Hervey Bay is definitely one of the top holiday destinations for international travellers as well as locals taking weekend trips from Brisbane. Many backpackers also put Harvey Bay on their list of key spots to visit when touring the East Coast of Australia. If you are in one of these boats and are planning a trip, here is our ultimate list of fun things to do in Harvey Bay with everything from taking a trip to amazing Fraser Island, Rainbow Beach and Whale watching included!
If you have never heard of Harvey Bay before, I’ll forgive you. It is a place that has gone under the radar with international travellers for many years, who all flocked to places like Noosa and Byron Bay, while locals enjoyed stunning, largely deserted beaches and whale watching opportunities. In recent years, this is starting to slowly change and Harvey Bay is gaining popularity as a Australian holiday destination. Our advice? Visit now before it’s over-run 😉
Best Things To Do in Harvey Bay for Couples and Families alike
Harvey Bay is a gateway to the very popular Fraser Island which is insanely popular with locals and international travellers for its beauty. Many international travellers we have spoken to have rated Fraser as there #1 Australian activity so it’s really an unmissable destination if you come to Australia.
What makes this island all the more special and unique is that it is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site as it is the worlds largest sand island. On the island itself are plenty interesting things to do and see including some of Australia’s most iconic wildlife such as the Aussie Dingo. Be-aware, the dingo is not all that friendly and in a famous Australian case once stole a baby out of a tent. Fraser also offers the opportunity to explore nature at its finest including massive sand dunes, crystal clear lakes as well as picturesque beaches.
One thing to bare in mind if you want to visit Fraser Island on your own and drive on the beaches, you will need a 4WD. Otherwise, it is necessary to book a tour. As Fraser Island is so awesome, it is always recommended to stay a few nights if you decide to explore the island from a Harvey Bay base.
One of the main reasons people choose to visit Harvey Bay is for the epic whale watching experience. If you are interested in seeing whales in Australia, this is one of the very best places to do it as whales frequent the waters near Harvey Bay between July – November each year as part of their annual migration patterns.
During this time of year, you can often see whales off the coast but to get a more up close and personal experience with the whales we would highly recommend booking a tour with a professional whale watching provider. If you are an animal lover, you don’t have to worry as the operators have strict legal guidelines to follow in order to protect the whales well-being such as distances they have to keep from the whales and regulations as to when they can restart their engines.
Wondering how much whale watching costs? With a well rated provider, it costs $100 + per adult and around $400 for a family pass (two adults + two children).
Enjoy watersports on the Bay
Enjoying watersports on the Bay is one of locals favourite things to do in Harvey Bay. There are many different waterfronts to enjoy along the Bay including stand up paddle boarding, jet skiing and sailing. Some of the places where you can hire equipment or go on cruises include:
- Freedom Whale Watch.
- Blue Dolphin Marine Tours.
- Hervey Bay Dive Centre.
- Fraser Coast Jetski Tours.
- Whalesong Cruises.
If you want to take a whale watching or dolphin sighting cruise the best place to find these is Boat Harbour Marine at Urangan. See here for whale and dolphin watching providers.
Shop the Great Sandy Straits Marina
You can’t visit Harvey Bay without a trip to the marina where you will find shops and cafes. You can also book whale watching tours from here.
Have a coffee at Cafe Balaena and enjoy the shops including many art galleries showcasing local art including the Harbour Art Gallery.
Make a trip to Lady Elliott Island
One of the most beautiful islands in the area, Lady Elliot Island, featuring the amazing Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort is a must do trip from Harvey Bay. Stay a few nights or just for a day, you seriously won’t regret making a trip here!
There are two ways you can reach the island from Harvey Bay. Firstly, you can take a seaplane from Harvey Bay. This is quite a costly (but very fun way to reach the island). You can take a day tour which costs $465 per adult / $320 per child including lunch. Alternatively, you can take a boat from Bundaberg from the Bundaberg Port Marina.
Visit the Pier Community Markets
If you find yourself in Harvey Bay on a Wednesday or Saturday morning, then we would highly recommend heading to the Pier Community Markets. Open until noon, the markets sell a wide variety of interesting things including fresh produce, cooked foods and confectionary as well as crafts and souvenirs for tourists.
Swim with Sharks at Reefworld Aquarium
If you are a daredevil at heart you might like to swim with sharks at the Reefworld Aquarium. If sharks aren’t so much your thing, you can also feed green sea turtles which is a fun experience to do at the aquarium. It also helps you get more acquainted with Australian marine life as it can often be difficult to spot these animals in the wild.
