A Guide To Wilson Island: Glamping In Paradise In The Great Barrier Reef
You’d be forgiven for not having heard of Wilson Island in Southern Great Barrier Reef before. Located 80km off Gladstone in Central Queensland and 15km from the nearby Heron Island, it’s a luxury glamping Queensland experience like no other. This is a wild and rustic hidden gem you need to take notice of, trust us!
When it opened towards the end of 2019, I knew we needed to visit this slice of paradise as it’s exactly the kind of authentic gem we love to promote on Londoner In Sydney. When we randomly moved to the nearby Agnes Water in 2020, we have been patiently waiting to visit this exclusive Great Barrier Reef island ever since.
After finally spending the weekend at Wilson Island recently, we’re sharing everything you need to know about this island in Great Barrier Reef!
Table of Contents
Why You Should Visit Wilson Island
When we met the other guests on Wilson Island, they told us they only found out about it through the Heron Island website. They opted to go to Wilson Island instead because they liked the idea of it being an adults-only island.
Although Wilson Island isn’t cheap, we think it’s good value for money. Expect excellent hospitality and essentially a glamping experience on a private and secluded island in the Great Barrier Reef. With a help-yourself free bar, endless snacks and meals cooked by an excellent chef, Wilson Island is a luxurious island with an authentic and simplistic castaway feel about it.
It’s the perfect place for those of us who love an adventure to a hidden gem, but with a few luxury touches included.
If you’re looking to stay at a resort with a swimming pool and millions of activities on offer, then this might not be the place for you. But, if you like the idea of rolling out of bed into a hammock or into the Great Barrier Reef without seeing another person in sight, then this could be the island adventure you’ve been looking for.
This is also one of the best romantic getaways in Queensland. Expect privacy at its best with outdoor seating dotted around the island so you can sit back in private and enjoy the reef without millions of people around. In fact, with only nine glamping tents on the island, there’s only enough room for 18 people here. When we stayed, there were just six guests, including us.
Many people come to Wilson Island to experience the famous Wilson Bommie – a huge piece of coral thought to be around 800 years old. The snorkelling is spectacular and if visiting during turtle season, you’ll see plenty of turtles heading onto the beach to nest.
Have we sold it to you yet? Let’s dive into more of the logistics and our experience on Wilson Island.
How To Get To Wilson Island
Wondering how to get to Wilson Island? If you’re coming from Sydney, you’ll need to catch a flight to Brisbane, then a 30 minute connecting flight to Gladstone. Gladstone is a small industrial city which is easy to get around. You can either get to Wilson Island by ferry ($75 one way) or by helicopter ($470 one way).
Watch Our Wilson Island Video
Getting To Wilson Island By Ferry
You can jump in a cab or Uber from the tiny Gladstone airport and you’ll be at Gladstone Marina within 15 minutes. From there, it’s a two-hour ferry ride to Heron Island. If you didn’t know, you can only get to Wilson Island via the neighbouring Heron Island when taking the ferry.
The first time we caught the ferry to Heron Island, it was quite bumpy and some people were sick. When we visited recently, it was fine and there was absolutely nothing to worry about. The boat is quite large so it’s not like you’re on a tiny boat.
There’s a bar on board but they only serve chocolate & crisps (from what I remember) as snacks. Eat at the nearby Flavours Marina Cafe next to the check-in at the Gladstone Marina before the ferry leaves if you need to get breakfast.
If you’re driving, you can practically park right opposite the check in for free in the Gladstone Marina car park.
Your travel time will look like this:
Gladstone Marina to Heron Island: 9:30am – 11:30am
Heron Island to Wilson Island: 2:00pm – 2:30pm (times may vary slightly)
When you land on Heron Island, you’ll be greeted by a member of staff who will take you to the dive shop to pick up snorkelling gear and wetsuits. If you need a wetsuit, it’s an extra $15 but snorkelling gear is free. You’ll then have about 2 hours to kill on Heron Island. We recommend spending the time on the beach and taking in the peacefulness of the island.
Head over to the jetty and take some photos as the water is spectacular and you’ll see so many fish underneath it. If you’re hungry, you can order cheese toasties from the bar. If you’re wondering if Heron Island is worth visiting, you can check out our Heron Island guide.
If you’re wondering about food times, you’ll be given a lot of excellent food on Wilson Island, including snacks as well as a cheese board at 5pm, before dinner at 7pm. But we’ll talk more about that later in this post.
When we spoke to the other guests, they told us that the ferry times never lined up with their flights back home so they would have to spend a night in Gladstone either before or after the trip. To be honest, Gladstone isn’t exactly the type of town I’d spend much time in. There are not many decent places to eat and not a lot to do. I think one of the only good places we’ve ever found to eat in Gladstone is the sushi place next to Kmart. Surprisingly, the sushi is always fresh and tastes excellent.
