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“snorkel off the villa!”

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Heron Island Resort
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Heron Island
Certificate of Excellence
Sydney, Australia
Level 3 Contributor
8 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“snorkel off the villa!”
Reviewed January 11, 2010

We stayed in the villas right on the beach. The whitest sand beach I had ever seen. We walked straight out to the beach in front of us and snorkeled and swam with many small colorful fish.

Stayed September 2007, traveled solo
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Thank HBW1984
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Sydney
1 review
Reviewed January 10, 2010

We were a little worried because Voyages had only recently sold the Island/Resort, but everything was wonderful. The staff were friendly and competent, the rooms were spacious and clean, and the destination was amazing. The island is beautiful and we had perfect weather. We took the helicopter over and the launch back. The helicopter ride over was pretty good, but in hindsight maybe we should have done it the other way around, as the helicopter goes around the island on the way back and we were so sad to leave it would have been good to have something to look forward to at the end. The food was delicious and plentiful. It does seem a bit silly having separate meal packages when there is no option with only one restaurant, but it worked out okay for us because I didn't have lunch most days and saved a bit of money that way. We saw the turtles nesting, which was fabulous. The guided walks were informative, but we didn't do one on the first day, thinking it would be on again the next day, to find that they don't do the same ones each day. Everything was great. The only thing that surprised us was the time difference, as we hadn't been told that the island is on daylight savings time. The birds were noisy, but not as bad as we thought. Closing all windows at night was sufficient. The lack of a/c wasn't a problem, as the ceiling fan was enough. The sea breezes kept things cool at all times. Snorkelling was great, both off the beach and on the boat trip. Well worth it. The hire of the snorkelling gear did trick us, as we'd thought it was $7 per day, but you paid an extra $7 per day for the flippers. Suggest taking your own if you are staying longer than a few days. Don't forget sunscreen on the back of legs when snorkelling - one minor problem. They didn't take every opportunity to rip us off, which was unexpected. The shop wasn't overly commercial either. All very relaxing, especially without the mobile reception or TV - I hope they never change this aspect. A fantastic experience for couples and families.

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
Thank KnRSydney
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wurtulla, Australia
Level 4 Contributor
35 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
Reviewed January 5, 2010

We spent a week at Heron Island in Dec 2009 + New Years etc and had a great time!

Transfers - there are two options to get to Heron Island from Gladstone, Boat or Helicopter. We took the Helicopter on the way to Heron (although it was raining) and it was definitely the preferred option - only 5 people max, the ride was very smooth and only too 45 mins flying over other islands and reefs. On the way back we took the boat launch transfer, which took 2 hours is really nice weather but the boat can take up to 3 hours if the weather is rough. We were also advised that the journey on the boat going back to Gladstone is always better than coming to Heron Island. The boat was a really new and nice large Cat, but if you can afford to go both ways on the Heli then def do it.

Island - the island is quite small, with up to 200 guests staying at any time along with 120 staff etc. You can walk around the whole island in 45 mins, which we did daily multiple times :) Heron Island is a National Park and thus there are some restrictions in place. The island has multiple beaches and thus it never feels crowded at any time. Shark Bay and also heading toward the Reef Rooms, there is really nice white sand beach with quite fine sand, but only on high tide - low tide exposes most of the coral reef and thus the water is only knee deep but this enables old ppl & kids to see the reef up close etc. The beach near the main Jetty is a bit rocky/there are coral bits about and thus sometimes you have to move them about before you can sit down but it's not too bad. There is also a ship wreck just of the jetty which offers also great snorkelling etc. The island also has a reasonably priced Boutique, Marine Centre, Bar, Reception & one Restaurant.

Rooms - we stayed in a Reef Room, which was comfortable but not flash or anything. There is one main room with the bed and a day bed, with a small fridge and table etc, as well as the bathroom with a toilet and shower etc. We were in room 122 near the end of the resort and the reef side/overlooking the beach. Although my husband did say that he would have preferred to stay in the Turtle Room - which were the same as the Reef Rooms but were in the middle of the island (more like little huts). So either way is fine. The rooms are basic but we didn't spend much time at all at our room as there was so much to do outside and the outside was so beautiful.

