Heron Island review: A long weekend in paradise

Heron Island
Image source: Jordan Robins


Where is Heron Island?

Heron Island is located in Queensland, on the beautiful Great Barrier Reef. It is around 72km off the coast of Gladstone, which works out to be around a 2 hour boat ride. Heron Island is a stunning location, surrounded by a whopping 24 hectares of coral reef.

How do you get to Heron Island?

Heron Island can be accessed by flying to Gladstone. Virgin and Qantas regularly fly to Gladstone from Brisbane. Once you’ve arrived in Gladstone, you can transfer to Heron Island either via boat ($85 each way) or helicopter ($470 one way on a return ticket).

Can you do a day trip to Heron Island?

Heron Island isn’t available for day trips, simply because the trip is quite lengthy. It’s best to book at least a two night stay to make the most of this gorgeous location.

Can you stay on Heron Island?

Absolutely! Heron Island is a great island to stay on, and I recommend staying for at least two nights because there’s a lot to do, and you’ll want to get lot of snorkeling in. Accommodation starts from $358 a night, and is really comfortable.

Can you camp on Heron Island?

Camping on Heron Island isn’t possible, but there are great rooms for staying in that will be comfortable for the whole family.

How big is Heron Island?

Heron Island isn’t a huge island, which I liked, it truly feels like a natural island that isn’t too overdeveloped. It takes around 30 minutes to walk around the whole island, but best of all it’s surrounded by hectares of coral cay and reef, so the possibilities are endless.

What is the best time to visit Heron Island?

Heron Island is gorgeous any time of year. We visited in October and it was magical. If you want to witness turtle season visit between October and March.

Heron Island: Our island getaway

OUR Heron Island Review

What feels like a million years ago, as all things do when they existed before kids, I visited an island in Fiji for my honeymoon. It was remote, beautiful, and felt a little bit like paradise. I’ve been yearning to go back since the day we left.

This past long weekend I feel like I returned. We visited Heron Island here in Australia, and it was just like that paradise, with better food and less hair braids. Heron Island is two hours by boat off the coast of Gladstone, Queensland. It’s also the farthest I’ve ever been from the mainland, when it comes to island holidaying. In the past few years I’ve been around {an island floozy if you will} when it comes to Australian islands, having visited Daydream, Hayman, Hamilton, Magnetic, Orpheus and now Heron.

The ferry trip to Heron Island was bumpy, with a good handful of people having to utilise the vomit bags provided at every table. Thankfully it agreed with all of my family, with Lulu sleeping the entire two hour trip, and Hubby and Lacey nodded off and on as well.

Heron Island: Our island getaway

Upon arriving we were lead to the main area, Bailie’s Bar, for a welcome drink and an orientation. We were told all the important things for our stay, including meal times, what to do when you see a shark {i.e. the advice is to get excited because the sharks there don’t like eating humans}, and where all the important buildings are {for me, the spa}. We then went off to explore our rooms and settle in for our stay.

The one thing I immediately noticed when arriving at Heron was the birds. OH MY GOODNESS, there were so many birds. If you know me, you know I’m super scared of the buggers – so I have to mention them. You think it was obvious with the island being named after a… wait for it… BIRD. I did shriek once, and wonder why no one warned me about them earlier… and I also wondered how I’d survive with my nerves in tact. BUT the birds aren’t magpies or plovers… they don’t care about the people {the food, yes. The people, no}. So by the end of the first day, I stopped caring. Non-bird haters probably wouldn’t care one iota.

The rooms on Heron Island are keyless, something that I’m finding is common on islands. I’m not sure if I have trust issues, but it takes me a while to feel comfortable with not having locks… but I’m immediately happy not having to carry a key and continually ask, “Where did we put the key?” Guests are welcome to leave any valuables at reception, and you can lock your room at night. My advice would be not to bring any family heirlooms on the trip {ha!}, otherwise all the guests are too busy worry about relaxing and having a good time to be doing anything else.

Heron Island: Our island getaway

Speaking of relaxing, it’s something I had to ease into while I noticed others were able to switch into island mode without issue. I discovered while visiting the resort store to buy a hairbrush {I had epic hair frizz and forgot to pack a brush} that I most definitely wasn’t in island mode. The man in front of me was buying reef shoes, and couldn’t decide between the blue and grey, and deliberated for over 10 minutes on which to get. I started to get a bit huffy {in my head} but then remembered I WAS ON AN ISLAND. Nothing mattered. So I waited, and slowly moved more into island mode. For the record, he bought the grey.

