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Heron Island Resort

4.0 out of 5.0

Recent guest reviews

What a beautiful setting... awesome snorkeling, pristine beaches, sea and bird life in abundance. The reef walk was really interesting too. The natural beauty did not disappoint! We saw whales breaching beyond the reef, and on one of our snorkeling trips we saw dolphins. The snorkeling off the beach was don’t really have to go on the boat. We stayed in a beachside suite...this was roomy and comfortable. Rust in bathroom, terrible shower..needs mixer as virtually impossible to maintain a consistent water temperature....but overall ok. Would have loved some cushions on pool loungers...but I guess that would be hard to maintain with so many birds. The dining room is the weakest link. Breakfast is included and is ok. However, there were never enough cereal/fruit bowls, we were constantly waiting for some food item to be replenished although staff were pleasant and tried hard, there did not appear to be any manager or management plan to better run the dining area. Dinner was mediocre...over cooked fish, watery curry and quite small-portions on the a’la carte items. .One evening we were placed at a table in a cold draught— I asked to either be moved or to close the bi fold door.......both requests were apparently outrageous because both staff members that I approached shrugged and ignored my request. ( restaurant was half empty). Eventually we just moved ourselves! However we did get a very nice picnic lunch one day...generous and delicious Mediterranean type platter. Overall we had a lovely stay. I would recommend this place for those looking to disconnect from the rat race and enjoy the sea and bird life.

I think it’s important to remember that this is a small island in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. As such they will always be fighting a losing battle with rust, mould, and insects. On the first night my youngest daughter was completely covered in bites. The hotel changed her mattress and sheets and she was fine for the rest of the week. We had to ask housekeeping to redo our room as dirty glasses etc weren’t removed, rooms weren’t swept properly and making beds was sporadic (some days the beds in my girls room weren’t made, even though main bed was made). There was a cockroach in their room, as mentioned it’s a very natural island. The island is a bird haven, which means that there are places where there is a lot of bird poo, (which smells) and expect to get hit occasionally if you’re sitting in the wrong place. That said, the island boasts the most amazing beaches, where you can swim with black tipped reef sharks, a variety of rays and the turtles. Apart from one afternoon when the young staff members seemed to have the afternoon off and were having a party (including loud music) on the beach, the beaches are incredibly peaceful, with golden sand and clear warm water. We booked picnic lunches and just spent the afternoons staring at the animals swimming past. The coral is not the bright colours seen in places like Fiji, it is hard branch, plate and boulder coral, in brown, cream and neutral colours. Occasional blues , reds and purples. However it’s amazing to snorkel above the coral, taking in its unique beauty and seeing the sharks and turtles. The staff are friendly and happy to help. The bar tenders are really good. And hot stone massage was amazing, spa is recommended! A few other things to consider, the states school holidays are staggered, and their junior ranger program doesn’t take into account that some schools are still on holiday. Variety of the breakfasts would be good - example one day do waffles instead of pancakes, or spinach instead of beans etc. and the kids menu needs vegetarian options (although you can order half portion of adult food). My kids loved the buffet dinner. A comment on the rooms: we had point suite 2 which was excellently positioned, beautiful view out to sea. The rest of the group had room 52, you can’t see the sea from their room due to the line of trees in front of the rooms. The pool tables only have one pool cue (for two tables) and the outside area needs more umbrellas (they only have one large one). The island is highly recommended if you’re searching for down time on the most perfect beach. Take a note of the tides though, high tide during the day is perfect. But (this is feedback from a different group) if the high tide is at night, you do get a different experience as Swimming on the beach is difficult.

This lovely tiny island is a 2 hour launch trip from Gladstone. There are numerous dive sites within a short boat trip or from the shore. Fabulous fish life and corals . Turtles sharks and sting rays complete the attractions under the clear blue waters. Not to mention the abundant bird life. Accommodation good and the food very good.

