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“Excellent destination for divers, snorkelers, honeymooners and gourmets”

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Heron Island Resort
Ranked #1 of 1 Hotels in Heron Island
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed August 17, 2010

Great place for diving and curiously enough eating. The accommodation was excellent, service very friendly and efficient. Prices were mostly reasonable except the wine - it pays to take some of your own. It's great escape holiday for not more than 6 nights or less. Very cosmopolitan guests from all over the world. One detraction the dive shop does not hire out weight belts to snorkelers, this needs a rethink. I brought my own (12kg) as we went by ferry. The chopper can take only 15 kg luggage! The SCUBA service was great and the expertise fantastic.

  • Stayed: August 2010, traveled as a couple
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1  Thank SCUBERDIVA
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed August 16, 2010

Location, location, location. You can't beat the location. However the entire place is in need of updating. Cushions on the lounges are so used that you sit on the wood rather than the cushion. The food plan offers a wide selection, however, nothing I was served there in 3 days was past the warm stage. If you want hot food this is not the place for you. The location alone cannot justify the prices charged.

  • Stayed: July 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank tomv2770
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 15, 2010

Heron Island is a true coral cay located right on the Great Barrier Reef. The island is framed by white sands with crystal clear waters and acres of coral with colourful marine life. At this World Heritage-Listed Marine National Park, all flora and fauna is protected, so the island is a nature lover's paradise with the emphasis on enjoying natural beauty.

A vacation here replaces stress with a sense of adventure and your days are filled with discovery. Lying on the Tropic of Capricorn, the island is one of the Capricorn Group of Islands, located 72kms NE off the coast of Gladstone, Central Queensland. Being only 42 acres in size and with a circumference of 1.8km, it can take less the 30 minutes to walk right round the island,

For the holiday maker, Heron Island offers many activities such as guided island and reef walks, semi-submersible cruises and private beach picnics. An amazing array of animal and bird life can be discovered throughout the year, such as the delightful Green and Loggerhead Turtles. Heron Island is also world famous for its scuba diving and snorkelling.

What we say!

I have to agree with everything written above. Heron Island is a special but expensive place to stay but well worth the time, travel and money to visit. An overview of the island can be found at: Their Website.

Why we went there in the first place.

I wanted to go somewhere with my very patient, long-suffering, non -diving, botanist wife. We searched for places to go where I could dive and she could chill out and enjoy herself during what was going to be the round the world trip of a life time to celebrate my 60th birthday. Well we both enjoyed Heron Island so much we went back again last year for my 65th We are going somewhere else this year as a treat for her birthday and this time no diving. :)

How we got there!

On both round the world trips we flew from Heathrow via a two-night stopover in Singapore to Brisbane. Flying on from there after a further stop of one-night to the small town of Gladstone where we took a two and a half hour trip on a catamaran to Heron Island. Our first trip there included further visits to Tahiti, Bora Bora and Fiji and on our second trip we fitted in visits to Rarotonga and San Francisco.

For both visits to Heron Island after taking the choppy Catamaran journey out to Heron Island we opted for the shorter, more expensive return trip of flying to Gladstone Airport over the GBR by helicopter:Website. A wonderful, never to be forgotten experience!!

Why did we both love it there so much?

For me it was mainly the diving, but for us both it was the idyllic desert island atmosphere with a relaxed laid back life style that together with an abundance of bird and fish life, easily viewed both from above and below the surface that makes it such a special place.

Where else could you find good swimming, diving and snorkelling? Apart from all of this there is the possibility of wandering from your bungalow along the beach to Shark Bay all the while watching sharks and stingrays swimming behind each other in the shallow, crystal clear water. During our time there we attempted to capture the Shark Bay experience but my wife Sue would not move over to place her feet in the vicinity of the sharks and stingrays while I took the photos :). Bless!!

