Located close to Fraser Island and one of the best whale-watching spots in Australia, there are plenty of things to do in Hervey Bay!
While it may not be one of the largest cities on the East Coast, you can quickly fill a few days here.
From Brisbane, in Queensland, it’s only a 3 and a half-hour drive to Hervey Bay. Or you could opt for a 45-minute flight.
The best way to get there is by car as there are plenty of stopping points along the 290-kilometre drive from Brisbane.
Driving along the Stuart Highway, you’ll pass the Sunshine Coast which has some spectacular scenery and towns.
Noosa and Caloundra are two such places well worth visiting along the way.
You could also consider taking a detour to the Glasshouse Mountains. The panoramic views over the hinterland are stunning!
However you get there, make sure to start planning your trip with these incredible things to do in Hervey Bay!
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The Absolute Best Things To Do In Hervey Bay
With a stunning coastline, magnificent wildlife and plenty of kids’ activities, Hervey Bay has lots to offer.
Start your trip where most people do, and be sure to plan for whale watching!
1) Whale Watching at Hervey Bay
Hervey Bay is nicknamed the ‘whale watching capital of the world.’
Sheltered by Fraser Island, the calm waters in Hervey Bay have become a frequent stop for Humpback whales.
At the peak of the season, they can be seen in large numbers, resting, playing and teaching their newborn the lessons of survival.
If you’re visiting during the whale watching season (late July to early November) a day spent watching these magnificent mammals is a must!
The bay is used as a resting point for female humpback whales and their calves on their migration between the Antartic waters and the warmer ocean of the tropics.
Sightings are almost guaranteed!
And the majority of tours offer a free trip if your day on the waves reveals no whales.
Watching these magnificent animals is a truly spectacular sight!
What to Expect on a Whale Watching Tour
During a whale watching tour, you’ll learn lots about these fascinating mammals from the boat skippers who are always enthusiastic about these annual visitors.
The boats have viewing decks close to the water where often the whales will swim so close you can almost touch them.
The whales love showing off and will entertain you with their tail slapping and belly rolls!
The humpback whale is one of the most agile mammals in the ocean. If you’re lucky, you’ll see them breaching close to the boat.
Watching them launch into the air is awe-inspiring and something you’ll never forget!
The vessels also carry hydrophones. If the whales are singing, they’ll drop them into the sea to magnify the sound.
Even from the boat deck, you’ll hear the beautiful humming of the animals if they’re singing within a close range.
All Hervey Bay whale tours have to follow strict guidelines to protect the whales.
The engines must be turned off within a certain distance of the animal. Of course, it is illegal to feed the whales.
Luckily for tourists, the humpback whale has an inquisitive nature, and they’ll often swim up to the boat to check you out before you even know they’re there!
2) The Esplanade at Hervey Bay
The glorious beachfront stretches for approximately 17 km around the Bay from Gatakers Bay to Urangan Harbour.
It’s the perfect place to take a stroll in the evening as the sunsets. One of the most popular Hervey Bay attractions!
Along the way, you can discover exciting facts about the area’s heritage and the ocean sea life.
Passing through popular suburbs, such as Torquay and Scarness, you’ll find plenty of restaurants with stunning views at which to dine.
During the day the public BBQ’s are great to use for lunch.
And if you fancy taking a dip in the ocean, there are spots which are patrolled by lifeguards.
The sheltered bay makes an ideal place for families to enjoy a day on the beach.
3) Hervey Bay Botanical Gardens
The botanical gardens cover 26 hectares just off Elizabeth Street in Urangan.
They’re open every day from 6:30 AM and entrance is free.
It’s a great place to head for a picnic as there are seating areas and public BBQ’s that you can use.
There are also plenty of walking trails that are well laid out around the gardens.
Expect to see an abundance of native plants and birds!
The Chinese Garden is particularly stunning. And the deck over the central lake is beautiful!
You’ll notice little turtles in the water which are enjoyable to watch.
And there are lots of rainforest trees around the Bush Chapel.
The naturalised wetland area is more rugged and its an excellent place to spot birds and other Aussie animals, such as possums.
There’s also an orchid house which has a small entrance fee, and is an excellent choice for what to do in Hervey Bay
During weekdays you can take a tour of the gardens at an additional cost.
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4) Lady Elliot Island
If you can afford to spend a little extra when you visit Hervey Bay, a day trip to Lady Elliot Island is highly recommended.
