16 Mostly Free Things to do in Hervey Bay & the Fraser Coast
Plan your sweet escape to the Fraser Coast, where everything gets quiet and time seems to slow down. Experience two heritage-listed sites in one trip with Hervey Bay, the world’s first whale heritage area, and K’gari (Fraser Island), the world’s largest sand island.
The Butchulla\Batjala people are the Traditional Owners of the land that is today called the Fraser Coast.
- What does Hervey Bay have to offer?
- Things to do in Hervey Bay
- Day trips from Hervey Bay
- Where to eat in Hervey Bay
- Where to stay in Hervey Bay
- How to get to Hervey Bay
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Hervey Bay, Queensland, is a 3.5 hour drive north of Brisbane and a jumping-off point to historic cities, welcoming wineries, unique islands, and coastal towns. The Fraser Coast region encompasses Hervey Bay, Maryborough, and K’gari (Fraser Island). By staying in Hervey Bay, you’ll also have easy access to the Bundaberg and Gympie regions.
What does Hervey Bay have to offer?
If you’re wondering why you should visit Hervey Bay, here are answers to the most frequently asked questions.
What is Hervey Bay famous for?
Hervey Bay is known as the whale watching capital of Australia because of the longer whale season (July to November) and the high frequency of sightings compared to other destinations. It’s also the jump-off point for a trip to Fraser Island.
However, there is more to do in Hervey Bay than just whale watching. Read on to see why we rave about this relaxing holiday destination.
How many days do you need in Hervey Bay?
We recommend at least five days to unwind in Hervey Bay truly, and longer if you decide to do someday trips.
What can you do for free in Hervey Bay?
Hervey Bay has many no and low-cost activities. We’ve included our best things to do in Hervey Bay for free below.
Things to do in Hervey Bay
Walk and ride a bike along the Esplanade (Free)
The Hervey Bay Esplanade runs the entire length of the bay at over 17 kilometres. I would advise splitting it up into three parts. The first is a walk around Point Vernon in the morning, starting at Brew & View, or the afternoon ending at Gataker’s Bay for sunset.
On the opposite end, there is a lovely walk from Urangan Pier (pictured above) to Whale Bay Marina. Between these two walks, the flat stretch of Esplanade from Pialba to Urangan is perfect for a bicycle ride.
If your accommodation does not provide bikes, head to Hervey Bay Bike and Scooter Hire on Shelly Beach for a rental.
Local tip: Break up your leisurely day’s ride with stops at cafes, restaurants, or bars along the way. We had a morning coffee at Aquavua and then an afternoon beer at Craft Cargo on the way back.
Hervey Bay Botanical Garden (Free)
Swap sea views for shady trees in the Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens on Elizabeth Street, Urangan. The collection combines plants of the Wide Bay and Great Sandy regions and a gorgeous Orchid House (open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 2.30 pm).
Tip: Don’t miss the Orchid House, which has a display of over 5,500 orchids. It’s best visited in spring and late summer when the orchids are flowering.
Follow the paved walking tracks to explore the gardens and admire the lagoon from on top of the over-water bridge.
Matthew Flinders Lookout (Free)
Families gather at the beach below low tide to see the shallow rock pools form and watch the crabs dance across the sand.
Arkarra Lagoons (Free)
See freshwater turtles, ducks, and colourful birdlife within this nature preserve in Dundowran Beach. It’s a short drive, 10 minutes from Piabla or 20 minutes from Urangan, so we recommend making the most of it with coffee and cake at the Arkarra Gardens Café Restaurant.
Short bushwalking trails connect the lagoon with the cafe area. You can sit under Bali-style huts surrounded by singing birds while sipping your drink (make sure to respect the wildlife by not feeding them).
The beaches of Hervey Bay are best savoured slowly, combined with cafe visits or as stops on your bike ride along the Esplanade. Here are a few favourite swimming spots:
- Scarness Beach: Situated in front of Enzo’s on the Beach and with its own 800m jetty.
