Heart Reef is one of ‘those’ places, you know the ones that are featured on all the travel shows and you become obsessed with seeing it someday. We were lucky enough for someday to become a reality while we were at Hamilton Island. Visiting Heart Reef has even been on AJ’s list for a while and I think that says something about its allure if a 14-year-old is keen.
We had a morning flight booked and woke up to rain and mist. There was great disappointment when it was confirmed that our flight was cancelled due to the weather. Being our last full day on Hamilton it was our only chance to do the flight. When Hamilton Island Air confirmed there was room for us on an afternoon flight if the weather cleared, we crossed everything and spent the rest of the morning and lots of energy on willing the rain away.
Our flight was at 3pm and by lunchtime blue skies started to appear and we were hopeful we’d have lift-off. After much anticipation we were excited to finally depart on our flight.
We boarded the 8-seater fixed wing plane along with a mother and daughter visiting from overseas. It was a smooth take-off and the pilot pointed out the different landmarks around Hamilton Island resort. On most flights there isn’t much to see after initial take-off and the ocean is simply a large expanse of blue water. That’s not the case on the trip to Heart Reef.
I only looked away from the window to peek at what the rest of the family were doing behind me or to point out something. With headsets on to hear the pilot there wasn’t much communication between the family except for a thumbs up, smile, or a lame attempt by me to mouth something. I say lame because my messages seemed totally lost in translation.
There is no bad seat on this flight. Each passenger has a window and the pilot did a lap around Heart Reef to make sure passengers on both sides of the plane could get photos and a good view.
Although Heart Reef is the headline act on the flight, there are plenty of beautiful views along the way. One of my favourite is Hill Inlet.
The islands combined with the swirls of blue and turquoise water had me mesmerised.
And we saw many people living out the dream of sailing the Whitsundays, just white dots in the stunning blue of the ocean.
We took a flight over the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns a couple of years ago but it wasn’t as rewarding as the Heart Reef flight. We’ve never seen such expansive and stunning coral formations as we saw over Hardy Reef (pictured below).
I looked back in the plane to see AJ diligently taking on GoPro and video duty. No pressure in this family!
The pilot let us know we were approaching Heart Reef, he described how we would see a pool within the reef and within that pool we would see a heart shaped coral formation. He told us not to worry if we missed it because he’d go around again.
I hoped I wouldn’t miss it. There had been so much anticipation, imagine if I couldn’t find it among all the coral formations.
It was out AJ and BJ’s window first and I caught sight of it from across the aisle. We passed it quickly but AJ assured me she had a good view and had got some good photos.
The plane looped around and it was my side of the plane’s turn. As we approached it was side-on but soon I could see that beautiful natural heart in all its glory.
After watching it on all those travel docos, it was my turn to see it in real life and I was dazzled. I felt immensely satisfied to have seen it with my own eyes. The water is so clear and Hardy Reef in general is a stunning scene. It really needs to be seen from the air to comprehend and appreciate the vastness and beauty.
Our flight was a family affair but many a marriage proposal has occured while flying over. Visitors can only see Heart Reef from the air so hopefully it will remain untouched for future generations to enjoy.
Shadow of the plane
On the return flight I was looking out my window when I saw something I’ve never seen before. As the plane’s shadow appeared on clouds it had a beautiful rainbow ring around it. Seeing this was a perfect end to what had been a magical experience.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Why do a flight? BJ can’t snorkel and would find the long boat rides out to the Great Barrier Reef tedious. A flight provided an alternative way to share the beauty of this area with him. It’s the only way he’d ever see the Barrier Reef.
Access on to the plane was via a large step up. BJ managed this well with help from Hubby. Once on the plane he was more comfortable on this flight than regular commercial flights. He seemed happy to have so much to look at and more space. When the excitement of seeing Heart Reef was over he was so relaxed he tried to nod off on the return.
If you are booking a flight, I’d recommend booking it early on during your stay so if there is bad weather you can move your trip to another day.
The staff at Hamilton Island Air are really accommodating. If you are unsure if you’ll be able to manage the step up, I’d pop down to their office and have a chat once you arrive on the island.
You can read more about the tours Hamilton Air offers here.
Check out the great accessible accommodation at The Reef View Hotel here.
We were guests of Hamilton Island for this experience and would like to say thanks to Hamilton Island Air for their patience in taking photos, getting BJ up into the plane and an all round wonderful flight. As always, our opinions are our own.