About Rob Lennon

Rob has been the owner / manager of the Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge for the past 7 years, with experiences of Fraser Island and Lady Elliot Island spanning many years (not quantified lol!) prior to this back to his youth. He possesses unequaled knowledge of the tours and trips available within the region as well as all the important stuff like restaurants and things to see and do!

Lady Elliot Island – The Southern Great Barrier Reef


  • Lady Elliot Island

    A magic Great Barrier Reef experience!

    Most people don’t realise that some of the best tourist accessible reef on the entire east coast of Australia is sitting just off the top of Fraser Island! You don’t need to fly to Cairns or the Whitsundays to see the Great Barrier Reef! You can see more colourful coral, and more diversity of marine life at the beautiful Lady Elliot Island – a true coral atoll surrounded by teeming sea-life and home to thousands upon thousands of sea birds.

    Due to global warming and numerous bleaching episodes over the last decade (caused by higher than normal sea water temperatures), the coral in far north Queensland off Cairns and the Whitsundays has lost a lot of colour and vitality. The Great Barrier Reef is, in fact, in self-preservation mode, and extending itself south as water temperatures rise. Lady Elliot, at the southern tip of the Barrier Reef enjoys optimal conditions all year round, for both the natural habitat AND visitors! During the summer months, when visibility can be poor in the waters off Cairns and north Queensland due to tropical rainfall, and marine stingers limit the ability to swim without stinger suits, Lady Elliot enjoys perfect water clarity and safe (stinger free) swimming conditions.

    Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort is one of only three island resorts located right on the Great Barrier Reef. The Island Resort is very low-key and environmentally friendly, allowing you to encounter turtles, dolphins, a large variety of coral, fish and giant manta rays, and LOTS of sea birds. You can literally step off the coral beach and experience amazing snorkelling and diving just metres from the shore.

    The island is intimate and small (maximum of 140 guests including day trippers). The only access to the island is via air (flights from Hervey Bay or Bundaberg), with the airstrip extending the entire length of the small atoll. You can walk around the island in less than an hour!

    What time of year to visit

    Swim with the turtles all year roundNature’s calendar presents special opportunities all year round on the island. From July to November the humpback whales are swimming past the island and can often swim right past an excited snorkeler! From November to February the green and loggerhead turtles lumber up the beaches at night to lay their eggs (guided night excursions for guests), while from January to March you can experience the baby turtles hatching. All year round there is a resident colony of Manta Rays that drift through the lagoon and are regularly spotted by snorkelers. The winter months see water temperatures higher than outside temps, perfect water clarity and the opportunity to experience all this with greatly reduced visitor numbers.

    How to experience the best of the Barrier Reef

    There are day tours to the island departing daily. From Bundaberg or Hervey Bay the Day Tour costs $319 / adult, $175 / child and includes scenic return flights, buffet lunch, glass bottom boat tour, guided snorkel tour (snorkel equipment included), guided reef walk, fish feeding.

    Overnight and extended stays are possible in a variety of accommodation styles, from an Eco-Hut (permanent safari style tent with share bathroom facilities) to Reef Units (ensuite bathroom) and 2 bedroom Island Suites (air-con). Overnight stays include buffet breakfasts and dinners and all island activities (except scuba).

    We have a couple of awesome packages that allow you to experience both Lady Elliot and Fraser Island. Our Fraser & Reef Package combines 3 nights in our best Superior Room accommodation at the Emeraldene in Hervey Bay with a Day Tour to Lady Elliot, and a full day Hummer Tour of Fraser Island ($725pp). Our 5 Day Eco Adventure Package includes 2 days / 1 night on Lady Elliot, 2 days / 1 night on Fraser Island, and 3 nights (nights 1,3,5) at the Emeraldene in Hervey Bay (from $885pp). Follow the links for details.

    Conclusion

    As a dive master and avid snorkeler, sailor and world explorer, I have dived most of the coral reefs around the world. I can honestly say that Lady Elliot Island would easily make my top 5 reef experiences. I would highly recommend and encourage you to consider the “Southern Great Barrier Reef” as your reef experience in any extended itinerary.

         by Rob Lennon                  Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

How to get to Hervey Bay – Planes, Trains and Automobiles!


We are often asked what is the easiest / cheapest way to get to Hervey Bay – so here is the inside info and best tips … access is easy and cheap (if you plan ahead!) …

Hervey Bay is located approx a 2 hour drive north of Noosa and the Sunshine Coast, and approx 3 ¼ hours drive from Brisbane Airport. Access is available by train (Queensland Rail Tilt Train), air (Qantas and Virgin Australia), or by road.

Air

Qantas flies to Hervey Bay from Brisbane with 4 convenient flights a day during the week and 3 on weekends. If you are coming from other destinations, be sure to search for flights from your originating port to Hervey Bay (Fraser Coast), as the through pricing will be cheaper than booking separate legs.

