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Discover beautiful Elliott Heads, Bundaberg

Elliott Heads, Bundaberg, was recently added as one of our favourite places in Queensland. Located 4.5 hours north of Brisbane and 15 minutes south of Bundaberg city it has a whole lot to offer visitors while being just enough off the beaten path that not everyone flocks to it every time the sun shines.

Elliot Heads at high tide
At high tide, the rock shelf is completely submerged

Elliott heads is loved for swimming and surfing, relaxing family days at the beach, fishing or soaking in the rock pools with a few tropical fish to keep you company. It’s equally a great spot for kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding.

Then there are the acres of soft white sand to explore while you find your perfect spot to set yourself up for the day.

Even when the weather is a bit off, the spring winds gust up and it’s a bit choppy off the coast this fabulous beach has its fans with the kite and windsurfers making a beeline for the perfect conditions in the river mouth.

The rock pools

Elliott Heads has multiple beaches on the ocean and river mouth with a distinctly different appearance between high and low tides. The rock pools are one big difference, if you visited on the top of the tide you wouldn’t know they are there but once it starts to go out there is so much to see on the rock shelf that is exposed.

Kids will love finding sea life within the rock pools, some closest to the beach are shallow with a sandy base to play in while others further out on the shelf are deeper and with a bit of care getting in and out you can have a soak while small tropical fish swim around you.

Dr Mays Island

Another tidal change to the landscape is the sand island, called Dr Mays Island an important nesting site for Australian and migratory sea birds. Currently, it doesn’t appear as an island as the sands and the course of the river have moved to leave it dry on two sides even when the tide is in. On much of the tide, you can walk right around it without getting your feet wet.

This will no doubt change again in the future, seasons, king tides and storms all have an impact on the movement of the sand and where the river channel runs.

Wildlife and birds at Elliott Heads

The island is closed during the spring and summer, from 1 September until 30 April, while ground breeding shore birds nest in the area. The birds don’t care that it is no longer an island, the sands there are where they have nested for decades with some of the migratory birds returning from as far north as Siberia and Japan each year to breed here.

Ruddy Turnstone and other migratory birds nesting at Dr May Island
Ruddy Turnstone and other migratory shorebirds nesting on Dr May Island
red-capped plover at Elliot heads
Red-capped plover

Two of the birds noted on signs that you’ll see in the area are the Beach Stone Curlew and Pied Oystercatcher but for the birders, there are 146 species recorded in this small area. The tiny red-capped plovers are one of our favourites, they are so tiny and like many shorebirds, they literally lay their eggs on the sand and give a bit of a kick of sand over the top.

Elliott Heads is also a great land-based spot for seeing the humpback whales passing up and down the coast during the season, especially during August and September you will often see their spray, tails and huge splashes as they pass.

Humpback whale from the Spirit of Hervey Bay

If you want to get out among them the Bundaberg whale tours leave from Burnett Heads or a 90-minute drive south the whale tours from Hervey Bay offer a wider choice of operators. Whether you depart from Bundaberg or Hervey Bay you are in the Wide Bay, a body of water that sees whales often interrupt their long migration for several days, a behaviour that makes the region fantastic for seeing a good number of whales up close on a half-day trip.

Southern Rock Groyne

The safe swimming option at Elliott Heads is at the northern end of the beach between the rock groynes. These walls reduce the impact of the strong tidal ridges and currents from the river mouth, the beach is patrolled by surf lifesavers during weekends and school holidays from September until May.

Swimming beach between the rock groynes (walls) at Elliott Heads

Swimming in the river, while it looks inviting, isn’t recommended, the channel is deep and there are strong rips and currents through there.

Bring a picnic

There are plenty of spots to set up your beach blanket on the sand or grass for a picnic, There are also several covered picnic tables scattered around and BBQ’s provide in the area at the top of the slope. There are also toilet and changing facilities up the top beyond the kiosk.

Picnic tables and grass hillside at Elliott Heads beach

The Coastal Walkway

Ultimately it is planned that the Woongarra Coast (Turtle) walkway will run from here at Elliott Heads all the way to Burnett Head, 20km to the north. For now the path follows the top of the hill with fantastic coastal views, some shade trees and seating for just over 2 km (5.5 km return). You can regularly spot dolphins offshore and whales are common during the winter migration season.

I will add a post on the completed sections of the coastal trail shortly which currently makes it possible to walk or ride from Burnett Heads to Innes Park on a dedicated path. We rode the turtle trail from Bargara to the marina at Burnett Heads some years ago now and plan to do that again soon, there have been plenty of changes.

A social 5km park run is also held along here each Saturday at 7am with a finishers coffee catchup at Driftwood Cafe after.

Coastal walkway at Elliot Heads

Stay a few days on the beachfront

There aren’t that many true beachfront caravan parks left around Australia but there is one here at Elliott Heads. You can book a powered or unpowered site and there are a number of cabins also available. Facilities are fairly basic and it can be packed at peak times but even when it is the beach itself doesn’t feel crowded.

There are currently no hotels or holiday apartments in Elliot Heads, there are private holiday rentals available where you can book the use of a house for your family for a few days or weeks at a time and a range of more typical holiday accommodations a 15-minute drive away in Bargara.

Beach eats and treats

One of the great things about Elliot Heads is that it isn’t built up yet, you can see that change is coming but for now, it is a small and quiet beachside village. For the most part, you will want to bring in your supplies with you, whether you are staying at the campground or spending the day at the beach.

The Driftwood cafe and kiosk sit just above the beach, they sell fish and chips, ice creams and a few supplies. There is also a general store a few hundred metres back up the road, they also sell fish and chips, some grocery items, ice, bait, and emergency hardware items.

Ice cream on the beach is hard to beat and the kiosk has a good range but if you are prepared to drive 6 minutes you can have one of the ice creams we rate as the best in the region at Tinaberries. They are made onsite at the farm from their own strawberries, passionfruit and other locally grown produce. They are well set up for visitors with seating areas in the garden and some under shelter plus there is plenty of parking, including space to park and turn the caravan or motorhome.

Tinaberries ice creams in Bundaberg

And that is just the start of why we love Elliott Heads so much and why you might consider adding this Bundaberg beach to your itinerary as you explore the Queensland coast.

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Coffee picnic with white sand beach and ocean behind
Beach view at Elliot Heads

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