Before leaving for our trip to Australia, I spent a lot of time deciding where we would stay and our *must see* destinations .Near the top of the list was Fraser Island, the worlds largest sand Island and a world heritage site. We had planned to spend a few days on the Island, but needed somewhere to stay before taking the trip, as we planned to travel from Noosa. Harvey Bay was the obvious choice as the ferry for Fraser Island leaves from river heads, about 10 KM from the town. In addition Harvey bay offers lots of reasonably priced accommodation and I thought it would give us a few days relaxation before setting off to Fraser Island and the hectic schedule I had planned!
Harvey bay is situated in Queensland and is 290 km from Brisbane. It is an easy drive along the Bruce highway to Maryborough and the turn off to Harvey bay. It is well signposted, so you shouldn't have any problems! However I was surprised at how busy the town was and was glad I had hired a GPS to help find our accommodation!
There are direct flights to Harvey bay from Brisbane operated by Qantas. There are also flights from Sydney operated by virgin.
Greyhound busses operate a regular long distance bus service to Harvey bay coach terminal from Brisbane in the south and Rockhampton in the North.
Queensland rail has trains from Brisbane, Rockhampton and Cairns to Maryborough. A bus service connects all trains with Harvey Bay.
Harvey bay is a busy seaside resort with a population of around 42,000.It is a popular tourist town as it is not only the jumping off point for Fraser Island, but is also known as the whale watching capital of the world. Harvey Bay enjoys a sub tropical climate with winter temperatures ranging from 14-23 degrees and summer temperatures ranging from 22-29 degrees. There is low rainfall. However when we visited at the beginning of July the weather was cold, windy and wet!
Harvey bay sprawls for over 10 Km, so it's not a town you can totally explore on foot! The main attraction of the town is the beach and its related activities. The esplanade runs the length of the beach and there is a good cycleway from Urangan to point Vernon. There are numerous bike hire outlets, although we didn't hire bikes mainly die to the poor weather.
We really enjoyed walking for miles along the beach and spotted lots of birds including a sea eagle. The sand is not particularly pleasant however, feeling slightly muddy! The sea tends to be calm as Harvey bay is sheltered by Fraser Island so doesn't get any surf. We didn't swim as it was far too cold! There are kayaks for hire although they were expensive .The views were really not that good and overall the beach was a disappointed after the beauty of Noosa.
Leaving the beach my children enjoyed using the free fitness equipment on the path running along the beach. There are lots of different fitness activities to try every few metres, making it an interested and fun walk! If you get bored with the equipment you can always cross the road and browse the shops! There is a post office and gift shop that sells lots of interesting things!
From late July until early November, Humpback whales can be seen during their Annual migration. Sightings are guaranteed from August until October and there are numerous companies offering whale watching trips. The cost averages about 120 dollars for an adult with children charged half price. As we were there at the beginning of July we missed out!
There are also companies offering day trips to nearby Fraser Island.
If you enjoy weird attractions then you might like Vic Hislops great white shark exhibition situated on the Esplanade at Urangan found this place disturbing as it concentrates on catching and killing sharks, so definitely isn't about conservation! There are lots of paper cuttings and articles about horrific shark attacks. However the most gruesome exhibit is the dead 18 foot great white in the freezer! Not somewhere I would want to visit again!
On the other hand the botanical gardens are well worth a visit. It is free to enter and has lots of walking trails, lagoons and tropical plants and trees. It is a great place to spot birds. There are numerous picnic benches around the gardens.
If you want to experience the creatures that live on the reef then there is a small aquarium called reef world. We didn't visit as we were going to swim on the reef when we reached the North of Queensland.
We saw a few tennis courts and children's play area near to the beach.
There are numerous accommodation options to suit all budgets. We stayed in the Big 4 campsite in Torquay. We hired a cabin and it was excellent! The site is a really good choice especially if you have children as they are well catered for with lots of activities. The site is just a few minutes walk from the beach and shops.
We were self catering and there are several well stocked supermarkets in the town. However there are lots of cafes and restaurants in the town. I can highly recommend Enzo's on the beach. The café serves delicious food and has good views of the ocean. We enjoyed home made cakes for tea on one day and lovely fresh sandwiches the next. The staff were very friendly and keen to tell us what to see in the town. There are kayaks for hire from the café.
If the weather is good then you could always have a bbq using one of the free BBQ's situated all along the beach.
I didn't really rate Harvey bay and wouldn't visit again. However I acknowledge that the poor weather influenced my view. I would have loved to have seen whales (although we did see them later from cape Tribulation). However it is a convenient place to stay if you are planning to visit Fraser Island.
I did enjoy our accommodation and thought it was by far the best Big 4 site we experienced.
Hervey Bay is a sleepy town which is basically the gateway to Fraser Island.
When you get off the Greyhound there is a Coles food shop and lots of other large industrial shops. If you have booked a hostel they then take you to your hostel, most of which are on a long strip opposite the beach.
I stayed in Nomads which was awful. On the first night it took so long to check in, and then the pool wasnt working and both the washer and dryer took our money which they did give us back.
The night after Fraser which was last night we had to change rooms twice before it was what we asked for, and then it turned out I was in someones bed and had to move again! They wouldnt refund the money so do not stay at Nomads here. Its the worst hostel Ive stayed in.
The strip has some shops with surf wear, and some nice looking restaurants that I havent eaten in as I cant afford it as a backpacker.
Hervey is not a place to spend a long time, but is a good base for Fraser, just pick a better hostel like Next Backpackers where I am using the internet and it is very nice.