There’s a lot more to the bustling provincial city of Bundaberg than sugar and rum … as increasing numbers of grey nomads are finding out for themselves.
It’s another great spot to take a break from the rigours of the Bruce Highway and sample the many pleasures of Queensland’s Coral Coast. With Agnes Water and the town of 1770 just to the north and Fraser Island just to the south, you certainly don’t want to hurry this section of your trip.
Situated on the Burnett River, subtropical Bundaberg’s majestic streets are lined with poincianas and bauhnias that add a real explosion of colour in season. There are also some wonderful heritage buildings in the city, adding to a grand and historic atmosphere.
While the first Europeans in the area were timbergetters and farmers who arrived in 1867, it is the sugar industry which really defines Bundaberg’s identity. Throughout the district are sugar cane fields and within the city are businesses devoted to the milling and refinement of sugar, and its packaging and distribution. It was the abundance of sugar cane and its molasses by-product which led to the creation of the city’s most famous exports … Bundaberg Rum.
Most grey nomads jump at the chance to tour the distillery where Australia’s best-selling spirit is made. Another of the city’s popular attractions is a museum dedicated to pioneer aviator, Bert Hinkler, one of Bundaberg’s favourite sons. While the city itself, which also boasts many parks and botanical gardens, is impressive enough, the surrounding region also delivers highlight after highlight.
IN THE AREA
This is the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef and the most spectacular parts can be found around Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands. The two ‘ladies of the reef’ as the islands are sometimes known are easily accessible from Bundaberg. Lady Musgrave Island is a two-and-a-half-hour cruise from Port Bundaberg and a day trip allows plenty of time on the island to view the reef and marine life. The surrounding waters here are filled with more than 200 species of corals and 1,200 varieties of brilliantly coloured fish. Thousands of sea birds nest in rookeries on the two islands.
There’s also some magnificent beaches just 12 kilometres or so away from Bundaberg, including Bargara Beach and nearby Kelly’s Beach. A little further to the south is Burrum Coast National Park and the famous Woodgate Beach whose golden sands stretch for some 20 kilometres. This is an angler’s paradise. The park is divided into three sections: Woodgate, Kinkuna and Burrum River and here you will discover diverse plant and animal communities, including mangrove-lined riverbanks, wallum heath with spectacular wildflowers and tea tree-dominated swamps.
If all that isn’t enough you can also take a short trip out along the Gin Gin Highway to see 35 craters formed in a massive slab of sandstone, silt stone and red ochre that continue to baffle even the top geological brains of the world. The Mystery Craters as they are known were formed some 25 million years ago, with the most popular of the many theories about their origins being that they are part of a giant meteorite which came crashing to earth.
But perhaps most impressive of all Bundaberg’s many attraction is Mon Repos Beach, only 14km or so from the city. Here lies the largest and most accessible turtle rookery in mainland Australia. Loggerhead, green, leatherback and flatback turtles come ashore from November to February to lay their eggs. The tiny hatchlings may be seen popping out of their sandy nests from early January until mid-March.
Mon Repos is an environmental park designed to protect the turtles, ensure their ongoing use of the area and provide opportunities for turtle watching. Access to the beach is limited during the season and rangers conduct guided walks each night.
Away from the coast, Bundaberg’s rural hinterland offers spectacular mountains, rugged peaks, historic country towns, wide-open spaces … and, of course, lots of sugar cane. Enjoy.
MAKE SURE YOU
Tour the Bundaberg Rum distillery and ‘force’ yourself to sample the product; learn more about the sugar cane industry; visit the turtles at Mon Repos Beach; put on your detective’s hat to see if you can solve the mystery of ‘Mystery Craters’; visit Lady Musgrave Island; pack to rod and cast a line at Woodgate Beach.
WHERE TO CAMP
There are several attractive van parks in Bundaberg itself. Out at Burrum Coast National Park, there is camping at Kinkuna and Burrum Point but access is for 4WD vehicles only and the parks people discourage travellers from trying to take a van or trailer in. There is a commercial campground at Woodgate.