Are you planning a trip to the Whitsundays and wondering how to see the Heart Reef? We are here to help!

The Heart Reef is one of the most beautiful and famous places in Australia.

When we think about the Great Barrier Reef, the heart reef often comes to mind.

How could we not? It’s cute, beautiful, unique and natural.

If you’ve always dreamt of seeing the Heart Reef in Australia, you can be sure of one thing, it won’t disappoint.

That having been said, you need to be aware of a few things before visiting the Heart Reef. It’s a protected reef (rightfully!) and there are different ways to see the Heart Reef and the Great Barrier Reef in general.

In this article, you will discover everything you need to know about the heart reef and how to see it.

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost for you!

Heart reef in Australia

What is the heart reef?

heart reef great barrier reef

The Heart Reef is a natural heart-shaped reef located near the Whitsundays in Queensland.

It’s part of a bigger natural complex called the Great Barrier Reef.

The GBR was explored by the Europeans in 1770. Captain James Cook sailed the length of reef which is several thousands of kilometres long!

The heart reef itself is a much more recent discovery!

It was discovered in 1975 by John Ramsden. He was one of the pilots of Air Whitsundays and randomly saw it during one of his flights.

The thing he didn’t know back then is that it would become one of Australia’s most famous landmarks!

Where is the heart reef?

heart reef australia

The heart reef is located in the Hardy Reef, on the east side of the Whitsundays.

It’s actually quite small, only 17 meters in diameter and can be seen from the air!

From Airlie Beach, it takes about 20 minutes to fly there. It also takes about 15 to 20 minutes to get there with a helicopter from Hamilton Island.

How to see the heart reef

The heart reef is protected which means that visitors are not allowed to snorkel there.

The best way to see the reef anyway is by air. You can book a scenic flight or a helicopter flight and see it from the sky.

This is the only way you get to actually see the shape anyway.

Though scuba diving and snorkelling are not allowed, a new option has opened up in the past few years: the Heart Island.

It’s a pontoon located right by the Heart Reef.

This gives visitors a bit more possibilities to experience the heart reef, not only from the sky but also from the water.

Best Heart Reef Tours

The best way to see the heart reef is during a helicopter or scenic flight. From there, you can get to see the actual shape.

Also, it will give you a unique opportunity to see Whitehaven Beach, the other Whitsunday Islands and more of the Great Barrier Reef.

Scenic Flight from Airlie Beach

whiteheaven scenic flight

You can opt to go on a scenic flight from Airlie Beach. It takes off from Whitsunday Coast Airport in Prosperine several times a day.

The flight is one hour long. It’s quite a small plane which means you will be guaranteed to get a window seat.

When you get to the airport, you will go through some security checks and then board the plane.

The pilot and co-pilot will also be your guide which means they will tell you everything you need to know about the Whitsundays and the reef.

They will also tell you which side you should be looking at and what is coming up.

During the flight, you will get to see Whitehaven Beach, Hamilton Island, Hayman Island, the Hardy Reef and of course, the heart reef!

That’s the flight I went on and absolutely loved it! If you want to know more about it, check out my full review here. It’s also important to note this is the cheapest option to see the heart reef.

Click here to see the latest prices.

Helicopter flight from Airlie Beach

heart reef australia

If you have a bigger budget and want to discover the reef in style, you can opt for a helicopter tour from Airlie Beach.

This tour lasts 2.5 hours and includes flying above the Great Barrier Reef as well as a Whitehaven beach landing which incredibly cool.

The flight is operated by GSL, the same company than the scenic flight. They are very experienced with these flights so you can be sure to have a great time.

They can provide pick-up from your accommodation in Airlie Beach. Alternatively, you can go straight to the Whitsunday Coast airport and start from there.

Once again, the pilot will be your guide and will tell you everything you need to know. You will fly above the islands and the reef before getting to the beautiful Heart Reef.

You will also get to see the hook reef, Daydream Island, Hayman Island, Shute Harbour and Hamilton Island.

You will then head to Whitehaven Beach and land on the beach. After that, you can explore the area for 90 minutes which will give you time to go for a swim or even go up to Hill Inlet and enjoy the views.

Click here to see the latest prices.

Helicopter flight from Hamilton Island

great barrier reef during scenic flight

If you are staying on Hamilton Island and want to book a helicopter flight anyway, you might as well doing it directly from there.

No need to go to Airlie Beach, you can simply take off from Hamilton Island.

You will essentially get to see the same things that on the scenic flight: Whitehaven, Hill Inlet, Hardy Reef and the Heart Reef. The only thing that changes is the provider (Hamilton Island) and the departure point.

It’s also important to note that booking a helicopter flight is much more private than a scenic flight since it’s for 2 people (but you can also add a 3rd person at a discount price if you want to).

The scenic flight on the other hand is for 6 people which means that unless you are a group of 6, you will be with people you don’t know.

Click here to see the prices.

Scenic Flight and snorkelling at Hardy Reef

great barrier reef scenic flight

If you want to enjoy both air and water activity at the Heart Reef, you can opt for a combo scenic flight and snorkelling.

Before you get too excited, please note that the snorkelling part is not at the heart reef but nearby. As previously mentioned, the heart reef is protected and nobody is allowed to snorkel or dive there. And we should all want to keep it that way if we want to be able to keep seeing it in the future 🙂

In this tour, you will get to go on a scenic flight and then go snorkelling in the coral lagoon at the Hardy Reef.

This half-day tour is a great option to make the best of both worlds.

Click here for more information and see the latest prices.

Heart Island experience

This one is brand new! It only opened in July 2019 which means you would be one of the first people to get to experience it.

Heart Island is an eco-friendly pontoon located by the heart reef. This was the idea of Brad Graves, chief executive of Hamilton Island Air. His love for the reef pushed him to work on this project for over a decade and finally, he got there!

The heart island is now open and you can go there! It is not a cheap activity, as you can imagine, but it is as unique as it can get!

You will go on a 30-min helicopter flight over Whitehaven Beach and the heart reef before landing on Heart Island. Once you get there, you will have 90 minutes to enjoy the place. You can opt for a glass-bottom boat tour of the heart reef, snorkel in the lagoon, swim inside the pontoon and enjoy the perks of this luxurious place!

If you are looking for a luxury activity in the Whitsundays, this will be perfect for you!

Click here for more information and prices.

How to protect the Heart Reef

The heart reef is one of the most beautiful things you will get to see in your life. This unique composition of corals is unique for so many reasons! It’s the only heart-shaped coral reef in the world which is why it needs to be protected.

As you may know, the Great Barrier Reef is in danger. Many reefs are dying and this is something we should all be concerned about.

As you can see in this WWF video, the heart reef itself is still alive! We want to keep it that way so life carries on and those beautiful places keep existing.

As a visitor, you need to do your best to protect this environment. That’s why the heart island was built in eco-friendly materials too. The locals love the reef. It’s home to so many marine species.

In order to help the reef, make sure you don’t litter the place and use products (such as sunscreen) that are respectful of the environment.

Moreover, do not take coral back home! This is a protected environment and you shouldn’t try to bring anything back home.

All of this having been said, now it’s time to enjoy the heart reef! It’s jaw-dropping! You will love it!

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