If you’re visiting Hervey Bay, or are lucky enough to live in the Fraser Coast area, you may be interested in just how much there is to do in the surrounding area. It’s a region with significant diversity including fabulous beaches, forests, lakes and a productive food bowl. These are our top tips for planning day trips from Hervey Bay.
Read more: Our road trip essentials when exploring Australia
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Fraser Island is a great destination for a day trip from Hervey Bay. You can see an incredible amount of this gorgeous world heritage listed sand island in just one day but you don’t have to limit yourself to that. There is accommodation available on the island and you can also camp with a permit.
You cross to Fraser Island by ferry from River Heads. It takes just 30 minutes to make the crossing and you can do it either as a walk-on passenger joining a tour on the other side or take your own 4-wheel drive vehicle if you are confident driving on sand.
For a day trip, we find joining a tour is a great way to fit as much as possible and still relax and take it all in. The Fraser Explorer Tours full-day trip is a great option, you head out to the crystal clear Lake McKenzie pictured above for a swim or relax on the beach, walk amongst the rainforest growing in the sand at the historic Central Station, then head across to the opposite side of the island.
Here you’ll drive along the famous 75-mile beach, see the dramatic pinnacles formed from coloured sand, explore the Mahino shipwreck and then take a leisurely float down Eli Creek on inner tubes. It’s a packed full day but one you will always remember.
We’ve done both day and multi-day trips to Fraser Island over the years and highly recommend both, it just depends on what your time and budget allow.
Read More: Planning your Visit to Fraser Island
The next two options are both in the Wongi State Forest but are quite different and require a decent amount of driving on forestry dirt roads. We wouldn’t be able to do them both justice fitting them into a single day so have covered them separately, if you are a fast traveller you may prefer to combine them.
You’ll need your own vehicle to get out here, technically a 4-wheel drive isn’t necessary for dry conditions but it’s a jaw chattering drive in parts with some serious ruts when the road hasn’t been graded for a while. While we saw a sedan had made it out to the car park here we appreciated having higher clearance.
The recreational area has two day-use areas with car parking, the second one you come to also has a permitted camping area. There are picnic tables, toilet facilities and walking tracks at the waterholes. You can swim if you want and there was a rope swing someone had tied up over the water at one end.
It’s a great spot for those that enjoy native wildlife, bird watching and spending time out in nature. The campsite bird list here has 132 species with some quite special ones among them. We’ve been especially lucky with the rarer honeyeaters and there are wallabies in the bush, turtles, frogs and fish in the waterhole.
Walking tracks lead off in both directions from the recreational areas and eventually come to logging roads at either end. Depending on how wet it is you can cross in parts or at the intersecting roads and make your way along the far bank although tracks are less formed on that side.
It’s just a great spot to make ‘camp’ for the day, bring a book, camera, binoculars and a picnic, walk when you want to and chill when you don’t.
Lake Lenthall is also in the Wongi State Forest and accessed via dirt roads. It is mainly used by boaties who enjoy fishing in the stocked catchment area. The lake is fed by 6 creeks and releases into the Burrum River providing the main water source for the region via a weir downstream.
The lake has only been here since it was dammed in 1984. In the photo above its water level was quite low exposing many islands where waterbirds gathered, the area was placed on water restrictions shortly after. In summer 2022 there was extensive rain and flooding in the area and the lake was closed temporarily for safety but we’ll be heading out again in a few months and expect it to look very different this full, I’d love to explore it by kayak.
You can’t swim in Lake Lenthall but you can camp here, and make full use of the excellent day-use area and facilities that include seating, covered picnic areas, toilets and bushwalking tracks. There are loads of kangaroos and wallabies, large lace lizards and great birding. There are water birds on and around the lake and bush birds on the walking tracks and surrounding treeline.
While you are here make sure you walk slightly back down the road from the ranger station and climb up the viewing platform for views out over the dam spillway.
