I always suggest that the best way to get to Hervey Bay is to drive. (See previous post here.) Hervey Bay is an easy 3 ¼ hour drive (290km) from Brisbane, with a LOT of great stop-offs and things to see and do on the way, making it a very rewarding journey.
From the north, it is 125km / 1 ½ hours from Bundaberg, or 425km / 5 hours from Yeppoon, which is half way to the Whitsundays / Airlie Beach. (Yeppoon is a MUCH better place to stay than Rockhampton if you are doing the drive from Airlie Beach to Hervey Bay – trust me! I will cover the north-bound journey in a future blog post.)
Once in Hervey Bay, having a vehicle is a decided advantage, as town is much bigger than most anticipate – 16km from one end to the other. With no real CBD or centre of town, Hervey Bay is essentially 5 suburbs or villages that have joined together over time, and there are lots of pockets of shops and facilities scattered everywhere. It is nice to have a vehicle to explore town and the surrounding region.
If you can allow yourself a full day (or even 2) for your journey north, there is a lot to see and do on the way. Whilst you would find it a challenge to do all my suggestions in a day, you might be able to cover most of this in 2! (Let me know how you go!!!)
The Glasshouse Mountains Lookout is less than 10km from Australia Zoo (to the south) and offers a magnificent view of the many volcanic plugs that make up the Glasshouse Mountains. If you are really keen, leave Brisbane VERY early and get to the lookout for sunrise – a photographers dream!! There are 8 great walking tracks within the Glasshouse National Park, ranging from 25 minutes to 5 hours.
Australia Zoo is an awesome experience, and in my opinion MUCH better than Taronga Zoo in Sydney. For those that don’t know, this is Steve Irwin’s Zoo (the crocodile hunter – who was tragically killed by a stingray a few years ago). You really need to allow 3 – 4 hrs minimum to get around the zoo, and you MUST see the Wildlife Warriors Show at 12pm in the crocoseum.
Heading north from the zoo you have a choice to go to the mountains or the coast (or just bypass both and continue up the highway!).
Montville and Maleny are 2 quaint little villages perched on the top of the Blackall Ranges. With magnificent views over the Sunshine Coast, these little villages are full of art galleries, art and craft shops, gift shops, quirky cafes and restaurants, and some awesome cheese factories. You can easily spend at least 2 hours here visiting the galleries and sampling some of the locally made cheeses and pate’s.
The coast drive up the Sunshine Coast beaches is fantastic. Underwater World is an awesome aquarium experience, definitely worth a visit in Mooloolaba. Whilst you are there, the Surf Club at Mooloolaba is one of my favourite places to eat on the Sunshine Coast – an awesome location and outlook right on the beach!
Heading north you will come to Coolum Beach, a quiet and non-touristy beach which is my favourite place to swim – uncrowded and clean. The surf club at Coolum is also a great spot for lunch, with a beautiful view of the ocean from the top deck (which is in the shade in the afternoons – so take a jacket!).
Noosa is the most famous of the Sunshine Coast villages, and is pretty “touristy”. In my opinion, the best part of Noosa is the National Park. As you come into Noosa, rather than turning left into Hastings Street, turn right and head out to the National Park (2 minutes). The coast walk is delightful, with some great photographic opportunities. There are also koalas in the wild in the park – ask at the info booth near the car park if anyone has seen a koala on any of the tracks recently.
If you are travelling on a Wednesday or Saturday you MUST stop off and visit the famous Eumundi Art and Craft markets. Eumundi is literally a stones throw off the highway heading north, so is a 2 minute sidetrip (but allow 1hr to visit the markets). Hundreds of art and craft stalls scattered amongst the trees – food, fruit, teas, coffees, pastries, cheeses etc as well!
When you get to Gympie you are exactly 1 ½ hours from Hervey Bay. You can continue up the Bruce Highway, or take a more pleasant and scenic journey through the pine forests on the Tin Can Bay / Rainbow Beach Road.
Rainbow Beach is a 30km (1/2 hour each way) detour in to the coast, and is a beautiful place to visit. Thousands of years ago Rainbow Beach was an extension of Fraser Island, so the topography / geography is similar.
As you come into town keep an eye open for the little street sign on the right and drive up to the Carlo Sand Blow. A sand blow is a massive moving sand dune, and the walk out to the Carlo Sand Blow is an easy 10 minute walk rewarded by fantastic views over the Wide Bay Bar and ocean on one side, and the Glasshouse Mountains on the other (fantastic at sunset).
Drive up to Inskip Point where the barges take vehicles across to Fraser, and before you leave town have lunch at the little surf club. It is about 1 ½ hours from Rainbow Beach to Hervey Bay.
LOTS to see and do on the way, and certainly worth hiring a car and slotting an extra day into the itinerary for the journey from Brisbane to Hervey Bay.