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The most incredible way to experience Heart Reef up close

When you think of the Great Barrier Reef, chances are the iconic Heart Reef comes to mind. A must-see for anyone who visits The Whitsundays, until recently the picture-perfect naturally formed heart-shaped reef could only be enjoyed from the sky.

But getting up close and personal with Heart Reef is now possible in a whole new way.

The ‘Heart Island’ pontoon lets you explore Heart Reef in an exclusive and unforgettable way that few get to experience.

Welcome to Heart Island

Shimmering in a neighbouring lagoon to the world-famous 17-metre wide coral bommie Heart Reef – about 60kms north-east of Hamilton Island – the Heart Island pontoon is essentially a private, floating escape for you and a maximum of five others.

Departing via helicopter from Hamilton Island’s luxury qualia resort, the three-hour tour impresses from the get-go with a 30-minute scenic helicopter flight over the stunning islands of The Whitsundays, where you’ll get to witness the natural beauty of Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet before reaching the turquoise jewel-scape that is the outer reef.

Then, once you land on the floating helipad, a secret staircase is revealed for you to descend into a plush ‘boat shed’ where champagne, canapes and a glass-bottom boat awaits.

How you spend your 90 minutes onboard Heart Island is completely up to you.

Of course, you came all this way for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Heart Reef, so chances are you won’t want to waste any time asking your host to prepare the glass-bottom boat for your exclusive ride around the heart.

Due to its protected status, you can’t dive or snorkel at Heart Reef but you’ll drop anchor in a nearby lagoon to explore impressive walls of coral, far from the crowds of any other day trips.

Back at the pontoon, where the boat used to be moored inside the shed is now a shallow undercover pool for a leisurely swim out of the sun. Or alternatively, you can snorkel off the back of the pontoon in some of the clearest water you’ve ever seen in your life.

End your time in this secluded paradise on one of the lounges inside the ‘shed’, sipping on bubbly and taking in those uninterrupted, breathtaking views of the Great Barrier Reef.

The story behind Heart Island


Photo by @global_salsa

The ‘island’ is one man’s fantasy turned reality that opened in July 2019 after eight years of planning and two years of building.

Brad Graves from Hamilton Island Air spent a decade selling his vision and working with boat builders, environmental scientists, and all manner of tradies and logistics specialists to make Heart Island a reality. He wanted Heart Reef to be seen up close and appreciated in all its glory, without harming the iconic reef in the process.

From the outside, Heart Island aims to blend into the background with mirrored walls that reflect the turquoise water at every angle and a helipad the colour of sand. Inside, high-end fittings and a tech-savvy design make this ‘boat shed’ truly unique. When not in use, the glass bottom boat sits dry. Once lowered into the water via hydraulics, the wall lifts to reveal an escape route to the reef.

For the love of Heart Reef

Heart Reef The Whitsundays | heart island

Heart Island was not a decision that Graves – or those responsible for its creation – took lightly. Protecting the Great Barrier Reef was everyone’s top priority. Graves worked closely with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to implement eco initiatives to minimise Heart Island’s footprint on the World Heritage-listed site.

The pontoon features an ecologically sustainable design that is powered by wind and solar. It doesn’t carry any waste and has been moored sensitively in sand to avoid reef degradation.

While guests on Heart Island can get closer to Heart Reef than ever before, snorkelling on the reef is not allowed for the reef’s protection.

The Heart Island experience

Heart Island Experience

Hamilton Island’s Heart Island experience departs daily, including a return scenic flight, glass-bottom boat tour of Heart Reef lagoon, snorkelling equipment, light catering and beverages. The three-hour experience costs $1100 per person and is only available to Hamilton Island guests (aged 14 years and above).

Got a taste of The Whitsundays and want to explore more? Here are 9 ways to see the Whitsundays above, on and under the water, and don’t skip these top snorkelling spots.