We've recently returned from a memorable week on the Fraser Coast which included Whale Watching, a day on the world heritage listed Fraser Island and a trip to historic Maryborough.
The highlight of the week was definitely our trip out into Hervey Bay itself to see the Humpback Whales.
Each winter, humpback whales migrate from Antarctic waters to the warm waters of South East Queensland to pop out their calves. The whales start to arrive around late July and many stay until November before their return to the Southern Ocean. Hervey Bay in particular, nestled and protected between the mainland and Fraser Island, offers calm, tropical waters for the Whales to introduce their calves to ocean life.
The Whale Watching tours guarantee sightings between July and November so we had high hopes. We weren't disappointed.
Altogether we must have spotted at least 20 whales. They were everywhere. They happily came right up to the boat and even swam underneath us.
We saw multiple breaches, as well as chasing and rolling. It truly was breathtaking.
If you live in Brisbane and want to go Whale Watching I definitely recommend making the 4 hour trip north to Hervey Bay rather than taking one of the tours from the Gold Coast or Redcliffe. A friend of Rachelle's went on one of the trips from the Gold Coast and all she saw was one tail from about 5 miles away.
At one point they stuck an Hydrophone into the water so we could clearly here the whales singing. However when the whales were next to the boat and underneath us we didn't need the Hydrophone. The sound emanating from beneath us was magical.
Whale singing recorded from my iphone
Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island, stretching over 123 km in length and 22km at its widest point, and is the only place in the world where you can find sub-tropical rainforests growing out of the sand. Fraser Island marks the southern barrier of the Great Barrier Reef.
We went on a day trip to Fraser Island with an organised tour. You can travel there yourself but Fraser Island is strictly 4x4 vehicles only. As soon as we arrived there in our big high-suspension 4x4 tour bus I realised why. Our car wouldn't have made it 5 metres off the jetty! There are no roads, only tracks, and rough tracks at that.
We started our tour by stopping off in the middle of the rainforest to check out the wide variety of plants and trees - many of them centuries old. Thankfully, now that the Island is world-heritage listed, the widespread logging that took place, particularly for the famously tough Fraser Island Satinay, has been severely limited.
It wasn't long before we came across a python lurking at the base of a tree.
We then made our way on to Seventy-Five Mile Beach, which as the name suggests, is a very long beach. It's also a very beautiful beach - a wide stretch of unspoilt white sand.
We had a paddle in Eli Creek which is the largest freshwater stream on the eastern coast of the island. The water gently flows downhill and spills out on to the beach which means you can lay on your back and float down it.
To get another perspective of the island we opted to pay extra and take a 15 minute flight over the island. It was one of those 8-seater peddle and pop jobs where a slight gust of wind feels like it will blow you out of the sky. All good fun!
From the air you really get to see the breadth and beauty of the island.
The island has over 100 freshwater lakes and some huge multi-coloured sand blows - towering cliffs of sand sculptured by the wind into huge peaks.
This picture shows our view of the shipwreck of the SS Maheno which was forced to run aground during a cyclone in 1935.
Here's the view of the wreck when back on terra firma; the saltwater slowly but surely eating away at the hull.
After lunch we made our way up to Lake McKenzie for a swim. This is probably about as close to paradise as you could ever come, or it would be if you could get rid of all the other people. This huge freshwater perched lake has crystal clear water and is completely surrounded by pristine white sandy beaches. The water has a ph level of 4.5 which is about the same as your skin. After swimming in the lake my hair felt like it had just been conditioned. They should bottle the stuff! It was close to idyllic but not quite; only let down by the large group of lads who by the sounds of it thought they were on San Antonio beach in Ibiza. They should be banned! God, I do sound old!
The only thing we didn't see on Fraser Island was any Dingoes. Not surprising really when you consider that there's only about 150 of them left on the island. The Queensland government issue plenty of awareness info and signs to be Dingo safe when camping on the island. The last major incident was in April 2001 when a young boy was attacked and killed. Following that 30 of the dingoes were destroyed.
The rest of the week was mainly spent relaxing by the pool, catching up on reading, watching DVD's, eating and drinking too much - the usual stuff. It was our first real holiday in quite a while and we were more than ready for a break. On the final day though we decided to have a drive out to Maryborough.
The literature says that Maryborough is a complete visitor experience like no other. For us it was a visitor experience like no other because when we got there it was completely deserted. We couldn't believe it. It was a Saturday afternoon and there was hardly anybody around.
Maryborough was settled in 1847 and is one of Queensland's oldies provincial cities. Except you can't really call it a city any more, can you? The place was thriving in its day, so we learned.
Back in the day, Maryborough was a major port and second only to Sydney in terms of the intake of european immigrants (convicts). The port is now long gone. The end of major logging on Fraser Island was the final nail in the coffin for Maryborough so they've now turned it into a beautiful historic preservation, showcasing the architecture of its colonial past. The fact that nobody was there seemed to add to the charm. Standing on Wharf St - the main street where every building is a listed, beautifully preserved heritage building, it felt like a scene from a Western. I half expected to see tumbleweed blow across the square.
We had a pleasant enough day though. We had a look round the Military museum which is a lovingly maintained collection of war memorabilia, including an impressive Victoria Cross collection. Lauren in particular enjoyed seeing the exhibits which surprised me as I hated museums when I was a kid. I'm pretty sure she's going to turn into a geek like her father.
We had a nice lunch by the Mary river and then went on a river cruise to see the sights. Not that there were many to be seen to be honest. Mainly spots where things used to exist when Maryborough was a bustling port. There were some pretty impressive river-side homes to behold, and our skipper's commentary (he was from Belfast) kept us entertained, being both informative and funny.
If you look very closely in the picture to the left you can just about see the light at the end of the tunnel.
We also spent some time in the park, which looked beautiful on this gloriously hot and sunny afternoon.
Mary Poppins' author P.L Travers was born in Maryborough in 1899 and a life-sized bronze statue of her famous creation can be found around the corner from Wharf St in Richmond St.
The only minor disappointed of our holiday was where we stayed. Not the accommodation, just the location. We had originally booked into the Ramada Resort which had fantastic deals on for its opening month. However when it came to it the Hotel wasn't yet ready to be opened so we took their offer of a transfer to the Quarterdecks Harbour Retreat. When we arrived we were really pleased that we'd been upgraded to a 3-bedroom Villa, which had all the mod-cons, designer furniture, the lot. The only problem was the location. It's quite a distance from the beach and marina. It's easily walkable during the day, but at night with very dim street lighting (what is it about inadequate street lighting in Australia?) and no proper pavements I wouldn't have felt comfortable having Rach and Lauren walk along those streets. So to go out at night it was either one of us drove or we got a taxi. Besides that Hervey Bay itself leaves a lot to be desired. I was hoping it was going to be like Mooloolaba with al-fresco dining along the ocean front, but no, it was more like Skegness with tacky stores and fish and chip shops. The northern end isn't so bad. We had a lovely meal in the Wheelhouse Restaurant which overlooks the marina.
All in all it was a fantastic week, and we'll definitely be returning that way in the future. You can check out many more of our Hervey Bay holiday photo's on Flickr.