Heron Island - an incredible Coral Cay. The core reason anybody would want to attend this island is to experience the splendor that is the great barrier reef. we attended in early October, this was a family holiday with children 9 and 11. The Snorkeling was world class, and it was something we undertook as a family at least twice a day. We found the best snorkeling to be around the 'Protector' ship wreck and surrounds. Unfortunately this area is also in a designated boating channel and is not available between 8am through to 5.30pm. The marine life was incredible, the variety of fish was breathtaking and we frequently encountered sea turtles, reef sharks and stingrays - all of which were safe to snorkel around. Whilst we bought our own snorkeling equipment there is equipment for hire on the island - however if you were looking to do this for a family of four the costs would escalate to over $100 a day... Other positives included the Junior Ranger program for children 7-12, which was priced at $20 a session and facilitated 90 minutes of education about the island and its surrounds and of course child minding! My 11 year old daughter loved the junior ranger program, in particular acquiring badges for proven learning about the reef, wild life and the island. We experienced two boat-snorkel expeditions - $50 per person. Whilst our first experience was excellent, the second experience was marred by bad conditions and facilitated us seeing very little marine life and coral in comparison with the first trip out. It did feel like the boat crew were pandering to the divers on this second expedition, which was a little disappointing. The boat crews were extremely pleasant to deal with, and were very helpful and safe in the dealings with snorklers of varying skill. The accommodation has some room for improvement. Granted we had the entry level 'Turtle room', the room we were allocated was in significant disrepair, with damaged mirrors, dirty floors, faulty lighting and poor quality mattresses. Room size was spacious enough for a family of four, and considering the focus of the island, you did not need to spend extended periods of time in the room. Meals were also somewhat controversial and arguably one of the most frequent causes of disappointment during our stay on the island. There is only one resort run restaurant, which provides all three meals on offer for the day. The buffet breakfast - included in the room fee, was of solid quality, there was always fresh fruit and plenty of hot choices akin to any 3-4 star hotel on the mainland. Dinner was problematic. When we attended dinner alternated each evening between a buffet and 'a la carte' menu. Whilst the buffet was reasonable value, and aligned with the quality of the breakfast, the a la carte menu was a choice of three options for entree, main and dessert. Serving sizes for the a la carte were small, and after a day of serious snorkeling, walking and swimming you were often left feeling hungry. This was always disappointing considering you would pay $45 for two or $52 for the three courses. In summary - Heron Island provides an incredible location for snorkeling or diving on a beautiful section of the barrier reef. The island has a strong children's program, an excellent range of free naturist tours and some beautiful walks (albeit short). The quality of the low end accommodation and food has room for improvement, however were these to be addressed with some maintenance and rethinking about the running of the diner this would be a 5 star experience.