- Torquay Beach: This is the place for watersports in Hervey Bay with rentals from Aquavue Cafe Restaurant. Or you can just enjoy a swim and view from the Torquay Jetty.
- Shelley Beach: Also located in Torquay, Shelley Beach is the only section patrolled by Surf Life Savers. Look for the flags in front of the Hervey Bay Surf Lifesaving Club.
- Urangan Pier: This is the most popular end of the bay. Although we never swam at Urangan Beach, we walked to the end of the pier almost daily. It’s the longest pier in Australia, at nearly one kilometre. Brilliant at any time of the day but extra special at sunset.
Sunset boat cruises and viewpoints
Besides Urangan Pier, here are more places to see the sunset around Hervey Bay:
- Sunset cruise: Most tour operators offer a boat trip for sunset, including canapes and champagne. During the whale season, you can combine your sunset cruises with a whale watching tour. This 1.5 hour sunset sail comes with a glass of champagne and incredible views
- Hervey Bay Hotel & Resort: Watch the sunset over the beach while sitting in the beer garden at the Hervey Bay Hotel and Resort. It’s one of the highest viewing points in Hervey Bay, and you’ll be greeted by chatty rainbow lorikeets in the trees overhead.
- Gataker’s Bay: If you want to experience sunset while standing on the beach, your best bet is Gatakers Bay in Point Vernon. Based on the direction of the sunset, this area provides the most unobstructed views.
- Apex Park: See the flying fox community come alive at sunset in Apex Park, Pialba. There is a short path that takes you around the trees where the flying foxes will be stirring. At the beginning of the path, closer to Tooan Tooan Creek, find information about the flying fox community. After waking up at sunset, these highly-intelligent creatures will fill the sky above Hervey Bay.
Wetside Water Park (Free)
One of the many family-friendly and free things to do in Hervey Bay is the Wetside Water Park on the Esplanade in Pialba. This is a public water play area with water spouts and a big bucket. There is only a charge to use the two giant water slides ($6.70 for up to 10 slides).
While the kids splash around, parents can watch on with a coffee in hand from the cafes. Nearby you have a seafront oval, skate park, and all-abilities playground to keep the whole family entertained for hours.
Local tip: Check the Wetside Water Park Facebook page for the latest updates on weather and opening times.
Hervey Bay whale watching tours
As the “whale watching capital of Australia”, there are a multitude of tours operating in Hervey Bay during whale season from July to November. There are half-day, and full-day whale watching cruises departing from Whale Bay Marina.
The Hervey Bay Dive Centre and Tasman Venture also offer the opportunity to swim with whales, conditions permitting.
Community markets (Free)
Mingle with the locals, pick up some fresh produce or buy a shiny souvenir at one of the markets in Hervey Bay.
- Urangan Pier Park Community Markets: Each Wednesday and Saturday from 7 am to 1 pm at Pier Park
- Nikenbah Markets: 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday of each month at the Hervey Bay Animal Refuge
- Torquay Beachside Markets: Every Saturday from 7 am to 1 pm on the Esplanade at Torquay (opposite the Torquay Hotel).
Local tip: Check the Facebook page for each market for the latest on opening times.
Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum
If you are in Hervey Bay on the weekend, pop into the Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum. There are over 21 buildings to explore and displays a historical timeline for the area.
Located in Scareness and operated by passionate volunteers, this is a highly rated attraction with a low cost of $10 for adults. It’s open from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm on Saturday, and 10:30 am to 4:30 pm on Sunday.
Local tip: Come on Sunday afternoon from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm to see Blacksmith, Corn Shelling, and Rope Making demonstrations.
Day trips from Hervey Bay
From your base in Hervey Bay you might like to consider some of these day trips.
K’gari (Fraser Island)
A frequently asked question from visitors to Hervey Bay is “can I do a day trip to Fraser Island?”. The answer is yes! Many people think you can only get to K’gari (Fraser Island) from Rainbow Beach, but there are several day tours that run from Hervey Bay.