If you are travelling with kids there is also a safe touch tank where kids and feed and touch animals including turtles.
Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum
If you are interested in history or are travelling with kids, you might like to make a stop to the Hervey Bay Historical Village and Museum.
This museum will provide you with an insight in what Harvey Bay looked like in yesteryear. Inside you will be able to look through historic buildings, preserved from 19th-century Australian communities, check out how communities used to live including a range of activities and exhibits on display.
If you are in the Fraser Coast region on a Sunday, the museum organises a lot of fun activities including workshops and carpentry demonstrations showing how people lived in times gone by.
Things To Do in Harvey Bay for Free
If you love fishing, this is the perfect spot for you. Locals come to Fraser to catch some seriously good fish and this is a good place to go if you are interested in that.
Even if you aren’t the fishing type, it is a great place to go for a walk as the pier offers beautiful views of the ocean. The pier is just under 1km in length and was originally built to load cargo onto ships. If you are looking for a free activity in Harvey Bay this is a good pick! Buy a ice-cream at Sundaes at the Pier and enjoy the view.
If you really want to make a day of it, there are picnic tables and BBQs close to the pier that you can use for a family picnic.
Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens
Another great activity to do for free in Harvey Bay is taking a visit to the absolutely beautiful Harvey bay botanic gardens. If you have kids, they are a great place to take a breather and let your kids run while for a few hours.
Even though you may have come to Harvey Bay for a beach vacation, sometimes, it is nice to do something different for a few hours and the gardens provide the perfect oasis especially if you are interested in seeing some of Australia’s finest flowers and gardens as well as birdlife. One of the most popular attractions in the garden among foreigners is the edible bush tucker gardens.
Don’t miss seeing the orchid house while you are there. It is truly magnificent.
WetSide water park
If you are travelling with a young family to Harvey Bay then you should definitely make a stop at the WetSide water park as the kids will absolutely love it!
It is also absolutely free entry which is always good. There is also a fish and chip shop on site which is great for having lunch or an early dinner. If the kids get bored with the free water park, you can upgrade them to the water slides which cost $6.50 for 10 slides.
If you or your kids want to learn more about the area of Harvey Bay and its wildlife, Discovery Sphere is a great place to go to do so. The centre features an interactive museum and gallery with a lot of interesting information about the whales that migrate to the area each year. If it’s a rainy day in Harvey Bay it’s a nice place to be!
If you want a picturesque free walk in Harvey Bay, you can’t go past the Arkarra Lagoons, an amazing wetland setting with amazing walks, picnic tables and the popular Arkarra Tea Gardens.
If you want to grab a coffee at the Tea Gardens make sure you arrive before 3pm when the cafes closes otherwise, you can come at anytime to wander around the gardens.
Not only are the lagoons nice for a good stroll, they are also home to plenty of Aussie wildlife including ducks, fish and turtles. The meaning of Arkarra is ‘plenty of ducks’ so if the kids like ducks you are in for a treat here.
You can’t go to Harvey Bay without spending some time at Torquay Beach. This beach is popular with families visiting the area. For older families and couples, you can also rent water sports from this beach. Many people choose to go boggy boarding from this beach as the waves are perfect for riding in.
The other reason people love this beach is due to the great facilities on and nearby the beach including restaurants and cafes near the beach and toilet/changing facilities.
Take a trip to Bundaberg
Many people coming to Harvey Bay take a side trip to Bundaberg while they are there as it only just over an hours drive away. If you like good food, it is a great place to take a day trip as Bundaberg is known for having seriously good food. Some of the best things to do in Bundaberg include the following:
- Bundaberg Rum Distillery
- Mon Repos Turtle Encounter
- Kalki Moon Distilling & Brewing Company
- Bundaberg Botanic Gardens
Walk Coopers boardwalk
One of the newer attractions to grace the Harvey Bay region is Coopers boardwalk, built in 2015. A walk loved by locals and tourists alike. The walk is a tribute to Cooper Christensen who lost his battle with brain cancer at only 6 years of age.
One of the best parts of the walk is it is relatively shaded with trees. If you want to go on this walk you can begin your quiet afternoon stroll from Neilson Park in Torquay. At the start of the walk is one of the best fish & chips restaurants in town called Maddigans. If you are peckish before your walk, we would highly recommend dropping in for lunch as the quality of the fish is superb.