The island isn’t specifically for families, as I did notice loads of couples holidaying kid-free, but the location is perfect for kids. There is a Junior Ranger program for kids {a little bit like a kids club} so they can go exploring and learn things about the island and the Great Barrier Reef. We sent Lacey out for the day, and she went out into the glass boat and saw THIRTY turtles {maybe 3, but you know how enthusiastic the mind of a seven year old can be}. She also had lunch with her new friends, and went to check out the University of Queensland Research Centre, also located on the island. She pretty much had an awesome day, and couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the night.

Heron Island: Our island getaway
Heron Island: Our island getaway

The rooms are basic, but clean, and ideal for island living. They don’t have TVs or kitchens, or fancy lounge rooms… they’re perfect for retreating to at the end of a busy day doing nothing, or something; swimming, eating, drinking, snorkeling, or reef walking. There are two TVs in the bar area, which Hubby was happy to hear about because our trip happened to coincide with Grand Final weekend.

On the Saturday night of our stay we were treated to a seafood buffet, which was generous with loads of prawns, Moreton Bay bugs, mussels, fish and more seafood and salads than you could poke a fishing rod at. There were two places to eat, Shearwater Restaurant and Bailie’s Bar. You can also grab a pizza to eat, which we did on our last night to make life easier {although at $22 each, they’re not particularly cheap}.

Hubby and I managed to arrange a babysitter, Hannah, so we could head out and snorkel. It was my forth snorkel of my life and perhaps my best. I swam {read: floated} with a turtle. We were just a metre apart and I had to stop myself from swimming closer. It was the most magical experience of my life. I also saw two sharks, and I think I can almost say I was more excited than scared. Perhaps I’m becoming more accustomed to island living.

Heron Island: Our island getaway

By the second day of the trip, I was in island-mode, and by the last day I was so zen I felt like I didn’t have a care in the world. There’s something about really switching off, and being a gazillion miles from anything. The kids still had more tantrums than I would have liked, but I was so zen and blissed out that I didn’t really care. ‘You want an ice cream for dinner? Well, all right then. Zen mama says yes’.

By the last day I wanted to dig my heels in and stay a little longer. If I’d known that the island was for sale, I’d have asked everyone to chuck so we could live there forever. Maybe. It’s an ideal spot for families, lovers of beautiful places, and keen snorkelers too. Put it on your bucket list.

Heron Island: Our island getaway

Tips for staying on Heron Island

  • Bring casual wear. The island isn’t overdeveloped, which makes it more relaxing for me, so some of the paths are made of sand. You’ll most likely just wear thongs/flip flops during your stay, and throw a dress on over your swimwear during the day.
  • To keep costs down for meals, I’d suggest having a pizza some nights. The buffet nights at the restaurant are on the more expensive side at $65 a head for adults, but when the buffets aren’t on you can just order from the menu. Bailie’s Bar closes at 5pm for food, but you could order before then and sit and watch the sunset while the kids play with the giant chess set by the water.
  • If you’re into the spa, definitely book before you arrive. I managed to snag a 30 minute massage slot, but it was the last spot for our whole stay. It was delicious and even started with an Aboriginal fire ceremony.
  • Also arrange babysitters early too. Especially if you have kids that are too young (under 7 years) for the Junior Ranger program, if you want to get out on the water for a snorkel or a dive.

I stayed as a guest of Heron Island. All views expressed are my own. To book a stay, or read more about the island, check out the Heron Island website.

6 thoughts on “Heron Island review: A long weekend in paradise”

  1. I’m not sure how I feel about keyless! I was staying in a very small town in central-west QLD a few years back. We checked into the pub and were told we could go up to our rooms. Something felt like it was missing but I didn’t know what. Keys! It felt very odd to not lock the room. In fact we barricaded it at night with a chair.

  2. Sounds like bliss C … I’m still reeling from the no 3G/wi-fi situation though. My girlfriend did a cruise over the same weekend (up the QLD Coast) and had the same situation. I shuddered when she told me!

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