Located approximately 378 kilometres north of Brisbane, at the centre of the fertile Burnett Plains, the Bundaberg district is the southernmost access point to the Great Barrier Reef. The city is a progressive, modern city of 43,000 people, and welcomes visitors to share in the mild winters and warm summers, shopper-friendly stores, enticing restaurants and affordable accommodation.
Bundaberg is a logical jumping-off point for coral watchers. The prime offshore bases for forays to the southern reaches of the reef are Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands. There are daily, 25 minute flights from Bundaberg to Lady Elliott, where dive trips can be arranged at the resort centre.
The voyage to Lady Musgrave is made aboard a 22 metre catamaran, which leaves most days of the week from Burnett Heads. As a national park, Lady Musgrave has no shops or facilities ashore, but camping is allowed on a limited basis.
Daytrippers can also make scenic flights over the reef in a seaplane, which lands on Lady Musgrave Lagoon, where visitors can snorkel or view the coral from a glass-bottomed boat.
Bundaberg has a lot going for it naturally, but its charms and contributions to the national estate extend far beyond the marine magic of coral.
There are 500 plus hectares of civic parkland in the city. Parks such as Alexandra, with its zoo, Victorian band rotunda and Botanical Gardens, where Bert Hinkler spent hours studying ibis in flight before taking to the air to become one of the world’s foremost aviation pioneers, are absolutely charming.
The town of Bundaberg itself has so much to offer that its regional national parks tend to be overlooked.
One hour south is the rugged beauty and diverse flora and fauna of Woodgate National Park, on the north bank of the Burrum River.
Closer to town is Mon Repos Environmental Park, an internationally significant sea turtle rookery just 14 kilometres north-east of the city.
Here, the huge female turtles come ashore from November to February to lay their eggs in the beach foredunes. The hatchlings emerge from the nests from mid-January to March. Conducted tours start from the visitor centre where rangers offer advice on appropriate dress and behavior.
The 17 km long Moore Park Beach, 20 minutes north-east of Bundaberg, is another place to perhaps spot turtles hatching, but keep in mind there are no organised tours/groups at this spot.
By day, Mon Repos is a popular swimming and sailing beach, but visitors should be mindful of the fact that it is a fragile environment. No dogs are allowed on the beach and beach umbrellas should not be used above the high watermark as their spikes are liable to damage the turtle eggs.
Just 20 minutes out of town you'll find mysterious craters punctured in the Earth's crust 25 million years ago, adding which a touch of the supernatural to one of the most diverse regions on the Queensland coast.
While Bundaberg might not be the only place in Australia to attract whale watchers, it does have one unique connection with the leviathans of the sea. The Burnett River city has consummated its love affair with the noble humpback with the whaling wall which boasts a six-storey-high painting of whales at play.
No description of Bundaberg could escape without mentioning the Bundaberg Rum distillery, home of one of Australia's favourite tipples. Visitors can take one of the daily guided tours which will take a tour though the entire distilling process, ending in a museum, store and tasting bar in Spring Hill House, a lovingly restored Queenslander.
The region is also now the hope of a brave new wave of producers - winemakers. More and more traditional winemakers are developing expansive vineyards within the Burnett River catchment, particularly in the south Burnett region.
Things to do
Alexandra Park - zoo, Victorian band rotunda and Botanical Gardens
Bundaberg Rum distillery - daily guided tours
In the area
Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave Islands - coral viewing
Woodgate National Park - coastal vegetation and wildlife
Mon Repos Environmental Park - guided tours of turtle hatchery