The island comes under the UNESCO world heritage area of the Great Barrier Reef and is the southernmost tip of this region.
The clarity of the water around the island is arguably the best of all Great Barrier sights.
Lady Elliot Island is surrounded by a coral reef and can only be reached by a small carrier plane.
Flights depart daily from Hervey Bay airport and the views over the whole bay are stunningly beautiful.
Landing on the little grass airstrip is a unique experience in itself.
You feel like you’ve arrived in paradise!
Lady Elliot Island is quite small and you can walk across it in 45 minutes.
But there’s plenty to do for all members of the family.
You can snorkel straight off the beach.
With dolphins, whales, manta rays and turtles nearby this is truly a magical experience.
The coral here is in good condition. And there are several snorkel trails around the island that you can follow.
You can also hire paddleboards and, at low tide, you can participate in reef walks.
If you’re not confident in the water, there’s also a glass-bottom boat that will take you out to see the reef.
You can also practice snorkelling or learn to scuba dive with the dive school in the swimming pool.
The island has an eco-resort with a range of accommodation from tents to suites if you want to extend your stay.
Before leaving the island, check out the education centre as it has a wealth of information on how you can help conserve the reef for future generations.
5) Wetside Water Education Park
One of the best family-friendly things to do in Hervey Bay is to visit the Wetside Water Education Park.
If you are travelling with young children, this is a free activity that they’ll love!
The outdoor pool is close to the waterfront and beach near the Main Street in Harvey Bay.
The park includes water slides, a water play area and there’s a fountain light show on Saturday nights at 7 pm.
There is a small fee for the water slides. The simulated surf ride also involves a cost.
But the park makes for a fun, cheap day out when the weather is particularly hot!
Younger children can have hours of fun playing in the water jets. As there’s very little water in the pool, it’s a safe environment for kids.
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6) Torquay Beach
If a trip to Lady Elliot Island is beyond your budget, don’t worry as there’s also a reef at Torquay Beach.
Torquay Beach is along the esplanade approximately a 45-minute walk from the Urangan Pier.
It’s the perfect spot to spend a day along this spectacular coast! A great alternative for what to do in Hervey Bay.
The long sandy beach has shops and eateries across from the boardwalk, and there’s plenty of water sports to keep you occupied.
You can hire sailing boats, go canoeing or have fun water skiing.
If you need to hire equipment, Aquavue on the Charlton Esplanade by the beach is the place to visit.
They rent jet skis, paddleboards, bikes and kayaks all by the hour.
Further along, the esplanade is Enzo’s on the beach, which offers kitesurfing lessons and also hires paddleboards and kayaks.
For children, there are plenty of play areas nearby.
One of the more popular areas is Organ Park, which has a play train and playground equipment.
Offshore, there’s a reef that is suitable for snorkelling.
The easiest way to swim out to the reef is from the stretch of beach opposite Nielsen Park.
If you’re lucky, you will see some of the resident dugongs that live here.
And if you like to fish, the jetty is also a popular place for that too.
7) Urangan Pier
The Urangan Pier is one of the longest in Australia and stretches for almost a kilometre into the ocean.
It’s best to visit at sunset as the view is spectacular as the sun goes down.
There’s a good chance that you’ll see pods of dolphins close by and stingrays in the clear water below.
The pier is a popular spot for fishing, and alongside the water, you’ll see people windsurfing or kite surfing.
Around the area, there’s plenty of parks that are excellent for picnics.
The Urangan precinct is just a short walk away and has a range of eateries, with alfresco restaurants and cafes.
There are also several boutique shops and resorts in the area to help you fill your day with different Hervey Bay activities.
On Wednesday and Saturday mornings the pier markets are a fantastic place to shop.
Whether you’re after local produce or artisan crafts, the market stalls are worth a leisurely look around.
8) Fraser Island Day Trip
If you’re looking for exciting things to do in Hervey Bay, a day trip to Fraser Island is well worth it!
Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and another of Australia’s UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Stretching for over 120 km, it has some of the most stunning coastlines in the country. The white sandy beaches are beautiful.
It’s also one of the best places to spot native dingos.
The island lies just to the south of Hervey Bay. If you take a whale watching tour, the boat is bound to sail along its coastline.
There are over 40 inland lakes surrounded by bush and glorious sand.
Most day trips will include a visit to one of them. This one in particular is awesome, and gets really great reviews.
