Heron Island is a small attractive island resort among the Southern Reef Islands, located about 72 km off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Alongside a small scale tourist resort, the island is also home to a research station maintained by the University of Queensland studying coral reef ecology.
Heron Island does not cater for day-trippers. The resort covers one third of the island, the rest is natural vegetation and the research station, which is off-limits to travellers.
Heron Island was discovered in 1843 but was not inhabited until the opening of a turtle cannery in the 1920s; it was however not a great commercial success and was closed down. The island was first opened as a resort in the early 1930s, and was granted National Park status in 1943.
Heron Island enjoys a warm, tropical climate. Temperatures for April: Air: 21 (min) - 27 °C (max); Water 25 - 27 °C
Flora and fauna
Heron Island is a coral cay with deep blue waters and lush vegetation, and breeding ground to some 70 000 - 120 000 birds; Heron Island is an attractive destination for travellers interested in exploring nature above and under water.
From November to March, female green and loggerhead sea turtles nest on the beach. Their hatchlings can be seen scurrying down to the water from January to April.
There is no airport on the island; however you can catch a seaplane from Gladstone Airport to arrive at the island in an unforgettable manner. Because you will be landing on water be prepared to wade through knee-deep waters for the last few metres! Flights between Gladstone and Heron Island operate daily between 7AM and 4:30PM, although frequency is subject to local tides and passenger availability, with a minimum of two passengers needed for the flight to run. Flights cost $291 one-way per person.
Catch a helicopter for the quickest journey to the island, taking 30 minutes from Gladstone Airport to the helopad on Heron Island. The views of the reef and the tropical waters cannot be beaten, and if you are prepared to pay the $395 one-way ticket per person, then this is surely the way to travel. A minimum of 4 passengers are needed for the flights to run. Alternatively, you can pay for a privately chartered flight, also this has significant costs, at $2,450 per person each way.
Get closest to the waves by taking the 170-seat The Heron Islander, which travels between Gladstone Marina and Heron Island once a day. Travelling by boat is the cheapest option at $99 per person each way ($50 for children).
Fees and permits
The only way to get around Heron Island is on foot! But don't worry, the island is only about 800 m end to end.
Above water nature's main attractions are the abundance of bird life and the nesting turtles who flood the island in their thousands from November to January. The bird breeding season between October and April can be especially noisy and smelly.
Diving is superb and close by including the famous Heron Bommie which has been featured in many underwater documentaries. Mantas, rays, reef sharks and turtles are seen on almost every dive. The corals are colourful and relatively unspoiled.
The Boutique has clothes and other souvenirs for sale.
Shearwater Restaurant is the place to eat on the island. It is open from 7:30AM-9:30AM for breakfast, 12:30PM 2:30PM for lunch and 6:30PM-9:30PM for dinner. Breakfast and lunch are buffet and dinner alternates between table d'hote and buffet.
The Bailles bar offers a range of drinks all day.
The only accommodation available on the island is operated by:
- Heron Island Resort, ☏ , toll-free: 1300-863-248, ✉ Travel@dncinc.com. Twin rooms from $250 per night per person, individual beach houses from $873, $960 for two people.
Check the website for package deals and special offers.
There are no campgrounds on the island.
Backcountry camping is not permitted on the island.
Being 73 km from the mainland, Heron Island is very safe. Safety deposit boxes are available at reception if you have anything extremely valuable.
The resort offers dive and snorkeling trips to the edge of the reef, as well as a semi-submersible vessel and fishing trips. You can also charter a boat for the day.