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An unseasonal wind whips around Mango Lodge, my little holiday cottage near Hervey Bay, but I'm happily ensconced, sheltered and warm. There's something endearing about staying in accommodation that has been created with so much love and attention to detail.
Every aspect from the polished wooden furniture to the handmade patchwork runner, native flowers artfully arranged in a vase to the Australian scents that usher from the diffuser whisper owner, Suzanne Denton's, desire to create a holiday cottage that is not only uniquely Australian but also homely and accessible to all.
Attention to detail. Beautiful patchwork runner on the bed that Suzanne made and monographed towels. Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
There are wooden walls, floors and bushcraft furniture. Even the bannisters have been carefully sanded and polished to display each gnarl, knot and grain. The clever use of corrugated iron in the construction adds to the rustic feel.
Interesting uses of corrugated iron in the construction - Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
As Suzanne says: 'There's no other accommodation like this anywhere on the Fraser Coast.' Décor is timeless and features antiques. There's a working vintage radio, a raised chenille Genoa lounge, an old blanket chest and a dresser.
Vintage canisters give the kitchen a country air and I notice that some of the plates on the wooden wall-mounted drying rack feature Australian flora. But what really draws the eye is a 150-year-old Waratah cast iron stove.
But perhaps the most unique attraction is the open-air, deep claw-foot, bath on another back porch overlooking the century-old mango tree from which the Lodge takes its names. A chance to soak away your troubles and convene with nature.
The lodge is wheelchair accessible with a double roll-in shower, ramp access, reachable switches, wide doors and a $6000 dollar bed. "A great bed is important,' says Suzanne. 'It's a Tempur Swedish model created from a pressure-absorbing material and can be used as a King or divided into two single beds.'
Quite a few tourists fly in and out of Hervey Bay and Mango Lodge is convenient the airport plus local hire companies usually allow you to leave your car there.
Mango Lodge is only ten` minutes from Urangan's marina where tourist flock for the mid-July to early November whale watching cruises. Hervey Bay is considered the best place in Australia to see humpback whales as they frolic in the calm waters between Hervey Bay and Fraser Island as a break from their long swim to Antarctica.
One of Hervey Bay's main drawcards is the World Heritage-listed
Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Mango Lodge is just three minutes from River Heads where the ferry transports tourists and their 4WD vehicles to the island for day trips or longer stays.
Tip. One tour you can ask Suzanne about is the day trip to Kingfisher Resort on Fraser Island. It costs $69 but the usual cost for the ferry is $60 dollars. It is good value as it allows you to use the resort facilities including swimming pools, the resort morning walks and you can even hike to Lake McKenzie. The resort is stunning. Click here for more information on tours.https://mangolodge.com.au/tours/
The lodge has a fully equipped kitchen for self-catering and there's a Woolworths on your way out from Hervey Bay. Or, Suzanne can organise a breakfast hamper with items such as ham and cheese croissants, fruit toast and yoghurt. Just let her know in advance.
Hidden out the back this sanctuary offers commanding views over the fork of the Susan & Mary Rivers. Looking down from the balcony you can see abundant birdlife flying beneath you, although a few like to pop up to see what you are eating.
The meeting of the rivers - Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
VK's Café serves reliable coffee, cooked breakfasts and at lunchtime, you can indulge in seafood baskets with local fish, scallops, prawns and triple tenderised calamari as well as rib fillets and the best of both worlds, reef and beef.
Owner, Karen Cuddihy, has started pizza deliveries in the area on Thurs/Fri nights. There is a $5 delivery fee if the order is under $30. The gourmet pizzas range from $9 to $18.
Restaurants such as Hog's Breath and Namastay India also deliver but have further to come.
Every beach holiday deserves a memorable meal overlooking the water so on Suzanne's suggested I tried Café Balaena. This smart but casual restaurant is sited on the Great Sandy Straits Marina in Urangan Harbour overlooking distant Fraser Island with the bobbing boats of the marina in the foreground.
The restaurant is a vision at night because of its evocative Roman statuary and the twinkling lights and flares that are mirrored in the water.
Balaena is Latin for whales, so aptly named given that the whale watching cruises depart from next door. Owner, Dean Major was welcoming and chatty. I was ordering the local whiting but he recommended I experience Hervey Bay scallops, so had the chef put a serve on the side.
Local whiting and scallops. Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
A great suggestion as they were plump with a sweet juicy flavour and a fresh local experience.
Café Balaena also serves steaks, pasta and pizza, but specialises in fresh seafood such as red cayenne hot chilli prawns, seafood chowder and the ultimate Queenslander – barramundi, with saltwater scallops and sautéed ocean prawns in a wine cream garlic sauce with macadamia nuts, mash and vegetables. Click here for the menu.
