There’s great excitement as we board the Jetstar JQ 890 direct flight from Sydney to Hervey Bay.
It’s the inaugural take-off on this route connecting Sydneysiders with Queensland’s spectacular Fraser Coast. Inaugural flights are always fun, a magnet for plane geeks and those who love bragging rights and free merch (everyone on board scores a free pair of orange Jetstar sunnies).
Landing a little under two hours later, I head straight for my hotel to drop off bags. Then I answer the siren call of the sea. There might be better ways to spend a warm afternoon than watching the sunset from the deck of a luxury yacht, cold beer and massive prawn in hand, but I can’t think of any right now.
Chartered and self-chartered yachts are the best way to explore this beautiful marine region, David Attenborough-style. If we were visiting from mid-July to September, there’d be a 99 per cent chance of getting up close and personal with a humpback whale or ten. Our guide assures us the Great Barrier Reef has nothing on the Fraser Coast. Dugong, minke whales, pods of dolphins… they all hang out here. He says most mornings during “the season” he wakes up to find whales doing laps around his boat.
As it’s late May, the whales have yet to make their migratory way through. An enormous turtle pops its head out of the water as we sail past; a flock of birds fly by in perfect formation. The sunset is so beautiful, I feel bad for all the people who don’t get to enjoy it from out here on the water. Ours is the only boat for as far as the eye can see.
The next morning we board another boat, this time the Sea Explorer for a private transfer to Fraser Island. Known as K’gari to the traditional custodians, the Butchulla people, the island is 30 minutes and a world away from the mainland. First-timers to the area should prepare for instant travel regret. The regret, that is, of not visiting sooner.
The largest sand island in the world, it’s a natural marvel of freshwater swimming spots and ancient rainforests ringed by the bluest ocean. Four-wheel-drive adventure holds a wild appeal here. Thunder along the sandy white highway, 75 Mile Beach, to the Maheno shipwreck. This intensely photogenic relic sits rusting away on the sands, in the place where it has sat since 1935 when a cyclone dumped it ashore.
No tour of K’gari would be complete without seeing the island from high above. One of just two places in the world where you can take off and land an aircraft on the beach (the other is in Scotland), K’gari puts the joy in joy flight. Trust that the traffic controller standing on the sand will shoo oncoming cars out of the plane’s descent path, and focus instead on that dazzling coastline view.
After a full and fabulous day of swimming, hiking, flying and bouncing around dirt tracks, the very civilised accommodations of Kingfisher Bay Resort are a welcome embrace. The resort is popular with Aussies hankering for adventure paired with luxury. At the newly launched Sand & Wood restaurant we feast on shared platters of Queensland’s finest seafood and beef.
It’s hard to tear myself away from the resort, especially after I’ve seen the swimming pools and made a mental note that the sundowner bar on the jetty is the kind of place where I’d happily fritter away a few hours. But I am headed to the charming town of Maryborough, a 40-minute drive west of the River Heads ferry barge.
Maryborough is home to The Story Bank, an interactive museum celebrating the life and work of Mary Poppins author PL Travers. She was born in the upstairs bedroom of the building that now houses the museum. The town has gone Mary-mad, with an annual Poppins festival and an instantly recognisable umbrella-holding silhouette replacing the traditional stop/go figure at pedestrian crossing lights.
If military history is more your interest, visit the Gallipoli to Armistice Memorial in Maryborough’s Queens Park. With chilling sound effects, hauntingly realistic sculptures and informative narration along the way, it’s an impressive park memorial that will educate generations to come.
After 48 hours packed with a week’s worth of Fraser Coast experiences, I’m already planning a return visit. The new direct Jetstar flight makes Hervey Bay an easy weekend getaway for Sydneysiders. Treat yourself to a few more days and you’ll be so glad you did.
Take me there
Fly: Jetstar flies direct to Hervey Bay Airport from Sydney. Qantas flies direct from Brisbane.
Ferry: Services connect the mainland with K’gari several times a day. Visit fraserislandferry.com.au for the latest schedule.
Stay: Options range from luxe waterfront digs such as Oaks Hervey Bay Resort and Spa to budget motels and Airbnbs. On Fraser Island, stay at the lovely, family-friendly Kingfisher Bay Resort.
Whales: For peak whale watching, plan to visit the Fraser Coast between mid-July and September.
Explore more: visitfrasercoast.com