Scallops, fretwork, eye pods and beauty spots
Be mesmerised by nature’s rich tapestry, majestic Humpbacks in a marine playground, streetscapes with grand federation-style buildings and sensational seafood on the Fraser Coast, writes Helen Flanagan.
From a beguiling hinterland to white sandy beaches, the Fraser Coast, part of the UNESCO recognised Great Sandy Biosphere, unites the natural wonders of world heritage-listed Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef, with an unbeatable array of adventure, historical and lifestyle pursuits.
Maryborough’s port on the Mary River, became one of the busiest and largest in Australia after the town was settled in 1847. Once home to merchant banks and opium dens, today’s fastidiously preserved streets are easily recognised by grand Federation-style public buildings and classic Queenslanders set high on stumps and complete with fretwork, polished timber floors, French doors, high moulded ceilings, elaborate glass casement windows and a claw-foot bath.
Tradesmen have maintained preservation skills by retaining original machinery to replicate features such as pressed metal, curve spouting and window shades from over 100 years ago.
Think supercalifragilistic and jump right into the magical world of Mary Poppins, the famous fictional creation of Pamela Lyndon Travers. Visit the heritage-listed former bank building on the corner of Kent and Richmond streets where she was born, be photographed beside the life-sized bronze statue of the world’s most famous nanny your picture taken with a life-sized bronze statue of the world’s most famous nanny and see striking public art which explores the themes of her novels.
Also not-to-be-missed are impressive stone churches, the magnificent City Hall and its Court House, Ann and Lennox streets, the latter known previously as Silver Tail Alley plus the original stately colonial buildings wharf area, now an exceptional heritage precinct called Portside.
Bordered by 14kms of pristine beaches, Hervey Bay offers the world's closest encounters with humpback whales as well as easy access to Fraser Island and Lady Elliot Island. Its safe sheltered waters make it an aquatic paradise perfect for year round swimming, diving, sailing, water sports and fishing. Dotted along the Esplanade are cosmopolitan and alfresco cafes, shops, parklands, picnic areas, playgrounds, piers and a vibrant marina.
Seafood and enjoy Coast at Torquay, where clever chef Nick Street-Brown’s commitment to local produce is evident in pristine Hervey Bay scallops cloaked by preserved lemon rind, pine nut and parsley butter, Balinese-inspired king prawns and an avant-garde twist on banana split.
Also on the The Esplanade dive into chilli mud cabs, a specialty of Smokey Joe’s Café and at Badger & Brown's Burgerie, a double beef, bacon, and cheese is aptly named Chuck Norris.
For a touch of yesteryear, Mary Delicious in Maryborough, an old fashioned lolly shop serves traditional afternoon tea in fine china cups.
On Fraser Island, the Eurong Beach Bakery has the best bread for 75 miles (the length of the beach) and at Kingfisher Bay Resort’s Seabelle, named after a ship tragically wrecked off the coast in the 19th century, chef Leigh Sanders draws inspiration from fresh ingredients and bush flavours with his creations of black angus beef and smoked kangaroo carpaccio with sour quandong jam; native ginger and paperbark barramundi; and lemon myrtle panna cotta.
Seabelle’s success goes back the early 90s, thanks to general manager Ivor Davies’ association with Australia’s bush tucker experts chef Jean-Paul Bruneteau of Riberries’ fame and ace supplier Vic Cherikoff.
Kids and family options are numerous around Hervey Bay. From kayaking, yachting, diving, water and jet skiing, wind surfing and snorkelling in the stinger-free waters; estuary, beach, jetty, reef and game fishing; taking a Hummer off-road tour; and cycling along the picturesque foreshore to being in awe of the 20,000 species in the Orchid House within the 26h Botanical Gardens,
The Discovery Sphere is an inexpensive way to discover the natural wonders of the region. Interpretive panels and interactive displays explore everything from Fraser Island, the fragile and fascinating Mary River Ecosystem, humpback whales, macadamia nut origins and the legends of the indigenous land owners, the Butchulla people.
