The best things to do in and around Bundaberg
You might already know Bundaberg as the place turtles like to call home. But did you know Bundaberg is considered Australia’s food bowl too? Or that offshore you can reach the southernmost tip of the Great Barrier Reef? Well, hit the road – this regional hub is about to become your favourite place, using our guide of things to do in Bundaberg.
Meet heroes in a half shell
Mon Repos Turtle Centre is sea turtle headquarters supporting the largest concentration of nesting sea turtles on the eastern Australia seaboard. And critically, the most important loggerhead turtle nesting population too.
From November to March, Bundaberg turns into turtle town; with nesting taking place from November-January and hatching from January-March. Witness one of nature’s most inspiring stories, and join the Ranger-led program at Mon Repos to learn more about these little guys’ struggle to keep a flipper-hold in the wild.
The bowl called Bundy
But there is more to Bundy than just turtles. Bundaberg is a town brimming with bakers, baristas and brewers fusing country values with cutting edge innovation.
The volcanic red soil sprouts the best of Australia’s food bowl; underpinned by the wisdom of multi-generational farmers with a paddock to plate passion that runs deep. If you indulge around here, you’ll be eating local.
But first – a frosty brew
Sip on a Thirsty Turtle, polish off a Rusty Roo or try the spicy Ginger Ninja Beer at Bargara Brewery. Started by six mates, this craft brewery doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it does know a thing or two about a brew. Order a tasting paddle and pair it with local salted macadamias or piping hot pizza in a cool space where industrial meets innovation.
Bundaberg Rum put Bundaberg on the global map with its awarded rum. You’ll love learning the history of this Australian icon on a distillery tour, and if you want to take home a unique souvenir, join the blend-your-own rum tour.
Another tipple starting to make its mark in the city of rum is Kalki Moon Distilling Company. Take the free tour to discover the gin, vodka and liquors on offer, and soon, an anticipated rum will arrive. For a cool souvenir, pick up some soap made from leftover gin botanicals in the gift shop.
Paddock to plate
Bundaberg’s food philosophy is simple: sow, grow and gather locally. Plenty of markets, cafes and restaurants share the local love.
For a free spirited fix, try Sea Gypsy in Burnett Heads for honest, wholesome meals and healthy juices served by the sea, just 15 minutes drive from the centre of town.
Indulge Cafe is a firm local favourite located in the Bundaberg CBD with a food philosophy that includes all produce being personally delivered to the kitchen by the farmer who grew or caught it. Expect your taste buds to be tantalised and your tummy to be filled with food that demands a return plan well before you even leave.
Seafood is as fresh as it gets in Bundaberg, with the waters and estuaries that feed the Southern Great Barrier Reef abundant with local fish, shellfish and crustaceans. For a straight-from-the-fisherman fix, head to Grunske’s By The River on the shores of the mighty Burnett River. Pick your own fish of the day or trust the chef and try the house favourite smoked mackerel.
For history and art buffs
When it comes to heritage and history, Bundaberg reads like a book with all sorts of interesting stories to unearth. But when it comes to standing out, the pink School of Arts building is by far its boldest draw card. Take a wander down the streets of the CBD on the City Heritage Walk passing 12 significant buildings that reveal more of Bundaberg’s architectural charm.
Close by, you’ll find the Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery, or BRAG, as locals like to call it . With a year-round program of local, touring and national art exhibitions, artists visiting, workshops, kids activities and guided tours there is always something on to see. The Gallery is open seven days.
Visit the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens to discover Fairymead House, once home to the Young family, owners of Fairymead Sugar Mill and Plantation, and now home to the Sugar History Museum. Follow the story of cane to crystal and learn how Bundaberg was originally the sweetest town thanks to the sugar cane fields that surrounded it. The Museum is open from 10.30 am – noon Sunday to Friday (closed Saturdays).
Bask on the beach
Bundaberg is home to 15 beaches, and there’s one to suit every type of beach adventure and taste. Small Bargara and Kelly’s Beach are local family favourites with patrolled swimming areas. At the end of Kelly’s, you’ll find The Basin: a man-made rock pool ideal for a sheltered swim or snorkel.
Elliot Heads and Riverview are the pick in the southern stretch of beaches, with Elliot Heads offering the option of some surf on the open beach and the calmer waters of the Elliot Heads River close by. In the north, Moore Park Beach is the local dog-friendly favourite.
Explore the islands of the Southern Great Barrier Reef
As the gateway to the Southern Great Barrier Reef, Bundaberg is a great spot to base yourself and hop out to the islands. It’s also one of the closest points from which to reach it from the mainland.
For a day cruise, join the popular Lady Musgrave Experience departing from Bundaberg Port Marina and in approximately 2.5 hours, arrive on a coral cay dotted right on the Great Barrier Reef. You’ll snorkel in crystal clear waters hovering over vibrant coral reef and with luck, swim with the local turtles. You can also take the glass bottom boat tour, opt to scuba dive and enjoy both morning tea and lunch on board.
Another option is to take a short flight from Bundaberg to Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort for an all-inclusive day on the Great Barrier Reef. Your breathtaking arrival by air will give you an unrivalled view of the Reef. Choose to swim, snorkel or dive on one of Australia’s most pristine reef sections and spot turtles, manta rays and whales in season, plus get an up close look at the migratory sea birds that call Lady Elliot Island home.
Join marine biologists for island ecology tour or circumnavigate one of the Great Barrier Reef’s true coral cays. Accommodation is available in eco-conscious units, tents and cabins if you do decide to book a few extra days so you can linger a little longer Reef-side.
Stay a while
From zen-inspired beach houses and ocean-fronting apartments to retro holiday parks and motels, Bundaberg welcomes all. If you’re looking for an affordable option with friendly local owners, Coral Villa Motor Inn has self-contained villas with kitchenettes not far from the Bruce Highway and within easy reach of the Bundaberg CBD.
With a central location spread out over five landscaped acres, Bundaberg East Cabin and Tourist Park has caravan and motorhome sites through to comfortable air-conditioned cabins and villas. Pets are welcome also.