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“It's not called HERON Island for nothing.”

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Heron Island Resort
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Heron Island
Certificate of Excellence
Sydney, Australia
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
“It's not called HERON Island for nothing.”
Reviewed January 17, 2012

You can always tell the nubies off the boat. They’re the ones with the wrinkled up noses and a bit of a startled look on their faces. Yup, there are birds everywhere. They smell. They squawk incessantly. There is bird poo everywhere. Wear a hat. It will help. After the first day, you do get used to it.

This could be such a lovely place to stay. The setting is quite beautiful. The concept is good, the execution is cynical. Shame on you Delaware North.

We visited the island between Christmas and New Years. We read previous reviews about the island, thought we were prepared for the birds, and looked forward to our visit (One of our sons had spent time on the island while at University of Queensland and prepared us for the birds). Admittedly, this is a very busy time, but given that this is no surprise, (and as prices are higher in this season) one would have expected management to anticipate increased demands. They didn’t. We’re not terribly fussy travelers – didn’t expect luxury digs, but at the price we were paying for two rooms, 6 people, we expected edible food, a reasonably clean environment, and a great time snorkeling and diving. We got the snorkeling and diving. We arrived in our rooms to find one of them dirty - they had yet to be made up - dirty diapers from the previous guests were left in a hot room, stewing. It took hours for the room to be made up, perhaps would have been longer if we hadn’t talked with housekeeping directly, who once notified were pretty responsive. Once we cleared off the bird poo from the table and chairs on the patio we at least had a clean place to sit for the moment. . (We wound up throwing out the diapers ourselves and cleaned out the refrigerator. Housekeeping never did).

After our first night, we were moved to a better room, beach suite – for the rest of our stay. It had a much nicer view of the beach and water, and a lovely balcony we shared with the birds. (When we arrived at this room, despite assurances to the contrary, we found that it had not been cleaned, and in fact had a rather large pool of blood drying in the middle of the floor. This room did have a mini bar, which helped in-between, during and after meals.

The meals – the food in the dining hall was just dreadful. We’re all usually willing to eat just about anything and especially after a day of swimming, snorkeling and diving. There were meals we had difficulty finding enough edible. The breakfasts were usually the best – fresh fruit, fried eggs (if you’ll eat them rare) and bacon – other sides were pretty awful; pancakes and waffles when available were heavy and soggy (you can’t keep that sort of stuff in a chafing dish and let it sit. Really, what were they thinking?!?) cereal, toast coffee etc. available. Lunch was buffet and entirely uninspired. Dinner was always buffet and just the worst. Despite advertising the availability of an a la carte menu, it was never available during our stay. I think I read in a response to a previous review that the chef bolted the island during the time of our stay. Quite frankly, that’s no excuse. In fact, insulting. Not at these prices. And then knowing there is a major problem in the kitchen, don’t pretend there’s not! Give the guests a break on something –a bottle of wine with dinner, reduced prices on snorkeling trips, reimburse part of the cost to stay, something. To add insult to injury, the bar was out of potato chips and other nibbles. The blender was always broken…How can that be?? But, we discovered the pizza. It was the best thing to eat on the island, though the birds started to look enticing after a few days. Bring your own snacks. We were idiots and didn’t.

As advised, we went to the dive shop to arrange for snorkeling and dive trips as soon as we got sorted in our rooms. The staff was absolutely terrific. They were helpful, friendly, patient and knowledgeable. The snorkeling off the boat was lovely: the guide was quite familiar with the environment and seemed to love what she was doing. I have to say that on all of our trips on the various boats, we always found the crew able and took the safety of all on board quite seriously. The six of us represented a huge range of diving abilities from absolute beginners, certified decades ago and current certified and confident divers. The beginners took the beginners class, others took the quick refresher – and took multiple dives. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We saw a variety of rays, huge turtles, an array of fish large and small brightly colored and some not so much. We’ve snorkeled off of Magnetic Island further north – where the reef is in far better shape or was. This doesn’t have the same bright, astonishing colors, or life about the reef, but it was certainly worth seeing – and a good reminder that this incredible resource is truly in trouble.

