Hervey Bay is a 3.5-hour drive north of Brisbane. It’s a popular holiday spot for families and an ideal stopover on a road trip up the east coast of Australia. Read on for an extensive list of things to do in Hervey Bay from whale watching to the UNESCO world heritage listed Fraser Island.
We’ve been heading up to Hervey Bay and beyond for over a decade now and have seen its appeal as a destination for visitors grow consistently over that time. Many Brisbane families have been holidaying there for their annual beach getaway for generations but there is now an increasing appeal to couples and solo travellers.
Table of Contents
- 20 top things to do in Hervey Bay
- 1. Whale Watching
- 2. Fraser Island
- 3. Urangan Pier
- 4. Sunrise on Dundowran Beach
- 5. Get out on the bay
- 6. Botanic gardens
- 7. WetSide water park
- 8. Arkarra Lagoon
- 9. Torquay Beach & Reef
- 10. Sunset across the water
- 11. Relax on the deck at Hervey Bay Boat Club
- 12. Mingle with locals at the weekend markets
- 13. Stop off to see Nala
- 14. Birds and wildlife
- 15. Lady Elliot Island
- 16. Walk or cycle the Esplanade
- 17. Coopers boardwalk
- 19. Explore the Marina shops and cafes
- 19. Community celebrations
- 20. Bundaberg
- Where to stay in Hervey Bay
20 top things to do in Hervey Bay
This is a regular stop for us with family living in the area and it being what we think is one of the best places anywhere in the world to see whales in the wild so close to shore. This is our list of the 20 best things to do in Hervey Bay.
1. Whale Watching
Possibly the thing Hervey Bay is best known for is the whale watching. The whales don’t just pass through here on their annual migration to their breeding grounds on the Great Barrier Reef but it’s like a stopover for them, resting, playing and generally putting on quite the display for the appreciative human audience.
The operators have a strict code on how close they take the boats to the animals and how far the animals must be away before they can restart the boat. We’ve found them so inquisitive in the bay that on a couple of trips we’ve been delayed departing back to the marina because the whales were still busy inspecting us and the boat.
We’ve done a lot of whale watching trips in various places but this is where we will continue to come back to. In the linked article we share more about our whale watching experiences in Hervey Bay.
Check prices for whale watching.
2. Fraser Island
With a position on the UNESCO world heritage list as the worlds largest sand island Fraser is pretty special. The 123 km long island provides shelter to the Wide Bay coastline on the mainland and has a host of fun and fascinating things to see and do. Explore rainforests that sprouting directly from the sand, swim in crystal clear lakes, see unique rainbow-coloured cliffs and climb giant sand dunes.
There are no roads on the island but you can drive your 4-wheel drive on the beach and interior tracks or join a tour. There are also several places to stay on the island that offer a range of tours and activities and enable you to explore this unique destination once the crowds have left for the day. The Kingfisher Bay Eco-Resort has won a range of tourism awards and is conveniently located to the ferry, another popular choice is Eurong Beach Resort located on the eastern side of the island and provides great value budget options.
Spending time on the island is highly recommended. You’re going to need a few days to see it all but even a day tour is highly recommended, on one we did we travelled through the rain forest and along the beaches in 4-wheel drive vehicles, saw wild dingo and huge goanna, swum in the crystal clear lakes and got to see the colourful sand cliffs.
3. Urangan Pier
Perhaps the heart of Hervey Bay is the Urangan Pier area. The historic pier began construction back in 1913 to transport cargo between rail and the deepwater ships. Originally over 1 km in length it’s now reduced slightly to 868 m and has been fully restored. It’s a popular spot for fishermen and a stroll in the sea air with great views, we tend to walk it most days when we are in the area.
There’s plenty of covered picnic areas and BBQ’s nearby, an ice cream shop called Sundaes at the Pier across the road is one of my faves and Migaloo’s cafe is a good spot for a caffeine fix after your walk. If the breeze gets up in the afternoon you can watch kite surfers putting on a great display and on the right tide, you can weave along the sand bars getting a good distance out from the shoreline with barely wet feet.
4. Sunrise on Dundowran Beach
Sunrise is always a magical time of day especially when you can find a twist in the east coast shoreline that enables you to see it over the water. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of watching many sunrises over Dundowran beach just north of Hervey Bay over the years and it goes on my list as one of my favourite spots for it.
The beach here is sheltered by Fraser island so it’s calm water and the drop off is very flat which means the tide comes in and out super fast but even on the full tide you can wade out a good distance without going over your knees. Splashing along in the shallow water as the sun comes up should absolutely rate a spot on your travel itinerary.
