Australia’s 'Nature Coast' boasts highly diverse wildlife and includes two UNESCO World Heritage listed destinations: Fraser Island and Lady Elliot Island at the south end of the Great Barrier Reef
Here you can enjoy some of the world’s finest marine biodiversity at the southernmost point of the famed Barrier Reef, far from Queensland’s crowded mainland resorts. Fraser Island – the world’s largest sand island – offers chances to see humpback whales and some of Australia’s weird and wonderful indigenous creatures, such as the distinctive but elusive dingo. Meanwhile, trails through the dense tropical rainforest of Kondalilla National Park in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast provide opportunities for walking and seeing birds and wildlife such as echidna, possums, wallabies and goannas.
Arrive in the evening and overnight in Brisbane, to allow you to recover from the flight.
Accommodation: Novotel Brisbane Airport or similar, 1-night
Days3-4: Drive to Kondalilla National Park & explore the vicinity
In the morning collect your hire car before heading north-west for just over an hour to the gorgeous property you use as a base for exploring Kondalilla National Park. During the two days you spend in the hinterland of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast you can walk in the national park (self-guided) which has 56 kilometres of trails, natural pools and waterfalls, and offers great birding opportunities. The 107 or so bird species you can see here include king parrot, peregrine falcon, whipbird and cockatoo, but you may also come across echidna (spiny anteaters) and reptiles such as the goanna, a type of monitor lizard.
Take a leisurely drive (roughly 3.5 hours) to River Heads ferry terminal, near Hervey Bay. After dropping your vehicle in the dedicated compound belonging to Kingfisher Bay Resort, take the ferry (around one hour) across to Fraser Island.
Aim to arrive after lunch as you won’t be able to check in before two o’clock in the afternoon. You can then spend a relaxing afternoon getting your bearings. That same evening you can do a guided nocturnal walk in the grounds of the lodge to spot possums, spiders, frogs, and down by the jetty; sting ray, sea turtle, barracuda and many other fish species.
Over the next couple of days you go whale watching to watch humpback whales migrating along the west coast of the island with their calves (August to October only). While out at sea you may also catch sight of dugongs, bottlenose dolphins and sting rays. You also take a guided four-wheeled-drive tour of the island to explore its scenic highlights, such as 75-Mile Beach, Lake McKenzie, Lake Wabby, the headlands, or Eli Creek, where – if lucky – you may spot the elusive dingo, swamp wallaby, and short-eared-mountain possum.
On a one hour guided night walk with a spotlight you may see insectivorous bats socialising and feeding around the resort’s lakes, pick out sugar gliders (a type of marsupial possum) as they move from tree to tree, and learn about the stars in the southern sky. You'll also hear the rare acid frogs of Fraser Island and learn how they have adapted to survive.
Day8: Ferry to the mainland & fly to Lady Elliot Island
Today you take the ferry back to River Heads, collect your car and drive to Hervey Bay. After grabbing some lunch, head to the airport where you drop your hire vehicle and board the 30-minute flight to Lady Elliot Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef.
That evening you join a night tour by glass-bottomed boat (weather permitting, this trip only operates at high tide). Watch the Great Barrier Reef come alive at night, and see the multitude of coral polyps awaken. With ultraviolet lighting you can see an entirely different perspective of this fascinating ecosystem. On this trip you may also see whale sharks, sea turtles and manta rays.
Enjoy a full day exploring the island, with various options. Join one of the reef walks at low tide, and venture into the lagoon from the beach to the edge of the reef. You'll see a multitude of marine life as your experienced guide introduces you to the complexities of the reef ecosystem. These walks run every day, tide permitting. Alternatively take a guided snorkelling safari to look for reef sharks, whale sharks, mantas and turtles by day, or head off on a nature walk around the island (guided and self-guided options).
Day10: Fly back to Hervey Bay, drive to Brisbane airport & depart
Early this morning you head off on a 45-minute guided birding walk to enjoy the huge variety of seabirds, land birds and migratory waders that are found on island. Crested terns lay their eggs out in the open, while bridled terns and silver gulls prefer to nest under shrubs. Black-naped terns are also common on the island, along with brown boobies, lesser frigate birds, and a small colony of red-tailed tropicbirds.
Catch a late morning flight back to Hervey Bay, where you collect your hire vehicle and enjoy lunch in this lovely coastal town before driving south for around four hours direct to Brisbane International Airport. Return your hire car and board a late evening flight back to the UK via Singapore.
Day11: Arrive UK
Our trip ideas are offered to inspire you and can be tailored to suit your requirements.
Duration and price including flights from/to UK: 11 daysfrom £2,845 pp
Duration and price excluding international flights: 9 daysfrom £1,695 pp
Single supplement: From £740
When to go: Aug-Oct: Whales are only seen between August and October
Stretching for more than 123 kilometres, with a maximum width of 22 kilometres, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. A precious part of Australia's natural and cultural heritage, its UNESCO World Heritage listing places it alongside Uluru, Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef.
Where: Southern Queensland
Ideal for viewing: humpback whale, swamp wallaby, short-eared possum, black flying fox, dingo
This park is located near Montville in the scenic Blackall Range some 100 kilometres north of Brisbane, in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast. Named after the spectacular Kondalilla Falls, which plummet 90 metres into a rainforested valley, it is an important refuge for native plants and animals.
Where: Southern Queensland
Ideal for viewing: short-beaked echidna, red-necked wallaby, yellow-bellied glider, king parrot, cockatoo
Excellent for: Walking safaris, Self-drive
This coral cay lies at the southern tip of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Great Barrier Reef, roughly 80 kilometres northeast of Bundaberg and between Fraser Island and Lady Musgrave Island. It is the closest Great Barrier Reef island to Brisbane, Queensland’s capital.
Where: Southern Queensland
Ideal for viewing: whaleshark, manta ray, brown booby, green turtle, red-tailed tropicbird
Suggested accommodation options are shown below.
for further recommendations.
Voted Best Beach Resort in Australia by Discovery's Travel Channel, this eco-friendly resort is the recipient of many other awards. Just a 45-minute flight from Brisbane, the stunning property, complete with mirror lakes and waterholes, blends seamlessly with Fraser Island's sensitive ecosystems.
With its 41-rooms, this simple eco-resort provides genuine experiences via stimulating land and water-based activities. Visitors enjoy the fragile ecosystem with minimal impact and reach an understanding of the importance of conservation and sustainable management to the Great Barrier Reef.
This charming retreat nestles among the treetops outside Montville, the cultural heart of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, near Lake Baroon. The accommodation is designed for couples, and geared towards a romantic getaway surrounded by pure nature, with just trees and earth as your closest neighbours.