Despite the considerable drawbacks, we had a great time - but we wouldn't come back.

  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
10 Thank KBHR1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
jjohanse, General Manager at Heron Island Resort, responded to this review, January 22, 2012
Dear KBHR1
Thank you detailed comments regarding your recent stay on Heron Island, and I am sorry to hear that the Resort did not live up to your expectations.

We are very aware of the demands required during our peak season, and we prepare for them as we normally do each year during the Christmas season. Unfortunately you can not prepare for every eventuality, and on occasions, despite our best intentions things don’t go to plan. We certainly acknowledge that we have not lived up to our normal high standards on this occasion, but please be assured the issues surrounding these short comings have been rectified.

I'm glad to hear of how you enjoyed the interaction with my staff and the dive experience whilst on the island. Thank you for taking the time to provide your input and I hope this response has rectified some of the concerns you have.
Regards,
John Johansen
General Manager
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Newport, United Kingdom
Level 3 Contributor
14 reviews
13 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 125 helpful votes
Reviewed January 16, 2012

Following our recent trip to Australia, we decided to put a review on here for Heron Island. We have not previously done this with any of our other holidays as people's opinions vary. But we felt obliged to write about our experience due to the disappointment of accommodation standard.

My wife, two children and I stayed at this resort over the christmas and New Year period. Looking at the islands' website we were all very excited at staying on this robinson crusoe type island, and the pictures on the website were very professional and looked stunning.
However, the excitement was short lived as on arrival to our room, we were met with out dated rooms and decor which looked nothing like the pictures on the website.

We stayed in a Turtle family room that was situated right next door to the forklift and jcb compound and refuelling area, which a note to the management, is probably not the best place to situate young families and a more defined path with lights to the rooms for families may be a good idea too. Overall, we felt that the 5 star prices we had paid to stay at the resort were reflected with a poor 2 star standard of accomodation and food (and sometimes service). We asked at reception to be moved and even offered to pay more to get upgraded to a better room, but were told the resort was full and nothing could be done - we accepted this. We were also told that the machines were out of service and only used on a wednesday, but this turned out to be untrue. We heard machines going sometimes at 6am and once at 11pm at night.

There was very little to eat for the children and we were even approached by Peter, the head waiter, asking us to take our concerns to management. He suggested to us that we should ask specifically for a pre-prepared meal that evening to make sure our children had something substantial to eat. It transpired that the resort was having problems with the chef at the time making their own rules as to when and when not to do buffet and a la carte menus.

My wife swept the floor of our room on arrival, as the room staff had only made the beds and it didn't get much better as the holiday progressed. There was other people's hair in the corners of the floor and we found a dead spider in frame of the sliding doors. We even had to take toilet roll from the main bar toilets as the cleaners didn't leave any in stock in the room.

Some of the staff were great and were happy to help, especially the dive shop staff. Others perhaps needed a personality transplant. It says something when our six year old daughter says the waitress looked mean.

We asked for a feedback form and filled it in as we left but I'm not sure if it reached the manager.

All in all, we had a great time but this was not because of the service and amenities that were on offer, more so because of the beautiful reef, scenary, and beach which were stunning - something that can not be altered by the staff. Either the price needs to come down or the standard needs to be raised somewhat.

  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
23 Thank MHoskins31
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
jjohanse, General Manager at Heron Island Resort, responded to this review, January 22, 2012
Dear Mr MHoskins31,

Thank you for taking the time to share your detailed experience of Heron Island, and I am sorry to hear that the Resort did not live up to your expectations.

I’m sorry to hear of your disappointment with our food, unfortunately during your stay, which is the busiest time of the year, our Head Chef departed, and our recently installed buffet malfunctioned. While this may sound like an excuse, please be assured our team did an amazing job during a very difficult period. We continually aim to improve our selection and I can assure of the quality of our product. We also do our best to ensure all errors are corrected when guests check out.