5. Get out on the bay
If you prefer to be out on the water rather than looking at it then there are plenty of choices along the beachfront in Hervey Bay. Options include a sailing adventure or exploring the Great Sandy Strait and Fraser Island from a Jetski.
Aquavue cafe in Torque offers a stunning spot to sit with coffee watching the world go by or you can hire a Jetski, kayak, SUP or catamarans right on the beachfront here. They also run a range of guided Jetski tours including one that heads out to Fraser Island.
Cruises, fishing, whale and dolphin watching trips run out of Boat Harbour Marine at Urangan.
6. Botanic gardens
The Hervey Bay botanic gardens are a short walk from the Beach in Urangan and provide a relaxed space to spend a few hours. Relax by the fountain, explore the orchid house or wander the garden paths. Plants from across the region are displayed here in a variety of different sections ranging from manicured park grounds to edible bush tucker gardens, an oriental garden and bush tracks down the back with a variety of birds and wildlife making themselves at home.
Our articles on the Hervey Bay botanic garden provides more information on adding this to your itinerary.
7. WetSide water park
The water play park is a whole lot of fun for younger kids with a large water play area that’s free to use. There’s a nice cafe here for parents to keep watch too and water slides available at an affordable $5 for 10 rides.
8. Arkarra Lagoon
This lagoon and wetland area is at Dundowran Beach, just north of Hervey Bay. The beach itself is beautiful here but the lagoons offer a different area of interest to walk around. They are popular with Birders for the variety of wildlife and birds that are resident or visitors here. There’s a cafe on site and it’s a good spot for a walk or to bring a picnic to enjoy by the front lagoon.
Read more: Visitors guide to Arkarra Lagoons
9. Torquay Beach & Reef
Torquay Beach is an ideal section of the coast for a family day at the beach. It’s flat and sandy, ideal for swimming or as a base for water sports. There are parklands and facilities, across the road are shops and eateries. Walk the boardwalks, have a picnic or cycle along the promenade. The jetty here is also a popular spot for fishing.
The Torquay shallow water reef is located off the coast here only a couple of hundred meters offshore. For confident snorkellers, the best access is directly off the beach at Neilsons Park. At low tide as little as a metre of water covers the healthy reef which runs towards Gattakers Bay and is home to coral, fish and diverse sea life.
10. Sunset across the water
If getting up for sunrise just feels a bit too difficult while on holiday then there are some good options for sunset instead. And yes you can watch the sunset across the water on the east coast of Australia, there are plenty of bays and outcrops that offer a good vantage point. The wharf at Urangan is an interesting one facing back towards town but the curve of Gattakers Bay offers a variety of other options for watching the sunset over the water. It’s also a great spot for a BBQ.
11. Relax on the deck at Hervey Bay Boat Club
The Boat Club has a fabulous spot on the marina with a huge deck. You can grab a coffee or drink and sit out watching the activity. There’s a large restaurant inside too with a nice outlook but you really can’t beat the open air. The club is open to the public but you’ll be asked to sign in and follow the low-key dress code.
12. Mingle with locals at the weekend markets
The Pier markets are a popular place to gather on a Wednesday and Saturday morning. They open at 7 am until 1 pm and offer a variety of produce, ready to eat treats and good quality crafts on display. The butcher here was highly recommended by the locals if you are looking to self cater or just take a leisurely wander through.
13. Stop off to see Nala
It’s very hard to miss the 22-tonne whale sculpture as you drive through town. It was created by artist Ross Bradbury and represents Nala, a female whale who was first recorded visiting Hervey Bay with her new calf, Simba, back in 1992.
The huge sculpture was crafted from Ironbark and stainless steel and seems sure to get a spot amongst the ‘big things’ circuit around Australia. Make sure you stop to get a photo with the spectacular artwork and symbol of Hervey Bay.
14. Birds and wildlife
There are 290 species of birds spotted in the area including many migratory waders that come down for the summer. Hervey Bay has an active bird watching group who will be happy to point interested twitches in the right direction if you’re visiting the area. If you prefer to do things on your own some great places to start are the botanical gardens, Arkarra lagoon, Gattakers Bay and Burrum Heads.
15. Lady Elliot Island
Daily seaplane tours run out of Hervey Bay to the Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort located on a beautiful coral cay on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef. Another option is to make an early start, drive to Bundaberg and take a boat at 7 am from the Bundaberg Port Marina.
