THE SOUTHERN GREAT BARRIER REEF offers some parts where visitors can discover places unseen. Large hard coral reefs and vibrant colourful fish and marine life like turtles and manta rays are plentiful. This fantastic hidden eco gem destination begins just a 3.5 hour drive from Brisbane driving north toward Mackay, or fly in to one of the five airports within the region.
There are many interesting areas to discover including the Carlo Sand Blow and beautiful coloured sands of Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island, where you can stay with the Ecotourism certified Kingfisher Bay Resort and explore the largest sand island in the world (World Heritage Listed) – Fraser Island, also known as K’gari, is home to the Butchulla Aboriginal people. Have one adventure after another with Fraser Dingo 4WD Adventures.
Moving north from there is Harvey Bay which is an excellent point for whale sighting. Hervey Bay Dive Centre, Whalesong Cruises, Blue Dolphin Marine Tours, Freedom Whale Watch and Charters, Pacific Whale Foundation Australia, Boat Club Adventure Cruises, Hervey Bay Whale Watch and Tasman Venture offer whale watching cruises, and all are Ecotourism certified.
Photo credit Travel & Wildlife Photography, Pacific Whale Foundation Australia
Bundaberg is next where you can stay at Ecotourism certified Kelly’s Beach Resort and enjoy the unique experience at Mon Repos Beach turtle encounter. From November to January when the turtles emerge on the beach to nest and from January to March form a pathway to the ocean for the baby turtles as they begin their dangerous journey into adolescence with only 1 in 1000 turtles making it to maturity. Hervey Bay Eco Marine Tours have Turtle Discovery Tours.
The beautiful Lady Musgrave Island is where you can snorkel and scuba dive. Lady Musgrave Experience offer various tours including the Lady Musgrave Island Day Tour; Sleep on The Reef; Tobruk Experience and Australian Whale Experience.
Photo credit Great Barrier Reef Foundation / Lady Musgrave Experience
The town of 1770 is next on this drive northward where 1770 LARC! Tours allow you to explore the Aboriginal heritage of this area. There are at least 44 Traditional Owner groupings with interests in sea country across the length of the Great Barrier Reef. Traditional Owners are making a significant and meaningful contribution to Reef protection already with more than 200 Indigenous rangers across the Reef catchments. 1770 LARC! Tours offer the Goolimbil Walkabout Tour, which is an authentic Indigenous hunting, gathering and tasting experience including a theatrical tour where you can learn about the wonderful culture that lived here sustainably for thousands of years.
Photo credit Australian Traveller, 1770 Larc Tours
Gladstone is next where you can visit the stunning Ecotourism certified Heron Island Resort and explore another island. Or, if that’s a bit far out to sea, why not check out Pumpkin Island just off the coast of Yeppoon? You can rent a cabin or bungalow; or the whole 6ha island to yourself, with eco-friendly accommodation for up to 34 guests in 7 self-catering units powered by the sun.
Photo credit HeronIsland.com / Pumpkin Island
Then is Rockhampton with her stunning Sapphire Gemfields. At almost 900 km2, it’s one of the world’s largest sapphire fields, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere where sapphires and rubies are mined. Capricorn Caves have been open since its discovery in 1881. Visitors choose from a range of exciting and immersive experiences including daily wheelchair-accessible guided cave tours, wild caving adventures, abseiling, high ropes courses and team building initiatives. Winners of Tourism Australia Awards 2018 and 2019, you can stay in their lodges or cabins.
Photo credit Booking.com, Capricorn Caves
Next is Mackay with its scenic and rugged park including rainforest, eucalypt forest, beaches, rocky headlands covered in hoop pines, and volcanic rock formations. Dense rainforest meets the ocean and fine sandy beaches fringe the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. Mobs of wallabies meet on the beach to search for food dawn and dusk, making this iconic place much loved. The Yuibera Aboriginal people live in this region. Visit the Diversity boardwalk and Yuibera plant trail to understand the Yuibera people’s connection to this country, and their traditional way of life. Visitors can camp or stay in cabins. Stay at Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park to enjoy all of this!
Cape Hillsborough / Photo credit boyeatsworld.com.au
For more information on our operators and what to do in the area, check out the links below or visit our Green Travel Guide.
Check out these for more amazing (certified) experiences:
- Capricorn Caves
- Kingfisher Bay Resort Group
- Hervey Bay Whale Watch
- Heron Island Resort
- Kellys Beach Resort
- Tasman Venture
- Boat Club Adventure Cruises
- Pacific Whale Foundation Australia
- Freedom Whale Watch and Charters
- Fraser Dingo 4WD Adventures
- The Shores Holiday Apartments
- Blue Dolphin Marine Tours
- Whalesong Cruises
- Lady Musgrave Experience
- Hervey Bay Dive Centre
- Cape Hillsborough Nature Tourist Park
- Hervey Bay Eco Marine Tours
- 1770 Reef
- 1770 LARC! Tours
- Nomads Fraser Island Tours
- Palace Fraser Island Adventures
- Pippies Beachhouse
- Discovery Adventure Group
- Dropbear Adventures
- Rainbow Beach Adventure Company
- Surf & Sand Safaris