On this itinerary, take a closer look at the main towns on the Fraser Coast: Maryborough, Hervey Bay and Bundaberg.
When people mention the Fraser Coast, north of Brisbane, they automatically think of Fraser Island - the world's largest sand island. However the coastline is brimming with towns worth a visit on your next Fraser Coast adventure.
The first stop is Maryborough, about 250km north of Brisbane. Two events occurred here in the 1860s that pretty much put this beautiful place on the map: one was the founding of the Maryborough Sugar Company and the other was the discovery of gold in Gympie, 80km to the south, in 1867, which made Maryborough the main access point to the newly found gold reserves.
Founded in 1847, Maryborough is one of Queensland's oldest provincial cities. It’s on the picturesque Mary River, a popular spot for locals and visitors. Steeped in colonial history, Maryborough’s buildings reflect a proud heritage. The National Trust of Australia has preserved several of the older buildings, such as Brennan & Geraghty’s Store.
A walk to the Wharf Street area will take you to the old Bond Store, which has been restored to its former glory and now houses an interesting heritage museum. Maryborough is also the birthplace of PL Travers, the creator of Mary Poppins. Maryborough is proud of this fact and honours it with a life-size bronze statue, the Mary Poppins Festival and the Association of Proud Marys, an association of women from around the world called Mary who are responsible for the visitor centre’s documents and displays on notable Marys throughout history.
For a unique experience, join a free, one-hour guided tour through the streets with Mary Heritage, one of Maryborough’s many energetic ambassadors, at the Maryborough City Hall at 9am, Monday to Saturday.
The next stop is Hervey Bay, about 30km north-east of Maryborough near the mouth of the Mary River. Captain Cook discovered the bay in 1770 and named it after the British admiral and politician Augustus John Hervey, who had a bit of a reputation that earned him the title of English Casanova. Hervey Bay was once known as Aalborg because many Danes settled the area. They were mostly dairy farmers until sugar plantations took over as the main industry.
Today tourism is the backbone of Hervey Bay. It’s the gateway to Fraser Island, and countless tour operators are happy to take you there if you don’t have a 4WD. But there’s no shortage of great attractions in and around the town itself. Stunning, wide beaches stretch for miles and it’s a haven for water lovers, with whale watching, fishing, waterskiing, scuba diving and swimming to attract the tourist trade. It’s also known as the caravan capital of Australia, which is evident by the tourist parks, which are prominent along the foreshore.
It could also call itself the whale capital, because it’s one of the best places in the world to see these gentle giants up close on any number of whale-watching tours. Humpback whales visit Hervey Bay from August to October as they make their way back to their summer feeding grounds in the Southern Ocean. Many will have given birth in tropical waters, and the pods with calves put on spectacular displays.
From Hervey Bay it’s a short drive north to Bundaberg, the southern gateway to the Great Barrier Reef. The city has a population of 71,000, and the name comes from “bunda”, an Aboriginal word for elder, and “berg”, the German word for mountain. The locals usually just call it Bundy. The Burnett River cuts through the town, with a rail bridge and a road bridge linking the two halves. It’s a popular area for water sports and a great spot to drop a line for some excellent fishing. There are 140km of pristine beaches and coral reefs to explore in the area, or you could take a tour out to Lady Elliot or Lady Musgrave islands in the southern (Capricornia) section of the Barrier Reef.
Mon Repos beach, south of the Burnett River mouth, has the largest population of nesting loggerhead turtles in the South Pacific. During the laying season from November to February and the hatching season from January to March, Parks and Wildlife rangers conduct night tours to the beach. There’s also an excellent visitor centre with audiovisual displays on the management of the area and the behaviour of the turtles.
The Hinkler House Memorial Museum & Research Association honours the memory of the Australian aviation pioneer, Herbert John Louis Hinkler, who was born in Bundaberg in 1892. He travelled to England to work with the Sopwith Aviation Company and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal during WWI. In 1928 he flew solo to Australia in an Avro Avian, setting a record time that was broken a couple of years later by our other great aviation pioneer, Charles Kingsford Smith. When Herbert’s home in England was to be demolished, a team went to Southampton in 1983, dismantled it and brought it to Bundaberg. It operates as a museum. Adjacent is the new memorial,
The Hinkler House Memorial Museum & Research Association is in the beautiful Bundaberg Botanic Gardens, which covers an area of around 17ha and contains over 10,000 trees and shrubs. The lakes are central to the gardens and attract a wide variety of birdlife.If you prefer to escape to the country, there are some spectacular gorges to explore at Cania Gorge National Park, 225km west of Bundaberg. Here you will find caves 300 million years old, in a stunning ancient landscape. The plants are prolific, and over 90 species of birds make this their home along with wallabies and bats. There are some excellent walking tracks that take in the spectacular surrounds.