Activities - we did most of the free activities, including the Reef Walk, the Bird Walk, the Island Walk & Stargazing. I highly recommend coming along to all these as they are run by the island Info Centre Staff who know heaps and are able to show you things they only know, my absolute favourite was the Reef Walk - great for kids too. There was also a kids club etc, although we don’t have kids, all the kids on the island seemed to be having a great time!

Wildlife - there are thousands of bird on the island, so if you have a bird phobia do not go! Otherwise if you don't mind then it is definitely worth thee site :) O and make sure that you bring a wide brimmed hat – we found these great for bird poo coverage on the way to and from the restaurants etc… There are 3 main birds living on the island and around the resort - about 100,000 Black Noddy Terns which were nesting in ALL the trees when we were there, lots of little baby chicks etc very cute :) Then there were the Buff Banded Land Rails - like little chickens, thus running around the ground everywhere eating and cleaning everything. And finally the 20, 0000 Wedgetail Shearwater / Mutton Birds, these live underground and only came out at night - but these are the noisy birds :) The resort provides you with earplugs to sleep with if the birds make too much noise for you - but we found they were ok and you'll get used to the noise, we didn't think it was too bad at all, but we do have a lot of birds at home as well. If you also travel between Nov to March, then you will see Turtles nest/lay eggs on the island every night! This was one of the highlights of our holiday, seeing at least 5 turtles every night coming up to the beach and laying eggs. There are multiple rangers on the island who also provide into during the nesting on each night. Baby turtle hatchlings occur in Jan to May, thus we didn't see any hatchlings, but the huge turtles every night were great!

Snorkelling & Diving - there are daily snorkel & dive boat trips to the very close reef. You can also snorkel just off the beach over nearby reef on high tides. When we stayed on the island the tides were very large and thus you could only snorkel of the beach at high tides, but there were heaps of fish with lots of sharks and rays, seen every day. Make sure you bring your snorkel gear with you, as the island charges a hire fee daily for snorkel gear, o and don't forget your reef shoes as these will also come in handy!

Other - we noticed that there were heaps of overseas visitors on the island. I recon only 20% were Australians, which was a little bit disappointing (as we have such a beautiful please so close to us and there were all these people coming to see this great island from such long way away). There were also heaps of families with kids (which wasn't as bad as I thought - all the kids were well behaved and were always occupied by stuff), thus I would highly recommend this place for families. The food was also great, we had the meal package which includes a buffet breakfast, buffet lunch and also a dinner (the dinners alternated between ala-cart and buffet dinners each night). We both though the food was great most of the time and don't know why so many people complained - we are not fussy but there was always heaps to eat every day. O and there is no mobile reception and no internet etc on the whole island - this was a great plus for us. The pool is also not that big and mainly used by the kids, so if you love lazing around and in the pool maybe pick another place - but the beach was heaps better that the pool anyhow.

Overall we loved this place, not because of the accommodation but because of the wildlife and beautiful surroundings - a magic little place. We stayed for 5 nights and sought this was quite sufficient (I originally wanted 7 nights, but I think this would have been a little too long for this tiny place).

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
2 Thank Lenka_Chris
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, CA
Level 2 Contributor
7 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
Reviewed December 30, 2009

LOCATION
You won't find a better place to snorkel in the Barrier Reef. It's all steps away from your door, and the island is small enough to walk or swim to the ideal spot, Shark Bay, where you will swim with sharks, three diff types of rays and of course fish. (Although the latter not as spectacular as what you find in Hawaii.) A *must* when you first arrive is to check the tide times and plan your schedule accordingly so that (1) you can see the turtles come ashore and lay their eggs (in season) and (2) snorkel during high tide. During low tide you are pretty much screwed unless pay for a boat trip, which to me defeats the purpose of paying so much to stay on the island. The low-tide reef walk is interesting for about an hour, but after that there's not a lot to do during these times.

