Main Menu

Heron Island – Turtles, rays, sharks

Heron Island oceanswimsafari

2023 dates

June 14-19, 2023 (FULL)
October 25-30, 2023 (FULL)
November 8-13, 2023

heron 2210 swimmers 02 600
Early morning swim... Into the never-never of the Great Barrier Reef.

(… maybe whales and turtles and Mantas will be hanging around, too)

It's rapidly become the most popular location on the oceanswimsafaris calendar. Heron Island is part of a cluster of islands at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef. It's a national park, which means the area is crawling (and swimming and flying) with sea life and all sorts of other wondrous creatures: at different times of the year, humpback whales (June-November), Manta rays (June-September), turtles laying (October-February), turtles hatching (December-June). There is just so much there! Being right on the Great Barrier Reef, the water generally is absolutely clear and pleasant. And at c. 65kms out from the coast, Heron Island, is well outside the coastal band where the nasty stingers hang about (up to about 40kms from the coast – and no other accessible, suitable island, including on the Great Barrier Reef, can claim that). Swimming on the Great Barrier Reef is unparallelled in Australia – perhaps the world – for its beauty and its excitement.

The Heron Island oceanswimsafaris won’t be in quite the same form as the Great Barrier Reef swims previously that ran until 2017, in that we don’t run formal swim events as part of a four-night package. Instead, we run a five-night package with four days of escorted, informal swims to different parts of reef drop-offs around Heron Island. (We always felt that four nights wasn’t quite enough.)


Those of you who are familiar with Heron Island will know how many other reefs and islands there are around the area, quite apart from the enormous reef on which Heron itself sits. Our earlier groups never got to visit most of this reef. We always used to gaze out wistfully, across the reef disappearing into the distance, wondering what pristine reef and sea life we would find out there, if only…

Most of our anticipated swim spots are within short boat rides of Heron Island Resort, and whilst some of these spots have been visited by divers, they have not been visited by ocean swimmers until we organised to take you there. 


Our plan is to conduct an escorted swim daily on each of the four full days on which we are on Heron Island, along different reefs (conditions on the day permitting). Our escorted swims will take place each morning, post-brekker. Excursions will run for 2-3 hours, depending on the course (travel time, time in the water, etc). We’d aim to swim distances of 2-3km each time, although that will vary with conditions and the locations. These swims are not races: we want you to enjoy the locations; to explore and enjoy the reef, the sea life, and the water; to enjoy swimming with friends. If you spot something you want to look at more closely, you can do so. All that we ask is that our groups keep swimming generally in the same direction. We will regroup regularly (we don’t want anyone left behind).

We'll also be doing informal morning, pre-brekker swims, if you like.

heron 2210 mob 01
The mob, Heron Island jetty, October, 2022. (Once they've been shown the oceanswimmers' salute, along with a presentation on its provenance, they just want to do it all the time.


We will get to these swim spots with the Heron Island boats, which will stay with us throughout our swims. They’re large, covered boats with c. 25 person capacity, although we don't like to fill them to the brim; we prefer to leave a bit of space for comfort. The number of boats depends on how many we have in our group. The boats will have a two-person crew of skipper and lookout. You will be able to climb back into the boat as you like, and dive into the water at any time during the escorted swims.

And then…

Afternoons will be kept free so you can arrange other activities if you like, or just lie on the beach, or by the pool, or go diving, etc.

We have timed our dates with high tides in the morning, so we’ll also swim informally (unescorted) on the island's reef each morning prior to brekker, if you’d like to join us.

heron 2210 swimmer 01
Idiomatic water entry in glorious Great Barrier Reef conditions (there is no near rivalry between conditions on the reef and those inside the reef).

heron 2210 smh 01
You won't get water like this unless you're swimming right on the Great Barrier Reef.


Our package is ex-Gladstone. It includes accommodation at Heron Island Resort (5 nights), all meals, ferry transfers to Heron Island and back, and the escorted swims. We’ve also included an opening night drinks reception at which we can all say hi and have an introductory chinwag prior to dinner.

We have assembled packages based on different room standards at Heron Island Resort. There is a link (click here) to the resort’s website so that you can check out those different room standards.

While we have done packages for all room standards offererd by Heron Island Resort, we strongly recommend Reef rooms and upwards, for their location on the island and proximity to the beach. Also, Heron Island Resort has undergone extensive renewal of its infrastructure recently, and some Turtle rooms may still be awaiting their turn.

The reef is different

Anyone who has ever swum on the Great Barrier Reef knows how special and different it is from pretty well anywhere else. Different even from the waters inside the reef, such as around the inshore islands off the Queensland coast. There really is no comparison.

That’s why people who’ve been there talk about it so much. We love hearing the oohs and aahs when new swimmers arrive on the Heron jetty, and catch their first glimpse of the sea life in the lagoon. When they leave, they’re very different people. It’s a life-changing experience.

heron island aerial
The ferry, the Heron Islander, arrives at the entrance to the island's harbour, with another load of punters to discover the joys of swimming with turtles, reef sharks, and rays, etc. (The ferry runs between Gladstone and Heron Island daily except Tuesday and Thursday.)

What's included in our Heron Island oceanswimsafari...

Your oceanswimsafari package includes -

  • 5 nights accommodation

  • Return ferry transfers from Gladstone

  • All meals

  • Welcome drinks

  • Early morning reef swims (unescorted by support craft, conditions allowing)

  • Daily swims along nearby reefs (escorted, conditions allowing)

  • oceanswimsafaris silicone swim cap + dry bag

  • Packages from $A2,690 pp (double/twin), and $A3,650 singles (depending on room standard – See rate flyer link below for complete list of rates).

Note: Most will need to overnight in Gladstone the night before boarding the ferry to Heron Island, in order to make the ferry departure on time. This is not included in the package above. On departure from Heron Island, overnights will not normally be required, Heron Island Resort advise us, provided your departure flights are scheduled after 4:45pm on departure day. (The ferry service is scheduled to depart Heron Island at 12:45 for a 2-hour journey back to Gladstone.) For more complete information about Heron Island transfers… Click here

Note that the providers with whom we work, especially those in Queensland, are operating under difficult conditions caused by the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on their ability to attract and retain staff. Staff, and providers, do their best to provide the services you need, but this difficulty can affect the quality and timeliness of the services provided. We ask for your understanding on this.

Note also that we will send out a comprehensive brief to all those who book prior to your departure on your Heron Island oceanswimsafari.

heron island 13 sunset 600

Details, details…

Please look over our package attached flyer for rates… Click here

If you have queries or you'd like to discuss the packages… Click here

When you’re ready to book, go to our booking form on… Click here

It would be tops to have you with us.

Where it is…

Share this post

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn