The Bundaberg Experience – Turtles and Reefs in Australia
The city of Bundaberg is located 360kms north or Brisbane on the Queensland coast line. The town itself is situated slightly inland on the Burnett River, but the seaside suburb of Bargara is only 13kms east the town centre. The Bundaberg area is very flat with only a single hill “the Hummock” that serves as a vantage point of the surrounding region. The area was traditionally a farming location with sugar cane a very popular crop. The recent expansion of Bundaberg as a metropolitan region has seen a decline in farmland. This is a great area to stay in to tour Queensland and experience beaches, nature islands and the reef. Let’s take a look at the best experiences in The Bundaberg Australia.
The seaside area of Bargara is a great location to stay at for visiting the region. There are resorts and apartments to be found along the waterfront area. If you are camping, there is a Big 4 Holiday park situated right behind the surf club with access to Bargara’s best beach. The Holiday Park offers one of the better places to stay for access to beach, the waterside walking path, and easy access to the restaurants and bars in Bargara.
Just north of Bargara is the beach of Mon Repos which is an important nesting ground for turtles. The turtles arrive and lay eggs between November and January, and then eggs hatch between January and March. The Mon Repos beach is a protected area and care needs to be taken by all visitors to ensure they do not disturb the turtles while nesting or the nest of eggs until they hatch. There is a handy walkway from Bargara through the Barolin Nature Reserve to the Mon Repo Beach which many visitors take the time to walk.
At Mon Repos is the Turtle Centre where you can have a turtle encounter. The turtle centre has a theatre and educational information about turtles and the nesting grounds of Mon Repos. The turtle centre is also where you go for a night time turtle encounter. The turtle encounters are run by rangers who take small groups out to watch turtles lay eggs or see eggs hatching. The turtle encounters need to be booked in advance, as the number of people they can take out to see a turtle lay its eggs is limited.
The nighttime tour does involve a fair bit of waiting around in the turtle centre until a turtle arrives and starts laying eggs. When the rangers have found a turtle starting to nest, they will bring a group from the turtle centre out to view the activity. Since they break the guests into 5 or 6 groups, that means they need 5 or 6 turtles to at least arrive and lay eggs each night. Better to be in one of the earlier groups than one of the later groups if you have children with you. The experience of seeing the turtles come up and lay their eggs, then return to the sea is something all children (and adults) will remember for a long time.
Predominately loggerhead turtles nest at Mon Repos with a smaller number of green turtles and flatback turtles also nesting.
The southernmost island group of the Great Barrier Reef, the Bunker islands, are off the coast of Bundaberg. Two of these islands are easy to reach from Bundaberg. The southernmost is Lady Elliot Island which boasts an Eco lodge and a large number of manta rays living in its local waters. You can fly to Lady Elliot Island and stay at the eco lodge, snorkel, dive and generally relax.
Then there is Lady Musgrave Island which has a large protected ocean lagoon. You can get to this island as a day trip from Bundaberg. The ride out takes a while but is quite comfortable (as long as you take seasickness tablets – recommended). Lady Musgrave offers the ability to anchor up in the calm of the lagoon and the chance to either dive or snorkel on the reef. What makes this so appealing is that you are inside the lagoon, where there is no current, not on the outside of the reef like you are on Lady Elliot Island.
What can you see while snorkelling at Lady Musgrave Island? It turns out quite a bit, the hard coral system is quite healthy and vibrant along with a large fish population. If you are lucky you can also see turtles, leopard and black tip reef sharks. Snorkelling is a real treat for any visitor, including children if they are able to swim. If you are not into snorkelling or diving, there is also a glass-bottom boat experience. The boat drives around the lagoon offering everyone a view of the coral reef and lagoon inhabitants below.
A trip to the island itself also includes the chance to walk around on the island. The island has a very large bird population that tend to nest underground, so care needs to be taken when walking through the island to not step on a nest. The island is also one of two islands in the group on which you can camp. Camping on the island is arranged through the national parks, and it is a dry camp, meaning you must bring all your water and food for the duration of your stay.
Lady Musgrave Island is also a nesting ground for green and loggerhead turtles. The laying of eggs happens from November to January with hatchings happening from January to March each year.
There are a few other highlights worth taking the time to explore while you are in the Bundaberg area. Among these is the Rum distillery which you can visit and take a tour of. There are many fine eateries in Bundaberg and the area is flush with fresh seafood. Try a seafood lunch overlooking the Burnett River at one of the local restaurants.
The beaches of Bargara are not showcase beaches, but just a short drive south to Elliot Heads (which is only 20kms) you can find a really impressive white sand beach and river mouth. Elliot Heads also offers calmer waters of the river mouth to swim in and the area is popular with jet skis and kite surfers.
If you are prepared to go a little further, 55kms south, you can go to Woodgate. Woodgate is a very quiet beach with plenty of sand and a great swimming spot. Woodgate also boasts the Burrum Coast National Park which surrounds it. There is a popular caravan park in both Woodgate and Elliot heads for anyone wishing to stay a few nights.
There are many things to explore in this part of Queensland, but if you are travelling the East coast path from Sydney to Cairns then I do recommend a stop in at the Bundaberg Region. If you are looking for a campervan for your holiday then talk to us.