Wilson Island is one of our favourite Queensland Island resorts and a place few people seem to know about.
With an extraordinary location, fully inclusive glamping accommodation and an incredible abundance of wildlife and nature Wilson Island is a unique and very special getaway experience, with one of the lightest tourism footprints in Australia.
This is a truly unforgettable weekend getaway experience that is worth every penny and every minute of effort to enjoy.
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Where is Wilson Island?
Wilson Island is located in the Southern Great Barrier Reef some 80 km northeast of Gladstone in Queensland and 14 km from nearby Heron Island.
You can fly into Gladstone Airport, currently serviced by Qantas, Virgin and Alliance airlines and then transfer from there, or drive into Gladstone which is a 6 hour drive north of Brisbane.
How to get to Wilson Island
There are 2 ways to get to Wilson Island from Gladstone although both involve transfers on Heron Island.
If your budget can stretch to it we recommended arriving one way and leaving the other, that way you experience both an sea and air arrival/departure which both have their pros and cons.
A courtesy bus departs from Gladstone Airport to the Gladstone Marina, to connect with the Heron Island ferry service.
The ferry departs Gladstone Marina at 9.30 am and returns to the marina at 3.15 pm daily, except Tuesday and Thursday.
There are no launch transfers on Christmas Day, however, transfers will operate on Boxing Day instead.
The boat trip between Gladstone and Heron Island takes just over two hours each way. The Ferry is a good size and has a snack bar on board but the ride can involve a bit of rock and roll so if you are prone to seasickness take the tablets!
From Heron, a much smaller private launch will take you to Heron which takes about 20 minutes. This can be a bit bumpy and we recommended you DONT sit at the back as you will most likely get quite wet. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear as you will be leaving and/or arriving on the beach.
A helicopter ride between Gladstone Airport and Heron Island take 30 minutes and, as you can imagine, has some breath-taking scenery, particularly as you approach/leave Heron.
Baggage allowance for flight transfers is limited to one suitcase and one small carry-on item of hand luggage per person with a maximum of 15 kg per person.
Weight limits are restricted to a total carriage weight limit that includes both baggage and guests and can be weather and tide dependent. Guests will be asked their weight upon booking and will be weighed again before departure.
The Helicopter ride is expensive but it truly is an unforgettable experience. With a bit of luck, you will see sharks or dolphins or whales and more.
*TIP The transfer situation is tricky. Wait time on Heron can get dull quickly especially if you are not dressed for a swim/snorkel and don’t have access to a towel. Pack a change of clothes and a towel and sunscreen in your carry on luggage to make the most of your time. And thongs/reef shoes too!
When to visit Wilson Island
Wilson is a year-round destination due to its sub-tropical climate.
It is rarely subjected to the tropical storms and Cyclones that hit the northern Great Barrier Reef each year between December and April nor the deadly Box and Irukandji jellyfish that visit the waters of Northern Queensland between October and May.
Temperatures range from 24°C to 33°C in summer and 12°C to 24°C in winter.
Best time for diving on Wilson Island
Diving and snorkelling are good year-round in the Southern Great Barrier Reef although die-hard divers will say that September to November is the best time when water temperatures are reasonable and rainfall rare. This ensures good visibility.
Best time for turtles on Wilson Island
Turtles season on the Great Barrier Reef is between October and March. Female turtles lay 3 ‘clutches’ of eggs of around 110 each in a season, about 2 weeks apart.
Eggs take between 30-60 days to hatch depending on ambient temperatures of the sand so you will see more of them as the season progresses.
The very BEST time to visit Wilson Island is late November.
Accommodation on Wilson Island
Accommodation on the island consists of just 9 eco-tents which are furnished with King beds, quality linen, a luxury hammock, USB charger, binoculars, umbrella, torch and earplugs. There is also an insulated cooler which you can use to keep ice and drinks in your room or take with you when exploring the island.
The other structures on the island are a very comfortable dining hall/lounge, a nearby amenities block and a Caretaker/staff house.
The amenities block currently consists of 6 shower rooms and 4 toilets. With Covid restrictions currently in place ( February 2021) only 6 tents are rented so that each one has a dedicated shower room. This means you can leave your toiletries etc…there for the duration of your stay. If a group were to hire the entire island then all 9 tents can be rented.
The showers and toilets are immaculately clean, modern and are stocked with high-end toiletries and towels.
* TIP It may not be possible to book a specific tent due to availability on the day but it doesn’t hurt to ask!
