Hervey Bay is so much more than a simple stopover en route to Fraser Island, as we discover on a bliss-filled few days on the Fraser Coast.
A new Jetstar flight from Sydney to Hervey Bay has given the Fraser Coast a new lease on life as an influx of interstaters arrive to experience the allure of bay living.
Hervey Bay is widely known for its annual show of migrating Humpback Whales, who breach like fireworks exploding with force from the ocean’s surface between July and November. At other times, it’s a base camp for tourists visiting Fraser Island, who are clearly yet to discover the many drawcards of Hervey Bay itself.
Let our guide to where to eat, stay and play in Hervey Bay entice you to stay a little longer before exploring the Fraser Coast’s other gems.
The newly refurbished restaurant and bar, Enzo’s on the Beach, is a great place to step back from the hustle and bustle. The kitchen is open all day, serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week, and dinner from Thursday to Sunday nights.
For breakfast, grab some eggs your way or a pancake stack. For brews, there’s a distinctive signature blend of ‘Hot Air Roast method’ AllPress Espresso coffee, where the taste of espresso combines with a unique feel of being ‘on the beach’ location.
For dinner, feast on seafood at prices that will be unheard of for. The ‘fiesta for two’ includes four New Zealand oysters, prawns, two half shell Hervey Bay scallops, two crumbed flathead, four Japanese-style fried calamari, smoked salmon, New Zealand cod, corn salsa chips, salad, lemon and sauces for the bargain price of 65-dollary-doos.
You might be familiar with The Inspired Unemployed, they recently did a hilarious viral video where they compared hefty pub portion sizes to measly fine-dining morsels. Check it out here if you aren’t across it. When sitting down at the Bayswater Bar and Grill we had a laugh remembering this video and remarked that the portion sizes were indeed some of the biggest we had ever laid eyes on. In a classic ‘eyes bigger than stomach’ moment, plates on plates of food were delivered to the table, each more delicious than the one that came before.
Connected to the Oaks Resort, this relaxed coastal jaunt sits across from Urangan Beach Pier. They offer lunch, dinner with friendly staff in a relaxed pub environment. The seafood basket and grilled seafood plate are no-brainers, showcasing the best local fisherman’s bounty. The grill section features sirloin, rump, pork cutlets and fillet mignon.
Eight years ago, Hervey Bay couple Dan and Steph graced our screens on Channel Seven’s My Kitchen Rules. In the time since, they have opened a few local restaurants, the newest of which is The Bear.
This woodsy-style restaurant lives right on the esplanade, with a website that playfully warns diners to “ensure you have a hungry belly prior to arrival”. The dinner menu is definitely meat-heavy, featuring pizzas, poutine, burgers and prime cuts, which explains the ‘warning’ for visitors.
The cocktail menu is particularly innovative. The Beaver Bunch features white rum, lime juice, mango/blueberry puree. However, the star of the show has to be the Koala in Canada espresso martini, with all your traditional ingredients, plus a Cadbury Caramello Koala on top.
If you’re looking for an excuse to book a holiday in Hervey Bay, Oaks Resort offers apartment-style accommodation with all the bells and whistles. It’s as beautifully designed as it is ideally located.
With fresh, coastal-inspired interiors and an unbeatable position across from Urangan Beach Pier, treat yourself to a one-, two- or three-bedroom suite. Penthouse rooms are given views of the entire grounds, as well as sweeping vistas over Hervey Bay and Fraser Island. Enjoy free wi-fi, two lagoon pools and a café/bistro.
An on-site day spa and fitness centre will give you a break from the little ones, following a day of optional activities that can be arranged by the tour desk. Whale watching, swimming, boat tours and four-wheel-drive trips – you needn’t lift a finger. Relax, you’re on holiday!
The world’s largest sand island is a mere hop, skip and ferry trip from the shores of Hervey Bay. Known to the traditional Butchulla owners as K’gari (pronounced ‘gurry’), it is named after a white princess spirit who was called down from the sky by the Rainbow Serpent.
