Have you ever imagined how it would be like to live in the wrapping paper of a bounty bar? Well, this is it.
Heron Island is the perfect island adventure. You get the best of everything. Living in a luxury resort, but still getting to see some of the most amazing things nature can deliver, including sharks, rays and turtles! I will describe this as a “once in a lifetime opportunity”, but i have been so lucky to have been there twice, so here is my complete and personal guide for the beautiful Heron Island.
Heron Island is located in the World Heritage listed Great Barrier Reef and is placed off the northern part off Queensland on the east coast. The island is surrounded by beautiful corals and and stunning turquoise waters and is also a marine national park. The island is only 800 meters long and 300 meters in width. From October – March Heron Island is breeding place for the sea turtles, which is a spectacular sight.
In order to get to Heron Island, you need to take a ferry from Gladstone which is located 442 kilometers north from Brisbane on the east coast. From Brisbane and other Queensland cities in driving distance you can get there by Greyhound Australia, or if you are located another place in Australia or want to spare some time you can get some pretty good deals on domestic travel with Virgin Australia. Once in Gladstone you have can either get there by ferry with prices from 60 AUD one-way, or you can get there by a seaplane which will take you there with prices from 338 AUD one-way. If you want a very special experience, you also have the opportunity of getting their with a helicopter. This way of transport is expensive but gives you an amazing view as you fly across the Great Barrier Reef. Prices with helicopter can take you there from 395 AUD one-way.
When you sail off in Gladstone, you will find yourself surrounded by the sea on the ferry. Water everywhere, and you can feel the excitement bursting inside you. And after passing several larger islands, it appears before your eyes. Out of nowhere, this little tropical paradise rises from the sea. When the ferry is sailing in the little island harbour, the first thing that reveal itself is the old iconic shipwreck not far from the Island surrounded by the most beautiful colour you can imagine the sea having, and sand beaches Upon my arrival the first thing i saw when i looked at the water, was a beautiful 2 meter long reef shark swimming in between the shipwreck, which only tells the story of the amazing wildlife which rule the island.
After arriving at the island you bagage will be placed in your room, so from the first moment, you can let go of all worries, and just enjoy the place you find yourself. We were greeted in the bar and lobby area where we were briefed about the island and it’s wildlife – some guidelines to have you should respect the place you find yourself. To lighten the atmosphere we were offered a cocktail kind of drink, and you immediately feel relaxed and as a VIP guest.
The rooms, or more rather cabins, are divided into 8 categories and along with prices going up, the rooms get more and more luxury. The most normal room is the Turtle Room, which is more than enough for your stay. Because the thing is that you should not waste a single second in your room you could have spend outside. Accommodation rates for the turtle room is from 320 AUD pr. room pr. night which is included breakfast. For comparison the most expensive room, which is actually more a house, is The Beach House which is from 815 AUD pr. room pr. night including breakfast. When you spend time in your room, you have everything you need. Even the “cheap” solution would i describe as a 5 star room. And the rooms are not your topical hotel rooms. Every room as a cabin, where you have your own space, and with the turtle room you will have your own terrace.
The thing that makes Heron Island so special and uniq is the experience of having the whole island to yourself. Evne though there is a resort in the middle of the island, you never feel crowded or as a tourist. Whether it is during the day when you snorkel out from the beaches, or when you walk around the island at sunset you can always do it on your own. This gives you the feeling of being on a deserted island which i think is a greater feeling than being on one of the bigger islands, where you will find more buildings and roads etc. This is the island as nature made it.
One of the things that makes Heron Island special is that you can let go of all worries. There are no telephones, no tv’s and only internet connection in the bar if you purchase it on an hourly basis. A great way of letting go of your everyday habits of being one with your cellphone.
What to do
So. You arrived. You have the island at your feet. What should you do? Well, you have the chance to do anything and there is something for everybody. Both times i’ve been to the island, i have choose the more casual way of being there. I focused on snorkling, which is not something you need to sail out on a boat to do. You can simply just swim out from the beach, and you will experience the amazing underwater life that the coral reef is. The hire of snorkling gear is very affordable, and it will only cost you around 16 AUD a day if you choose the mask and fins (highly recommended for the perfect experience).
At both my stays i have been so lucky to experience both sharks, rays and turtles. And swimming with these animals is truly an amazing experience. Depending on the season, you get the interact with the turtles. In the beginning of the turtle breeding season in October, the turtles come in to shore to lay their eggs. And if you are lucky, you get to see these amazing animals crawl up in the sand and splash around in their nests. Around January/February you can experience the wonder of seeing the hatching of the baby turtles and see them rush down to the water in a big number. Either way, it is truly an amazing experience. If you are there in between June – September, you can also experience the great humpback whales which will visit the island during those months.
If you want to have the whole experience, there is also great diving opportunities at Heron where you can get lessons and sail out on boats on go along diving trips with experienced crew. Diving and snorkling at Heron are truly one of the most amazing experiences you can come across in Australia.
The birdlife is also amazing on the island. There are daily birdwalks with experts on the field who can tell you about the birds on the island. One other thing to know about Heron is the extreme tides on the island. Therefor at low tide, it will be completely shallow right of the beaches, so at that time you have a great chance of going on reef walks, where marine biologists will tell you all about the underwater life, and if your are lucky, you might get to touch a little reef shark…
There is also a pool next to the bar, where you can have a swim during low tide, or maybe just enjoy a cold refreshment in the pool chairs. At the bar there is a lounge area, where you can listen to live music at night, or enjoy yourself with a game of pool.
If you feel like spoiling yourself you can get spa treatments from the little spa located on the island as well.
Eat and drink
Heron Island has the Shearwater Restaurant which will provide you with breakfast served buffet style, lunch and dinner + dessert buffet if wanted and will also provide you with all kinds of wines and beers. The food is hands down very good even though it is your only food service on the Island. You can have everything from burgers to risotto and seafood plate. The average price for a dinner meal is around 30 AUD, which maybe seems a bit off for the limited traveller, but compared to the state of the resort and how good the food is, you won’t have the feeling of being ripped of. Lunch is 5-10 bucks cheaper, depending on what you eat. There will also be fish of the day, pasta of the day and etc., so you will have plenty of opportunities. If you don’t feel like having the food of the restaurant, the bar at the Island will serve you snacks or even pizzas. And just so you don’t have to worry about bringing your credit card everywhere, you will give them your credit card details at your arrival, and then you can just charge all your purchases to your room. Pretty clever, huh?
Worth the money?
Is it expensive? Yes. And maybe a little out of the normal travellers economic range. But if you ever have to visit an island in the Great Barrier Reef, you won’t find a greater experience than Heron Island. So yeah, it is expensive, but it is worth every single penny, and my only advice from here is; GET GOING, you won’t regret it.