If you’d like to go north, but not go as far as the Whitsundays – Fraser Island is probably a good stop. To get there, you might consider staying over at one of the towns close by – like Hervey Bay. It’s about a 3-1/2 drive or a 5-hour bus ride out of Brisbane. I took a 6:30am flight out of Sydney on Saturday, landed at 6:55am in Brisbane, caught the 7:45am bus to Cairns at Roma St and was in Hervey Bay by 1:10pm. It’s not a bad trip – you pass a few suburban towns, but it’s mostly green and quiet along the road. We also drove past a few “typhoon-like” weather conditions, which was entertaining in itself.
I’m not sure what I expected of Hervey Bay, but it was reminiscent of every other small beach town I saw along the Great Ocean Road, albeit much less impressive. The water is very calm and more for swimming. The beach along the esplanade took me about an hour and a half to walk, end-to-end. Sadly, there isn’t much to see along the main road that wraps around the bay – I sort of anticipated massive tourist attractions, stores everywhere, and a congestion of too many cafes and crap food. I was surprised to find that there were 3 or 4 spots along the main road that had a store or two, along with a nice coffee shop/restaurant, followed by “for sale” signs and empty lots. The few restaurants I did see, though, seemed very reasonable. On Saturday, I stopped by a Fish & Chip shop called Birney’s Seafood, which was a bargain: battered barramundi with salad and chips for $10.50 – and it was good. The fish was fresh, and my salad had ripe tomatoes, sweet onions, cucumbers, green peppers, and carrots! It was a redeeming factor in my long day of walking around a much too quiet town.
I spoke to some locals and they said that weather around here is often unpredictable, but businesses still determine their opening hours based on this – crazy. There were strong wind warnings, flooding, and thunderstorms all morning yesterday, but by the time I rolled in – the sun came out, it turned hot and humid, but beautiful weather! I can see the appeal.
I walked over to Aquavue Café since they rent out Jet Skis by the hour along Hervey Bay, only to find them closed. I later found out from another business proprietor that this is quite common if the weather in the morning is really bad. I was so sad. I was really looking forward to it – and I walked far to get there. The more I walked towards Urangan’s pier, the less excited I became about what I’d find. I guess I was hoping for something like a Battery Park City or like a harbor-side town in Perth. Hervey Bay just felt empty. I’m probably being unfair – I’ve only spent a day wandering. These are just first impressions.
OH… and the locals here? Are SO nice. The tourists? It’s hit or miss. I’ve met some great backpackers already and a few that aren’t as nice. I’ve also never had so many people stare at me so much since the one time I got lost in East Harlem (and that was years ago). I let it slide that I’m my own walking tourist attraction.
I should say though that when the evening is clear, you can see all the stars in the sky – and it’s absolutely stunning. Will try and update again tomorrow to post pics and give you the low-down on Fraser Island. I need to nap for a few hours before my 1:45am bus ride back down to Brisbane. I get in to the city at about 6:30am. Hopefully, I can just pass out and wake up ready to work once in the city. I should probably also figure out how I’ll be getting to my hotel.
[a few snapshots of Hervey Bay - sorry for the low light... it turned cloudy by the time I remembered I had a camera on me]