The Great Barrier Reef of Australia is a must on a trip to Australia. Considered one of the wonders of the planet, with its over 2,300km is the final destination of a dream holiday “downunder”. Heron Island, an atoll off the central coast of Queensland, is also the perfect destination to visit this corner of paradise with children.
With around 2,900 corals, 600 islands and 300 archipelagos, the Australian Barrier Reef is a “natural monument” that can be spotted even by the moon. Hundreds of marine species have lived there, including over 30 species of dolphins and whales, 1,700 different fish, 3,000 molluscs and 6 of the 7 types of sea turtles. An extraordinary natural ecosystem in the world which – unfortunately – loses some of its colours every year due to the rise in ocean temperature.
Heron Island: a natural paradise for families in Australia
The reef is one of Australia’s major tourist attractions. We were there on the occasion of our honeymoon, reserving for the sea – and relaxation – the last week of the five spent in the land of Oz.
Heron Island is breathtakingly beautiful. Bright colours between the blue of the sea and the sky, the green of the forest that grows luxuriantly on the atoll and the heavenly white of the strips of land.
Heron is also a fairy tale for families. At the time, we were not very interested in tourists under 1.5 metres, but if you want to pass on your love for nature – the real one – to your children, this is definitely a destination to mark in order to give the whole family a dream trip.
The islet keeps its natural peculiarities intact and has one of the most preserved marine ecosystems in the whole Reef. But Heron is not just beach and diving! The atoll is a natural theatre in which man is a spectator of the cycle of nature.
Heron is a paradise to be protected and where sustainable tourism practices are encouraged in order to safeguard both the sea turtles that come to lay their eggs on these beaches every year, and the different species of birds that, following the migratory flows, land on the atoll to reproduce.
The history of Heron Island
This islet has a history that begins about 6,000 years ago with the creation of the first corals. The island was discovered in 1843 by Francis Blackwood, as he desperately tried to create a gateway along the Great Barrier Reef, to reach the Australian coast for commercial purposes.
The island was called Heron Island because of the large number of herons feeding on the reef. It was immediately clear to the explorers that this was an almost unique environment in the world.
In the years to come, several scholars went to the island to carry out research on turtles, birds and the reef, so much so that it was necessary in the late 1930s to limit the exploitation of Heron’s resources and regulate the influx of people on the island.
In 1943 Heron Island was declared a National Park and in 1951 the research centre for marine sciences was built on the atoll, which is now run by the University of Queensland.
Where is Heron Island and how to get there
Heron Island is located 80km from the coast of Queensland, a short distance south of the Tropic of Capricorn. The island is a glossy catalogue wonder: white beaches, palm trees and clear water where you can even admire turtles, rays and whitetip sharks from the shore.
Heron is located on a coral platform of about 27 km ° and has a length of 800 meters. It only takes twenty minutes – half an hour if you get lost in the photo – and you’ve shot it all.
To get there, you’ll have to leave Brisbane behind and fly 500km further north to the city of Gladstone. From here, once landed, you will be separated by two and a half hours by boat, to be catapulted into the extraordinary nature of this coral atoll. But if it is true that to enjoy the beauty and magic of certain places you have to conquer them, in retrospect those two and a half hours of nausea and vomiting would have been spared.
Our boat adventure
It’s been an endless journey.
Once on board, the stewardess announced the rough sea. I just remember that she asked if we wanted ginger or a travelgum. “It’s bumping.
We had never been ill on a boat – not even a sailboat with the sea rough – but we had underestimated the power of the ocean and how much “bumping” it meant on a scale of 1 to 10.
We were satisfied with ginger, one of the natural remedies for seasickness, regardless of the fact that as soon as we left the port, the misadventure would begin.
In the boat with us about thirty boys in their twenties. They were the researchers from the University of Queensland arriving at the base of Heron. Rivers of beer, songs and dances as if there were no tomorrow for the first twenty-tenth minutes of navigation. At the first waves – the merry-go-round effect of the amusement park – the silence fell. All aft, on the open deck with an ice cream towel around their necks as an additional remedy for motion sickness.
We were still holding out at that moment.
We were sitting inside the boat, but we preferred to move to the stern to feel the jerks less.
Green in the face and the eyes petrified for the number of boys we saw being sick, almost by osmosis, in a moment, the first counted arrived.
I only remember the three toilets of the boat, clogged in turn, and the desperate need to put our feet on the mainland. Anyone who has experienced “the thrill of sea sickness” knows that once the fuse has been ignited, there is no turning back, until it touches the ground.
We arrived in Heron completely “shaken”, blessing the tight times we had on the plan for flights back to Italy that forced us to return to Gladstone by helicopter.
As an alternative to the boat, to get to Heron Island use the helicopter transfers. You will be able to see the coral reef from above filling your eyes with an incredible scenery and especially without suffering further from sea sickness. Organizing a charter flight can be an effective solution – perhaps not the most economical – but by dividing the cost between several families traveling to a single destination you can reduce the cost, reduce transfer times and avoid unnecessary suffering as in our case. To know how it works, consult the FAQ page of Jet App and together with the answers to your questions, it will come as no surprise that you will have a lot of fun!
Why choose Heron Island among the hundreds of islands in the Coral Reef?
Of the coral islands where you can spend the last part of your trip to Australia, you’ll find plenty of them. There are microscopic atolls, islands reserved for adults, those with the most luxurious resorts and the most spartan.
We chose Heron because of the beauty of its natural environment, the fact that it is close enough – and relatively comfortable in transfers – and also because of a budgetary issue. In fact, there are different types of rooms in the resorts, from the most chic with sea views to the most spartan. The rooms do not have keys, however, in case of precious objects you will have to go to the reception and leave them in a safe.
We stayed in a Turtle Room, located near the reception and the services offered in the resort, and we had a great time. The room was on the first floor, we had a small balcony overlooking the forest and nests of birds (with outbuildings and connections that can be annoying if you do not particularly love the birds).
When planning this extraordinary trip we had long dreamed of spending relaxing days at the sea travelling to Fiji or Polynesia, but we preferred to focus on getting to know the Barrier Reef, and stay in Australia, thus completing our tour with a trip to Queensland. “In the end there are so many things to see in Australia that you don’t need to fly over atolls even further away…”