Explore the charms of historic Gladstone, one of Queensland’s oldest port towns. Off the coastline, you’ll discover islands that sit right on top of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, making for incredible snorkelling directly from the beach, as well as phenomenal diving experiences offshore.
Almost 90km off Gladstone’s coastline is Heron Island, a natural coral cay on the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Green and loggerhead turtles nest on the beaches and humpback whales cruise past from June to November each year. Its coral gardens are teeming with fish and there are multiple snorkelling sites (such as Shark Bay), as well as diving sites a short boat trip away.
The Heron Islander ferry departs from Gladstone Marina five days a week. The journey takes about 2.5 hours. You can also get to the island by seaplane or helicopter.
One of the southernmost islands of the Great Barrier Reef, Lady Musgrave Island is a national park surrounded by 1,200 hectares of living reef. Snorkel or dive in the calm lagoon directly from the beach and swim alongside huge manta rays with wingspans of up to seven metres. There’s no accommodation on the island so it’s ideal for day-trips, though camping on the sand is possible with a permit.
The only way to get to Lady Musgrave Island is on an organised day tour. Boats depart daily from Bundaberg and the Town of 1770.
The historic port of Gladstone City is the region’s centre. The wide streets are lined with heritage buildings and the 83-hectare Tondoon Botanic Gardens are filled with native plants from the surrounding area. Gladstone is an angler’s dream, with freshwater fish along the Bass to Barra Trail and huge trophy fish to be found in the ocean and inland.
Gladstone Airport is about 10 minutes from the city centre, with flights to Brisbane and charter flights to regional destinations. By road, the drive from Brisbane to Gladstone takes about six hours.