Passing Humpback whales and easy access to the world’s largest sand island from Hervey Bay.
Hervey Bay (pronounced Harvey) is best known as the gateway to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island (K’gari), less than an hour’s ferry ride away. It’s also one of Australia’s most popular whale-watching destinations, for the passing parade of Humpback whales that visit annually. Campers can find all they need in equipment and supplies in the town, and then choose between big-name commercial camping and caravan parks and smaller, non-commercial camping grounds around the Fraser Coast. Some of the best are in Wongai State Forest, where you can camp near picturesque waterholes. Kayaking and canoeing is popular, and there are easy walking trails.
The world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island (K’gari) is popular with campers, hikers and fishermen, but can only be accessed by 4WD vehicle or on foot. Sandy tracks criss-cross the island. As well as beach camping, there are protected camping sites behind fences to keep out wild dingos, recommended for families with children under 14. Don’t-miss spots include the crystal-clear Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek and the lush rainforest of Central Station.
About 90 minutes’ drive north is the sugar milling town of Bundaberg, where nature lovers flock in summer to witness the turtle nesting season at the largest rookery in the Southern Hemisphere, on the beach at Mon Repos. Bush and coastal camping spots abound, a mix of commercial operations and council-run campgrounds. One of these is Norval Park Campground, close to the ocean but with no facilities, open to tents and trailers only (a permit is needed).
Glamping is the only camping option on Lady Elliot, one of the Great Barrier Reef’s most remote inhabited islands. Access to the island is by air only, booked through Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, from Hervey Bay or Bundaberg. Tents are close to the lagoon and each has a deck where you can watch nesting seabirds and turtles (in season). Less expensive cabin accommodation is available. The highlights are snorkelling off the beach, 20 dive sites, and Manta Ray (best in winter).
Book well ahead at any time of year, especially for camping on Fraser Island. During whale-watching season (August to October), the region is busy. The best weather is in Spring (September to November), when there is little rain and the summer humidity hasn’t kicked in yet.
- Allow at least three days to explore Fraser Island. - On Fraser Island, it is illegal to feed or interact with dingos (wild dogs), which have been responsible for fatal attacks on visitors. Heavy fines apply. - Whale watching season in Hervey Bay runs from August to October. - Camping permits are required for all Queensland National Parks, forests and reserves and must be booked online and paid for before arrival.