It’s long been known for its rum and ginger beer, but there’s far more to Bundaberg for families looking for a great getaway. With 140km of coastline, this area of the Southern Great Barrier Reef is shaping up to be Queensland’s next must-visit region. Here are some ideas for your itinerary.
1. Learn about turtle conservation at Mon Repos
Around 15 minutes’ drive north-east of Bundaberg, Mon Repos Conservation Park is home to the largest rookery for endangered loggerhead turtles on Australia’s east coast and is one of the best places in the country to see these gentle creatures in their natural habitat. During the nightly Turtle Encounter tours in summer, you can watch as the mothers hurl themselves onto the beach to lay their eggs (November to January), then return a few weeks later (January to late March) to witness the baby turtles making a frantic dash towards the sea. Tickets include entrance to the Turtle Tales & Hatchling Hall where you can learn all about nesting marine turtles and their conservation. The Turtle Centre is open year-round, so if you are visiting outside of turtle season you can still learn about the important role that Mon Repos plays in the survival of the loggerhead turtles.
2. Explore Bargara Esplanade
The coastal town of Bargara, around 15 minutes’ drive from Bundaberg, is fronted by an esplanade where you can stroll or ride your bikes while watching the Coral Sea lapping at the shore. For kids, a highlight is the turtle-themed playground, which offers plenty of opportunities to climb and engage in imaginative play. Parents can settle in at one of the benches to watch all the action, or grab takeaway from the nearby eateries for a beachside picnic.
3. Kelly’s Beach
On the southern side of Bargara, this pretty stretch of sand is patrolled by lifeguards for your peace of mind. Find yourself a shady spot beneath one of the trees for a day of swimming, sandcastle building and snorkelling, with the calm lagoon of The Basin one of the best places to spot fish. Aside from being great for flying kites, it is also backed by accommodation, including the family-friendly Kelly’s Beach Resort, which has a pool, tennis court, games room and licensed restaurant.
4. Join the Lady Musgrave Experience
Just a stone’s throw from Bundaberg is Lady Musgrave Island, one of the idyllic coral cays that comprise the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Hop aboard the luxury Reef Empress catamaran for a day spent exploring this secluded paradise, which is home to a variety of nesting birds and a jaw-dropping underwater world. The calm coral lagoon around the island is perfect for kids and first-time snorkellers, with friendly staff who will answer all your questions during glass-bottom boat tours and guided island walks. If you want to play citizen scientist, you can opt for the Marine Biologist for a Day experience or spend a night glamping underneath the stars at Lady Musgrave HQ.
5. Meet the animals at Splitters Farm
Surrounded by tropical bushland to the west of Bundaberg is Splitters Farm, a 160-acre [64.7ha] property that has become a sanctuary for both barnyard and native animals. On a self-guided tour, you can explore the paddocks and feed the rescued horses, goats and alpacas, before relaxing beneath one of the shady trees with a picnic hamper. This working farm also has eight glamping safari tents overlooking Splitters Creek.
6. Feast on fruity treats at Tinaberries Ice Cream
Bundaberg is one of Australia’s most prolific, yet undiscovered, food bowls, growing 25 per cent of the nation’s produce. One of the Bundaberg foodie experiences not to miss is the farm-fresh ice cream that’s served up at Tinaberries. A short drive from central Bundaberg is the Farm Gate, which is open throughout the year and offers not only real fruit strawberry and passionfruit ice cream but also fresh strawberries in season (June to October). If you want to pick your own, time your visit with early spring to eat as many mouth-watering berries as you can muster. The Tinaberries lawn is a great place to devour your ice cream while playing giant Jenga or Connect 4.
7. Stay at Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort
Providing a sanctuary for over 1,200 species of marine life is Lady Elliot Island, a coral cay that’s a 25-minute scenic flight from Bundaberg Airport. The island’s family-run eco-resort is all about ditching technology for a few days and connecting with the natural world (think mesmerising coral gardens filled with thousands of tropical fish). Accommodation ranges from beachfront units to glamping tents and cosy cabins, all of which are just steps from world-class snorkelling. A highlight of any visit is coming face-to-face with majestic manta rays – an experience you will never forget. Rates include daily breakfast and a buffet dinner, as well as island tours and snorkelling equipment.
8. Bundaberg Brewed Drinks Barrel
When it’s time to quench your thirst, head to the Bundaberg Brewed Drinks Barrel, where you can sample all of the 14 flavour-filled drinks that are manufactured here. While ginger beer has long been a favourite, you can try everything from sparkling guava and passionfruit to the ever-popular lemon, lime and bitters. Explore the gallery to learn how the drinks are brewed and guess the flavour at the ‘smellography’ wall, then watch the brewery in action via the 360-degree cameras. At the end of the experience, you can take home a selection of six drinks in a mix-it-yourself pack.
9. Brunch at the Windmill Cafe
Just a short stroll from Bargara Beach, this locals’ favourite serves up locally sourced produce for breakfast, brunch and lunch. Winner of Queensland’s best tourism restaurant in 2019, the Windmill Cafe has an inspiring menu that caters to all dietary requirements, including classics like bacon and egg rolls and unique creations such as dragon fruit bowls. You can dine alfresco in the garden or grab one of the award-winning locally-made gelatos to go (they also have doggy gelato if you’re travelling with your four-legged friend!)
10. Go snorkelling at Barolin Rocks
Explore Bundaberg’s “reef within reach” at Barolin Rocks — a snorkelling spot and dive site where you can see tropical fish, turtles, rays, sea snakes, moray eels, wobbegong sharks and incredible coral formations. If you’re lucky you might even spot a dugong!
In Partnership with Bundaberg Tourism