Heron Island is a coral cay located near the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern Great Barrier Reef, 72 km north-east of Gladstone. The eastern half of the island is protected and forms part of the Capricornia Cays National Park, with a permanent ranger's station onsite.
The island did not become inhabited until the early 20th century when a turtle cannery was established. The aim was to profit from the seasonal influx of green turtles, but the venture soon found it difficult to keep the business afloat. Other attempts at establishing fisheries were abandoned.
Heron Island Resort, operated by Delaware North, is located in the north-west corner of the island. The resort is a popular getaway for scuba diving and snorkeling and accommodates up to 200 guests and 100 staff members.
The University of Queensland Heron Island Research Station is situated in the island's south-west quarter. Established in the 1950s, the facility is one of the world's principal coral reef research stations, with a wide variety of research undertaken on coral reef ecology.
The vessel Jane Lockhart sunk between the 11 through to the 17 December 1868 on Lady Musgrave Island / Heron Island / Masthead Reef or One Tree Island The vessel was a 2 Mast Schooner . Departed from Sydney with general cargo for Broadsound; and ran aground on Lady Musgrave Is; maybe on Heron Is or One Tree Island or Masthead Reef Lost on a reef off Heron Island on the night of 17 December 1868. The crew took to the boat and safely reached the Pilot Station at Keppel Island.
There is a small man-made channel and wooden jetty on the western shore of the island, where the daily catamaran launch from Gladstone docks and supplies to the island are delivered. The rusted wreck of the HMCS Protector lies at the entrance to the channel, and was towed to there in 1945 to form a dive and snorkelling site.
The island is about 800 metres long and 300 metres at its widest, giving an area of approximately 16 hectares. The highest point, near the western tip, is 3.6 metres ASL. A dune ridge along the southern shore rises some 3 metres ASL, lower dunes on the northeastern side are only about one metre above the sea.