Although the helicopter to Wilson Island is more expensive, we would do it if we could. Here are our reasons why.
You won’t have to leave Gladstone airport
You’ll have more time on Wilson Island and won’t have to go via Heron Island
You might be able to line up flights back home more easily
You are essentially getting a helicopter tour over the Southern Great Barrier Reef
Things To Know Before You Go
Before we talk about our experience at Wilson Island, here are a few things you need to know before you go. A glamping experience might not be for everyone, and that’s OK.
It’s an adults only island, so leave the kids at home for this one!
It’s an all inclusive glamping experience with breakfast, lunch, sunset cheese board, dinner and endless amounts of snacks.
You’ll eat meals with all the guests staying there. Fear not, you’ll meet like-minded people, and it’s far from an uncomfortable experience.
Did we mention there’s a help yourself to the free bar? Cocktails, wine, bubbles, beer, soft drinks and more, with eskies to load up and take down to the beach or back to your room. It’s not a party place though, and you wouldn’t want it to be.
There’s no mobile phone or internet service on the island. You’ll notice how much happier you’ll be without it.
Free SUP and kayaks to use whenever you like.
There’s no bathroom in your tent – you’ll be sharing toilets but you’ll be allocated your own shower in the shower block.
The stars at night are some of the best we’ve ever seen anywhere in the world. Prepare to be wowed!
Turtle lovers will absolutely love Wilson Island! Visit between November – January and you’ll see them coming onto the beach to nest and hatch. It’s an experience like no other!
Snorkel with turtles, reef sharks, eagle rays, stingrays and so much more without any tour groups or boats in the way!
Snorkel around the famous five metre wide and tall Wilson Bommie. In hindsight, I wish we just jumped off the boat as we passed by it when we arrived on the island.
There are thousands of birds living on the island. Watch them swarm in at night time over the reef to sleep on the island.
There are no poisonous animals on the island to worry about (that we knew of!).
We didn’t see any spiders at all (I definitely checked in the room!). There wasn’t any mosquitos at the time of visiting in July either.
No drones are allowed on the island to protect the birds.
Please note Wilson Island is closed from 1 February to 1 April for the bird breeding season by Queensland National Parks.
When To Visit Wilson Island
We visited Wilson Island in July which is essentially winter in Queensland and Heron Island in November. I expected it to be hot in Wilson Island as we visited Lady Elliot Island around the same time a year earlier and it was really hot there. After checking the weather continuously throughout the week before, I was unsure what to bring with me. I’m glad I took my winter pyjamas but it was warm in the daytime. If visiting during winter, bring warm clothes for nighttime.
I think November to January would be an amazing time to visit Wilson Island because you’ll be there for the turtle nesting. When we visited Heron Island in November, we saw so many turtles come to shore to nest. It was absolutely amazing and I think it would feel even more special on Wilson Island.
Our Wilson Island Review
I didn’t even really know what to expect of Wilson Island, I just knew it would be somewhere we would love. Although we don’t usually go to luxury Great Barrier Reef islands, we knew it would be the type of place for us. We love adventure and the idea of camping in a glamping tent on a secluded island sounded right up our street.
When we arrived at Wilson Island, we were greeted by crystal clear turquoise water, pure white sand and the three staff members, Ricky, Nina and Alex. All three people are absolutely lovely and welcoming. They put our bags onto the golf buggy and before we knew it, Nina led us off the beach, up a path and past some of the glamping tents.
As we walked through the tropical island, it only took us about five minutes before we came to the centre of it at the dining room. The dining room is made out of wood and is open with a kitchen, a bar area, dining table and chairs and a relaxed sofa area. We were then given a glass of bubbles to celebrate coming to the island.
The Free Bar
As we sat there sipping on a glass of bubbles, Nina explained meals time which was written on the chalk board, with a cheese board for each couple at 5pm, dinner at 7pm and breakfast at 8am. We only stayed one night so we didn’t get to experience lunch.
She showed us the bar, complete with a cocktail making book, an ice machine and cocktail shakers which we could help ourselves to at any point of the day. There are esky boxes next to the bar which we’re told to help ourselves to take down to the beach with drinks whenever we like.
Toilets And Shower Facilities
We were then shown the toilets and shower block. I actually assumed we would have our own bathroom in the glamping tent, but we’re allocated our own shower and toilets are shared with the other guests. We have an unlimited supply of towels to use for the beach and showering, but I try to be conscious not to use fresh ones each time to save on water and washing.