Our Front of House and Housekeeping department take pride in delivering a high standard of service, and I apologize that this did not happen on your stay. I have taken this matter up with the new Executive Housekeeper who has already made a positive impact on housekeeping quality since his arrival.

I'm glad to hear of how you enjoyed the natural features of the island. Thank you for taking the time to provide your input and I hope this response has rectified some of the concerns you have.
Regards,
John Johansen
General Manager
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Hervey Bay, Australia
Level 2 Contributor
5 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 6 helpful votes
Reviewed January 15, 2012

This was our second stay on Heron. Unlike our previous stay, the food was terrible. The seafood feast was second class frozen seafood. Anyone who eats premi um seafood would be disappointed. Our one only a la carte dinner was nice. We expected a la carte each night. Beachside Suite No. 93 was great, good views. The housekeeping was poor. We expected the birds and they didn't worry us, the turtles were amazing. Heron Island is still a wonderful place. The management has been receiving these poor reviews for several months(to my knowledge) but nothing seems to change in the catering area. We were an adult family of 3 who spent 4 nights over Christmas on the island. The staff were pleasant enough.

Room Tip: No. 93 upstairs Beachside Suite was good
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
    • Location
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    • Cleanliness
Helpful?
4 Thank Michelle L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
jjohanse, General Manager at Heron Island Resort, responded to this review, January 22, 2012
Dear Michelle L

Thank you for taking the time to share your 2nd experience of Heron Island, and I am very sorry to hear that some of our services did not live up to your expectations.

Please be assured that we treat all guest feedback with the utmost importance, and make appropriate improvements to ensure we can overcome these issues asap. It is very distressing reading the shortcomings within the Resort for the world to see, however we certainly acknowledge that we have not lived up to our normal high standard.

We take pride in offering a high standard of quality and service, and I would like to apologize again for your disappointing experience.

Kind Regards,
John Johansen
General Manager
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Indianapolis, Indiana
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
Reviewed January 14, 2012

My husband and I stayed 6 nights at Heron island resort. Thank goodness it wasn't longer. It is prepaid. We rented a beachside suite which was described on the site as being airconditioned. Guess what-not only did they not have air conditioning, the fans weren't even working.. although they came right away to fix them. The unit itself was poorly constructed with worn second rate furniture. The patio was about 5 feet from the one next to us with 2 white very very cheap plastic chairs. The whole island smelled constantly like a chicken coop-if anyone has experience with this you will know what I mean. There was bird poop was everywhere and I found no one trying to clean. The resaurant was closed during part of our stay so they set up temporary tables in the bar. Of course service was not good. The food is eclectic and sophisticated but very rich in fat and heavy with beef. When I ask for plain grilled fish, that of course was not available. We could only have what was prepared for everyone else.

I was extremely disappointed in the diving. Tanks were filled from 3600 to 2800, probably to limit down time. The longest dive lasted 45 minutes with aoubt 10 minutes getting down and doing saftey stops. The visability was terrible-maybe 40 feet. Almost no color. Coral heads but no fans. If we did see a shark it was so far off and so cloudy that we couldn't enjoy.

There was not a recreation center and the pool was salt water. It was very difficult to even walk. Most of all, there was false advertising about the unit and airconditioning. Do not exspect healthy food. You willl be fed heavy meals.
If you are allergic to anything or have asthma or other breathing conditions, I would stay away. Because of the bird poop the smell was terrible and air quality bad.

Room Tip: I don't think there are any unless it would be beachside suites which are terrible expensive. D...
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  • Stayed November 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
10 Thank VChampi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
jjohanse, General Manager at Heron Island Resort, responded to this review, January 22, 2012
Dear V Champi

Thank you for taking the time to review Heron Island, it is very disappointing that the island did not live up to your expectations, and you did not enjoy your time here.