We are keen snorkellers so Heron Island is pure magic for us but after about 24 hours on this, our 3rd visit, we thought sadly that we would not be returning to the resort. Fortunately, we did some problem solving, the island worked its usual charm and we were relieved to hear there is going to be a change of ownership in December. We hope this will bring about positive changes. The positives: • In our opinion Heron Island is one of the best places in the world for snorkelling. It is a coral cay so you can snorkel straight off the beach onto the Barrier reef. The cooler waters in the Southern Barrier reef make the visibility really clear. You can snorkel over the reef around the island for a couple of hours either side of high tide and we came across an amazing variety of colourful reef fish, giant fish like cods, turtles, eagle rays, cow tailed rays and reef sharks. This time of the year is great for seeing turtles as they are coming in to nest. The green turtles and loggerback turtles are currently listed as endangered so it is pretty special to see them lazily cruising by when you are pootling about snorkelling. • Take a snorkel boat tour at least once. They take you to sites not far from the island so it is great to do when the tides are low. Try to get on one that takes you to the Heron Bombie if you can (or put in a request). The coral gardens and fish life are stunning. Manta rays were spotted on our trip. • The view from the bar looking over the gantry is picture postcard material. Keep an eye out for whatever is cruising by. We thought we saw a turtle being attacked by a reef shark and I was about to dive in to try to rescue it (not sure how – smack it with a snorkel perhaps?). Fortunately, a staffmember at the information booth came out with binoculars and advised us all it was just another turtle trying to mate. My snorkel smacking rescue would have been awkward. • The staff are friendly, welcoming, informative and dedicated. Top marks to the island staff and the research staff. • You may need a shorty wetsuit for warmth at this time of year (we did). They help with buoyancy too if you are a newbie snorkeller or not a confident swimmer. You can hire them at the marine centre (as well as snorkels and flippers). It is a tidal island so snorkelling is governed by the tides. We planned our visit when high tide was in the morning and early evening so we could snorkel twice a day. The marine centre is really helpful and can let you know which side of the island is best for snorkelling and which way the currents are flowing so you can drift snorkel from one end of the island to the other. The negatives: • We used to think of Heron Island resort as the best kind of eco resort. Relaxed, environmentally conscious and idyllic. Comfortable coastal accommodation, a restaurant with creative fresh cuisine, a lovely bar with a view, friendly staff, activities that you could participate in if you wished, and eco sensitive, cleverly running its own power generator and water treatment and desalinisation. It has been five years since we last visited and it was then run by Voyages (who also operated Longitude 131 at Uluru). It has sadly not been well maintained over that time. Screens and blinds are broken, curtains have mildew stains over the backs and there seem to be less staff at peak times (e.g., mornings in the marine centre). There were even less deck chairs, with none outside the Wistari room overlooking the gantry. We missed the tropical drink that you were welcomed with when you first arrived at Heron, signalling the beginning of your holiday. More importantly, we were dismayed to discover that unsustainable seafood was being served on the menu in the restaurant, like orange roughy. If you are an owner of an eco resort on an island that houses a research station and a unique ecosystem, try to act responsibly and source sustainable seafood. There is a leaflet guide on Sustainable seafood in the information centre that urges us all to make better choices. Why not use it? • The breakfast buffet and a la carte dinners were decent. The dinner buffet, though, cost $45 per person and tasted like institutional food. Watery flavourless curry, stewed meat, rice and salads. No bar food was offered in the bar in the evening so people have few options. After the first day we only ate dinner if it was a la carte (min 2 courses = $45). We bought some supplies from the shop otherwise and made up a platter for lunch or dinner. I would recommend bringing some 2 minute noodles, crackers, nuts etc with you that you can use if needed. • The connections between Heron and the flights out of Gladstone are now ridiculous. There is only one ferry a day, leaving Gladstone at 2pm and leaving Heron at 10am. You used to be able to arrive on Heron in the morning and leave in the afternoon on a ferry which would connect with the 4.30pm flight to Brisbane. Now you have to catch the only ferry leaving Heron at 10am and wait around in Gladstone until the 4.30pm flight. There also used to be a helicopter providing alternate transport. Now there is only a seaplane which costs around $350 per person one way and can only land at Heron around high tide. • The resort advertises that it has Wifi. It does not say that the Wifi access is very patchy, has to be purchased from reception by the hour and is only accessible around the bar and Wistari room. I would recommend that the new owners consider making Heron an eco tourism mecca. Work to make the resort 100% sustainable and educate people on their arrival on ways they can minimise their impact and actively help to care for the island’s environment, sealife and wildlife and support the research activities. The talk we heard on turtles made us consider ways to reduce our use of plastics. Lots of small individual actions can make an impact. ‘Take 3’ is a movement that urges everyone to simply take 3 pieces of rubbish with you whenever you leave a beach or waterway. Three turtles laid their eggs on the beach while we were there. Most of the hatchlings don’t even make it to the sea. It is estimated only one in a thousand eggs will survive and yet those that survive return, many decades later, to the same beach to lay their own eggs. This is a humbling statistic. I think many of the visitors who make their way to Heron would welcome the opportunity to work with the research staff to help increase those odds.

What an amazing place! Heaven on earth - the wonders under the water are well worth the trip. Definitely will be back again to hopefully witness the mother turtles laying their eggs in the sand. Rays, reef sharks, turtles, star fish, seahorses, an array of fish and corals...

This is our second trip to Heron Island and the current owners of the resort have not done it any favors!. Our first trip literally could not be faulted. We love the location and the fact that you can walk straight off the beach and into beautiful snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. Really you can't ask for much more and that is why the appalling service we received at the resort still didn't ruin our trip. The food was below average and the service was below average (apart from 1 or 2 stand out staff members). On the whole the resort staff gave off an unhappy feel which I can only assume relates to management and adequacy of staffing numbers. We had two nights out of four where we couldn't have a hot shower....OK we are on an island and they have limited water, but for $540 a night I don't think a hot shower is too much to ask for. I hate to say these negative things because our family holds many dear memories of Heron Island and in terms of natural beauty it is still worth every cent. As I said our first trip was faultless and apparently the resort is being taken over by new owners in the next few weeks so hopefully they will take care of a few small issues and again return it to the high quality experience it once was.

