While any time is a good time to visit Bundaberg in Queensland’s Wide Bay-Burnett region, here’s a handy list of annual highlights…
The unassuming Queensland city of Bundaberg basks on the banks of the Burnett River, just inland from the magnificent Wide Bay coast and the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef.
The rich red and emerald green agricultural land surrounding Bundaberg contrasts perfectly with the sublime coast and exquisite beauty of the reef. Whatever time of year you choose to visit the region, there will be plenty to keep you busy. We’ve narrowed it down to a list of top things to do in Bundaberg by month. Choose the time of the year to visit that best suits your interests.
January: Meet the nesting marine turtles
From November through to late March there’s only one topic on the tip of everyone’s tongue in Bundaberg — and that’s turtles. The region has one of the highest concentrations of nesting marine turtles on Australia’s eastern seaboard. Visit in January and you’ll be just in time to witness the end of the nesting cycle. Females lay up to 130 eggs at a time and repeat the process several times during the season. Head to the Mon Repos Turtle Centre on Mon Repos Beach to join a guided evening tour onto the beach with the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service. Bookings are essential.
February: Witness a turtle clutch hatching
There are two parts to Bundaberg’s turtle tale — nesting and hatching, and there can be few sights in the world as incredible as a clutch of tiny baby turtles pushing their way up through the sand, before making a mad dash down the beach to the ocean’s edge. Hatchings occur on Mon Repos Beach from January through to late March, so February is a good bet to see it in full swing. Again, you need to book well in advance to join a guided beach tour. Note that only tour participants are allowed onto the beach at night during turtle season.
March: Check out the city’s cool museums and galleries
Take a break from heat and humidity and explore the city’s surprisingly diverse, and pleasantly air conditioned, cultural institutions. The rainbow-coloured Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery on Barolin Street hosts local, national and even international exhibitions. On the other side of the river at the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens, the excellent Hinkler Hall of Aviation pays tribute to one of the forefathers of modern aviation. There’s a huge amount to see and do here, including lots of interactive activities for the kids.
April: Ride the Australian Sugar Cane Railway
Families are well catered for in Bundaberg during the Easter school holidays. One of the must-dos is the Australian Sugar Cane Railway, which trundles around the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens. Run entirely by volunteers, this repurposed sugar cane train will delight kids of all ages and big kids at heart. April also brings the Bundy Easter Roundup. Now in its fourth decade, this weekend festival celebrates Australian country music and includes a non-professional performers talent search. Expect plenty of ten-gallon hats and pithy lyrics.
May: Do a self-guided gourmet food tour
With its rich soil and wealth of sunshine, Bundaberg offers access to exceptional fresh produce, and May is a great month to get out and conduct your own food tour. Head south of the city to Alloway Farm Market (they also have a new retail outlet in the city) for locally grown vegies, gourmet foodstuffs and freshly roasted coffee. Also make a stop at Macadamias Australia. The Ohana Cider House and Tropical Winery offers a range of boutique fruit wines and liqueurs, and if you are prepared to travel a little further afield, the town of Gayndah celebrates all things citrus during its biennial Orange Festival in early May.
June: Hit the beach
With clear skies and low humidity, June is a sublime time to hit the beautiful beaches along the Coral Coast, east of Bundaberg. Take a sandy stroll or poke about in the many coastal rock pools. Top options include Kelly’s Beach, Innes Park Beach and Elliott Heads. Clear crisp sunrises and stunning sunsets are another hallmark of winter.
July: Chow down at Winterfeast
If you missed our fresh-is-best month of May, don’t despair. July brings Bundaberg’s fabulous Winterfeast — a 10-day food festival that showcases the vast array of tastes that make this region so special. From farm-fresh produce to quality meats, succulent seafood, baked goods, craft brews and distilled delights, this gathering of gourmands is not to be missed.
August: See the southern Great Barrier Reef
August is a great month to head out to fabulous Lady Elliot Island or Lady Musgrave Island, and experience the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. Day trippers to Lady Musgrave Island travel by boat from Bundaberg Port Marina, while a visit to Lady Elliott Island involves a short 30-minute flight. On arrival, you’ll have the opportunity to snorkel off the beach and meet the locals — including the manta rays migrating along the east coast at this time of the year. Keep an eye out for migrating humpbacks too. They can often be spotted off the islands.
September: Go bushwalking
Spring brings perfect bushwalking weather, so get your hiking boots on and head out to explore the national parks that surround Bundaberg. If you are a seasoned walker, check out Mount Walsh National Park, an hour’s drive south of the city. Right next door is Coalstoun Lakes National Park, which offers walks out to two volcanic crater lakes. Cania Gorge National Park is a longer trip (about three hours’ drive west of Bundaberg). There are eight graded walks in the region to suit a variety of ability levels.
October: Celebrate with the Bundaberg Rum Distillery
No visit to Bundaberg would be complete without dropping by the iconic Bundaberg Rum Distillery. The distillery is open all year round and offers access to an excellent visitor centre and museum, distillery tours, and the chance to design your own signature rum blend. If you happen to be in town in mid-October, head along to the annual Spirit of Bundaberg Festival — a celebration of the city’s famous beverage, which has been distilled here in Bundaberg since the 1880s. The festival features food, music and a sneak preview of upcoming rum releases.
November: Dine al fresco on fresh seafood
November is a great time to dine al fresco, and while it’s low key, you can’t beat Grunske’s by the River for fresh, locally caught seafood (they have their own fleet of trawlers) served on a sprawling deck. The river views and refreshing breezes are complimentary. If you’re heading there for lunch, start with a 2.5-hour morning cruise on the quirky Bundy Belle. You can actually take your seafood on board. The Grunske’s deck is also a sensational spot at sunset.
December: Relax at Bargara
Wrap up a busy year at beautiful Bargara — Bundaberg’s premier coastal retreat. Bargara is an easy 20-minute drive from the CBD. Here you can do as much or as little as you like. Book a surfing lesson and get upright or rent a bike and cycle the Turtle Trail — from Kelly’s Beach (just south of Bargara) up to Burnett Heads Harbour. If all that sounds a little too energetic for a holiday, you can graze the local cafes, explore the rock pools or just wiggle your toes in the golden sand.
Need a places to stay?
EconoLodge Park Lane is the perfect spot to base yourself to explore everything Bundaberg and the surrounding region have to offer. Located right next to the city centre, the hotel offers a variety of good value, comfortable room types, along with a convenient onsite eatery and a refreshing tropical pool. The CBD’s cafes, restaurants, galleries and attractions are all within easy walking distance.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.
Cover image: Sean Scott. Image courtesy of Tourism & Events Queensland