A rare colony of nesting turtles is just one of the captivating natural attractions near Bundaberg, a four hour drive north of Brisbane. This historic sugar cane city is also the southernmost gateway to the Great Barrier Reef, fringed by coral cays as well as 140km of pristine white beaches. Go diving and snorkelling on Lady Musgrave Island and Lady Elliot Islands and swim and fish from coastal national parks. Bundaberg also offers lots more traditional city drawcards, including museums, heritage buildings and lush botanic gardens.
It’s a short drive from Bundaberg to Mon Repos Conservation Park, home to the largest concentration of nesting sea turtles on the east Australian mainland. Between November and March, you can join a nightly tour to see green, flatback and the endangered loggerhead turtles nest and hatch on the small beach. Mid-November to February is the best time to see female turtles laying eggs, while hatchlings usually begin to leave their nests from mid-January. In January you may glimpse both nesting adults and their newly-hatched babies, crawling to shore for their first swim.
Over summer, turtles also nest and hatch in smaller numbers on nearby Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands, the southernmost coral isles of the Great Barrier Reef. These are also spectacular spots for snorkelling and diving, with manta rays and fish among the rainbow of resident marine life. Base yourself in the beachfront eco-resort on Lady Elliot Island, home to 19 dive sites. Take a guided reef walk or hike around the island, spotting the abundant birdlife.
Further north is Lady Musgrave Island, a national park and the only coral island on the Great Barrier Reef with a navigable lagoon. Swim and snorkel the lagoon’s clear, turquoise waters alongside coral trout and enormous technicolour fish. Scuba dive with manta rays and moray eels, glide over the reef in a glass-bottomed boat ride or see starfish, sea urchins, clams and corals exposed at low tide. Explore the island on a day trip or go castaway – you’ll just need to book ahead for one of the 40 camping spots.
Bundaberg also sits at the hub of the Coral Coast, a dreamy stretch of white beaches, national parks and relaxed coastal towns. Hit the surf at Agnes Water and visit its sister township of 1770, a popular departure point for reef cruises and fishing charters. Swim or fish at Elliot Heads, go diving in Coral Cove and Innes Park or spot kangaroos in Woodgate Beach.
Back in Bundaberg, you can trace the city’s heritage in the museums and gracious colonial buildings. Cruise the Burnett River, ride a sugar train through the Botanic Gardens and tour the iconic Bundaberg Rum factory.
Visit Bundaberg, where the turtles of Mon Repos are just some of the city’s many attractions.