Popular Hervey Bay is literally just a hop, skip and jump from Woodgate – it’s always been a popular draw, especially for sun-seeking retirees,  and remains as busy as ever. This time, for us anyway, it represented the perfect jumping off point for a whale-watching trip to magnificent Fraser Island that Lois had planned for my birthday ( thanks Lo ! ).

Enjoying coffee and a shake at Enzo’s, on the beachfront,Hervey Bay.
Downtown Hervey Bay.

The world’s largest pure sand island, Fraser ( or K’gari as it’s now called ) is accessible only to high clearance, high/low range 4×4’s and while our rig technically met all those requirements, we were strongly advised that it was too long and possibly too heavy to properly navigate the soft sand and very narrow, rutted, tracks that cross the island. We’d been extremely lucky on the Gibb and Cape York tracks so decided that an ounce of “prevention” might best thousands of dollars of possible “cure” in the event an on-island extraction ( as they are known ! ) was needed should we get stuck.

Map of the area around Hervey Bay.

Turns out that was probably one of our smartest decisions  – the next day we took a full day “Whale watching/Remote Fraser Island” tour that gave us not just a great taste of the island ( and a more remote, less-travelled section of it, no less ) but an absolutely fantastic whale watching experience.  Having done them before and only ever seen dorsal fins at a distance and tell-tale “blows” from afar, our expectations were, shall we say, “managed”. Fraser Island was the draw, the whale watching would just be a bonus we thought. The island was certainly impressive in its own right ( we can see why people love going ) but the whale watching just blew our expectations away. Best birthday gift ever ! I’ll let the following pictures/videos tell the story. As people who normally avoid tours like the plague we are pretty discerning when we do them, yet we  both felt this experience was absolutely 5 star ( +++ !). Thrilled we did it and, (having seen the sand tracks), were happy to have left our rig behind for the day !

West coast of Fraser Island from the sea.
View of Fraser Island from atop the sand dunes.
The tour gave us plenty of time to climb the dunes, and………
…paddle in the creeks along the coast.
Happened to just be a perfect day weather- wise.
The view inland to Fraser Island.
A couple of 4×4’s using the few hours available ( between tides ) to drives along the thin strip of beach.. mess up the times and you ( quite literally ) run out of road ( beach ) to drive on.
Humpback whale surfacing just metres from our boat !
The whales up close.
Whale, frolicking near the boat.
And more…..
And more. We have never been so close!
We had a brief opportunity to see them from in the water.

Hard to top that we thought, and even if we don’t ( and probably won’t ! ) it was a great interactive experience and something we welcomed after what had (more or less) been a bit of an extended sightseeing-only couple of weeks beforehand. But, that’s travel, the exciting parts usually get mixed in with the more mundane, and it’s the more mundane parts that help make the more exciting parts, well…….exciting !!

Leaving Hervey Bay after a few days, historic nearby Maryborough was a nice change of pace; this famous river port was at one time a major point of entry for immigrants to Australia and much remains ( often beautifully restored ) of its storied past. A great walking route shows off its touristic charms – the most stunningly ornate toilet you’ll ever see, an abundance of cool murals, and the home where P.L. Travers ( author of “Mary Poppins” ) was born, among them. Who’d have known ?

Bumped into Chris and Jo, owners of this massive Isuzu 4×4 ( GVM 9 tonnes ) as we were leaving Hervey Bay. Truly a heavy duty “go anywhere” rig !
Uniquely, the vehicle ( an older diesel ) will also run on used vegetable oil. They collect it from restaurants, filter it through their on-board centrifuge and store it in a separate 200 litre “fuel” tank. At almost 30 litres per 100 km you would want to be picking up the odd free tank !!!!
City Hall, Maryborough – the style reminded us of so many city halls in the US Deep South.
Maryborough is a very pretty town and has a lot of well restored traditional old “Queenslander” homes.
The first room you see in Maryborough’s “Cistern Chapel” ( a parody of Rome’s Sistine Chapel )…….
……then you see this one ! Surely Maryborough is one of few cities in the world where people come to see a toilet !
Maryborough has an excellent military museum and there are many impressive monuments to our fallen soldiers dotted throughout the city’s beautiful parks.
In Maryborough much is made of the fact that P.L. Travers ( author of ‘Mary Poppins’ ) originally hails from Maryborough.
More Mary Poppins……..
……and yet more Mary Poppins !

After a stop in trendy Noosa Heads, we wrapped up the week arriving at another of our favourite stops during any trip to Australia – the home of my brother, Tim ( and his wife, Maree ) in Dicky Beach.  Years back they made the wise decision to relocate to this delightful corner of the Sunshine Coast, just a block from the surf ( and surf club ) – the usual warm welcome mat was rolled out and it was great catching up and simply relaxing with them over the next few days.

Busy downtown Noosa, trendiest spot on the Sunshine Coast !
Parked up at my brother’s place in Dicky Beach.
On Sunday morning walks around Dicky Beach you sometimes see the most beautiful breeds of dog – here a massive Neapolitan Mastiff. He was adorable and got lots of attention.
Lois and Maree enjoying a morning walk on the seaside pathway between Dicky Beach and Currimundi Lake.

Speaking of family, we’ll soon be getting back to the excitement of reconnecting with our own children in Canada and pretty soon a much-anticipated new “family” member as well  ! Brisbane is just an hour away now ( with a direct flight to Vancouver ) so we are pretty much on standby at this stage, just waiting for “the call” !

Till next week…..