You won't be alone if you haven't yet heard of the resort town of Bargara on the Coral Coast near Bundaberg. There's not much there yet but that's the point! And if you go during turtle season, you'll see that the turtles have known about it for ages.
Fly to Bundaberg, with Qantas
, unless you fancy a five-hour drive up the Bruce and Isis highways. The coastal village of Bargara
is about 15 minutes east of Bundaberg
, on the Bundaberg Bargara Road. A hire car is pretty much essential the only other option is a taxi.
When you get there
You'll almost certainly be able to walk from your accommodation to the small restaurant and shopping strip; Bargara's not a big place. Head to Kacy's
, on the esplanade, for a drink and a casual yet really good meal. It's a good idea to book before you leave home, or you may not be able to get a table.
I recommend the Moreton Bay bugs, but Kacy's is also well known for its steaks. And it's a really good place to just sit and look at the ocean or watch people wander past. Best of all, you don't have to drive home!
If you have kids, they will have spotted the turtle-shaped playground on the beach by now. (So guess where you're heading?) If you're travelling sans small people, the choice is to have a lazy day by the beach or head into Bundaberg
for a look-around.
I don't recommend the tour of the Bundaberg Rum distillery as famous as it is. Apparently it used to be good but health and safety regs have made it as boring as bat(you-know-what). There's little to see or do on the tour. The best bit for me was laughing at the Bundy Bear ads all over again.
I'm probably biased because I can't stand the stuff; but if you're a real Bundy fan you will probably go regardless. You do get a couple of drinks at the end, and there is a shop where you can buy Bundy almost anything.
The other thing Bundaberg is famous for is Bundaberg Ginger Beer, and the Bundaberg Barrel has a self-guided, push-button sort of "tour", which once again I can't get excited about. But you can do tastings, and if you're a ginger-beer nut, there's a shop where you can stock up.
If you have an interest in aviation, you may prefer to spend some time at the Hinkler Hall of Aviation, which includes a flight simulator, various aircraft and multimedia displays.
Bundaberg is a fairly grand regional city, full of heritage buildings and riverfront parks. It also has some great cafes (along with some pretty ordinary ones).
Try the very hip Teaspoon espresso bar (phone (07) 4154 4456) on Targo Street or get good homemade food at the Melting Moments Kafe (phone (07) 4151 0033), at the entrance to the Rounds Arcade on Bourbong Street.
If you're visiting the area during the turtle-nesting and hatching season from November to February and I really recommend you time your trip around this you'll need to grab an early dinner and head out early evening.
The primary spot for seeing the turtle nesting and hatching is Mon Repos, a conservation park a few minutes down the road from Bargara. Book as far ahead as you can, as your booking date determines which group you're in and what time you get onto the beach. And take warm clothes you won't believe how cold it can get.
The rangers at Mon Repos take small groups to the beach in the dark with torches and you have an excellent chance of seeing turtles either nesting or hatching, depending on what month it is.
If you're there for the hatching and you have kids with you, volunteer them to help guide the hatchlings out to sea they stand there with a torch and the tiny hatchlings go through their legs and out to sea, which is really special to see. If there aren't many kids in your group, say, "Pick me! Pick me!"
It can be a late night seeing the turtles, and besides which it's Sunday morning, so have a slow start and a lazy brekkie. Much of the accommodation in Bargara is self-contained, so you may want to stay in and enjoy the beach view if you have one.
If you want to go out, I recommend going back to Kacy's, where they have a huge breakfast menu and you can sit out on the terrace and soak up some sunshine along with your caffeine.
Spend the day exploring the coastline or a section of the Burrum Coast National Park.
If you're a scuba diver, there are some good sites to explore: Barolin Rocks for shore diving, and the offshore Cochrane artificial reef, which includes several aircraft and a sand dredge that have all retired to the bottom of the ocean.
Where to stay
The Grand Mercure Apartments Bargara
is on the esplanade and has large, stylish self-contained apartments overlooking the beach. It's great for both families and couples, and is priced from about $200 per apartment per night.
For a cheaper option, try the Bargara Beach Motel, also on the esplanade, which has rooms from about $120 a night.
What to bring home
The memory of holding a freshly hatched turtle in your hand, then watching it make its way out to sea.
What to leave behind
Your preconceptions about Bundaberg there's a lot more to the area than rum.
Got any other suggestions? Share your insight below.