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WWII shipwreck at Heron Island is one of Australia’s top diving sites

Travellers are flocking to this breathtaking island with pristine white sand and crystal clear water – but it has a dark past

  • A shipwreck from the height of WWII can be found off the coast of Queensland
  • The HMS Protector was requisitioned for service by the US Army in July 1943
  • It was damaged in a collision with a tug boat and abandoned off Heron Island 
  • Seven decades later the wreck is a diving site reachable by walking at low tide
  • Photographer Mark Fitz called it one of his ‘favourite snorkelling spots’ 


A shipwreck that dates back to the darkest days of World War Two is now a spectacular diving site off Australia’s east coast.

After being requisitioned for service the US military in July 1943, the HMS Protector was on its way to a naval base in Papua New Guinea when it was damaged in a collision with a tug boat and abandoned off the coast of Heron Island, Queensland.

Almost 70 years later, the rusted wreck is one of the state’s most breathtaking underwater attractions, inspiring visitors with its formidable size and incredible history.

Travel photographer Mark Fitz described it as one of his favourite snorkelling spots on Earth.

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This shipwreck was once the HMS Protector which collided with a tug boat on its way to active service in Papua New Guinea at the height of World War Two in July 1943

Almost 70 years later, the rusted wreck (background) is one of the state's most breathtaking underwater attractions, inspiring visitors with its formidable size and incredible history

The ship was abandoned off the coast of Heron Island, Queensland (pictured)

Almost 70 years later, the rusted wreck (left) is one of the state’s most breathtaking underwater attractions, inspiring visitors with its formidable size and incredible history

At low tide, the ship’s hull be reached by wading through the ocean and walking along the sparkling white sand bar.

Sitting 80 kilometres north-east of Gladstone, Heron Island is a natural coral cay surrounded by 24 hectares of coral reef at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.

Famed for its spectacular coral reef, the island is home to an array of extraordinary animals including migrating whales and nesting turtles who glide between gaps in the wreck.

Photos of the ship have sparked stunned responses on Instagram, with many shocked that such a massive piece of WWII history can be found in Australia.

‘It looks like a dream! Going next time I’m in Australia,’ one woman wrote.

Another added: ‘Mate this is way up near the top of my bucket list.’

At low tide, the ship's hull be reached by wading through the ocean and walking along the sparkling white sand bar

At low tide, the ship’s hull be reached by wading through the ocean and walking along the sparkling white sand bar

Famed for its spectacular coral reef, Heron Island is home to an array of extraordinary animals including migrating whales and nesting turtles who glide between gaps in the wreck

Famed for its spectacular coral reef, Heron Island is home to an array of extraordinary animals including migrating whales and nesting turtles who glide between gaps in the wreck

Photos of the ship have sparked stunned responses on Instagram, with many shocked that such a massive piece of WWII history can be found in Australia

Photos of the ship have sparked stunned responses on Instagram, with many shocked that such a massive piece of WWII history can be found in Australia

Getting to Heron Island takes a bit of planning, but travel review sites insist it is more than worth the effort.

The closest commercial airport is located 72km from Heron Island in Gladstone, which is serviced with regular flights from Brisbane.

Once you touch down in Gladstone, there two options to get to the island itself –  a boat which costs $75 for a one-way trip, or a helicopter which will set you back $940 for a return ticket. 

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