Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef

Heron Island is a true coral cay located right on the Great Barrier Reef. The resort is spread over about one third of the island at one end and the rest is covered in natural vegetation including thick areas of Pisonia forest. The island is only about 800m long and 250m wide, so you really have the feel of being on an island. Heron is world famous for its fantastic scuba diving and snorkeling. Here you can swim straight off the beach and snorkel amongst coral with a huge variety of fish swimming right up to your mask. There more than 30 dive sites around the island, half of them are only 15 minutes from the beach.

There is an amazing array of wildlife throughout the year including Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles. Thousands of Noddy Terns nest amongst the dense Pisonia forests and Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Mutton Birds) nest in sand burrows in the forest.


The Island is all low rise, with accommodation nested amongst the landscaped gardens and natural stands of Pisonia trees. There are various types of accommodation available:

  • The pick of the accommodation on offer is the Beach House located on the beach surrounded by a grove of trees. The Beach House has filtered ocean views and a private boardwalk to the beach, and is air conditioned with separate bedroom, spacious ensuite including a bath and shower. There is only one Beach House, though.
  • Point Suites have uninterrupted reef views and views of sunset over the Great Barrier Reef. These air-conditioned suites have a large ensuite and separate dressing room. The living area extends through glass doors to an outdoor terrace with sun lounges and opens out onto the lawn and resort gardens.
  • Wistari Suites are situated in a garden setting with filtered ocean views and offer maximum privacy. Suites are air-conditioned with spacious interiors and include a living area with sofa and armchair and separate sleeping area with King Size bed. A private outdoor terrace features wooden furniture and a two person hammock.
  • Heron Beachside Suites offer filtered views over the Great Barrier Reef and are set in a good beachside location with direct access to the beach and reef. Suites have spacious bedroom and separate living area with a large outdoor balcony.
  • Reef Rooms are near the beach with filtered reef and water views through the beachside trees and shrubs. The living area extends outdoors to a balcony or garden. Reef Rooms can accommodate three people or five in a family room configuration.
  • Turtle Rooms are located in a garden setting with no beach view. There two rooms per block. All rooms are at ground level and have a deck and outdoor area. Turtle Rooms can sleep up to three, or four in a family room configuration. This is the budget accommodation with shared bathroom facilities using an amenities block a short walk from the cabins.

Full buffet breakfast is included at Heron Island. You can also book a full meal package including lunch and dinner, for additional cost. The Resort Boutique stocks clothing, souvenirs, confectionary, magazines, newspapers, toiletries.


The island produces a daily activity sheet “The Heron Times” giving you a run down of what is on each day. Complimentary activities include guided island walks to introduce you to life on a coral cay, island ecology walks, guided birdlife walks, stargazing, wildlife presentations, snorkeling lessons in the swimming pool, tennis and table tennis. Evening nature slide presentations and latest movie releases are shown after dinner. You can hire or buy a range of dive and snorkel equipment at the Marine Centre & Shop (PADI/NAUI qualified).

Activities with additional charge include, snorkeling excursions to the edge of the reef, semi-submersible coral viewing cruises (don’t miss this, especially if you are not a scuba diver), diving tours, diving classes, scenic helicopter flights, sunset wine & cheese cruises, turtle tour in nesting season. During school holidays there is a Heron Junior Rangers Program (7-12yrs), where they get to experience a variety of marine creatures close up and explore the coral cay.

Wildlife on Heron Island

The main attraction of Heron Island is the reef with its clear waters and amazing variety of marine life, including colourful fish and coral and fish, with some of the best snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef. Throughout the year, there is always other interesting wildlife to see, and the Marine Parks interpretative centre on the island can help you find out about life on the island. The bird breeding season starts in July when the Eastern Reef Egrets start nesting. By the end of August the Black Noddies start arriving on island, growing in numbers through September. The Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Mutton birds) return to the island and can be seen digging and repairing their nesting burrows in November. By the end of the year, the Noddies have chicks in their nests, and the Wedge-tailed Shearwaters have eggs. The bird breeding season peaks in January and February. By April, most of the Black Noddies leave the island and the last of the young Wedge-tail Shearwaters leave their burrows. The adult Wedge-tail Shearwaters depart, leaving behind the young Wedge-tailed Shearwaters which need to develop flying skills before they leave by the end of May. Black Noddies arrive on the island each year around September and start nesting. The Wedge-tailed Shearwaters (Mutton birds) arrive in October. The bird breeding season peaks around January breeding season for sea birds such as the Black Noddies, Wedge-tail Shearwater (Mutton Birds) and Eastern Reef Egrets.

Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles breed on Heron Island. The breeding season begins in October with first eggs being laid in November. Egg laying continues through to March, and the first young turtle hatchlings emerge from the sand and make their way to the sea in January, with last hatchlings emerging by May.

Humpback Whales migrate from the Antarctic in winter, and can often be seen around the island in June, with July to September the peak period for whale sightings. In October the whales start migrating back to the Antarctic.

Getting to Heron Island

The most popular way of getting to Heron Island is by boat transfer from Gladstone. The boat trip takes about two hours. A courtesy coach transfers you from Gladstone airport to the Gladstone Marina. The boat service departs Gladstone Marina at 11.00am daily (except Christmas Day). Gladstone Marina is located at Bryan Jordan Drive, Gladstone. At the end of your trip, the return boat transfer departs Heron Island at approx. 2.00pm Island time (1.00pm EST). You can also fly into Heron Island by helicopter on a 30 minute flight from Gladstone. Australian Helicopters operates scenic transfers between Gladstone Airport and Heron Island daily on demand during daylight hours.

Related posts:

  1. Wilson Island, Great Barrier Reef
  2. Lady Elliot Island, Great Barrier Reef
  3. Lizard Island, Great Barrier Reef, Queensland
  4. Orpheus Island, secluded Barrier Reef sanctuary
  5. Great Keppel Island, Queensland

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