without getting wet). The children loved feeding the fish, spotting turtles and birds and just enjoying being out on the water. How about a fishing charter, sunset cruise or hire a kayak?
Numerous free guided tours are available from the education centre including birdlife, ecology and reef walks, stargazing, wildlife presentations and even snorkelling lessons in the pool. During the Australian school holidays the education team run a Junior Ranger program for 7 to 12 year olds.
Weddings and Events
What a fabulous location for you and your guests whether for a wedding celebration or a conference. Let the dedicated events team organise everything and take care of you while you enjoy the beautiful island surrounds as your wedding/event backdrop.
There really is NO mobile phone reception! There are two card phones – you can purchase cards from the bar. You can access Wi-Fi in the bar for a fee with a time limit. Worth it, even if it just to share some of your holiday images and make all your friends and family on Facebook or Instagram jealous.
The Heron Island shop sells everything from postcards to toothpaste and beachwear. They have a great range of gifts and essentials (great if you forgot your sunscreen). We purchased activity books and pencils for the children and they spent many hours colouring and learning about Australian wildlife.
Heron Island is truly a unique wildlife & sub-tropical adventure.
What are you waiting for?
Plan your visit to one of the seven wonders of the natural world – you won’t regret it!
Article written by Samantha Sullivan
- all photos were taken on our trips
- some links on this website and in this post are affiliate links. I make a small commission if you subsequently make a purchase or booking after following these links. There are no additional costs to you but I get a little more in the travel fund!
- For Heron Island information and bookings please visit the official website at www.heronisland.com