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.
- 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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- Also Known As:
- Heron Island Hotel Heron Island