To make your way over to Fraser Island you’ll have to go via barge from River Heads (only 15 minutes south of Hervey Bay). Choose either the Kingfisher Bay Ferry (which will drop you at Kingfisher Bay Resort on the western side of the island on a 50-minute trip) or the Fraser Venture Ferry – which will disembark at Wanggoolba Creek.
Lake McKenzie, arguably Fraser’s most photographed spot, should be your first stop on the island. A perched lake built on top of organic leaf matter, McKenzie is a phenomenon rarely found elsewhere on Earth but is one of 40 found on this island. Next, tackle the epic beach drive up 75 Mile Beach; a wide, golden strip of sand that doubles as a gazetted highway/runway (joy flights are a daily service), and is also an excellent fishing spot.
These are just two of many Fraser Island itinerary-fillers. For more, head here.
There are 40 kilometres of pristine beaches bordering Hervey Bay, and taking to the water offers access to islands, adventure, wildlife and an abundant aquatic playground. Taking a sunset cruise is a rite of passage in Hervey Bay, and the long line of Catamaran’s at Fisherman’s Marina make the choice an overwhelming one.
Sweet Escape Charters grant the opportunity to explore the islands at your own pace. Bareboat charters require no formal boating qualifications, which means you can play skipper for the day. Alternatively, a sail guide and host can be organised to accompany you for as long or little as you like.
Sweet Escape also offer fishing opportunities. Drop a line on one of their vessels for the chance to catch some famous black marlin, longtail tuna, sailfish, coral trout, Spanish mackerel, barramundi, threadfin and more.
Fraser Island Boat Charters are another celebrated operator. Similar to Sweet Escape, their sailing catamarans are offered on a bareboat (self-drive) basis, as well as private skippered charters.
Pit stop at Pelican Bank
The beauty of having a local on board is that they can take you via hidden places. Pelican Bank is one such place. This little piece of paradise is a local-only type hangout, and making your way out here is a Hervey Bay requisite. This sand bank rivals Whitehaven Beach, with turquoise, crystal-clear azure water to match.
Stock a boat with day-trip essentials (food, drinks, fishing gear, swimmers, sunscreen and beach cricket) and make the 9.5-kilometre journey within the hour. That’s about as complicated as life gets out here. If you have the time, Round Island and Big Woody Island are neighbouring paradises also worth a gander.
Hervey Bay prides itself as the so-called whale-watching capital of the world. The bay, part of Great Sandy Strait, is protected by neighbouring Fraser Island and provides safe sanctuary for weary whales on their annual migration; particularly mothers, newborn calves and still-growing adolescents.
People go on whale-watching tours all over the world and rarely get as close to these enormous creatures as you can in Hervey Bay, where around 10,000 arrive each year for calving season (July to November). They can be up to 15 metres long and weigh 45 tonnes each.
There are nine major whale-watching charters here, which all guarantee you’ll see at least one whale, but you’ll also often see an accompanying parade of bottlenose dolphins, turtles and dugongs. Choose from high-speed adventures to champagne sunset sails and family-friendly cruises for the more leisurely watchers.
Explore the Botanic Gardens
The Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens are situated on 26 beautiful hectares of land. Located on the bustling Elizabeth Street, they pride themselves on being an oasis of peace and quiet in an otherwise busy part of town.
Pack a picnic and wander through the flora and fauna, stopping to take in the trees, native to the Wide Bay and Sandy Straits region. Gas barbecues are dotted throughout the surroundings. A few years ago the council also built a formal Chinese Garden complete with feng-shui windows, arched bridges, bamboo groves and moon gates.
Linger a few moments on the deck that reaches out over the central lake and you will soon become an object of interest for the local tortoise population. There are 290 species of birds spotted in the area including many migratory waders that come down for the summer and the Botanic Gardens are a great place to spot them.
In May 2021, Jetstar began flying direct from Sydney to Hervey Bay for the first time in nine years. The three-day flight schedule of Wednesday, Friday and Sunday makes for the perfect long-weekend escape. Book a seat to Hervey Bay here.
For Queenslanders, Hervey Bay is an approximate two-hour drive north of Noosa and the Sunshine Coast, and three-and-a-half hour’s drive from Brisbane. Flights also depart from Brisbane daily.