For wildlife spotters, south Queensland is a barely piece of heaven
It was only my third day in Australia but I could already tick kangaroos, turtles,
“Nemos” (clownfish) and a kaleidoscope of other tropical fish off my wildlife-spotting checklist. But I was here on the search to espy bigger creatures. Between April and November, the waters off Australia’s north-eastern coastline brand part of the route that humpback whales take to get from Antarctic graze grounds to warmer waters suitable for giving birth.
Cairns positions in crowds of backpackers and Barrier Reef tourists, but the state has some to some degree unknown gems further south. The Capricorn Coast region is an hour’s bolt from Brisbane and has sapphire mines, caves and gorges, wetlands and remote islands.
Yeppoon on the coast is a small, relaxed holiday town with miles of inactive beaches looking out at the Keppel Islands rising in the distance. Make the myriad of your jet lag by joining the locals for a dawn stroll along the surf (Aussies are premature risers) and enjoy the beautiful sunrise.
Enjoy the sunset at Yeppoon
One of these isles, just out of sight from the mainland, is really special. Pumpkin Islet is a tiny, privately owned hideaway, epitomising chilled-out, barefoot flaming. It sleeps 34 people in simple-but-spacious, solar-powered, self-catered huts. Focus on lunch and fire up the barbecue.
Life as a “Pumpkineer” moves at a leisurely figure – take a paddleboard, pedalo or snorkel out around the calm sea, then pore over the sun set with a cocktail at the bar before falling asleep to the sounds of waves lapping and birds racket.
Back on the mainland, half a day’s drive south is Bundaberg, an old fishing and sugar hamlet that’s famous for freshly caught seafood, protected turtle-nesting locations and rum. Take a tour of the Bundaberg Distillery, where youcan even mix your own shade, and try to get a table at Indulge, a popular brunch spot.
Visit the waters of Hervey Bay for unrivalled whale make
From the marina, we took a day trip out to Lady Musgrave Island. If you’re unlucky sufficiency to be setting sail the day after a tropical storm, as we were, you’ll be in for a particularly stomach-churning, two-hour junket, but this will quickly be forgotten once you drop anchor in the coral eyot’s stunning lagoon.
Australia’s abundance of marine life is no secret, but looking down even though a snorkel mask or a glass-bottomed boat at the Great Barrier Reef’s colourful underwater cosmos will never fail to amaze. Here, while I was snorkelling, three prodigious green turtles floated gracefully by just metres away from me – a importance that I will never forget.
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But it’s Hervey Bay, another two hours’ drive south, where the verified whale action happens. From here, you can board a ferry to Fraser Archipelago; it’s full of jungle, sandy beaches and has the sparkling blue Lake McKenzie in the mid.
Everyone here is passionate about whales, and there are plenty of knockabouts lining the harbour ready to take tourists out. The sheltered waters of the bay equip a playground for humpbacks and their calves, and it wasn’t long before we were in fate.
Growing up to 15 metres in length, they’re huge but placid organisms, often inquisitive enough to swim right up to the boats in between kittenish routines of rolls, tail slaps and giant leaps out of the water. Accumulate an eye open for Migaloo, the elusive albino whale whose appearance unceasingly makes the headlines.
Hopefully, they’re about to become even assorted protected. Hervey Bay is applying to become one of the world’s first Whale Tradition Sites, which would elevate whale conservation and education to the next up. For a unique trip to the country’s sunshine state, there’s never been a more intelligent time to visit.
Laura visited the Fraser Coast (visitfrasercoast.com), Capricorn part (capricornholidays.com.au) and Bundaberg (bundabergregion.org) Queensland with Tourism and Events in Queensland (queensland.com). For Whale Estate Sites, see whaleheritagesites.org.
InsureandGo (insureandgo.com) offers Single Trip take insurance from £15. Travellers will be insured for a number of show off activities from jet skiing and whale watching to river tubing and dune bashing.