Kerry Heaney takes a 10-hour challenge to visit a reef within easy reach of Brisbane.

Dear Lady Elliot, thank you for sharing your day with me.

You’re beautiful from one end to the other and your coral reefs are a joy to behold. Thanks also for introducing me, up close and personal, to the bluest starfish I’ve ever seen,friendly turtles, distant sharks and a whirl of schooling trevally. Lady Elliot Island is one of Queensland’s best hidden secrets, a Great Barrier Reef island within easy reach for anyone in South-East Queensland. Who would believe that in just 10 hours you can go from the heart of Brisbane’s CBD to enjoying a blissful day on an isolated tropical isle and back again?

I’m more about the destination than the journey but the Seair Pacific flight from Redcliffe to Lady Elliot just wowed me with its beauty. The 12-seat Cessna Caravan hugged the coastline from the Redcliffe Peninsula to the tip of Fraser sland, amazing me with a bird’s eye perspective. Lady Elliot is 100km north of Hervey Bay and the first island in the World Heritage Listed Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Formed over 3000 years ago, this coral cay is home for up to 88 species of birds, 1200 of the Great Barrier Reef’s 1500 fish species, nesting sea turtles and stunning underwater world of coral formations.

With my gear safely stowed in a locker, I was keen to walk down to the lagoon and start snorkelling. Kitted out in a supplied snorkel,mask and fins, I swam out from the beach into the warm, calm lagoon. There was a huge variety of sea slugs, also called sea cucumbers,but officially known as nudibranchs, coral and brightly coloured fish. Next a five minute buggy ride to the other side of the island for a trip in a glass bottomed boat out to a deeper reef and bommies.

“Watch out for the turtles,” says Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort managing director Peter Gash. “Some like a tickle on their shell so much they won’t leave you alone.” I saw turtles swimming below me foraging for food and a small shark swam past (in the distance, thankfully) plus fish of all shapes, colours and sizes, everywhere. A school containing hundreds of silver trevally swam underneath with twirling ballet precision. It was an amazing sight that I have not experienced elsewhere on a reef.

Walking back to the shore I spotted a starfish so blue it looked like it had been stolen from the pages of a decorator magazine.Later during a guided beach walk I saw another one along with myriads of fish which gathered for a feed from the delighted children.It was tempting to sink into one of the beach side recliners and avoid going back to Brisbane but all good things come to an end.

Life should include more days like this!

Lady Elliot Island Day Trip flight tours from Redcliffe or Gold Coast cost $699 per adult and $349 per child.