FIONA HARPER takes a long weekend in Hervey Bay and discovers an aircraft runway on a Fraser Island beach, fine dining, military museums and ancient shipwrecks along with a literary hero whose characters come to life in a historic Story Bank at Maryborough.
“We’ll head out towards Lake McKenzie along the road of never ending sadness, otherwise known as the pit of despair,” says our guide Peter Meyer, his cheeky grin lighting up his face as he manoeuvres our 4WD bus away from Kingfisher Bay Resort. Peter has lived on Fraser Island (K’gari) for over 20 years and has an intimate knowledge of the island’s rutted and rugged roads. The largest sand island on the planet was once woven with approx. 2,000km of sandy roads when loggers felled the islands magnificent trees. Now mostly protected under UNSCO World Heritage status, Fraser’s natural assets are its biggest attractions.
I’m visiting Fraser Island on a long weekend getaway to Hervey Bay and the Fraser Coast, a short drive from Brisbane and an even shorter flight from Sydney. Hervey Bay is the self-proclaimed whale watching capital of Australia, though its too early in the season to see the humpback whales on their annual migration from the Southern Ocean to Queensland’s warm waters.
Swimming at Lake McKenzie. Image Visit Fraser Coast.
Our weekend gets off to a fabulous start when we board a Fraser Island Boat Charters yacht at the marina for a leisurely sunset cruise onboard Cattitude. As the sun dips low on the western horizon we sai into the Great Sandy Straits, with its network of ever-changing sandbars aboard the 12m catamaran. Sipping champagne against a burnt-orange sky, we anchor near a tiny islet that barely rises above the wavelets, feeling the warm breath of dusk washing across my bare shoulders.
Sunset sailing on Hervey Bay with Cattitude Adventures. Image Fiona Harper
After returning to shore we head to one of the hottest dining establishments in town. The Bear was established in 2020 by Dan and Steph, winners of the 2013 TV series My Kitchen Rules. During the series, Dan was known as the Sausage Man while Steph lived up to her moniker as the Dessert Queen. They have combined their passion for good food hand-crafted from local produce along with friendly hospitable service at the Bear bar and restaurant. The concept behind the Bear is a desire by its famous owners to transport guests to a homely wood cabin where bears, moose and beaver. Local seafood features heavily, such as Bribe Island oysters and Hervey Bay scallops, while wood-fired pizzas come with a twist such as a Sweet Little Piggy with its whisky maple BBQ base sauce, maple bacon and cider braised pulled pork.
Next morning we depart early for Fraser Island, taking a scenic cruise across the Great Sandy Straits again, exploring the pebbly beach on Little Woody Island before stepping ashore on the pier near Kingfisher Bay Resort. Guide and passionate photographer Peter Meyer welcomes us aboard his bus as we depart on a full day Beauty Spots Tour. Lake McKenzie is one of Fraser’s most iconic swimming spots and we walk upon its dazzling white silica sand shores before diving into its crystal clear water. We explore the former forestry camp at Central Station and wander the walking trails that weave through satinay and brush box forests, float down a flowing creek at Eli Waters and drive along the firm-packed sand of 75 Mile Beach. After poking around the shipwrecked Maheno we take a scenic flight over the island’s interior for a bird’s eye view before landing again on the sand on what must surely be the world’s sexiest beach runway.
Guide Peter Meyer has encyclopaedic knowledge of Fraser Island. Image Fiona Harper
Checking into Kingfisher Bay Resort, there is just enough time to freshen up with soak in the in room spa before dining at Sand and Wood, the resort’s recently refurbished signature restaurant. Shared platters fill the table and our group enjoys a convivial dinner with much laughter over cocktails and an abundance of local culinary treasures, reminiscing over the day’s activities. For me the highlights have been many: from the surprisingly dense rainforest rich with ferns usually seen in tropical climes, to flying over the tourmaline sea and keeping a keen eye out for dingos.
Taking a scenic flight over Fraser Island is a great way to take in 75 Mile Beach. Image Fiona Harper
The following morning is another early start as we board the ferry back to Hervey Bay and drive to the historic town of Maryborough. Restored heritage buildings line wide streets shaded by bullnose verandahs A sculpture of the town’s most famous ‘resident’ stands on Cherry Tree Lane outside the Story Bank, a museum-like tribute to author Pamela Lyndon Travers (PL Travers) who was born in the former bank building. An engaging interactive display recreates the magical characters from Mary Poppins stories in a whimsical wander through Travers’ heroine’s mind.
Maryborough’s heritage is on show at every corner. Image Fiona Harper
The Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial pays tribute to the Fraser Coast’s significant military history and includes a memorial walk lined with audio and visual stories along with a sculpture of the first Australian to step ashore at Gallipoli, Lt. Duncan Chapman. Follow the Maryborough Mural Trail which has over 35 mammoth murals and installations adorning public buildings and adding colourful elelments to Maryborough’s streetscapes.
Maryborough’s streets are adorned with artworks and murals. Image Fiona Harper
Kingfisher Bay Resort sits eco-pleasingly within its nature-based surrounds, just a short walk from the western shore of Fraser Island. My Wallum Resort Room is styled on a traditional Queenslander and almost hovers over the coastal wetlands with its resident population of frogs, waterbirds and wallabies. A west-facing timber deck is furnished with sun lounges, making it a peaceful spot to watch day turn to dusk as the western sky morphs from a bright baby blue to dusky pinks, mauves and cobalt blue tinged with twinkling stars.
Kingfisher Bay Resort. Image Fiona Harper
Oaks Hervey Bay Resort and Spa occupies prime position on Hervey Bay’s picturesque Esplanade. Overlooking the tranquil waters of the Great Sandy Straits framed by landscaped parklands dotted with dog walkers, joggers and beachcombers, Oaks is a terrific weekend base to explore the region. My 1 Bedroom Pool View room is well-equipped, spacious and comes with a large balcony.
Oaks Hervey Bay Resort and Spa. Image Fiona Harper
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