We love the village of Bargara on the Bundaberg coast. It’s an easy 90-minute drive up here from Hervey Bay and such a relaxing day. We usually start with a coffee from our long time favourite baristas at The Journey and take it down to the breakfast bar or one of the tables overlooking the beach to drink.
It’s a great spot for walking or cycling the coastal path, by foot you could go north through the Neilsons beach then follow the walking track through to Mon Repo. By pedal power, you can go all the way up and around to the Port with great coastal views and small bays along the way.
Heading south you’ll make your way to Kellys Beach. There’s a park, BBQ and picnic facilities here and a tidal swimming hole at the northern end of the beach. It’s enclosed by volcanic rock from the Hummock and remains deep enough to swim or relax on all tides. There’s a sandy bottom to most of it but rocky towards the sides and back. Bring your mask and snorkel to get a better look at the tiny fish and rays that swim around in here.
Bargara has a range of cafes but there are also a good number of BBQs and covered picnic tables all along the front so it can be a great place to bring your own picnic.
While Bargara is a good choice for a day trip it is also somewhere we like to stay from time to time to relax and immerse ourselves in the wider area. We’ve stayed in the Caravan Park on Neilsons Beach a couple of times and a holiday house on Kellys Beach. There are also self-contained apartments like Bargara Blue Resort and Point Resort that are right across from the beach.
This one got added to our list of absolute favourites last year. It’s a stunning spot with both a river and surf beach. The fishing is good, there are rock pools, including big ones like hot tubs you can clamber out to and chill out with the pretty little fish swimming around you. There is sand, sand and more sand so it’s never any trouble to find a quiet spot to pop up the cabana or unfurl the towel.
Down the beach towards the river mouth is a raised section which is Dr Mays island, you can see one end of it in the photo above. The Elliot river used to split either side of it so it was a true island but the sands shift all the time and now the river has moved further to the Coonarr side and the ‘island’ is dry.
The ‘island’ has access restricted from September 1 through to the end of April while sand nesting sea birds like the little red-capped plovers, beach stone curlew and oystercatchers are roosting there, there is good signage marking off that small area. You’ll spot these birds and many others if you walk around the river’s edge, it’s also a particularly good spot for seeing birds of prey, osprey, white-bellied sea-eagles, black kites and Brahminy kites are the most common.
There are plenty of public facilities including shaded picnic tables, grass areas, BBQs and toilets. There is a takeaway/cafe and small shop up on the hill above the car park and a campground across the road but other than that there’s not a lot in the immediate area. You are an hour and 25 minutes from Hervey Bay by road or 20 minutes from central Bundaberg.
If you are planning to visit checked out these extra tips for enjoying your day or stay in Elliott Heads
As one of Queensland’s oldest towns Maryborough has a long history and plenty to discover. It has one of the best WW1 memorials in the country, make sure you have time to stop and listen to the locally researched narratives, read extracts from letters written at the front and for the full experience scan some of the QR codes for additional information.
There are several interesting museums in the city including the bond store, military museum and the Story Bank where you’ll discover the magic of Mary Poppins at the birthplace of her creator. Around town, there’s an extensive mural trail that tells the story of the river city and if you plan to visit on a Thursday you’ll want to allow time to stop by the morning markets that run right through the centre of town with fresh produce, artisan products, crafts and plants.
Our lunch pick is usually out on the verandah at Portside Cafe and Restaurant. Delicious with a focus on quality local produce, the heritage spot is quiet and overlooks the park down towards the river.
After lunch consider a walk through some of the many city parks and natural spaces. Queens Park and the Mary River Parklands are right in the city centre, others like Anzac Park, Ululah Lagoon and the Fay Smith Wetlands are a few minutes’ drive away.
We have an article giving all the details of things to do in Maryborough, you may find it useful whether you are just stopping for a few hours on your way through or looking to spend a day exploring the heritage city.
