By Dave – (San Diego)
I am looking for information about snorkeling Heron Island in Australia. My wife and I will be visiting there in April 2019. It is in the southeast portion of the Great Barrier Reef offshore from Gladstone, Queensland. We are looking for any tips and recommendations from fellow snorkelers who have visited this island.
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Jeff – Dec 16, 2018 – You’ll Love It
First thing, because fringing reef is shallow, you’re limited to snorkeling most areas from a few hours before high tide to a few hours after. The exception is the channel where the boat comes in. It’s deep enough there to snorkel anytime, but because of boat traffic you are limited to a couple of hours after sunrise and a hour or so before sunset.
Be sure and take at least one snorkel boat trip. It costs extra but it is worth it.
On land there are many free guided nature hikes that are good. Keep your eyes peeled for the native white breasted sea eagle.
You’re gonna love it.
Dave – Dec 19, 2018 – Thanks Jeff
I checked the tide charts and corresponded with the dive shop on the island and we are planning to do some reef snorkeling on our own during the morning high tides and take some varied boat excursions outside the reef for some drift snorkeling on the waning tides.
According to the tide tables we should have some plus four meter high tides. The change in tides this time of year is three meters so I imagine the conditions will be constantly changing.
My only disappointment so far is that there are no kayaks for self-guided use, only guided groups. So we will not be able to explore the huge lagoon on our own.
I will plan to update this post in April with some details of our trip once we’ve returned.
Andrew – Jan 6, 2019 – Other Option
You should also consider Lady Elliot Island. It is also on the southern barrier reef. It is not quite as upmarket as Heron but having snorkeled at both islands we prefer Lady Elliot. The reef in front if the resort is fabulous for turtles and on the other side of the island you might see mantas. Have a look and consider LEI as an option.
Nicole and Galen – Jan 6, 2019 – Lady Elliot Island Info
If it is of interest, we have a visitor story page about snorkeling Lady Elliot Island on the site.
Jane – Jan 7, 2019 – Heron Island
I will be there in a couple of weeks time, and can report back on any info required.
I am a avid snorkeler and from my understanding the snorkeling is amazing, taking into account the tides.
The Great Barrier Reef is truly spectacular. I did the north end in 2018 and Heron Island is on the southern part, and reports are excellent on the condition of the reefs.
Dave – Jan 7, 2019 – Appreciate the Input
Thanks for the comments and ideas. I appreciate the input. Not having been to any of the GBR islands yet, we considered several other islands before booking but decided to go with Heron Island for this trip.
The fact that LEI is a bird rookery did factor into our decision.
Dave – Jan 7, 2019 – Thanks Jane
I’m looking forward to hearing about your trip. Just FYI, here is a link to the tide tables for the area.
Adelma Hills – Feb 3, 2019 – Snorkeling Heron Island in November
I was there in November 2017, weather hadn’t been great, a bit windy still and water a little murky. Excellent snorkeling though, plenty of fish, turtles (it was turtle nesting season), black tip reef sharks, lots of parrotfish, and sting rays, although they were always sleeping on the bottom whenever I saw them. Take a snorkel out to the wreck in the early morning before they close the channel for harbor traffic.
And yes, I agree, take one of the boat trips to the outer reef.
I have a Heron Island snorkeling with turtles video here and a snorkeling one here.
Andrea Rees – Apr 3, 2019 – Snorkeling Heron Island
I was there in early November 2017 and had good conditions. I found the water to be clear as a swimming pool when I was there. Had to deal with some currents so be mindful of that especially near the shipwreck.
As much as you can snorkel off the beach, I felt that going on the snorkel boat was worth it even if you were taken to a bommie about five minutes away. We got to drift snorkel and then got picked up.
I also enjoyed going on the semi-submersible boat.
Dave W. – Apr 20, 2019 – Back from Heron Island
We just returned from a month in Australia, four nights on Heron Island. I have so wanted to come back and write about the incredible snorkeling on the outer southern Great Barrier Reef. Alas, constant 25-30 knot winds over the entire 11 days we were in Queensland meant that all of the excursion boats on Heron Island were grounded and the water inside the lagoon was full of disturbed sand the entire time we were there.
In planning our trips, I always consider the times of year for air and water temperatures, rainfall, and other considerations but have never been skunked due to sustained winds that were so strong small boats would not leave harbor. I got the impression from locals that these winds are seasonal, so I’m adding a new category to trip planning now.
One other thing to note. Although Heron Island is not designated as a rookery, I’ve never seen as many birds in one place as on Heron Island, and their presence does impact things.