Whether you take a half-day or full-day tour, your adventure is most likely going to start with a drive along 75-mile beach.
The beach serves as a highway, a landing strip for planes and a docking bay for the barge.
One of the most popular sites along the 75 Mile Beach is the Maheno shipwreck.
Maheno was heading for Japan when it got struck by a cyclone, and it washed up on the shores of the island in 1935.
Over the years its shell has been continually eroded by the salt from the sea.
It’s rusty remains, against a backdrop of golden yellow sand and turquoise water, make for the perfect photo opportunity.
At the end of the beach is Indian Head, which is a great place to spot whales, dolphins and turtles.
Another popular spot on the island is Elli Creek.
The freshwater creek is excellent for walking and swimming through.
It’s surrounded by ancient ferns and trees which make it an idyllic place for a swim.
9) Reefworld at Hervey Bay
Unlike other large Aquariums, Reefworld focuses on interaction and education.
The centre is an all-natural aquarium, which uses seawater that’s only filtered by the sand and natural sunlight.
There are no big shows here.
But there is a touch tank, and you can participate in feeding Green sea turtles, sharks and large reef fish.
The staff is friendly, and they’ll answer any questions that you have about marine life as you wander around.
If you’re an adventure seeker, you can swim with sharks in an open pool (for an extra fee, of course).
The activity is well supervised, and it’s an experience that you’ll never forget!
10) Great Sandy Straits Marina
At the end of Urangan harbour is the gorgeous Great Sandy Straits Marina, which is lovely to take a stroll around.
This is where the boats depart from to go whale watching.
You can also book fishing trips from here or take a sunset cruise.
The Cafe Balaena in the centre is a good spot for lunch.
And there’s no shortage of boats to admire from their outside seating area.
The harbour also has a small art gallery and a few shops which are perfect for picking up souvenirs.
11) Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere
You can’t miss the Fraser Coast Discover Sphere as there’s a vast wooden whale, known as Nala, outside to greet you.
The discovery sphere is a museum and gallery.
The exhibits and interactive displays are informative and invite you to learn about the Great Straits natural diversity and local heritage.
There’s a dedicated children’s section, with storytelling, activities and hands-on demonstrations.
The gallery has a full reproduction of a whale skeleton, lots of artwork and information about the traditions of the Butchulla People.
12) Hervey Bay Festivals
If you’re visiting Hervey Bay at the end of July, the Ocean Whale Festival celebrates the arrival of the whales.
The town is buzzing with live music, firework displays, markets and entertainment during the festival.
On the Paddle Out For Whales event, you can join thousands of others who kayak a short distance from the Torquay Jetty.
There is a minute silence to honour the importance of the whales and the conservation of our oceans.
Another highlight of the festival is the blessing of the fleet, which is a long-standing tradition.
A ceremony is held at the Great Sandy Straits Marina, and a blessing is made to ensure a prosperous season and the safe return of all sailing vessels out at sea.
In mid-august, the town hosts a seafood festival at the Fishermen’s Park in Urangan.
There’s plenty of live music to enjoy, and the region’s best seafood will tantalise your taste buds.
There’s also marquees with cooking displays and lots of craft beer and boutique wines to sample.
Where to Stay in Hervey Bay
Hervey Bay has accommodation to suit all budgets.
There’s beachside camping spots, luxury hotel rooms with ocean views and self-catering apartments all close to town.
Luxury: Sanctuary Lakes Fauna Retreat
The location is stunning, and each of the self-catering wooden huts has a veranda that overlooks the lake and nature reserve.
The units all have kitchenette facilities, a private balcony and ensuite bathrooms. Free wifi and parking are also available throughout your stay.
Guests can use the swimming pool and BBQ facilities, and the accommodation is within easy walking distance of the beach and shops.
The lake is full of turtles, and the birdlife is spectacular around the park.
Mid-Range: Mantra Hervey Bay
For stunning views over the marina, the apartments at the Mantra Hervey Bay are highly recommended.
All rooms have balconies, and the hotel also has BBQ facilities, a sauna, a gym and an outdoor heated pool.
Free parking is available onsite, and wifi is available in public spaces.
Camping: Harbour View Caravan Park
Harbour View Caravan Park is an excellent choice for campers.
The sight is next to the Hervey Bay boat club and close to the marina.
Facilities include a shop, a swimming pool, kitchen and BBQ space as well as powered and unpowered spots.
The amenities are immaculately clean, and there’s a laundry available onsite also.