ACCOMMODATION
We stayed in a Reef Room, upstairs, which to me seemed preferable to even the swankier suites and beach houses in terms of privacy. The room was very spacious with a fridge (necessary because of the sucky food) and large bathroom and balcony. TIP: Close the windows at night, the earplugs only help so much. Also, before we even brought food in the room, it was overrun by very small ant-type insects. They were harmless but annoying.

FOOD
OMG, thankfully the reviewers here prepared us for the worst, but it was still a shock. During our three-night visit (def one night too long), we immediately decided we would eat only lunch with was still ridiculous at $27 each. Soda not included. (But you can order one from the bar for $3 plus tip!) The dining room hours seem incredibly inflexible, especially considering how tide-dependent (see above) your schedule is. Anyway, we just made small sandwiches to take back to our room (stored in fridge) along with dried fruit and nuts and bought bottles of soda in the gift shop. At least the rooms have coffeemakers. I can't imagine our leftover crappy sandwiches were much worse than the outlandishly priced offerings at the restaurant in the evenings. Oh, the bar opens at 9:30 and has some snacks and muffins.

SMELL
I suppose this depends on your tolerance and olfactory acuity, but I found the bird droppings odor almost intolerable. I couldn't take the shortcut path to Shark Bay after the first few times--it is just too dense and I became nauseated.

TRANSPORT TO ISLAND
We took the ferry over and the helicopter back, a great decision. The ferry was enjoyable but long (not choppy at all for our ride), but the helicopter was fun and quick. We were worried about the weight restrictions but the resort allows you to send luggage on the ferry a day early which they store securely at the Gladstone airport. Since we were traveling with luggage for a two-week trip in Australia, this was very convenient. We just crammed a bunch of heavy stuff in one suitcase and kept the smaller suitcase for our return the next day.

ANIMALS
There's nothing like seeing a turtle emerge from the water to lay her eggs and return again (after two hours!), not to mention swimming with crazy creatures like the shovel-nosed ray and blacked-tipped reef sharks, so I'd recommend this for that experience alone. A lot of people return to the island every year as "researchers," which looks like a pretty sweet gig as they don't have to pay and the work doesn't seem strenuous. :)

Our stay really set us back even with our conservative meal plan, and I wish we'd been warned about the tide schedule. (Note: the "resort" doesn't post upcoming tides either; you kind of have to figure them out on your own based on the daily postings.)

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
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    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank BaggioCat
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London
Level 5 Contributor
63 reviews
53 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 73 helpful votes
Reviewed December 24, 2009

We loved this place - it's quirky, one of a kind, and very special. Some of the best diving we've ever done was during this week. Note, it was recently sold to a "big American outfit" so there will surely soon be "standardized everything'. The food was some of the worst I'd ever had put in front of me - take a few bottles of good booze to help it stay down at night. Do not go if you expect the creature comforts of the Maldives - this isn't your place. Note: in December there was no internet and no cell reception (how glorious!).

  • Stayed December 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Mark N
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cambridge, United Kingdom
Level 6 Contributor
73 reviews
24 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 80 helpful votes
Reviewed December 19, 2009

We visited Heron Island at the end of November for 5 nights. This was our second visit - we last visited 3 years ago and absolutely fell in love with this magical little place.

Yet again, I can't belive some of the reviews on here. I know it doesn't pay for us all to like to same, but I really fail to see how some people can complain about somewhere so beautiful.

We travelled on the launch and I'm pleased to say that we didn't have any problems this time. It's a new, larger boat which was apparently custom built for rough seas. I'm not a boat fanatic, but either it's design worked or the sea was pretty calm.

On arrival, we were given our little brief and then given a map to our room. We had booked a tutle room, but got given a reef room with a sea view. We both screamed when we saw what we were to wake up to for the next 5 mornings. The room was lovely, clean, well equipped and in a superb position. It was cleaned every day and the towels and bedding were changed every day.

The food on the first night was not good to be honest. The staff were even worse, but we then found out that it was a new team who were doing their first sevice. They were very slow, didn't clear the tables between courses and didn't bother coming to take our drinks order. The first night was the seafood buffet - something we had been looking forward to since our last visit. But we were disappointed. The fish was extremely watery and tasteless. Had this little magical little corner of the world lost it's sparkle ?????