You can see turtles all year round out on the reef out here, whales during the migration and many other species of fish and sea life. These photos by Mitchell have given us even more inspiration to get out here soon, make sure you check out his Instagram account if you’re going to be in South East Queensland he finds the most beautiful places.
16. Walk or cycle the Esplanade
The waterfront walkway and cycle path runs for around 15 kilometres from the boat harbour at Urangan through to Gatakers Bay. It’s a wide walkway that is mostly flat with sections sheltered by trees and includes many places to stop in the parks and rest stops along the way.
In Queensland, you need to wear a cycle helmet whether cycling on the road or the path, both options are allowed. Bikes and scooters need to keep left, slow down and sound their bell when they approach people and are required to give way to pedestrians. If you are on foot avoid blocking the path for others.
It’s a really beautiful walk or ride through here, most of the way you can see the water or catch glimpses through the trees providing areas of shade over the path.
17. Coopers boardwalk
The boardwalk first opened in 2015 and was extended in 2017. The shaded walk starts from Neilson Park in Torquay and runs through the trees with seats and spots for quiet contemplation of the beachfront along the way. The walkway was named for Cooper Christensen, a 6-year-old local boy who tragically lost his battle with brain cancer.
While you are here why not extend your day in Torquay with lunch from a local institution. Maddigans on the Esplanade is directly opposite Neilsons Park and it’s where the locals will tell you to head for the best fish and chips in town. Portions are generous, good variety and reasonable prices. Who doesn’t love this easy and iconic Aussie lunch or tea, plus there are the park and beach just across the road to enjoy them with the perfect ambience.
Madigan’s is located at 401 Charlton Esplanade, Hervey Bay, Queensland 4655.
19. Explore the Marina shops and cafes
Balaena cafe is a stop you must make when in town whether for coffee and cake or a full meal, it’s a gorgeous position over the water, the food is excellent and the service keeps us coming back. It’s a fave of ours when we’re in town.
There are a few shops, booking offices for the various tours and a number of restaurants and cafes here.
Find Balaena cafe at 7 Buccaneer Dr, Urangan QLD 4655
19. Community celebrations
Timing your visit to Hervey Bay around the annual festivals and community celebrations is also a great idea, everyone is welcome to join in. A couple of recommendations are the Blessing of the Fleet in July or the Hervey Bay Seafood Festival held in August.
The blessing of the fleet is a tradition that has been around for centuries in Europe where it’s held to ensure a safe and prosperous season on the water. July is when the whale tours start and the event involves live music, market stalls, a sail-by of the boats, plenty of food vendors and ends with a fireworks display.
The Seafood Festival is held in Fishermans park in Urangan and is a celebration of the local Wide Bay seafood, regional wines, beers and great music.
It takes around 1 hour 20 minutes to drive from Hervey Bay to Bundaberg. It’s a straightforward drive on the highway most of the way with rest stop options clearly marked. While well worth a few nights stop here if you have the time you can also easily day trip it from Hervey Bay. for its own range of things to see and do, not to mention so fabulous foodie surprises that will keep me coming back
If you are heading up to Bundaberg either from Hervey Bay or continuing your drive up the east coast then we have loads of options for things to see and do in our Bundaberg visitors guide.
Where to stay in Hervey Bay
There are a wide variety of options to stay in Hervey Bay from hotels and apartments to beachfront camping.
Hotels & Apartments
Our pick is The Oaks Resort near the Urangan Pier, the facilities are great and we like the location of this one. The access to the pier is great, there are a variety of eating options nearby, great coffee and ice cream is only a few steps away, safe swimming and the weekend markets. It’s a nice walk from here along the waterfront to the marina and cruise boats.
The Mantra Hervey Bay also has a waterfront location along at the Marina with some good views out to Fraser. You can choose from hotel-style rooms or apartments with a private balcony, again good restaurant and cafe options are right outside the gate and if a whale-watching cruise is on your plan you are well-positioned for that.
There’s an excellent range of campgrounds on or near the waterfront in Hervey Bay. These are really popular with families, many have been coming up here in the summer for generations. They are also busy right through the mild Queensland winter with the ‘grey nomads’ who spend several months away from the cold and wet of the southern states through the middle of the year.
On the waterfront is the Fraser Coast Beachfront Tourist Park in Torquay and Pialba plus the new Pier Caravan Park opened in mid-2018 in Urangan. I’d like to take a look around next time we are up there, the position is a short walk through the park to the pier and having watched it being built their facilities look good.
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