The Bunker Group, including Lady Elliot, Lady Musgrave, Northwest & Masthead Islands & Fitzroy Reef
Lady Elliot Island (45ha) is a coral cay surrounded by fringing reef 75km northeast of Bundaberg. Stepping straight off the beach, snorkellers and divers drop into a brilliant underwater wonderland that’s an easy introduction for children and nervous swimmers.
Overnight visitors bed down at the Lady Elliot Island Resort (www.ladyelliot.com.au), a three star property for up to 150 guests. Its location within a Green Zone dictates the impact of tourism infrastructure, thereby limiting facilities. It’s popular with families, singles and couples and is a favoured destination for research and school groups. All are attracted to the coral reef, marine and birdlife. Accommodation is comfortable austerity that improved with a lick of paint and new furnishings in 2008. Though, if you simply can’t sleep without starched linen and a pillow menu, you’re probably on the wrong island.
Fitzroy Reef is for adventurous divers not prone to seasickness, as it’s 50km east of 1770 and accessible only by boat. Even though it’s the largest reef in the Bunker Group, you’ll hardly know you’ve arrived until your skipper alerts you to prepare your dive gear. A mere sliver of sand appears above the reef at low tide, and because it’s so far offshore it’s likely the water clarity is far superior to inshore reefs. The reef itself is a closed ring reef encasing a lagoon, creating an offshore anchorage popular with cruising yachts – just the sort of reef system turtles are attracted to, creating a feeding ground for Green, Hawksbill and Loggerhead turtles.
The vast lagoon of Lady Musgrave (www.lmcruises.com.au) distinguishes it from other islands, allowing boats to anchor within its reef-encased protection. The reef itself is around five km long, and it’ll take about 45mins to walk around the 13ha cay. It’s a popular daytrip spot for divers and snorkellers, plus there’s a glass bottom boat and underwater semi-submarine. Turtles nest onshore, as do seabirds, which come ashore between October and March for roosting and feeding. The only facilities on the island are a toilet and radio tower, making it ideal for overnight campers looking for seclusion. Ditto Northwest and Masthead Islands; once the day-trippers depart, you’ll be completely on your own. Just you, the stars, the sea and the wildlife. You’ll need to be completely self-sufficient, although fresh provisions can be delivered on request for prolonged stays.
Getting There: Lady Elliot is accessed by air from Coolangatta, Brisbane, Maroochydore, Hervey Bay and Bundaberg. Fitzroy Reef is accessed by liveaboard vessels, while Lady Musgrave is accessed by liveaboard and day-trip vessels from 1770. Northwest and Masthead Islands are accessed by Curtis Ferry Service in Gladstone on request.