As the name would suggest, Heron Island is the home to many birds. During your stay in the peak of nesting season there is upwards of 100,000 birds that make the island their home. The bird population provides for some interesting insight into animal life on the island; however it also comes with some negatives. Unfortunately, with thousands of birds comes a reasonable amount of excrement, but I can assure you that the resort has a thorough cleaning schedule to ensure public areas remain clean.

We aim to provide an experience that is close to nature, and to minimize our impact on the unique ecosystem that we have here. Unfortunately, air conditioning does not lend itself to this philosophy, however all the rooms are equipped with ceiling fans, and we do our best to make our guests as comfortable as possible. We do have suites with air-conditioning; however they are not beach side suites. All beach side rooms were recently refurbished late 2011.

Dive time is not limited by the amount of air in the tank, rather by the amount a diver consumes. There are many factors that influence this outcome, most accomplished divers get over an hour on a tank with 3600 – 2800.

Thank you again for taking the time to provide your input and I hope this response has answersed some of your concerns.
Regards,
John Johansen
General Manager
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Harpenden
Level 4 Contributor
38 reviews
19 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 71 helpful votes
Reviewed January 10, 2012

After two hours of being thrown around on the boat trip over where most of the passengers were sick! We finally arrived on the most amazing island I think I have ever stayed on. About 1.7km to walk round, no cars, phones dont work, blackberry useless, no TV's no facebook - FAB!. What a way to spend Christmas, turtle watching, diving and pressies on the beach.

So the rooms - well they are tired need updating, but really who cares.

Food was all included and was very good. The kids managed to eat non stop whilst we were there. You just pay for the drinks, but make sure you check your bill!! We had other peoples orders on our bill, so no signing blindly.

The rooms on the beach are not really worth the extra, there are so many trees in the way you cant really see the sea anyway. Id say the rooms are little more than 2-3*

The kids learnt to dive here and the staff could not have been nicer to us. The only downside is the medical you have to go through if you qualify to dive in Queensland, only two doctors in the UK do it £80 a pop!!

If you have the cash, take the helicopter!!

Just walk round the island all day everyday, its wonderful

Room Tip: No need to upgrade
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled with family
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank HarpendenVicar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Boston, Massachusetts
Level 2 Contributor
9 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
Reviewed January 9, 2012

Heron Island should be so much better than it is. The location is lovely. The spa is absolutely gorgeous. But it is now owned by Delaware North, and the food is horrible and the service is spotty. For $700 per night for two people, meals included, I don't expect to have to hoard peanut butter at breakfast in order to have something edible at lunch.

The food: breakfast and lunch are both buffets. Remember the cafeteria ladies from your junior high days? Think what they might have come up with if asked to cook green curry chicken. Now multiply that image by about 3, and you have the reality. The item that disappeared the fastest from the buffet line was frozen corn and peas, which ought to tell you something about the rest of the food.

Ah, but dinner is a la carte, with a menu that promises such wonders as salmon in buerre blanc. Here's what they don't tell you: the a la carte service means that you will wait at least 45 minutes between appetizers and main dish, and at least another 20 between main dish and dessert. Every single night - and those numbers are the minimum we experienced. All of the food appears to be boiled, including the aforesaid salmon. One night, the advertised pork belly (which you may know in its smoked form as bacon) arrived as a half pound of boiled pork, 90% of which was fat. Another night offered a terrine of beef cheeks as one of the three main dishes (sorry, I didn't have the stomach to try them, so I can't give a review). A third night, inexplicably, turned out to be a buffet rather than a la carte - and the pizza service was not operating that night either. (And by the way, the "gourmet" pizza leaves MUCH to be desired, especially when there is a sign saying it is included and then it appears as an $18 charge on your bill. We tried two different ones, and threw away most of both.) Desserts run toward an opaque white Jell-O like substance, inexplicably smeared with frosting. And the night when we had pizza, we went to the restaurant and asked just for ice cream for dessert (the only really good thing on the menu) - and that request had to get bounced all the way up to the manager to see if it was ok. Wait staff are not assigned to particular tables, but wander around aimlessly, and clearly have not been adequately trained.