Heron Island is in the south Great Barrier Reef - a haven for sea birds and underwater creatures alike. We are zero fuss dive lovers, and were really drawn by the chance to stay with easy proximity to the reef. Some of our stay - the dive school and underwater marine life especially - was great. But the hotel...well, having just returned, I want to give you a really honest appraisal of Heron before you decide to book, as I was so grateful to some of the other reviewers here! First - you are coming here for the diving and the snorkelling - which is high quality. So when you book your hotel room - BOOK YOUR DIVING AND SNORKELLING. Do not just turn up and expect there to be space! The coral cay of the island extends quite far out - so while you can snorkel on your own, BUT it’s a 5 min boat trip to get to the deeper reef and the really good stuff and you need to book that. There are 340 guests and 8 dive/approx 20 snorkel spots per trip, three times a day. This was entirely booked up when we were there. SO many people arrived and found they were unable to dive or snorkel and were very upset. So please book in advance!! You have been warned! The quality of the dive school, dive equipment and dive staff is all excellent and they are run separately to the hotel, which is a blessing as hotel comms are dreadful. They are highly responsive to email and very friendly and professional. They absolutely made our holiday. The diving is great too - coral in good nick down here on the south reef and wildlife is great, mantas, turtles, sharks, some folks saw whales. The diving itself is amongst the cheapest we have ever done too. So. If like us, that’s the important bit, and you can grit your teeth through the next stuff, then come - they will look after you. Ok so on to the hotel... Don’t come to Heron expecting a luxury island resort. Go to the Maldives if you want luxury. Go if you love diving and can be self sufficient for the rest. Heron has the atmosphere of a place that they are letting run into the ground to be honest. They were recently bought out - as you’ll see the management repeat on Tripadvisor as a sort of excuse. But this has been going on for way, way longer than that. We felt so sorry for the staff. You can feel the tension everywhere - along with the fact that every activity is massively overbooked, the a la carte and lunch menus you’ll have seen online (pizzas etc) have been quietly dropped, there is a bizarre lack of furniture in the bar, there is no room service, no proper WiFi to speak of, no real evening entertainment (an hour of groove jazz, don’t get me started), they sell postcards but you can’t send them, no one seems to know the answers to your questions and some staff will send you between reception, information etc just to get rid of you. To be honest all of this stuff makes for some serious guest aggro, so I can sort of forgive them that! We overheard staff complaining one day that there are 340 guests at capacity (the hotel was near full when we were there) and to be quite honest, they (and the invisible managers, who you will never, ever see) can’t cope with this number. I don’t know if it’s greed which motivates this overbooking but the resort isn’t built for it. The restaurant needs a decent GM. Breakfast is fine (there is a secret off-buffet order menu, ask the waitress), lunch is very reasonable, but dinner is a nightmare. There is only one restaurant on Heron, the only place serving food, at fixed hours each day. 340 people have to eat there over the course of about 2.5 hours at night. Some nights on a la carte! The chef - who is actually quite skilled, the menu is good - must be on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Expect long waits for food on a la carte days (every other day) - we saw people leaving without food because they’d been waiting for so long one night (Thursday 5th October) - and there’s an atmosphere similar to a shopping mall food court on buffet days - food all over the floor, staff slopping leftovers into bins in front of you... Basically, eat dinner as late as you possibly can (20.15) as it’s much quieter then and you will avoid the carnage. But honestly, who needs fancy - you have a fridge in your room - so buy some antipasti/picnic stuff from the Woolworths at Gladstone, crack open a bottle of wine on your patio and you’ll have a much nicer time. (Ps if you are veggie, this applies doubly as there is usually only one veg option on the buffet, and it’s always run out - so I ate a lot of steamed veg side dishes. Rooms: get yourself a Wistari suite or above. You will be glad you spent the extra. Most of the accommodation is in blocks - go for rooms 1-12 to avoid this and also get some partial sea views. Third, on arrival stuff: If you can stretch to a sea plane perhaps consider it - especially if you get very easily sea sick. A lot of people were ill on the boat - and though admittedly the sea plane is INCREDIBLY expensive (we have travelled by seaplane before, for half the cost) you seem to be able to arrive at a time to suit you rather than on the fixed boat days. If you do get the boat (which we found absolutely fine for two hours) then make your own way to the marina from the airport - and if you have a long wait for the boat after your flight arrives then head to The Dock cafe in Gladstone and grab some food rather than going to the marina (where there’s no food or shops and a general cramped departures lounge vibe). The Dock is lovely - amazing food, great cocktails and ice creams! And agree with other folks who booked early domestic flights in fear of missing the boat - this is the one thing Heron make a big deal of - but we ended up sitting on the dock waiting for people on a much later and more convenient flight. If you wait at the airport for the bus don’t worry about the lack of instruction - there will be no one there with a Heron sign and no one at the hotel ever, ever answers the phone. Consider this your induction! So just hang around until you spot some other bemused Heron tourists and a bus eventually will turn up to get you! One note on the birds - there are lots of them and we loved them. The sea birds we found really enchanting. You can learn more about them by watching David Attenborough’s Barrier Reef documentary - episode 2 features Heron Island a lot. They were here first, it’s their island - so remember this if you are troubled by the guano smell - which is manageable in October time. In summary - we came for the diving (which thank god we had booked in advance) and we were not disappointed - the dive shop were completely professional and the fauna was beautiful. But we agree with almost everyone else on TA when we say that you’d be mad to come for the hotel.