The following day and the rest of our holiday, the food and the service could not be faulted. The food was superb and the staff were much much better. We didn't have any problems with booking in for dinner at our preferred time and we didn't have any problems with where we wanted to sit in the restaurant either.

We were looking forward to the turtle tour and also the reef walks but unfortunately, becuase of the tide times, the staff weren't running either whilst we were there. This was a real shame, because for us, this is where the island lost a little bit of it's magic.

There are A LOT of birds - if you don't like birds, then choose somewhere else. They didn't really bother us too much but we do think there were loads more this time and we wondered how long the island will last with both the birds and the people. There was a lot of bird poo on the pathways, the trees and the sunloungers and even though the staff seemed to be constantly cleaning, it's a war they are never going to win.

We had mixed feelings about some of the staff this time. Some were fantastic, some didn't really seem too bothered. We noticed some dirty glasses left on the table outside the information centre. They stayed there for 3 days until I complained to someone in reception. He couldn't even believe that they'd been there that long and that the information centre staff hadn't noticed and cleaned them up. One afternoon whilst sipping an afternoon cocktail in the bar, a little bird decided to eat the ice cream dregs from a discarded glass. It ended up on the floor with ice cream all over the table, the chair and the floor. It took the bar staff over half an hour to pick up the glass, but they still hadn't wiped the table or the chair over an hour later.

We spoke to some of the staff about the new owners and their plans for the place. Apparently it's an American company who has bought this little piece of magic and their plans include telephones, televisions and air con in every room. I think this is an absolute crying shame, by all means upgrade the island a little. Decorate the rooms, and invest in your staff, but please please please do not ruin it with phones and televisions. What will be next, high rise apartments to pack in as many people as possible?

One thing I do want to mention is the turtles. If you want to go turtle watching, then please read the leaflets and spend half an hour at the turtle talk in the information centre. These creatures get spooked by the slightest thing when they are coming up the beach to lay their eggs - please go and listen and take note of what you are being told. DO NOT use flash photography and DO NOT crowd around the turtles. As one man told me, 'I've waited 60 years to see one of these and I want to see it and take photos because I might never see one again'. How selfish. These creatures are amazing and to see them coming up the beach and laying their eggs is truly a privilege and not a right. Please just take notice of the advice and make sure they're still coming up to lay their eggs for the next generation to see in another 60 years time.

All in all, I can't really fault Heron Island. Yes there are a few areas which can be improved upon, but this is an eco island, it's not your typical Florida / Spain type of holiday. If you want Florida / Spain, then I'd suggest you go there instead.

If the new owners are reading this - please please please don't spoil this little piece of magic.

Alison and Mark

  • Stayed November 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
3 Thank lil_alice
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Saratoga, California
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
Reviewed December 4, 2009

This resort was purchased from Voyages November 18. We arrived by helicopter (which was a beautiful ride) November 24. We had to wait 4 hours for our toom to be ready on arrival which blew one day. There was no "Bird Walk" excursion during our stay. The low tide "Reef Walk" (which was good) was posted the night before stated a time of 9:30 am. .The time for that guided walk was changed at 9:00 am the next day to 10:30. We took a supposedly 3 hr fishing trip. The Capt and Mate spent 40 minutes of that time trying to get the anchor dislodged. On departure we took the launch back and were asked to vacate our room with luggage out by 10:00.. A note was sent to our room the previous day before departure asking us to be at the dock no later than 1:30. The launch departed at 3:15. Our luggage was not collected until 1:45. There was supposed to be a daily news sheet with all activities. We never saw any sort of sheet. Houskeeping and grounds were well below any * standard. A ocean facing window had clean three 2 ft. cracks. The food was the worst! Italian and Mexican theme lunches were worse than I have ever eaten. I strongly recommend that you review any Voyage property prior to booking to see if it has been recently sold. We were not given any prior notification.
Don't even think about Heron Island! The island itself is beautiful but not worth the frustration.

  • Stayed November 2009, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
3 Thank pac1931
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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Also Known As:
Heron Island Hotel Heron Island

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