Once after my dive on arrival back at our bungalow Sue was buzzing with energy! She had seen stingrays passing her feet that were followed shortly by a juvenile shark. Later she came back from a semi-submersible trip around the famous Heron "bommie" (rocky outcrop) and had seen more than me on my dive without getting her hair wet. Apart from all of this the island wild life is something else to see: Sea Eagles floating in the air currents, Turtles laying their eggs on the beach (in the right season). The bird life on the island is extensive: Eastern Reef Egrets, Buff Banded Rails, Black Noddy Terns, Muttonbirds, White Breasted Sea Eagles amongst many.

Diving

All divers should report to the Island Marine Centre at 4.30pm on the day of their arrival to complete paperwork, checking of their dive qualifications and gear requirements and to be briefed on the dive sites, animals you will see and the local dive rules etc.

The diving around the island is very enjoyable but mostly unchallenging. There are twenty different dive sites available - most are located 15 minutes from the jetty. Dive boats depart at 9.00 and 11.30am and 3.00pm. Divers were always given a comprehensive safety brief before departure of the boat from the jetty and a further dive brief before the dive.

I dived twice daily while I was there. Diving mostly consisted of drift dives and we rarely went deeper than 18metres. Although the diving was unchallenging I enjoyed all the dives immensely. Apart from the usual small fish life and corals there was plenty of large fish life to be seen. During my time there I came across many turtles, white-tipped reef sharks (sometimes resting), epaulette shark and a cowtail stingray accompanied by a large cobia. While snorkelling we also saw many juvenile white-tips, lemon sharks and pink whiprays. Very relaxing!

On our first visit to the island in 2001 on the day of my 60th birthday and never having seen a Manta Ray in my life, I was informed during the dive brief that the "bommie" was sometimes frequented by the occasional Manta Ray at a cleaning station. Guess what? There on the rocky outcrop was the biggest and only Manta I had ever seen in my life. Later when we visited and dived in Bora Bora lagoon I saw six together, but that is another story. :)

I leave the photos to tell the rest of the diving story.


Daily Routine


Usually I was up around 0730 and going for a buffet style breakfast while Sue took a leisurely cup of tea in bed. Breakfast time was also the opportunity to book your table and time for evening dinner. After breakfast I took a stroll to the diving centre to gather up my gear and get dressed into my wetsuit to be onboard Heron Volute by 0845.

Once there, prepare the waiting cylinder with BCD, DV etc and await the safety brief. The boat would then leave for the dive site. On return, usually around 1100 there would be a short wait then off we went again for another dive. There would sometimes be some snorkellers accompanying us on this boat depending on the numbers. If there were enough of them they went on their own boat to a different location. Return from this dive would be around 1300 whereupon I would go back to the dive centre wash and hang my kit up, meet my wife and go for lunch. Lunch in the restaurant was always buffet style, always well prepared.

While I was diving Sue would spend her morning: either exploring the beach, going on an accompanied reef walk, the semi-submersible trip or a visit to the research station located nearby. One morning she sat and watched a large female turtle making its ponderous way back to the sea over the beach after laying her eggs. Always something magical to do on this island.

Afternoon was spent resting, looking at the bird life and maybe walking to shark bay to sunbathe and snorkel. Towards evening we would shower then go to the bar for a sundowner drink. During our first trip we got in the habit of wandering down to the jetty at this time to watch the spectacle of a large bait ball of small fish being attacked in shallow water, first by fast swimming tuna and then by juvenile sharks. This spectacle wasn't so good during our second visit but there was always the continuous stream of rays with the occasional shark to watch.

Evening dinner was invariably a served meal with wine (expensive) if wanted. One evening a week is set for a buffet style barbeque in the bar area - a very popular event. And so went our days. After our evening meal we were usually tired and made our way back to our bungalow to read and chat on the balcony before going to bed.

Expenses

Accommodation and meals are all inclusive on Heron Island. Payments we had to make on our departure included: My diving, gear hire (BCD for me), semi-submersible trip and all alcohol drink.

Finally
Did we enjoy it? A resounding yes!! I have thoughts of returning to this area again but maybe Lizard Island next time.

Our holiday was organised by Hayes & Jarvis: Website who gave me a 5% discount as a BSAC member.