What an amazing place to go for a short break. The ammenities are if you don’t expect fancy. But the location you could not beat for nature and wildlife. My only complaint would be the quality of food on the island and it is expensive as there is only one place to eat. But other than that it was great. My kids swam with sharks, turtles and stingrays which was awesome. We would come back for sure.

After a lovely 2 hour boat transfer we arrived at the island, a quick orientation then of to our family reef room, luggage was delivered to our rooms, dinner on arrival night was a buffet which was good, the room facilities were adequate, a extra chair and a mirror in the bathroom would have added to the comfort of the room. the snorkeling was excellent and we enjoyed the bird life. many activities are provided, some at a nominal cost, buffet breakfast is included each day, however lunch and dinner are charged to the room, an alternative for either lunch or dinner (cheaper) is Baillies Bar serving light snacks, e.g. a variety of salad rolls (before 5pm) The sunrise and sunsets are spectacular, there is no T.V. or free wifi (which can be bought at $5.00 per hour, however connection is slow and the hour is quickly used up.A leisurely stroll around the island took an hour. Heron island was a great experience, would recommend it to anyone seeking a break away from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Via Gladstone Heron Island QLD

Hotel highlights

  • Free hot/cold buffet breakfast
  • Onsite dining
  • Spa
  • Outdoor pool

Heron Island Resort places you adjacent to Heron Island Dock. This 109-room, 4-star resort has a full-service spa along with a private beach and an outdoor pool.


Start your day off right with a free hot/cold buffet breakfast offered each morning. Enjoy a bite to eat at the resort's restaurant, or relax with a drink at the bar/lounge. Order from room service to satisfy your hunger without leaving your room.


The 109 rooms have an array of amenities, including balconies, refrigerators, and minibars. Bathrooms have hair dryers, free toiletries, and bathrobes. Coffee makers, ceiling fans, and phones are also standard.

Property features

Guests staying at Heron Island Resort enjoy access to a full-service spa, an outdoor pool, and WiFi in public areas. If you drive, self parking is AUD 10 per night, or you can take advantage of the airport shuttle during limited hours. The 24-hour front desk has staff standing by to help with concierge services and securing valuables. Other amenities at this spa resort include a business center, express check-out, and a garden.

Room options

Family Room

Queen 1 | Sleeps 5

Family Room (Reef)

King 1 | Sleeps 4

Reef Room

Queen 1 | Sleeps 3

Turtle Family Room

Queen 1 | Sleeps 4

Reviews from Trip Advisor

Trip Advisor aggregated rating

77% of guests recommend this hotel

Total of 1684 reviews