Arriving around 8pm on a Friday night, Bundaberg airport was quiet. There were plenty of taxis available and my shuttle was ready and waiting.
Lady Musgrave Island is one place where visitors can snorkel with turtles year round and that was the purpose of my visit. My original tour, booked a week earlier, was cancelled due to rough seas, so booking a flexible flight ticket is recommended.
There are so many opportunities to witness nature's incredible beauty on a fun-filled weekend at Bundaberg. Here's how to make the most out of your weekend:
Bundaberg Spanish Motor Inn
Located in the heart of the city, the Bundaberg Spanish Motor Inn is the perfect place to stay. This family operated inn is situated in a quiet area of Bundaberg and only one street back from Bundaberg's main street.
Restaurants and cafés are within walking distance and the friendly staff are readily available to provide suggestions on where to eat. The Bundaberg Spanish Inn has been given a 3.5 star accommodation rating and all rooms overlook the pool and have air-conditioning, Austar and Broadband.
No trip to Bundaberg would be complete without a visit to the Southern Great Barrier Reef. Beautiful turquoise waters, pristine coral and the opportunity to swim with turtles year round makes this a popular destination.
The Lady Musgrave Experience provides day trips to Lady Musgrave Island, the southern most coral cay of the Bunker Group.
This is a huge day, but well worth it. Departing from the Bundaberg Port Marina, check-in begins at 7am for a 7.30am departure. Travel aboard a luxury 27-metre catamaran. On the 2-hour journey, guests are provided with a reef education session provided by a marine biologist, a snorkelling demonstration and a scrumptious morning tea of baked treats and fresh fruit.
Enjoy 4.5 hours on the reef, snorkelling or scuba diving, cruising on a glass bottom boat and a touring Lady Musgrave Island. There is plenty of snorkelling equipment onboard including floatation vests and noodles.
Entry into the water is easy with the large steps off the back of the catamaran. The snorkelling here is outstanding; swim amongst the 1600 different species of fish, green sea turtles and small reef sharks.
The gourmet buffet lunch is incredible. Fresh prawns, salads, cold meats and fresh sourdough bread, were just some of the delicious items available.
The glass bottom boat transports guests to Lady Musgrave Island. This is a bird lover's paradise – Bridled Terns nest in logs while Black Terns swoop to the ground, collecting leaves for their nesting partners.
If your tour is cancelled, a full refund or alternate departure date will be offered.
Bundaberg Port Marina, 15-17 Marina Drive, Burnett Heads.
From $208 for an adult
Mon Repos Turtle Centre
If you're lucky enough to be visiting between November to March, be sure to join the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Rangers on a guided tour to witness the majestic sea turtles nesting or laying their eggs.
Nesting occurs between November to January and hatching from January to March.
The Lady Musgrave Experience docks back at the Bundaberg Port Marina at 5pm, allowing plenty of time to arrive at Mon Repos Turtle Centre at 6.45pm for the 7pm start.
The encounters are popular, so booking early is recommended.
Ticket Price Child (5–14 years) - $6.65 Adult (15 years or older) - $12.80 Family (2 adults and 2 children) - $30.75
Bundaberg Botanic Gardens
Sprawling across 27 hectares, the sub-tropical surrounds of the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens is not to be missed. The gardens are an easy 45 minute walk from the Bundaberg Spanish Motor Inn or a 5 minute taxi ride.
The gardens are home to themed gardens, magnificent lakes and up to 144 species of bird. The easiest way to explore the extensive grounds is by rail on the coal-fired steam locomotives. The Australian Sugarcane Railway is operated by volunteers from the Bundaberg Steam Tramway Preservation Society and they drive a fleet that comprises a 1914 train built in Germany, a 1911 English Fowler and two Bundaberg foundry trains built in 1950 and 1952.
A day could be spent exploring the grounds and buildings. The Bundaberg Botanic Gardens is home to some great attractions including Hinkler Hall of Aviation, Hinkler House, Bundaberg and District Historical Museum and Fairymead House. A combined attraction ticket is available for these attractions for $24 for an adult and $17 for a senior and these can be purchased from Fairymead House or Hinkler Hall of Aviation.
Hinkler Hall of Aviation
The Hinkler Hall of Aviation is an interactive museum that pays tribute to Bert Hinkler. Bert Hinkler was born in Bundaberg in 1892 and was renowned for his pioneer solo flight from England to Australia.
Whether you fancy dancing the Hinkler Quickstep, boarding a flight simulator, gliding on a glide simulator, sitting in the cockpit of a replica of Avro Baby or watching the Bert Hinkler Story in the Globe Theatre, there is something for everyone.
Child (4-17 years): $10
Children under 3 and under: Free
Senior Card Holder: $5
Family (2 Adults, 2 Children): $15
Family (1 adult, 2 children): $10
Included in the admission price for Hinkler Hall of Aviation, the Hinkler House is well worth a visit. Bert Hinkler built this house, named 'Mon Repos' in Southampton, England in 1925. This is the house in which Bert Hinkler planned most of his great solo flights. After his tragic death, the house was transported brick by brick back to Bundaberg and overlooks the site where Bert Hinkler landed on 27 February 1928 after his record-breaking solo flight from England to Australia.
Step back in time at the Bundaberg and District Historical Museum. Open from 10am until 4pm, Monday to Sunday, the museum is packed with artefacts from Bundaberg's history. The comprehensive collection includes old bikes, hospital beds, nurses' uniforms, school memorabilia, toys, farming equipment, sewing machines, plus more modern memorabilia from the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Allow at least one hour to explore this unique collection.
The grand plantation house is now a Sugar History Museum. Delve into the story of sugar and the pioneer sugar families of the Bundaberg region.
Built in 1890, the grand residence played an integral part in the early days of Bundaberg's sugar industry. The Young family established the plantation and sugar mill. In 1989 the house was relocated to its current location in the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens.
It was built with Indian Bungalow architectural design and is constructed mainly of cedar and hoop pile and boasts 16 foot ceilings. Upstairs, visitors are invited to explore rooms dedicated to various themes. The Bell Room is dedicated to the South Sea Islander workers, the Margaret room is dedicated to the Young Family and the Toft Room is dedicated to the Toft brothers, Bundaberg cane harvesters. Downstairs, guests are invited to learn about the process of producing sugar.
Fairymead House is open 10:30 am - 12 pm, Sunday to Friday.
Child (4-17 years): $3
Children under 3 and under: Free
Senior Card Holder: $12
Family (2 Adults, 2 Children): $40
Family (1 adult, 2 children): $28
Café 1928 is the perfect place for lunch. Located near the Hinkler Hall of Aviation this cosy café sells a range of delicious well-priced meals and treats from mouth-watering milkshakes and pizzas to scones, sandwiches and ice-cream. The café is open 9am to 4pm Monday to Sunday.