Eddie Clamp
June 2007

  • Stayed: October 2009, traveled as a couple
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4  Thank Buntingtosser
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 9, 2010

You stay here for the location really. Stunning beaches, which are mostly very quiet, and exquisite coral reef. Some people thought the water was cold in Oct, but I thought it was fine. The only downside as regards snorkelling, was sometimes it can be windy and the visibility is poor. On a windy day, make sure you get advice as to where is good to snorkel. Also some times are better than others due to the tides, so manage your snorkelling round them.

The rooms are simple, they're ok though. The food is not amazing, but it's more than acceptable. The price overall is a little overpriced. Would recommend the helicopter over.

  • Stayed: April 2009, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank summer7266
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 8, 2010

My husband and I went to Heron Island at the recommendation of friends, who said it was the best place to dive on the Great Barrier Reef. But having read previous reviews, I confess we harbored some trepidation. But our fear melted quickly away after we arrived. Our five days of diving and living on Heron Island was an incredible experience that we will never forget. We absolutely loved it and had an amazing time.

Taking the issues in turn:

- The Diving: It is amazing. We saw countless turtles, sharks, any kind of reef fish you can imagine, and an awe-inspriing manta ray as big as a truck. It's just incredible. The dive staff were terrific in every way. If you want to dive the Great Barrier Reef, it's very simple: go to Heron Island. You will not be disappointed.

- The Birds: yep, it's a bird sanctuary. There are a lot of birds. But it's a step into the natural world that is incredible. You feel, in a sense, that you have entered their world. If you are expecting ClubMed-style manicured lawns and fauna tucked neatly out of sight, this is not for you. But if you want to experience wildlife on the Great Barrier Reef in authentic fashion, this is it.

- The Service: we had a delightful experience with the staff. We felt that we were treated wonderfully. We knew their names, they were always friendly and helpful, and they fulfilled every request. It's hard for us to relate to the other reviews that say the service was bad; that was simply not the case for us. By the third day we felt we were among friends. Again, if you are imagining a resort in which white-coated butlers come to you at poolside with a napkin over their arm to get your drink order, then Heron Island is not for you. There is nothing wrong with those places - they're nice. But that's not what Heron Island is. It's a place where you can go and dive, experience nature on the Reef, and enjoy yourself with friendly, happy people.

- The Food: it is just fine. It's tasty, more than adequate, and satisfied us every time. This is not a five-star Michelin style place - it's a relaxed vibe, a place you can feel at ease and enjoy your meal. There is buffet food for breakfast and lunch, and several courses of table service for dinner. There is a wide variety in each case and some of the dishes at dinner were truly superb. We thought the food was very good and looked forward to meals after great days of diving.

Final notes of advice:

- While the helicopter ride is expensive, we found it to be well worth it. We decided to helicopter to the resort so we could get an overview at the beginning, and to take the boat back. That worked out well for us. Though the boat is very large and modern, if the sea is rough you will feel it. If you tend towards seasickness, keep in mind that you should bring along some medication, or if you have it really bad, you might want to fly both ways. Heron Island is actually out on the Reef itself, so you have to pass through open ocean to get there. The helicopter ride is spectacular and the boat ride is enjoyable, provided you plan for any motion sickness you may be susceptible to.

- There are other activities besides diving, including the Reef Walk, which was very interesting. There is also snorkeling right off the beach during high tide, and you will be able to see rays, turtles and sharks just off the beach (we actually saw a Moray eel). You can also take the dive boat out with the group and do great snorkeling at the dive sites as well.

In sum, we had a wonderful time on Heron Island and would absolutely recommend it to any of our friends and family.

  • Stayed: April 2010, traveled as a couple
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2  Thank CanberraScoutie
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reef73, General Manager at Heron Island Resort, responded to this reviewResponded July 25, 2010

Just a quick note to say thank you for taking the time to post such a great review on Heron Island. We're glad that you decided to make the trip here and find out for yourself just how beautiful Heron Island really is.
As you will have discovered, Heron Island is a natural island, home to marine and bird life, and your review has perfectly encapsulated the essence of Heron for other readers.
Your comment that you felt as if you were among friends with our team here is high praise indeed, and I'm delighted that you had such a good holiday.
We'd love to welcome you back here again one day.
Regards,
John Johansen,
General Manager, Heron Island

