Abundant marine life & stunning coral reef.
Powder white sand between your toes & floating in crystal clear water.
Tiny secluded islands with sunrise and sunset over the ocean.
Relaxation, adventure and romance. Existing alongside nature.
And all found within the most Southern part of the Great Barrier Reef.
This is the best kept secret in one of Australia’s most beautiful regions.
Welcome to Wilson and Heron Island.
Wow! I shared our images from Wilson Island and asked people to guess where they were taken. I had guesses of the Maldives, remote French Polynesia and Sardinia. Such is the natural beauty of this tropical paradise. But no one answered correctly. And this sums up why I loved Wilson Island so much. This place rivals some of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world and yet remains largely unknown, even by Australians. Wilson Island is an absolute gem and it’s been right under my nose the whole time.
Let’s start with the arrival to Wilson Island. You will head out from the mainland at Gladstone and have two options, either taking a boat ride or helicopter. The boat takes just over 2 hours but we took the chopper and it was honestly one of our trip highlights. It’s a bucketlist experience to fly out to the reef and that’s just your transfer! You will see tiny islands with fringing reef, marine life (we saw 2 massive Manta rays) and you will fly over Wistari Reef (which is INSANE!).
Coming into the beach at Wilson Island we instantly felt relaxed. Taking in this tiny island you realise that this slice of heaven is going to be your home in the Coral Sea for the next few days. You’ll breathe in the good vibes and shake off all your worries. Wilson Island is the definition of barefoot luxury and seclusion, with no civilisation in sight from your island hideaway. The small team that meets you on the beach are some seriously amazing people and exactly the right compliment to this chilled tropical haven. We had the smiles of Harry (gourmet chef), Bec (hostess with the mostest) and Les (caretaker) waiting for us on arrival and felt instantly at home.
Your accomodation is one of nine secluded Reef Safari tents which are dotted around the island. Along with the sandy floor dining pavilion, your amenities and a single sandy pathway there are no other man-made elements here. This is essential to protecting the ecosystem on the island and also adds to the immersive experience in nature. The tents put you right amongst the birds in the trees and the female turtles that come ashore the nest. In fact, we watched one mumma drag herself past the tent one night and started digging her nest right next to us! You really cannot get much closer to nature while still remaining so light in your impact.
Even though it’s such a small island, there’s plenty of room to have your own space. We had a private breakfast one morning and lounged one afternoon by ourselves on the beach. The staff were so amazing to help us with a sunset picnic too – rug, wine and cheese board included.
But wait, I haven’t even talked about the ocean yet! The water clarity is crazy and we spent whole days just laying and swimming in the shallows. Straight off the beach you can access the Coral Garden, which is full of beautiful coral and plenty of fish. We saw SOO many turtles in the water as well as reef sharks. You can snorkel out to The Bommie as well, which is one of the stars of Wilson Island. And if you’d rather not snorkel you can grab a kayak or paddle board to cruise over the reef and explore around the entire island.
Some other honourable mentions are:
- The food! Despite being so remote the meals are first class. An award-winning chef preparing you 3 inspired meals per day with the freshest ingredients – I mean, what else is there to say besides YUM!
- The people. If you are travelling to Wilson Island you are probably conscious of our environment, love untouched natural beauty and want to relax and/or adventure in a destination that’s off the beaten path. So with only a small number of guests, you are likely to meet a few like-minded people to share a cocktail or two.
- Sunsets. Watching a blazing hot sun set over the ocean with a Chesh and margarita in hand will always stand out for me as one of my best travel moments.
Heron Island is the sister property to Wilson and it’s no less spectacular in its natural beauty. Given that you pass via Heron Island to access Wilson, I’d recommend spending a few extra nights to experience this island too. The marine life was incredibly abundant here on Heron Island and we spent most of our time in the water. The main channel was an amazing place to snorkel at both early morning and sunset. We swam with turtles, several shark species, stingrays and eagle rays, including a massive group that soared right past us! There’s a shipwreck in the channel too that makes a stunning backdrop for your sunset snorkel. If we had more time we definitely would have dived as this is one of the best sites to dive in the country.
Heron Island is well known for its turtles. We visited in early December and were fortunate enough to be here during nesting season. Every night we would see tens of turtles come ashore and you could silently watch as they dug their nests above the waterline. You will probably wake with the sun here. I strongly suggest spending the first hour of light watching the last turtles heading back into the ocean after an exhausting night. This is such an incredible experience and one that I felt so special to witness.
Similar to Wilson Island, there’s always somewhere to escape for yourself for a swim, a walk or a snorkel. There is no reception here and that is all part of the charm. Heron Island is also very much centred around nature. You can expect barefoot dining, an abundance of birdlife, and relaxed resort life.
No matter your budget or if you’re a family or a couple, there’s options on Heron and Wilson Island for anyone like us looking to adventure somewhere new. These islands are a destination that feel tropical, remote and inspired by nature. You can disconnect and relax, while still filling your day with amazing experiences in the sun and the sea. For international travellers, add this to our Aussie bucketlist. And to my Australian friends, do yourself a favour and experience world-class tropical luxury right here at home!