Tours include a mix of popular attractions such as 75 Mile Beach, Eli Creek, Lake McKenzie, Maheno Shipwreck, and Kingfisher Bay Resort.
Top Tour: Our top day tour to K’gari (Fraser Island) from the mainland is Fraser Explorer Tours. This action packed full day out that begins at 7.30 am! You will visit Wanggoolba Creek boardwalk, Lake McKenzie for a swim, Seventy-Five Mile Beach, Eli Creek, Maheno Shipwreck, and the coloured sands of The Pinnacles before heading home.
K’gari (Fraser Island) is the world’s largest sand island at 123 km long. This means it can only be explored with a 4WD. If you want to self-drive, there is a car ferry to K’gari that leaves River Heads.
The world-heritage listed Fraser Island has formally adopted the traditional Butchulla name, K’gari. A word meaning paradise in Butchulla language.
Maryborough, Fraser Coast
Nearly every day trip south or west from Hervey Bay will take you through the small, historical city of Maryborough. Make sure you stop here to spend at least a few hours. The best way to see the attractions and learn local history is on the Maryborough Mural Trail.
The real pride of the city is the statue of Mary Poppins, an ode to the creator Pamela Lyndon (P.L.) Travers was born here in 1889. You can visit her birthplace, The Story Bank, for an admission fee. The heritage-listed building houses stories from her life and the creation of Mary Poppins.
Local tip: Grab a takeaway coffee from Alowishus Delicious and head to Queen’s Park. There’s a war memorial, majestic fig trees, a steam train, and peaceful river views.
Rainbow Beach, Gympie Region
For a dreamy day at Rainbow Beach, we recommend starting at the Rainbow Beach swimming beach. From here, you can walk down to see the coloured dunes.
Then hit The Deck at Sea Salt for lunch with live music and a view. Take an afternoon swim at Inskip Point, where you’ll find parking for 2WDs. Then finish the day with a jaw-dropping sunset at Carlo Sand Blow.
The drive from Hervey Bay to Rainbow Beach takes approximately 1.5 hours each way.
Childers, Bundaberg Region
Queensland isn’t well-known for its vineyards; however, we loved discovering that the rural town of Childers was home to two wineries.
We had wine tastings at both Vinter’s Secret and The Hill of Promise Winery and Cellar Door. The grounds at Vinter’s Secret feature an eclectic collection of garden furniture, beautiful flowers, farm animals and artwork.
Local tip: As Childers is less than 60 km from Hervey Bay, this could be a half-day or extended to a full-day trip with a visit to the coastal town of Woodgate. We had lunch at Serenity Cove Cafe, an outdoor eatery right in front of the beach.
Bundaberg Central and Mon Repos
Bundaberg Central is 110km north of Hervey Bay and just over an hour’s drive through farmlands. During our stay in Hervey Bay, we visited Bundaberg at least three times and have shared our top spots below.
- Local distilleries and breweries: Bundaberg is most well-known for the Bundaberg Rum Distillery, but there’s more than Bundy in Bundaberg! Choose from Bargara Brewing Company, Ohana Winery (also known as Cheeky Tiki Cider), and the Kalki Moon Distilling and Brewing Company for gin, rum, vodka and liqueurs.
- Bundaberg Botanic Gardens: Find a shady spot to have a picnic lunch and then pick your own dessert in the Rare Fruit Orchard. In total, there are 15 plant collections, including the Chinese Garden. Kids will love the nature-themed playground and Australian Sugarcane Railway Train.
- The Hummock Lookout: A surprising lookout amongst very flat fields and farms. This easy drive up the remnants of a volcano will reward you with panoramic views of Bundaberg and Bargara.
- Mon Repos Conservation Park: The Mon Repos Turtle Centre provides day-time access (9 am to 12 pm) to the Turtle Centre featuring interactive and educational displays about turtles. During the nesting season (November to January) and hatching season (January to March), there are night-time tours, but these must be booked far in advance. While you are there, you can also stroll along the Mon Repos Walking Track.
