A Weekender's Guide to Queensland's Bundaberg Region
Watch baby turtles hatch, swim at the Southern Great Barrier Reef, then sample award-winning local gin and rum.
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If you're under the impression that Bundaberg is only good for sugarcane and rum, you're sorely mistaken. While it's true that the Bundaberg region is responsible for much of Australia's agricultural industry, in recent years the area's endless output of fresh produce has also led to a rise in local farm-to-table restaurants, with some of Australia's top cooking talent setting up shop in the area. Meanwhile, thanks to the region's prime position along Queensland's coastline, the area boasts a host of natural landmarks that comfortably go toe-to-toe with Australia's best-known destinations. It's also only a four-hour drive from Brisbane.
From coastal getaways to outback adventures, Australia is home to a wealth of places to explore. Every trip away offers the chance to not only reconnect and recharge, but also to support the communities that have been affected by bushfires. Your visit plays an important role in Australia's recovery, which is why we've partnered with Tourism Australia to help you plan your next Holiday Here This Year.
Some of the places mentioned below may still be closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. Please check websites before making any plans.
Bundaberg might still be a country town at heart, but it's got more than a few awesome dining experiences that give it a cosmopolitan touch. The Windmill Cafe Bargara is a must-visit stop when you're in the mood for some of the region's best coffee, which is made with fresh filtered rainwater. The menu offers all your favourite breakfast and lunch classics, alongside plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. Plus, it has an in-house gelateria serving 25 sweet flavours that are best enjoyed on a stroll along the coastline.
Back in Bundaberg city is another headline restaurant: Water Street Kitchen. Led by chef Alex Cameron and his partner Jen Cameron, the meals are delicately put together using ingredients produced on a range of local farms. Having initially run a successful catering company, the duo decided it was time to put a face to their creations, opening their cosy restaurant in 2017 and quickly becoming one of the city's most acclaimed fine-dining destinations.
Once you start craving another coffee, Alowishus Delicious is a fine choice, having taken home top honours from both the 2018 and 2019 Countrywide Cafe of the Year awards. And when it's finally time to make dinner plans, head down to the H2O Restaurant & Bar. You'll find high-quality modern Australian dishes, with a striking view of the Burnett River to match.
Bundaberg's reputation for rum certainly precedes it, but the Kalki Moon Distilling & Brewing Company has built its legacy within the world of gin. As the first Queensland distillery to win first prize for its London-style gin at the Australian Distilled Spirits Competition, Kalki Moon has also received a range of commendations from around the globe. Be sure to stop by the distillery's cellar door for a free guided tour (group tours are currently on hold) and samples of its handcrafted tipples, and to pick up some souvenirs to take back home.
Across town at the Ohana Cider House and Tropical Winery you'll discover some delightful drinks that wouldn't be out of place at any big-city bar. Having taken a holiday to Hawaii and fallen in love with the tropical climate, founders Zoe Young and Josh Phillips left behind their desk jobs in Perth to buy a piece of Bundaberg land, where they established their much-loved tropical winery. Since then, they've gone on to release ciders ranging from dry apple to pineapple and strawberry, as well as produce some of the region's top vino. Book a tour for $15.
If you can't wait to get your hands on some more Bundaberg-made wine, your next stop has to be the Hill of Promise Winery, located 40-minutes south of Bundaberg in the township of Childers. Here, winemaker Terry Byrne carries on the traditions of his Sicilian family, who moved to the region in the early 1900s, by making fortified reds to sparkling whites and Italian classics like limoncello.
For an expertly made cocktail, Bert's is the place to be. Honouring the life of local aviator Bert Hinkler — who achieved a flurry of Australian flying records — the 1920s-themed bar ensures his pioneering spirit lives on. There are pizzas and share plates, plus a lengthy list of cocktails and aperitifs, including specialities like french pear martinis.
The Bundaberg region is alive with natural wonders that draw visitors from all over the world. One of the most unique is the Mon Repos Nightly Turtle Encounter, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that'll leave you feeling like David Attenborough in the making. During Bundaberg turtle season, which runs from November to March, you can experience turtle conservation first-hand on the only ranger-guided turtle encounter on the east coast. Between November and January, you can witness mother turtles emerge from the deep blue and make their way up the beach to nest under the moonlight. Later in the season (late-January to late-March), you'll be able to look on as adorable hatchlings emerge from their sandy nests and scurry down to the beach.
Next, dedicate some time to exploring the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Bundaberg is perfectly positioned at the first and most accessible point of the reef, and coral cays Lady Musgrave Island and Lady Elliot Island are the best places to experience the pristine waters and diverse marine life that the region is famous for (and, no doubt, why you're there). To explore Lady Musgrave Island and spend a day snorkelling with turtles, manta rays, tropical fish and other sea life, book a day trip with Lady Musgrave Experience. Your day tour includes transportation on a luxury catamaran from the Bundaberg coast, plus morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea.
Just to the south is the picturesque Lady Elliot Island, which showcases some breathtakingly beautiful lagoons, as well as the last coral cay amid the Southern Great Barrier Reef. You can access the island for a day trip via a scenic flight with Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort or, if you want to stay a little longer, book a night's stay in one of its cosy glamping tents.
Naturally, it wouldn't be a trip to Bundaberg without a stop in at the Bundaberg Rum Distillery. You'll get to roam the sprawling museum and learn the secrets behind what it takes to be a master blender. A visit to The Bundaberg Rum Distillery guides you through a state-of-the-art facility before you take a break at the bar.
The Bundaberg Region has activities for outdoorsy types aplenty, there are endless hikes to embark upon within the Cania Gorge National Park and Mount Walsh National Park. For something with a little less action, the white-sand beaches of Elliot Heads are just 20 kilometres from Bundaberg city, making it the perfect spot to catch Queensland's famous sun.
Situated overlooking the black volcanic beaches of the Queensland coast, C Bargara Resort is a luxe stay for weekenders looking to make the most of their time in Bundaberg. The resort sports a collection of bright apartments and penthouses, plus a sleek swimming pool with a sundeck. The Zen Beach Retreat has stylish villas that are great for groups, as well as a communal lounge and residence that has panoramic ocean views and is decorated with contemporary art.
For something more back-to-basics, Kellys Beach Resort's charming self-contained eco villas are set against a backdrop of tropical gardens, while there are also tennis courts, a spa and a sauna for maximum relaxation. Bundaberg has plenty of great camping spots, too. The Burrum Coast National Park showcases an oceanfront camping area along Kinkuna Beach, while the Cordalba National Park places you among some of the state's best hiking trails deep within the eucalypt woodland.
Whether you're planning to travel for a couple of nights or a couple of weeks, Holiday Here This Year and you'll be supporting Australian businesses while you explore the best of our country's diverse landscapes and attractions.
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Top image: Lady Musgrave Island by Darren Jew/Tourism and Events Queensland.
Published on October 02, 2020 by Hudson Brown