11 Amazing things to do on Heron Island!

  • Heron Island
  • Turtle swimming at Heron Island
  • Baby turtle on Heron Island
  • Sunset at Heron Island

When Jacques Cousteau lists Heron Bommie as one of the top 10 dive sites in the world and Sir David Attenborough refers to Heron as his most magical place on earth, you know there’s something special here! These are 11 incredible experiences that you won’t want to miss during your stay on Heron Island in the Gladstone region.

1. Watch turtles nesting

  • Turtle nesting on Heron Island
  • Turtle nesting on Heron Island
  • Turtle tracks in the sand at Heron Island
  • Watching the turtles nesting on Heron Island

Each year between November and March, hundreds of turtles nest on Heron Island. You can take part in a guided turtle tour of an evening (which is the most common nesting time) where you’ll walk around the island and learn all about the life cycle of the turtles that live at Heron. Another great way to see them is to set your alarm for an early start and head down to the beach just before sunrise. There’s usually a few turtles that have come up to nest quite late in the night and as a result end up finishing nesting just on sunrise. Don’t forget to bring your camera to get a photo of them making their way back down the beach!

2. See baby turtles hatching

  • Baby turtle hatching on Heron Island
  • Baby turtle swimming on Heron Island
  • Baby turtle on Heron Island
  • Baby turtle scurrying down the beach on Heron Island

From January to May the baby turtles then start hatching all around the island. Sunset is the most popular time to spot them as the sand starts cooling down and the hatchlings start popping up from their nests. It’s an incredible sight to see over a hundred baby turtles all scurrying down the sand and swimming out to sea for the first time!

3. Swim with turtles

  • Turtle swimming at Heron Island
  • Swimming with turtles at Heron Island
  • Green Sea Turtle at Heron Island
  • Green Sea Turtle resting on coral at Heron Island

With over 4,000 turtles living in the waters around Heron Island, there’s plenty of opportunities to swim with them! A couple of my favourite spots are the shipwreck at the entrance to the island, as well as around the jetty and at The Gantry. The most common species to see are the green turtle and the loggerhead.

4. Snorkel a shipwreck 

  • Heron Island Shipwreck
  • Snorkelling around the Heron Island shipwreck
  • Shipwreck of HMAS Protector on Heron Island
  • Snorkelling around the shipwreck of the HMAS Protector at Heron Island

Heron is lucky enough to be home to one of the only places on the Great Barrier Reef where you can snorkel a shipwreck, the HMAS Protector. It’s only a short swim from shore and an early morning swim out to the wreck is a must when visiting the island. You’ll spot lots of turtles, rays and thousands of fish!

5. Helicopter flight over the Great Barrier Reef

  • Helicopter flight arriving at Heron Island
  • Flying into Heron Island
  • Helicopter arriving at Heron Island
  • Aerial view of Heron Island

One of the most amazing ways to experience the Great Barrier Reef is by air and you can do just that with a helicopter transfer to Heron Island. The flight takes you over neighbouring reefs and islands before arriving at Heron Island. Keep an eye out for turtles and rays during your trip and if you’re heading over during winter you might even spot some migrating humpback whales!

6. Guided reef walk 

  • Coral gardens at Heron Island
  • Guided reef walk on Heron Island
  • Heron Island beach
  • Baby turtle on Heron Island

At low tide, the reef around Heron becomes exposed and complimentary Guided reef walk tours are run where guests can see and learn all about the unique marine life around the island. If you’re lucky you might even get to see one of the most fascinating creatures found at Heron, the Epaulette shark. This amazing shark can walk over the exposed coral at low tide and survive out of the water!

7. Meet the other mesmerising marine life that call Heron home

  • Heron Island stingray
  • Reef shark
  • Snorkelling with rays around Heron Island
  • Black tip reef shark on Heron Island

Heron’s not just home to thousands of turtles, right throughout the year there’s a constant stream of different marine life that cruise around the waters of Heron Island. Some are here for a just a few months on their annual migration route such as humpback whales whilst others like eagle rays, reef sharks and manta rays are seen all year around.

8. Diving 

  • Diving on Heron Island
  • Dive boat returning to the Heron Island jetty
  • Divers on the Great Barrier Reef around Heron Island
  • Swimming with turtles at Heron Island

A great way to see all these marine life is on a dive at one of the world famous sites off Heron Island. Night dives available for more experienced divers and if you’re just starting out there’s learn to dive packages as well. You can also follow in the footsteps of the renowned ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau and dive one of his top 10 dive sites in the world, Heron Bommie.

9. Semi submersible “I-Spy” tour

If you’d love to experience the underwater world around Heron Island but don’t want to get wet then the “I-Spy” tour is for you! The semi sub takes guests out daily and you’ll get to see turtles, rays and thousands of fish underwater all while staying dry. A guide provides a commentary during the tours and you’ll learn all about the marine life and the Great Barrier Reef as well.

10. Heron Research Centre tour 

The University of Queensland Research Station on Heron Island conducts important coral reef research and student training in marine sciences. It’s open to the public on select days where they take you behind the scenes and show you some of their current experiments.

11. Sunset cruise

  • Sunset picnic at Heron Island
  • Sunset at Heron Island
  • Turtle nesting at Heron Island
  • Pandanus tree on Heron Island

A great way to unwind after a big day of snorkelling and sightseeing is with a sunset cruise around the island. Kicking back with some wine and cheese whilst watching the sun go down over the Great Barrier Reef is the ultimate way to end a perfect day in paradise!

What's your favourite thing to do on Heron Island?

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