Best Tent for proximity to the Amenities/Dining – Immersion
Best Tent for Turtles – Driftwood or Seclusion
Dining on Wilson Island
The tariff on Wilson includes Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and snacks as well as a well-stocked open bar.
Breakfast offerings can include fresh fruit platters, delicious avocado and poached eggs on sourdough or a local take on Congee – a rice porridge with accompaniments such as shallots, chillis, chicken, crab and, in our case, seared scallops.
Lunch could be anything from fish tacos to packed picnic hampers for you to take to a private spot.
Dinners are a highlight. Our Chef Harry had been fishing the day before we arrived and caught a couple of massive Red Emporers and Coral Trout which he butterflied and grilled. It really has to be some of the best fish we’ve ever had!
Our host Bec is a whizz with a cocktail shaker and gleefully conjured up Martinis, Bellinis, Margaritas, Espresso Martinis and more during our stay. There is a great selection of Beers (7) and Cider (2) as well as an impressive wine collection, top-shelf spirits, dessert wines and more. Guests are greeted with Taittinger Champagne which free flows throughout your stay.
With the exception of the Champagne, all food and beverages are products of Australia.
Special dietary requirements can be accommodated but please reach out to the team prior to arriving if you suffer from any allergies, to avoid any disappointment.
Things to do on Wilson Island
It’s no secret that snorkelling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef is considered some of the best in the world.
The beauty of Wilson Island is it is a coral cay itself and one of the few places you can stay ON the reef without having to do a boat trip to it. You can literally walk into the water a few meters from your tent and be swimming with Rays, Turtles and fish within minutes.
The GBR is home to one-third of the worlds coral and over 5000 marine and mammal species call it home. More than 400 coral species can be found in the GBR Marine Park which it is a highly protected and important habitat.
*TIP Snorkelling equipment is supplied on the island but be sure to pack some good quality reef shoes as well. You need to avoid standing on the coral anyway but just in case!
Want a peek at what you can expect? Check out this amazing footage!
Kayaks and Stand Up Paddle Boards are included in the tariff on the island and are found down by the main beach. This is a great way to gently observe the marine life especially if the water temp is cool and/or you’re a little intimidated or don’t want to venture far.
With next to no light pollution at night the sky is ablaze with stars, constellations and comets. Head down to the beach with a towel or blanket and spend some time feeling very small indeed.
*TIP Download an App on your device like Star Walk 2 which will help you identify everything you see, including space stations and satellites!
Turtles on Wilson Island
Turtles nest on Heron and Wilson Island from November until March and hatchlings are seen from January through to May.
A female Green Sea Turtle will lay around 110 eggs in a ‘clutch’ and will do that 3 times over a season, 2 weeks apart. She will return to where she herself was born some 20-30 years earlier.
Eggs take between 45-70 days to incubate which depends on the temperature of the sand environment for the clutch of eggs.
Bird nesting season starts around November each year and ends in March although there is a significant bird presence year-round.
During nesting season there are thousands of nests literally dripping from the trees made by the White-capped Noddys. These are medium-sized terns with black feathers and white caps who use their droppings to harden leaves to make nests that their offspring sometimes sadly fall out of in a strong wind. There are over 80,000 Noddys on Heron during breeding season.
Another bird that is very common on Wilson Island is the burrowing Shearwaters aka Muttonbirds. These distinctive black birds come back to their burrows each night and their distinctive wail can be heard through the night ( hence why earplugs are provided).
The Chef’s on Wilson Island love to chat, demonstrate and share their tips and information about the food they are preparing, where they sourced it and more. They don’t mind extra hands in the kitchen either!
One of the things that should be mandatory on Wilson. While there are some incredible things to see and do the Hammocks, King Size beds and comfy nooks tragically positioned around the island are there for you to let the world wash away & recharge.
No access to wifi and no phone signal helps tremendously too!
An extract from the visitors book
As you can see Wilson Island is an idyllic and very special place to visit. It really does feel like you are staying in the middle of a giant animal sanctuary and are hugely privileged to be doing so. In fact, we cannot think of a place we have visited that has such a small human footprint.
And while it may seem expensive we think it is actually very good value for money. When you add up 3 meals a day plus drinks and snacks on other islands you probably pay a similar amount with less personal service, not to mention the setting!
Book early to avoid disappoint – it is can be very hard to get a vacancy.
Further reading: A Heron Island review