With two kids aged 3 and 6, Kingfisher Bay Resort’s manager Wayne Harris, says he’s acutely aware of what ticks the boxes. “The Champagne Pools and Lake McKenzie are tops and on the Junior Eco Ranger program kids go pond hopping for frogs, star gazing, bird watching, tracking the intertidal zone in search of critters.
“Families like the ranger-guided canoe paddle to Dundonga Creek to see the mangrove colony, but it's really about the wildlife spotting along the way: turtles, whales, dingoes, raptors - you never quite know what you're going to spot.
“And don't underestimate the power of casting a fishing line off the jetty. The looks on little faces when they reel in lines with a fish on them, is priceless.
Whales enmasse in Hervey Bay Marine Park, the social networking hub of the universe for humpbacks is an annual spectacular. About 7,000 humpbacks including Migaloo, a 14-metre hypo-pigmented whale, made the 6000 kilometre journey north along the east coast from the rich feeding grounds of Antarctica to the warm waters and breeding grounds of the Whitsundays. Some give birth, others mate. From August on their return they’ll stop to nurture new-born calves and socialise in the safe predator-free waters on the protected lee of Fraser Island.
Quick Cat II skipper Brian Perry has been spotting pods from several kilometres away since 1986. His excitement never wanes. “There’s a blow…and another”, he yells excitedly, referring to the adult baleen (toothless) humpback whales with two lungs the size of a small car. “Once near the surface, they exhale forcefully through two blowholes on top of their heads at 40kph with the distinctive cloud formed from vapour condensation.
“Watching the giants come alongside the boat, slap their pecs and tails in perfect harmony over and over again, spy hop, breach and clear two-thirds of their gargantuan bodies out of the water to show off gleaming white underbellies before crashing with a thunderous splash, leaving behind a calm circle of water or footprint on the surface, is truly breathtaking.”
Beauty is everywhere. Shrouded by nature the Fraser Coast is a holiday playground rivalling the best in the world.
Apart from humpbacks, the waters are home to dwarf minke, false killer, southern right and many other whale species as well as rare dolphins, dugongs and six of the world’s seven species of marine turtles.
Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island is steeped in traditions of the Aboriginal Dreamtime. Pristine freshwater streams slip silently beneath the cool canopies of ancient ferns, talc-white sand contrasts with crystal-clear azure lakes and coloured sand-cliffs border wide beaches which seemingly stretch forever. Towering rainforests pierce the sky, spring from the sand as they’ve done for more than 800,000 years and provide sanctuary for some 350 species of birds, wallabies, possums, echidnas and Australia’s purest dingoes.
On an all-day Beauty Spots tour, visit A-list sights such as Lake McKenzie, Central Station, Wanggoolba Creek, Maheno shipwreck, coloured sands of The Pinnacles and the temperate, fresh waters of Eli Creek. Alternatively while the big boys are roughing it in 4x4s on the sand tracks, let loose on a Segway PT adventure along the intertidal zone and across the beach terrain on the western side of the island.
Photographers such as Peter Meyer, who with his trusty Nikon SLR joined the Kingfisher Bay interpretative ranger team in 1995, calls Fraser Island Nirvana. “I love images which show in a very small way the remarkable nature of the subject, such as small mangroves surviving in extreme environments,” says Peter whose stunning images have graced the pages of international magazines such as National Geographic. “I like to observe the changing rhythms of striking beaches, lakes, rainforests, ancient sand dunes, flora, fauna and more.
“You can totally immerse yourself in the natural environment. Slow down and observe rhythms and cycles or recognise beauty is required especially in photography. And Fraser Island has it all.”
IF YOU GO:
Hervey Bay Queensland is a 3.5 hour drive from Brisbane.
Virgin Australia and QantasLink provide direct flights to Hervey Bay
Kingfisher Bay Resort passenger and vehicle ferry services depart daily from River Heads. Secure parking is available.
For more information: www.visitfrasercoast.com www.kingfisherbay.com
Towering rainforests pierce the sky, spring from the sand as they’ve done for more than 800,000 years
First four Peter Meyer