Room cleaning was unpredictable as to time, and hit or miss as to quality. Our first room was in the middle of the complex and totally stifling hot, even with the fan, as it got no breeze whatsoever. We upgraded to beachfront accommodations, which were lovely - but an extra $150/night.

Perhaps most disappointing of all, we made the trek out to Heron Island because we were told one could see great snorkeling just by walking out the beach. This turned out not to be true. While the beach is lovely, it offers little more than sand, rocks and the occasional lemon shark as snorkeling sights, so a boat trip is necessary anyway. (On the other hand, the turtles were nesting, so we did get to see that, and it was awesome.) Next time we will stay somewhere with edible food, lower cost and more options, given that we will have to take a boat to snorkel anyway.

Bottom line: if you have kids and want someplace to go where they can run around the beach and get buffet food, Heron Island may be a good destination, IF you get a good deal. But if you are looking for an adult vacation, this is not the place to go - especially at $700/night, and if you are not fond of beef cheeks.

Room Tip: do not get an interior room; get one that fronts on the beach.
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  • Stayed December 2011, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
7 Thank Misskatesmom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
jjohanse, General Manager at Heron Island Resort, responded to this review, January 13, 2012
Dear MissKatesmom

Thank you for taking the time to share your detailed experience of Heron Island. I’m sorry to hear you didn’t enjoy your time here.

I would like to begin by sincerely apologizing for the unfortunate level of service & food quality you experienced during your recent visit. We take enormous pride in providing a level of product and service that we can be proud of and it is distressing for myself and my team when we have not lived up to this expectation.

During your stay (the busiest time of the year) our Head Chef departed and the recently installed buffet malfunctioned prior to the busy season making it difficult for our Food & Beverage team to deliver a standard of service & quality we are renowned for.

Fortunately the issues with the buffet have now been rectified and a new Head Chef arrives on the 15th January.

I would like to apologize again for your disappointing experience; I would however like to take this matter up you in more detail if you could kindly contact me: jojohansen@dncinc.com

Regards
John Johansen
General Manager
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1 review
Reviewed January 8, 2012

This was our first Southern hemisphere christmas and we thought it a good way to spend it on a tropical island.
The boat ride from gladstone was very rough as we entered the open waters and we all came down with sea sickness. Not fun at all. After two hours and several sick bags later we arrived at Heron Island.
Our room was comfortable and had a view of the ocean through the trees.
We booked our two sons into the junior ranger program which was the best decision we made. They loved learning about the wild life especially the abundant birdlife.
It didn't really feel like christmas for us until the christmas eve concert in the main bar. We were given glow lights and songbooks to sing along with. The band were wonderful and had our boys singing with them at the front.
On christmas day santa arrived by boat with presents for all of the children. The boys got a kick out of seeing him in his board shorts.
Christmas lunch was very nice. Turkey, ham and seafood! Prawns, oysters and moreton bay bugs. Plum pudding etc. we did not go hungry the whole time that we were there.
Unfortunately the snorkel boats were cancelled due to the strong winds and currents. But we snorkelled straight off the beach and it was terrific. The coral and fish were beautiful and it was amazing swimming so close to the black tip reef sharks that lurk close to the shoreline.
The staff were very nice, food lovely and we had a wonderful and relaxing family holiday in an incredibly beautiful environment.

  • Stayed December 2011
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Bernmyra66
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Heron Island Resort

Property: Heron Island Resort
Address: Via Gladstone, Heron Island, Queensland 4680, Australia
Location: Australia > Queensland > Heron Island
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Restaurant Room Service Spa Swimming Pool
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Heron Island
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$$
Hotel Class:4 star — Heron Island Resort 4*
Number of rooms: 109
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Heron Island is a true coral cay right on the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Here you swim off the beach to an endless garden of coral. Activities include guided island and reef walks, semi-submersible cruises, bird watching and beach picnics, plus a Kids program. Voyages Heron Island is famous around the world for its scuba diving and snorkeling. ... more   less 
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