Woodgate is a fabulous beach day for the whole family. With 16km of stunning sandy beach running from the Burrum River in the south to Theodolite Creek at the northern end, it is absolutely gorgeous. There are multiple boat launching options, great fishing, 4-wheel drive access with beach camping, national park walking tracks, kids parks, swimming and an extended beachfront path that runs the length of the main beach, everything that makes a great Aussie beach day.
Woodgate has had some residential development in recent years but is still a quiet and relaxed beach village. There’s no supermarket or shopping really to speak of beyond an afternoon ice cream and bait, and that is just the way that locals and visitors like it.
As you drive through you’ll almost certainly see groups of kangaroos ambling around or chilling under trees in parks and in people’s gardens where they have wandered through from the National Park, that is the vibe of the place in a nutshell. I guess it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but we love it.
If you having trouble getting everyone off the beach and back in the car at the end of the day we recommend promising a stop at Mammino’s Ice Cream just before you hit the highway. Their creamy small-batch ice cream is made fresh on-site each week, it’s decadent and delicious and made with local ingredients. This is REAL ice cream so not for the lactose intolerant and the macadamia and ginger one is my pro tip if you’re having trouble deciding. It’s the perfect way to end the day.
Read more: Planning your visit to Woodgate
Another option is to head out on the water for the day. Late winter and into spring is whale watching up here and after a good amount of comparison, we don’t think there is a better spot to get up close to these gentle giants.
Each year 30,000+ humpback whales make the 10,000 km migratory journey from Antarctica to their breeding grounds on the Great Barrier Reef. It’s not really understood why but a good portion of them linger here off Fraser Island for a few days or longer. They are more relaxed, often taking an active interest in the boat loads of people watching them and later in the season you might also get to see the mums with bubs learning the ropes and building up a layer of blubber they need to survive as they continue further south.
There are several great operators that run out of the marina here. We have written about trips out with Whalesong Cruises and the Spirit of Hervey Bay, if you want to get a good more information on what the trips include and our photos of the whales taken as passengers on those trips you can click the links to read those.
Indulge your inner foodie with a self-guided gastronomy themed trip to Bundaberg. One option is to eat your way around a selection of the many ready-to-eat destinations on offer but we highly recommend also taking along a couple of enviro bags and the esky to load up with a few treasures to take home with you. Even with the best of efforts, there is only so much you can eat in a day.
Two of our favourite local cafes that stack up favourably with those in any of our capital cities are Indulge and Water Street Kitchen. Indulge is situated in a character building right in the heart of town, it’s run by Mitchell and Marleen and offers an innovative menu full of in-season, premium quality, local produce.
Water Street is about 3 km south of the city in suburban surroundings and serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner in their various spaces, inside, out on the deck or in the garden courtyard. They have a diverse menu, again excellent quality produce and at this point I can recommend most of it but have a bit of a leaning toward the sand crab lasagne on the current menu.
During the afternoon you might want to head out through Bargara to pick up a great coffee to sip as you wander along the beach. While you are out here, driving a little south to stop in at Tina Berries is highly recommended. She has some of the best fresh strawberries in season, passionfruit straight from the vine that she showed me how to eat with some dignity with neither a knife nor a spoon, and I can’t go home without one of her delicious icecreams.
Continuing on, you will have seen the macadamia orchards as you came north, canefields are being replanted everywhere but you can stop in at Macadamia Australia’s original farm on Goodwood Road for an interactive self-guided tour to learn more about them and to stock up on a few delicious treats.
At the end of the day as we head back south I include a stop at the Alloway Farm Market for fresh produce, a bottle or two of the locally made ‘Be Loved Worchester sauce’ that is my no longer secret ingredient in many recipes and their own grown figs in season or fig products throughout the year.
So there you have it, 8 of our favourite day trips when staying on the Fraser Coast. If you have any questions feel free to drop them down in the comments below or perhaps you have your own day trip additions around the Wide Bay region, we’d love to hear your ideas too.