Price: Turtle Family Rooms cost from £270 per night, including all meals, while Reef Family Rooms cost from £360 per night. Children aged 12 and under stay and eat for free. Boat transfers from Gladstone, on the Australian mainland, cost £70 one way per adult and £35 one way per child.
How to get there: Emirates flies from London Heathrow to Gladstone with a changeover in Sydney; from £876 return. Once at Gladstone, you can get a boat or a helicopter to the island. The Heron Island Islander costs AUD $99.50 one way per adult and AUD $49.75 one way per child. A helicopter ride costs AUD $370 one way per adult and AUD $200 one way per child.
Travel time: A flight from London to Sydney takes approximately 24 hours in total, and a flight from Sydney to Gladstone takes 2 hours and 30 minutes. If you’re travelling with smaller children why not stopover in Sydney before heading to the island.
Stepping off the boat onto Heron Island’s picturesque jetty, it takes just seconds to understand why legendary naturalist Sir David Attenborough described this Great Barrier Reef resort as one of the best places in the world to spot marine life.
Only metres below the boardwalk, the appearance of several blacktip reef sharks in the crystal-clear turquoise waters draw gasps from the crowd of newly-arrived holiday makers. The wildlife odyssey continues throughout Heron Island, with weird and wonderful birdcalls greeting your every turn.
While there are, oddly enough, no herons among the chorus, you’ll see black noddy terns hiding in the tropical trees and ground-dwelling mutton birds waddling in rock pools.
If you want a chilled-out holiday Heron Island has many options; try the tennis courts, paradise swimming pool, or tropical bar. All boasting panoramic views of the reef.
Who is it good for? Beach-goers, snorkelling enthusiasts and wildlife lovers will love the beauty and freedom of this island but the long-haul flight can be difficult for little ones.
At just 800m long and 300m wide, it doesn’t take long to feel at home on this island, and most visitors spend their days exploring the coral gardens that surround the island. Just metres from the shore, this verdant wonderland is teeming with colourful fish, a variety of rays, turtles and the – completely harmless – reef sharks.
Complimentary reef walks with a qualified naturalist guide enable guests to learn more about the various creatures that can be found around the island, while free snorkelling lessons in the resort pool also prepare visitors to venture onto the reef on their own.
Snorkel boat trips (£30 for adults, £20 for children) allow guests to experience some of the 20 dive sites around the island, including the Heron Bommie, which renowned underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau rated among the best in the world.
As an important nesting ground for both green and loggerhead turtles, visitors to the island are also able to watch these majestic creatures clamber up the beach each night, between November and March, to lay their eggs. From January until May, guests can also see hatchlings emerge from the nests to make their dangerous dash across the beach and into the water. Guests can view nesting turtles on their own, or choose a guided tour (£15 for adults and £12 for children) with one of the resort’s trained naturalists, who help explain what is happening.
With the resort’s Junior Ranger Programme (£20 per child, per day) also operating during Australian school holidays, offering children aged between seven and 12 the chance to experience a range of nature-based activities, Heron Island makes the perfect destination for budding Attenborough’s and Cousteau’s.
The resort’s rooms arc around the island from the jetty to the northern-most beach. All have a spacious balcony or terrace.
Family Turtle Rooms are a comfortable option. They sleep up to four people, include an en-suite bathroom with shower, and are conveniently located at ground level near the resort’s facilities, including the pool. Also, you’ll be happy to know that the beach is just a short walk away.
Reef Family Rooms, sleeping a maximum of five people, are even closer to the jetty. They’re spacious and offer water views through a canopy of beach-side trees.
Food: The restaurant offers an ever-changing evening menu, themed lunches and an array of breakfast options.