Inside Heart Island: what to know about the Great Barrier Reef’s newest luxury experience

Inside the Great Barrier Reef’s new Heart Island experience.

Ready to explore Heart Island? The Whitsundays’ most beautiful new experience has shot straight to the bucket list of travellers everywhere, after recently opening on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Here are the top five things to know about the experience.


1. It’s found in the famous Whitsundays region

Whitehaven Beach, Whitsundays region, Queensland

Located on the Great Barrier Reef, this floating, low-impact pontoon is located 60 kilometres off the coast of mainland Australia. Known as Heart Island, it’s located in the Whitsundays region – just a little further out to sea than the Whitsunday islands themselves. Heart Island floats just nearby the heart-shaped coral structure known as Heart Reef, making it perfectly positioned to get up close and personal with the icon. Until now, the only way to experience Heart Reef was to take a scenic joyride overhead, via seaplane or helicopter. Now, the brand new pontoon offers guests a different perspective.


2. It’s only accessible by helicopter 

Heart Reef with helicopter, Hamilton Island, Queensland

Hop into a helicopter – depart from one of the helipads at Hamilton Island – and prepare your camera: the flight to get there takes you past Whitehaven Beach, beautiful Hill Inlet, and the Whitsunday islands before heading out off the coastline of mainland Australia. A few scenic minutes later, you’ll spot an unexpected sight in the otherwise flat ocean: a small but distinct break, signifying the raised edge of the Great Barrier Reef. As you get closer, the water will suddenly be much more shallow. Look down to see the reef in all her splendour, a bright shade of aqua flecked with those distinct specks of coral.


3. There’s a boat hidden inside the pontoon!

Heart Pontoon boat, Hamilton Island, Queensland

Conveniently, the roof of Heart Island doubles as a helipad (very James Bond). Sit back and watch as your pilot expertly lands the chopper, before disembarking and descending downstairs to Heart Island’s lounge area. Cantilevered windows showcase the extraordinarily coloured water from every side of the room, with cushioned lounges and chairs angled towards the views. Don’t sit down yet, though – in the middle of the lounge you’ll find a sleek speedboat, waiting to be lowered into the water for the next part of your adventure. Clamber in and let your guide take you for an intimate viewing of the area, including of course, the heart-shaped star of the show. Circle slowly around Heart reef in the boat, then let your guide take you on a lazy, extended tour of the area’s coral. A glass-viewing panel in the middle of the boat’s base allows you to see exactly what you’re floating over. 


4. You can snorkel right next to famous Heart reef 

Heart Reef, Hamilton Island

Once the boat has docked back at the Heart Island pontoon, there’s only one thing to do: hop into that water! (You can also choose to stay dry and relax in the lounge, or explore the pontoon, if you prefer.) Fins and flippers are stocked in most sizes, so slip on your preferred pair and submerge yourself in the incredibly clear water. There’s really nothing quite like going for a swim in clear, deserted shallows some 60 kilometres off shore – you won’t see another soul (save for a seabird or two). As you drift over the water’s surface, expect to see a range of beautiful corals, with lots of brightly coloured fish of different sizes and even – if you’re in the right spot – an abandoned anchor. Fluffy, clean towels await you back on board when you’re finished – as are champagne and fresh fruit. Sip on a glass of Charles Heidsieck and toast to the beautiful experience you’ve just had. 


5. For the ultimate indulgence, you can combine the experience with a stay at qualia

The Heart Island experience is available to all guests staying at Hamilton Island – but if you really want to spoil yourself, the ultimate indulgence is to spoil yourself with a stay at Hamilton island’s premier resort, qualia. One of the world’s most exclusive luxury escapes, the multi-award-winning retreat delivers the ultimate Whitsundays experience. Play spot-the-celebrity, learn how to sail, or simply hide away in your sleekly appointed Windward pavilion, which comes with an eggshell bathtub and a private balcony plunge pool. After a night or three here, it’s easy to see how sleeping among the gumtrees, with nothing but that twinkling blue water and the occasional wallaby for company, really could be considered the ultimate Australian luxury experience. 


By Georgia Rickard – Published 31 August

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