Heron Island is a small genuine coral cay, 72 kilometres offshore from Gladstone in Queensland. The water is turquoise and crystal clear, the island is surrounded by white, powdery sand and the sunsets are magical. And it’s a nature lover’s haven.
To get there, you would take the launch from Gladstone Marina which takes about 2.5 hours, and check-in is at 8.30am. You might therefore want to spend a night in Gladstone. If you’re driving to Gladstone, you can park your car in the secure car park on Bryan Jordan Drive and it needs to be pre-booked. A quicker way to get there is by seaplane (from Gladstone) which takes 20 minutes and there’s a 15kg per person luggage allowance.
Heron Island is known for its abundant marine life, in particular the turtles. The island is a significant nesting location for the Green and Loggerhead Turtles and they start to hatch in early January until May.
There are over 1150 types of fish in the lagoon and you’ll find Wedge Tailed Shearwaters (aka Mutton Birds), Sea Eagles, Black Noddy Terns and Egrets which were initially thought to be herons because of their one colour – hence the name Heron Island. The Island has excellent dive sites and Jacques Cousteau has included it in his list of 10 favourite dive sites in the world.
Heron island is only about 800m (2600 ft) long and 300m (980 ft) at it’s widest. What surprised me most, given that it’s so small, was that the accommodation was almost booked out yet there were times when saw no other people on the beach. And another surprise is that it has the largest island-based research station in the Southern Hemisphere.
Heron Island is a natural habitat and a word of warning if living amongst nature isn’t your thing. The Mutton Bird can get particularly noisy during mating and breeding season which occurs from November-January. You might want to bring along earplugs if you’re visiting this time of year.
Another thing to look out for during breeding season is the bird poop and an umbrella might be handy – just in case. If you think it will put you off, then I’d recommend avoiding Heron Island during the mating/breeding season.
You can snorkel off the beach or book a snorkel boat trip. If you’re a diver, the Marine Centre will provide you with weights free of charge so you won’t need to bring your own. If snorkelling or diving isn’t for you, then you can book a tour on the semi-submersible, subject to weather conditions.
Complimentary island and reef walks can also be booked with a naturalist guide who’ll provide a fascinating insight into the reef ecosystem, the flora and the fauna. That’s what this island is all about.
Here you won’t find TV, radio or mobile phone coverage however there are two card-only payphones. The food I recall was average and buffet style and the accommodation comfortable. Don’t expect a 5 star resort experience. Do expect an amazing diving, snorkelling and environmental experience.
Heron Island is a family holiday with a difference and highly recommended.
For more information on this island gem, visit www.heronisland.com.
On our drive back home to the Gold Coast, we stopped at the lovely little historic town of Childers.