A Fraser Coast vacation will take you to Hervey Bay, Maryborough and World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. As one of the best places in the world to watch the migration of the humpback whale and the gateway to two World Heritage areas – Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef – this Queensland seaside town is a fascinating place to visit.
235 years after Captain James Cook sailed around Sandy Cape – naming the area in honour of Augustus Hervey, Lord of the Admiralty – visitors from the UK and Europe still flock to Hervey Bay while visiting Australia.
While whales are found in many places around the world, Harvey Bay is the whales’ chosen half-way point in their migration back to the Antarctic and a great place to observe them up close.
Researchers believe that the humpbacks zero-in on their breeding and feeding grounds in response to cues such as currents, temperature changes, and fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field.
According to one Pacific Whale Foundation research associate, who travels around the world studying the habits of the humpback whales, Hervey Bay is the best place in the entire world to watch whales.
“The whales just behave differently when they’re here. It’s almost as if they switch into a playful relaxed holiday-mode when they arrive in Hervey Bay”, she confides.
There are plenty of whale-watching cruises, from large luxury ocean-going craft equipped with underwater microphones and cameras through to small 20 – passenger catamarans.
There are three types of whales: active ones that splash, roll and jump; quiet ones that just want to relax and friendly ones that are as curious about humans as we are about whales.
While the season runs from late July to early November, August is the best time to spot the curious whales that swim up to look at the people on the boats. September or October is the time to spot the mothers with their calves.
Like all large whales, the humpback was once pursued by the whaling industry for meat, oil, and baleen (the bone-like mouth structures the whales use to filter food from the sea).
In the nineteenth-century whale oil ran the street lamps, lubricated machinery and women’s tight-laced corsets were ribbed with baleen.
A 35-minute flight from Hervey Bay will land you at Lady Elliot Island, the southernmost island of the World Heritage Great Barrier Reef.
It is a pristine diving and snorkelling spot that is unspoilt by the tourist traffic received by some of its northern counterparts.
A 45-minute ferry trip from Hervey Bay brings you to World Heritage Fraser Island where you could spend several days exploring pristine beaches, lakes and rock formations.
A drive along Fraser Island’s eastern beach, which is a gazetted highway with an 80-kilometre per hour speed limit, is an eye-opening experience.
The cliffs and shoreline of Fraser Island have places with inviting names like The Pinnacles, Eli Creek and Coloured Sands. The best view on the island is at Indian Head, where you will see long sandy white beaches, forests and endless blue ocean.
Nearby, giant waves break into fine champagne-like bubbles against the rocks at the Champagne Pools.
Head inland into the majestic sub-tropical rainforests with their impressive Satinay and Brush Box trees; some are three metres in girth and 32 metres high, the equivalent of a twelve storey building.
Another activity is to go swimming one of Fraser’s freshwater lakes, such as Lake McKenzie.
A half-hour drive inland from Hervey Bay is the town of Maryborough, one of Australia’s key immigration ports during the 19th century.
During its heyday, Maryborough received 22,000 voluntary immigrants from Germany, Scandinavia, Scotland, Ireland and England.
A good way to learn about Maryborough’s history is to sign up for the town’s weekend ghost tour which is a spooky excursion through the local cemetery, followed by a progressive dinner at some of Maryborough’s historical venues. Performers dressed in period costumes entertain with fascinating stories about the past.
Maryborough’s historical precinct at Wharf Street is where you will find the Customs House and Bond Store museums, which have informative audio-visual displays of the port’s history.
A trip to Maryborough would not be complete without a cruise along the Mary River past the old factories and docks. It is also one of the best ways to take a peek at Maryborough’s elegant Queensland-style mansions, known as Queenslanders.
Step back through time at Brennan & Geraghty Store Museum, one of only three rare historical stores in the entire world where all the contents remain on display as they once were.
Not surprisingly, after a television documentary produced by German film-maker Joachim Fuchsberger, this time portal is a must-see for many German tourists (even their brochures are in German).
The musty old shelves are filled with old brands like Brasso, Super Rinso and Chief, Hoadleys boiled sweets, Keen’s English mustard, Indian Bengal curry powder. The oldest grocery item recorded is a packet of Hang Mee tea from China stamped March 20, 1885.
From nature to history, there is so much to see and do around Hervey Bay that a trip will leave you keen to go back for more.
Where to stay
The Riviera Resort provides self-contained apartments suitable for families 1800 629929. Flora Alba Bed & Breakfast in Maryborough has self-contained accommodation in a Queenslander (+617 4122 3361). Kingfisher Bay Resort is an award-winning eco-sensitive resort on Fraser Island.
Where to eat and drink
For a quick bite, head for the Hervey Bay Boat Club (tel: +617 4128 9643), the Beach House Hotel (tel: +617 4128 1233) or Bay Central Tavern (+617 4124 4222).
Queensland has many wonders, including some that most people don’t know about. Capricorn Caves is one you’ll love.