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed April 3, 2010

We have just returned from a 4 night stay on Heron Island at the resort, which is now run by another company and not Voyages. I must say that things must have improved since the change in management, because we did not encounter most of the problems mentioned by previous posters.
I will give you a review without use of the words "OMG, amazing, or incredible", as these words have all lost their meaning and are applied in ridiculous and non-sensical ways in the English language now (can people open their dictionaries and come up with any other adjectives?). Enough ranting by me now.
We stayed in the "beach house", which was a single-story home with a living area and bedroom, with a large bath. It had an outdoor shower (without privacy, however) and a large outdoor terrace and short walkway to the beach. it was clean, quiet, and furnished quite nicely. Nothing fancy, but perfectly fine. You can hear and smell the birds outside - this is called "Heron" island for a reason. They do an excellent job cleaning up the grounds including the walkways, so no worries. We could not smell the birds whilst in the "house". The only complaint I have about this particular accommodation is the lack of privacy in that people come up from the beach using your "private" walkway, walk through your shower (literally) and down the side of your "house" to get to their own villas. This could easily be prevented if the management put up a sign that said something like, hmmm, "private house" or "private walkway"? I would strongly recommend that to them.
The meals are served in a single restaurant and were fine, no complaints. Of course it is going to be expensive - they have to bring everything in by boat, they don't grow Coca Colas, beef, or chocolate on the island. So just accept the $69 a day meal plan and forget your worries. If you want alcohol, you'll pay extra for it. There are no food options, either pay the rates or you'll go hungry. The food itself was tasty so they must have improved over the last few months.
The reef walk is a must. it takes 2 hours and you will be enchanted with all the marine life as you walk by. Your guide (a biologist) will teach as you walk, and he'll pick animals up and explain their life cycles, etc. Just like in school. It was intellectually stimulating (as Marcia always said).
The snorkeling is good, but you cannot snorkel at the reef's edge due to strong currents and its distance out from shore. The fish are there, as are numerous sharks and rays. The amount of coral is not fantastic. It is found mainly in clumps - you have to go out and investigate. The tides vary widely daily and you cannot snorkel at low tide (this is when you do the "reef walk").
The staff were really excellent, friendly, accommodating, and always polite. No snobbery was seen. They were keen on helping out in any way they could.
Would we recommend this resort? Yes. Is it a Four Seasons or St. Regis in the GBR? No. Would we return? Yes. The beauty of the wildlife and staff make the place.
P.S. The helicopter transfers are a must, if not to see the GBR from the air (gorgeous blues and exciting as well), then to avoid the 2 hour boat ride which some people said made them seasick!

  • Stayed: March 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank Cyrus3325
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 27, 2010

I was nervous about this part of our trip, having read the trip advisor reviews. I can only say that any criticisms that had been made in the past, must have been regarded as constructive and acted on by the management. Our experience was wonderful. The boat trip was a bit bumpy, but that made it more exciting, and we were given a glass of bubbly as 'survivors'! On arrival at the island the reception was welcoming and informative. Our room was clean, airy and comfortable. All the staff were very enthusiastic and helpful. The food was excellent, the A la Carte was better than the buffet, which was excellent any way. ( would love the recipe for the scallops and sweet potato starter!)

We thoroughly enjoyed the snorkelling and walking around the island. The Noddy terns were entertaining, although their survival rate isn't wonderful - the sticky traps are a fact of life. If anything, I wish we had appreciated the island earlier, and gone turtle watching on the first night, rather than the last, which would have improved our chances of seeing one of the mama turtles coming to lay her eggs. We missed that hatchlings by about five minutes - but that's nature.

I have rated it excellent all the way through - it was part of a month long holiday package and I don't know how it was broken down, or how much we paid for it, but even if it was over the odds, for a lifetime experience it was worth it. I slept really well - ear plugs were provided, but not used as I found it comforting to hear the birds and then doze off again.

If it wasn't so far away, I would love to go again.

  • Stayed: February 2010, traveled as a couple
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Thank pb7Somerset
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

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: $255 - $424 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
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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