Some might say the Great Barrier Reef’s famed Heart Reef is best viewed from above, and indeed, until recently, a fly-over was the only way to catch a glimpse of the naturally heart-shaped attraction. But now day-trippers can stop by for a swim – though they’ll have to pay for the privilege. 

Measuring less than 30m in diameter, Heart Reef is a coral bommie, located some 60km northeast of Hamilton Island, that’s now home to a luxe pontoon known as Heart Island. Reachable via private helicopter for just six guests at a time, the pontoon provides prime access to an area that’s been off-limits for years, its perch in nearby Hardy Lagoon offering an ideal jumping-off point to explore the area, both underwater and above. This is its first full summer in service. 

Snorkelers on Heart Reef, pontoon and helicopter in the background
Snorkeling gear is provided onboard © Tourism and Events Queensland

The three-hour excursion begins with a 30-minute helicopter ride that departs from Hamilton Island and cruises over the Whitsundays, giving a birds-eye view of jewels like Whitehaven Beach and Hill Inlet before arriving at its final destination. Upon landing, travelers have 90 minutes to look around, and while diving and snorkeling on the reef itself remain prohibited, a small glass-bottom boat tours around the heart, and there’s plenty of coral to check out in the neighboring lagoon’s crystal-clear waters. The pontoon itself also has a pool, albeit shallow and undercover, alongside contemporary decor, eco-friendly wind- and solar-powered operations, and a generous supply of snacks and sparkling wine. 

Heart Reef aerial.jpg
Heart Reef is one of the most photogenic elements of the Great Barrier Reef © Tourism and Events Queensland

For the return leg, the pilot takes the scenic route, making one last pass over Heart Reef before detouring over Whitsunday Island, Hook Island passage, Whitehaven Beach, and Hill Inlet for a leisurely hour-long ride. 

The Heart Island experience is only open to guests of Hamilton Island over the age of 14. It costs AU$1100 per person, and advanced bookings are strongly recommended. For more information, visit

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