What Our Glamping Tent Looked Like
When we were taken to our glamping tent, we had total privacy with no other tents nearby. The tent is clean and spacious with a super comfy king-size bed that we could sleep in for days. There’s a small rail to hang some clothes on, but there’s no ironing board.
Don’t expect to have any electricals like this in the room (except bedside lights), we found USB power points to charge our phones, but the island is all about having a digital detox with no phone or internet service.
There are sarongs in the room, a full-length mirror, an umbrella and ear-plugs in the room as well (in case the birds are awake in the night). There’s a torch to use when walking between the dining room and your tent at night time too.
We sat our on the chairs on the deck, noticed our own hammock below and saw our own private path onto the beach with two chairs waiting for us to sit in.
But most of all, we noticed the silence. We noticed how peaceful the island truly is. We couldn’t even hear the sound of the water 100 metres away from us, it felt like we had entered paradise.
Snorkelling Around Wilson Island
Unfortunately, there’s no scuba diving on Wilson Island but you can do it from Heron Island if you want to. We spent the afternoon trying to find the famous Wilson Bommie but had no such luck. We did find a few bommies which were really impressive though.
However, we did find a lot of turtles (I’m thinking at least 10), and a huge turtle that looked so old, neither of us have ever seen one that big before. It was an amazing sight! We also saw a reef shark and an eagle ray too.
The next morning we actually picked up one of the free kayaks and went looking for the famous bommie but again had no such luck! We later heard that many guests try finding it and simply have no luck either! Next time, we’re going to find it!
And yes, there are free kayaks and SUP boards to use as and when you like!
Sunset On Wilson Island
We then got changed and went straight to the dining room to pick up our cheese board Chef Ricky had put together for us. I took a small bottle of resiling out of the fridge, a couple of beers for Steve and headed straight to the beach to watch the end of the sunset. We found a secluded seat to watch the sunset which was a highlight of the trip. There was something that felt very romantic and a pinch-me moment that we were staying on a pristine island in the Great Barrier Reef.
We then sat there for about an hour and watched thousands of birds come together to fly back from the reef and above us onto the island to sleep in the trees. It was an amazing experience and something I won’t ever forget. As we walked back to our tent, the island came to life with the sound of the birds. It was unbelievable. Luckily the birds calmed down by the time we went to bed!
When we finished dinner, we went back out onto the beach to watch the stars. We’ve honestly never seen a sky with that many stars ever before! Expect shooting stars, the milky way and prepared to be mesmerised!
Food on Wilson Island
I was a bit unsure what to wear to dinner, thinking we would have to dress up but it’s a casual affair. I actually wore as many clothes as possible as we visited in July and it was a bit cold for us after snorkelling.
Our host Nina was happily making cocktails for us all! I chose something I would never usually have, a lycee cocktail which tasted fantastic. And before I knew it, we all sat down together and had a duck risotto which Ricky cooked up for us. I was actually surprised how good his cooking really is and loved it! We had a beautiful dessert which was made out of cream and raspberries. If you have any dietary requirements, he will cater for you.
We spent the evening getting to know the other guests who were all really friendly. There was a couple from Batemans Bay and a younger couple from Sydney staying there. We all got on well and it seemed clear that we all had the same thing in common, a sense of adventure. If you’re wondering whether the island might be pretentious because it’s got the word luxury attached to it, it’s not. It’s not your usual luxury resort with a thousand swimming pools to choose from.
In the morning, Ricky cooked up beautiful chorizo and eggs on sourdough and fresh fruit. We could have sat there eating his food all day!
We then spend the rest of the morning walking around the island and trying to appreciate every moment we had before we were back on the boat to Heron Island and back to Gladstone!
Would We Visit Wilson Island Again?
I’m not really sure what I was expecting from Wilson Island. Did I spend time wondering if $1095 a night was worth it? Of course I did. I couldn’t help but think, would I find a better island in another country for less?
What I did realise is that the longer I spent on the island, the more I absolutely loved it. It didn’t take me long to realise that we weren’t only staying in one of the most beautiful secluded islands in Australia, our room was metres from swimming in the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world!
To have a access to a pretty much-deserted island almost to yourself on the Great Barrier Reef is something that money can’t buy. It’s a priceless experience everyone needs to discover.
Throw in unlimited alcohol, a child-free island and privacy at its best, the simplicity of this island is something the owners have got absolutely right. We would come back and visit in a heartbeat.
If you’re looking to reconnect with yourself and/or with your other half, this is the place to do it. If you’re looking for the perfect honeymoon destination in Australia, look no further. And if you’re looking for a special holiday experience, we couldn’t recommend this place anymore!
For more information about booking a once in a lifetime trip to Wilson Island, check their website here.
Don’t Forget To Watch Our Wilson Island Video
A Guide To Wilson Island Glamping In Great Barrier Reef
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