House wines are reasonably priced at $6.50 and cocktails looked amazing. For details click here.
What amazing rigs some of them had. And instead of wall-to-wall campers, everyone has their own secluded and wooded space and an outside pit campfire, as well as communal one near the well-equipped bush kitchen.
The park guests also have an authentic slab construction. Wallaby Wash House contains a washing machine and dryer. Toilets are new and pristine and again there is a ramp so they are accessible. There's one for the Sheilas and one for the Blokes. Overseas visitors are going to love the ocker references while locals see the fun in it all.
Accessible Wallaby Wash House -Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
The next day the whale watching tour I'd planned to go on was cancelled due to high winds. An unusual occurrence but it is better to be safe. Instead, I joined Suzanne on her early morning walk. I'd already seen the cattle sharing their pastures with a mob of kangaroos as I'd driven in.
But this walk was a chance to explore some of the 40 acres of nature reserve that has granted this RV park "Land for Wildlife" status, the first such property in 11 years on the Fraser Coast.
We met Chopper along the way. Standing at over 6' tall he has six wives as well as two joeys. There is 4km of walking trails and as it is fully fenced you cannot get lost. 'Some parents' bring bikes for their kids to ride around on,' says, Suzanne.
There is wildlife everywhere. Just stand quietly. Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
Suzanne showed me the remnant signs of an original homestead. Now, long gone.
The natural reserve features mangroves and billabongs and you can spot birds including cockatoos, welcome swallows, fairy-wrens, sacred kingfishers and mangrove gerygone. 'Recently the Hervey Bay Bird Watchers came out for morning tea and identified 59 species of birds', Suzanne said. For some beautiful photos of the birds spotted on the property and a full list click here.
We wander past native trees including paperbarks, ghost gums and ironbarks. Suzanne is proud to say that:'Not one tree was damaged during the entire construction process.'
Suzanne Denton is proud that no trees were harmed in the creation of Mango Lodge and the Fraser Coast RV Park
I wandered through some of the 26 hectares of local tropical native plants relaxing lawns, waterways and bridges where you can watch the turtles. There is a stunning formal Chinese garden. On the first Wednesday of the month, there are guided walks. For details click here.
I went off to the Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere. You can't miss it as there is a giant, silver whale outside. This is a good starting point for learning more about the majestic humpback whale and the legends and traditions of the Butchulla People the indigenous owners of the land. With free entry and great photo opportunities, this would be a great stopping off point for families.
Apparently, everyone knows Urangan Pier but being from out of state it was new to me. The historic pier is almost 1km long making it one of the longest in Australia. The walk offers spectacular views of the shoreline and nearby Fraser Island. Some sunset walkers have even seen whales and their antics just off the side of the pier. It's also popular with anglers.
A unique stopping off point is Enzos restaurant as it is right on the beach. Known as Hervey Bay's premier eating establishment it is still quite relaxed for as well as having tables and chairs there is a roped off sand area where you can lounge around on cloud sac seating and enjoy a beach picnic atmosphere.
All the fun of a beach in a beachside restaurantPhoto @nadinecresswellmyatt
I then dropped in at Ellen Fould's shops and studio. I'd seen some of this multi-award-winning photographer's stunning photos on the walls at Mango Lodge.
She thinks nothing of getting up pre-dawn so she can capture the perfect shot at sunrise. Cheekily, I asked whether I could take a photo of her for this piece. Imagine photographing a legendary photographer!
Ellen runs DSL photography workshops, which would be a great thing to do if you were on holiday. For more information click here.
The Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum is only open on Friday & Saturday (1 - 4.30 pm), Sundays (10.30am - 4.30 pm) but also on Queensland school and public holidays. This is a highly rated yesteryear experience with authentic demonstrations such as ropemaking, corn shelling, woodturning and blacksmithing and 21 authentic buildings to explore. Viewing the historic slab cottage would be particularly relevant after a stay at Mango Cottage.
1890s slab construction cottage at Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum - Image Facebook
On the way back to Mango Lodge, I also checked out the Boat Club at Urangan (not far from Mango Lodge), a flash modern building, with places to eat and drink and even a cinema. It would be worth buying a membership even if you are only in Hervey Bay for a few days. A yearly membership costs $15 but grants you $20 off an adult whale watching tour. A child goes free with each paying adult. Membership also includes food and drink discounts as well as $7 tickets to their state of the art cinema. The Boat Club Café lets you bring your meal in the cinema!