Sydney to Hervey Bay flights (via Brisbane) start at around $150 and offer the best arrival times (first flight from Sydney departs 6am arriving at 9am).

Brisbane to Hervey Bay flights start at $106. (4 flights a day)

Melbourne to Hervey Bay (via Brisbane) start at $220, with the first flights departing 6am and arriving 9am (good connection for Lady Elliot).

Virgin Australia flies direct from Sydney to Hervey Bay. There is only 1 flight a day which arrives and departs in the middle of the day (11:55 arrival in winter, 10:55 in summer). Flights start at $110.

Melbourne to Hervey Bay starts at $224 (via Sydney).

It is also worth considering flights to the Sunshine Coast, particularly if you are planning on a visit to Noosa as well as Hervey Bay. Virgin has flights from Sydney to Sunshine Coast from $89 and from Melbourne to Sunshine Coast for $125. Then hire a car for the trip to Hervey Bay.

Hire Cars

I usually recommend looking at hiring a car if you are originating in, or coming via, Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast. It is an easy 3 1/4 hr drive from Brisbane or 2 hrs from Sunshine Coast. Australia Zoo is about half way and is a must-see stop if you are driving from Brisbane.

Hervey Bay itself is a big, spread out town, being 18km from one end to the other. There is no real CBD or centre of town, so it is difficult to explore and navigate without a vehicle. Car hire these days is very reasonable. You can hire a car for between $40 and $50 per day with unlimited kilometres. I use www.vroomvroomvroom.com.au to compare prices and book (and escape the one way delivery charge rental companies will try to hit you with if you are not returning to the same place). Make sure to let me know if you are coming by car so I can give you some cool sites to see on the way!

Tilt Train

The Tilt Train is a great option for heading north. If you are arriving by plane to Brisbane you can get the airport link train to Roma Street Station where the Tilt Train departs.

There are 2 trips a day from Roma Street Station in Brisbane (except on Saturdays). The departure at 11:00am arrives in Hervey Bay at 3:30pm, and the 4:55pm arrives at 9:30pm. On Saturdays there is only 1 service which departs at 1:10pm and arrives at 6:45pm. One-way price for an adult is $86.50 (which includes the train-link bus from Maryborough to Hervey Bay). You can often save 20% on this with an advance purchase discount. The tilt train has very comfortable (allocated) seating with a shop where you can buy food, drinks, newspapers etc … very civilized!

The Emeraldene Inn are agents for Queensland Rail so can help you with ticketing travel on the train. Airlines and rental cars you are best to book direct.

by Rob Lennon        Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

That’s Awesome!


Hervey Bay Whale Watching Boat - That's Awesome

August 5th – That’s Awesome Whale Watching

Great whales and weather today on the Bay!

If you are a bit short on time with your stay in Hervey Bay and you still want to catch the whales – That’s Awesome is the answer! That’s Awesome runs 3 times a day – allowing you to squeeze in a whale watch on your day of arrival or day of departure!

7am – 10am or 2:30pm – 5:30pm trips cost $110 / adult, $70 / child or $330 for a family.

by Rob Lennon         Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

August – full month of whales and activities!


Action on board WhaleSong – July 30

This year the Hervey Bay Whale Festival runs the full month of August, with great activities for visitors and families every weekend during the month. Every Friday there will be free family-friendly outdoor movies in Scarness Park, with whale themed films on the agenda for August! (6:15pm every Friday)

This Saturday (4th August) the blessing of the fleet with lots of bands and entertainment will run from 3:30pm – 7:30pm at the marina and is an annual favourite and highlighted with a parade of the Hervey Bay Whale Watching fleet.

Saturday 18th (4pm – 9pm) features the popular illuminated street parade, with lots of colourful floats and music.

Don’t miss the Whale Aid Concert on Saturday 25th, 4pm – 9pm with some awesome bands booked for this year’s event! Sunday 26th is a great family opportunity from 9am – 1pm in the Botanic Gardens for the Teddy Bear’s Picnic – lots of activities for the kids – bring a picnic blanket and your teddy bears :-)

Finally to wrap up the month, throw away your zimmer frame and head on down to the pier between 6:30pm and 9:30pm for some old fashioned swing music and dancing!

So when planning your Hervey Bay Whale Watching adventure, don’t forget there are a lot of other things going on during Whale Festival August!

Whale Festival Programme – 2012

by Rob Lennon       Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

Which Hervey Bay Whale Watching Experience is right for you?


Well whale watch season has kicked off with a bang, with whales spotted close up and breaching right down at Moon Point today (that’s just a few miles from the marina!). We are expecting about 14,000 whales to pass through the Bay this year with their new-born calves – so it is going to be an AWESOME season! You can’t see whales this close, in calm and protected waters, anywhere else in the world other than Tonga (and when are you going to get the opportunity to go there !!! lol)

So let me give you some tips for planning your Hervey Bay Whale Watching experience.