Local tip: After visiting Mon Repos, head 6 km south to Bargara for a beach walk and a beer.
Lady Elliot Island, Bundaberg Region
A day trip to Lady Elliot Island is a bucket list experience featuring a scenic flight, island tour, and snorkeling around the southernmost coral cay of the Great Barrier Reef. As the area is considered a “green zone” with a ban on fishing and home only to an eco-resort, marine life is abundant.
During your visit, you may encounter manta rays, green sea turtles, or humpback whales (during the whale season from June to October). Flights depart from Hervey Bay/Fraser Coast Airport.
Where to eat in Hervey Bay
- Pie Pastry Paradise: This friendly bakery has two tasty locations in Urangan and Pialba. We recommend Pie Pastry Paradise for convenient, value-for-money breakfasts during your stay in Hervey Bay.
- Enzo’s on the Beach: Situated next to the Scarness Jetty, Enzo’s on the Beach is a favourite for visitors and locals alike. Open every day from 6 am so you can have all-day brunch, burgers or seafood with a sea view. Expect to pay a little more than usual, but it’s a treat worthy of at least one visit.
- Cauldron Brewing: Get to know the locals over a craft beer at Cauldron Brewing. This fairly new establishment has an onsite brewery and restaurant in Pialba. Each time we visited, the staff shared new batches for us to try.
- Paolos Pizza Bar: Simply outstanding Neopolitan-style pizza in a casual setting in front of Torquay Beach. We shared two pizzas and the dolce trio, a tasting selection of three Italian-style desserts, which was unforgettable. Paoloas Pizza Bar also serves antipasto and pasta dishes.
Where to stay in Hervey Bay
- Discovery Parks: Budget accommodation within walking distance to Torquay Beach. Choose from cabins, safari tents, powered or unpowered sites depending on your needs. This Fraser Street location in Torquay features ample facilities, including BBQ, camp kitchen, swimming pool, playground and activity room for children.
- Sunseeker Motel (from $135 per night): The Sunseeker Motel is right on the Esplanade opposite Scarness Beach. Accommodation options cater to groups of all sizes (from one to six people) and include a refrigerator, microwave, kettle and toaster. There is a large pool and BBQ area for guests to enjoy.
- Ramada Encore by Wyndham Whale Cove (from $266 per night): Treat yourself to 4-star luxury at the Ramada Encore in Uragan. Each apartment has a separate living room, dining area, and kitchen. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like cooking – you’ll be close to the Urangan Pier and Whale Bay Marina restaurants. The Ramada Encore has a 25m lagoon pool, heated spa, and manicured gardens.
How to get to Hervey Bay
Flying to Hervey Bay
The airport typically receives flights from Brisbane (1hr), Sydney, and Lady Elliot Island. From Brisbane, it’s a 3 hr 40 min (282.6 km) via M1 and Bruce Hwy/A1 and 2 hours from Bundaberg.
Train to Hervey Bay
There is no train station at Hervey Bay. You can take the Tilt Train from Roma Street Station in Brisbane and alight at Maryborough West, where a bus will meet the train and drop you into Hervey Bay.
Bus Services to Hervey Bay
If you’re backpacking or traveling on a tight budget, three bus companies service the area. Ticket prices range from $39 to110, depending on how early you purchase them.
- Loka – With a Cairns to Sydney Freestyle pass the ticket from Loka includes a bus service between Sydney and Rainbow Beach/Cooroy, fast trains between Cooroy and Cairns, local transfers and return Magnetic Island ferry
- Pioneer Motor Service – operates between Brisbane and Cairns with stops in Hervey Bay and takes just under 7 hours.
- Greyhound – offers a similar service taking 6.5 hours with stops at Rainbow Beach, Maryborough and Harvey Bay.
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About the Author: Chantell Collins is a Pinterest Advertising Consultant, eco enthusiast, and occasional Travel Writer. Her work has been featured in Skyscanner, Yahoo, MSN, and many more. After living abroad for almost ten years, she’s renewing her affection for Australia through slow travel.