Or The Esplanade
The Esplanade, a 14 km route from Urangan through to Gatakers Bay, is one of the most iconic parts of Harvey Bay. Many locals choose to walk their dogs or exercise along the Esplanade as it is an easy flat walk which has a lot of shelter with trees.
You are allowed to also cycle or scoot along the Esplanade which is a fun option if you are travelling the area with kids or just want a little more action!
See Kangaroos at Point Vernon
If you are still yet to tick see kangaroos in the wild off your bucket list, then a trip to Point Vernon in Harvey Bay is the way to go. Here you will find a decent population of kangaroos so you have a pretty good chance to see one here.
While kangaroos are around all day, if you want to increase your odds, go either at dawn or at dusk as they are the post active during these hours of the day.
Note: While kangaroos might look cuddly they can be aggressive so be sure to keep a safe distance while observing.
Things To Do in Harvey Bay at Night
Catch an awesome sunset
There are lots of good places to catch an awesome sunset in Harvey Bay including from the pier, Gatakers Bay and on one of the many awesome beaches in the area.
Dundowran beach is a fan favourite for an awesome sunset in Harvey Bay. The water at this beach is really flat, as it is sheltered by Fraser Island, so the sun makes the perfect shadow over the water.
Go Dining in Harvey Bay
There are lots of nice places to dine in Harvey Bay after dark. Some of the best restaurants in the area include:
- The Vinyard
- Aegean Waters
- The Dock Bar & Restaurant
- Santini Pizza e Cucina
One place that is great to go both during the day and after dark is the Hervey Bay Boat Club. The club is popular during the day due to its nice view of the marina from the deck. You can also dine at night at the HarbourView Dining there till 8.30 weekdays and 9.00pm Fridays and Saturdays and get a lot of favourites such as steaks, pastas and seafood. Every Monday and Tuesday, the restaurant puts on Pizza and Pasta night.
Where to stay in Harvey Bay
There are lots of great places to stay in Harvey Bay, no matter if you are a budget traveller or you are looking for someone to stay that is a little more luxury, we have you covered with the best places to stay!
Hotels in Harvey Bay
One of the most popular places to stay in Harvey Bay is oaks due to its good quality of accommodation and its fabulous location, opposite the Urangan Beach Pier and all that Harvey Bay has to offer.
This resort is good for couples and families alike. Couples appreciate the waterfront position while it is also a great choice for families with 2 lagoon pools and a restaurant on site. That great part of this hotel is despite it being a ‘hotel’ it offers the guests self-contained units so you can also enjoy breakfast or dinner at home too if you choose to do so.
The Ramada is also a great choice for accommodation in Harvey Bay. It is also in a great location being situated alongside the Urangan Harbour and contains a variety of extras at the hotel for guests experience including an outdoor pool with a spa pool, and a restaurant onsite.
If you like self contained accommodation this is also a good choice. Don’t feel like cooking? No worries. The awesome Smokey Joe’s Café Bar & Grill is open daily for breakfast and dinner. There is also often live entertainment at Smokeys.
Camping in Harvey Bay
If you are a backpacker trying to save money or if you just prefer camping, there are also some great campsites in and around Harvey Bat.
Fraser Coast Beachfront Tourist Park is a popular option as it is location on the waterfront. Another option is the Pier Caravan Park. It costs around $50 a night for 2. for a powered site camping at a time of year that isn’t school holidays.
How to get to Harvey Bay?
If you want to visit Harvey Bay your best bet is to start from Brisbane and drive there. It is around a 4 hour drive from Brisbane to Harvey Bay.
It is a worthwhile drive as it passes by some of Australia’s other great beaches that you might like to stop in at including Caloundra. If you take a detour inland you can even make a stop in some of the beautiful country towns in the Sunshine Coast hinterland like Maleny (maybe even go to Australia Zoo) on your way there!
If you can’t be bothered with the driving aspect, there is a small airport in Harvey Bay that has limited incoming flights. As it is not a busy airport, flights into this airport from Brisbane and Sydney are often quite expensive.
Best Time of Year to Visit Harvey Bay?
It is pretty well warm in Harvey Bay year round so when you want to visit depends on what you want to do while you are there. If you would like to go on a whale watching. cruise, it is necessary to travel between July and November.
If you go in summer (Nov – Jan) it can be busy and expensive due to Australians flocking to the coast to enjoy the school holidays with their kids.
In winter (Jun- Aug), temperatures are a bit cooler but you will have the place more to yourself and be able to make the most of off season prices.
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