Half Day, ¾ Day, or Full Day Trips ??

Early and late in the season (before the 2nd week of August and after the 2nd week of October) there are fewer whales in the Bay, and it is possible that they may be further up the Bay (possibly up to 40 miles away at the top of Fraser Island), so it may take longer to find the whales. I prefer the ¾ day trips at these times, as it gives you more time with the whales when they are found.

That said, WhaleSong usually runs ¾ day trips until July 28th and after about October 23rd, whilst they run morning and afternoon half day trips in between (when it is like “whale soup” in the Bay there are so many whales !).

Half Day trips run in the morning and afternoon ( ~8am-12pm  &  1pm-5pm ), and during the peak of the season you will get to see LOTS of whales and LOTS of breaching and close-to-boat action in 4 hours. If you want an awesome whale experience and either are not a big fan of being on the water all day, or want to fit some more exploring into your day, then a half day trip may be the perfect answer. Families with young children may find attention spans waning after half a day and 4 hrs might tick the boxes and keep everyone happy J

¾ Day trips on Freedom are perfect for the whale connoisseur! The bonus is you get a sleep-in, a day on the water in the middle of the day, and plenty of whale action (when the light is the best for photographs as well!). The ¾ day trips run for 6 hrs from 9:30am – 3:30pm and are roughly the same price as the half and full day trips. A great day on the water!

Full Day trips are available on Blue Dolphin, a sailing catamaran with low passenger numbers. With only 24 passengers max, Blue Dolphin is a smaller boat where you can get eyeball to eyeball with a whale from its waterline platform. An early start, the full day trip is 8 hrs (7:30am – 3:30pm), and if you love being on the water and close to whales and dolphins this is a truly great day out! Whilst Blue Dolphin is a sailing catamaran, this is a new and modern boat (last year), and can scoot along at close to 12kn if necessary, so it can get out to the whales just as quick as the big boats during the peak of the season.

If you don’t have a lot of time and want to squeeze in an awesome whale experience on the day of arrival in Hervey Bay, or the morning of your departure, it is worth thinking about “That’s Awesome”, which is a fast RIB that heads out for 3 hrs, 3 times a day .. 7am-10am, 10:30am-1:30pm, 2:30pm-5:30pm.

Morning or Afternoon ??

My advice is always morning! Lots of advantages for the morning trips ….

1/ The water is generally calmer in the mornings – depending on the weather, the breeze can often build during the day and it can sometimes get choppy in the afternoons. Given most people are booking well ahead, it is safer to book the morning trips.

2/ The morning trips usually have less people (and less children lol)! Everyone likes a sleep-in on holidays, and who can get the kids ready for a 7am pick-up?!

3/ You get back with plenty of time to explore (or have a nice long lunch) and pack some more great experiences into your day!

Which Boat ??

Half Day – WhaleSong is a brand new boat with low passenger numbers (50), and owners  Jason and Virginia are one of the most experienced operators in the Bay. WhaleSong is the only half day boat where you get a full meal (buffet breakfast or lunch) included in your trip. WhaleSong is also wheelchair accessible, which means that if you are a little uncertain on your feet, there are plenty of handholds etc as well.

Spirit of Hervey Bay is the biggest boat in the fleet, with 5 large viewing decks, a maximum 130 passengers, and a waterline viewing platform. If you are not good on the water or get sea-sick, Spirit might be the perfect choice. Spirit also has the added attraction of underwater viewing windows, which are a big hit with the kids. (Complimentary DVD, morning or afternoon tea).

¾ Day – Freedom 3 (45 passengers) won the Best Whale Watch boat last year, and the trip includes morning tea, buffet lunch and afternoon tea. Keith’s profiteroles are certainly one of my favourite whale season snacks! Great boat and great crew.

Full Day – Blue Dolphin is a sailing cat (24 passengers) where you get a truly intimate experience with the whales. Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea are included, and Pete is a very experienced with a fantastic knowledge of marine mammals (retired dolphin trainer from Sea World). This trip is probably not the best choice for very young children (under 6), but is a great choice if you don’t like children under 6 lol! Don’t forget your sunscreen and hat .. beer and wine available for the true yachties!

When ??

Well the 2nd Week of August through to the end of September is the absolute best – males, females and calves and lots of numbers and action. But don’t be deterred if you can’t make it then, the experience is awesome through to the end of October!

Hope this helps your planning .. we have some great packages with all these boats, so check out our Whale Watching Packages page, and don’t forget to “like” our facebook page so you get all the latest updates about the whales and other stuff that is happening in Hervey Bay during the season.

by Rob Lennon       Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay