Since we moved to Queensland, we’ve been discovering a lot of small coastal towns that we didn’t previously know about. The small and charming seaside town of Bargara is one of them. Bargara is a 13-kilometre drive from Bundaberg, through lush sugarcane fields. It’s about a 4.5 hour drive north of Brisbane, Queensland’s capital city.
Bargara is home to spectacular beaches, and it is a popular nesting spot for loggerhead turtles. They return there every year to continue their circle of life. Blessed with one of the best climates in the world, over the years Bargara has also become a very popular holiday destination.
Being so close to Bundaberg, Bargara is a great base for discovering what the Bundaberg Region has to offer.
What to do in Bargara?
Mon Repos Turtle Centre
If you visit Bargara during the turtle hatching season (from November to March), you won’t want to miss a visit to Mon Repos Turtle Centre. It’s the best thing to do in Bargara at that time of the year.
You’ll have an opportunity to visit the beach at night with a ranger to see turtles nesting (early in the season) or hatchlings (later in the season). You’ll mainly see the endangered Loggerhead Turtles but occasionally the Flatbacks, Leatherback and Green Turtles make an appearance too.
To join the nightly tour, you’ll need to book in advance as tickets are limited and they do sell out fast. The tickets for the season normally go on sale in September. If you sign up for the Bundaberg region newsletter, you will be one of the first to know when they go on sale, letting you book before anyone else.
Sadly, for us, we had secured tickets for the night tour, but when visiting in December 2021, a covid outbreak forced our tour to be cancelled. It was a real disappointment for us but there is always next season!
If you are not visiting Bargara during turtle season, it is still worth visiting Mon Repos Turtle Centre. The centre will teach you many things about turtles and their environment and the small things you can do as a visitor in the region to help the conservation of this endangered species.
Mon Repos also has some walking tracks surrounding the centre which are worth a stroll along.
Breakfast at the Windmill Café
Walk through the town centre of Bargara and you will soon see a giant windmill. The Windmill is a charming garden cafe that serves the best breakfast in Bargara and excellent fruit smoothie bowls. The Windmill is an icon of Bargara and a must visit.
Take a day trip to Lady Musgrave Island
Being so close to the Southern Great Barrier Reef, you can’t miss the opportunity to take the multi-award-winning day cruise: The Lady Musgrave Experience. The 35-metre luxury catamaran takes approximately two hours to reach the Lady Musgrave lagoon where you’ll spend the day snorkelling and discovering the reef through a glass bottom boat.
A guided tour of the island is also included, where you’ll learn about the breeding habits of the migratory birds that travel long distances to visit this heritage listed wonderland.
The tour cost $248 per adults and $168 per child.
Cycle or walk along the Turtle Trail
If you’re up for some exercise and beautiful coastal views, hire a bike or take a walk along the Turtle Trail. This walking and cycling path links Kelly’s Beach in Bargara to Burnett Heads Harbour.
This scenic journey takes you along Bargara’s esplanade,
Nielson Beach, Mon Repos Turtle Rookery, local hidden gem Oaks Beach and finally, Burnett Heads Headland, where the historical South Head Lighthouse stands. The trail is 11 kilometres long and is a lovely way to spend half a day.
Go for a swim at Kelly’s Beach
Bargara has a great selection of safe and family friendly beaches, so you can’t visit and not enjoy some beach time.
Kelly’s Beach is one of the prettiest beaches in the region. It stretches six hundred metres and is Bargara’s main swimming beach. You can enjoy protected swimming in either the ocean or the lagoon. The Lagoon is calmer and is ideal for paddle boarding or for families with small children. The ocean side is best if you like waves and is patrolled at the southern end.
The Basin, located on the northern end of Kelly’s Beach, is a manmade rockpool which is ideal for adults and children wanting a sheltered area to swim in. The Basin is also the best place to snorkel in Bargara as you’ll often find small fish swimming within the pool.
Visit the Bundaberg Rum Distillery
When in Bargara, you’ve got to take a trip to Bundaberg (or Bundy as the locals call it) to visit the birthplace of Australia’s most iconic rum, the Bundaberg Rum Distillery.
You’ll learn the history behind the factory, including the two infernos that engulfed the distillery, as well as the craft of distilling rum and the secrets behind what makes Bundaberg rum such a unique liquor.
The tour includes a tasting, which you can use on top shelf rums, liqueurs such as banoffee pie or salted caramel and white rums including pineapple and coconut or mango and passionfruit.
Entry Fee: Adult $28.50 – Children $14.25 – Book online in advance to secure a spot.
Visit the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens
If you love birds, head to the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens. The Bundaberg Botanic Gardens attracts 114 species of birds. When we visited, it was bird nesting season (which happens from October to March).
We spotted so many ibises, egrets, spoonbills, ducks and more. Wildlife Island in the middle of the gardens was just packed with birds and we also saw so many babies. They were so cute!
Water dragons also like to hang out near the water and there were many turtles in the small lake. It is such a great place to explore. The beautiful Chinese and Japanese gardens are also lovely to wander around. If you have time, there are a few museums nearby to visit (Hinkler Hall of Aviation, Fairymead House Sugar Museum and the District Historical Museum).
Take a cruise along the Burnett River
Relax and enjoy a two-and-a-half-hour cruise along the beautiful Burnett River, onboard the fully restored classic river ferry, the Bundy Belle.
Once onboard, you will learn about the colourful history of the river and its surrounds. You will pass by the famous industries that are a part of Bundaberg’s culture, Bundy Rum Distillery, Bulk Sugar Terminal, and the Port of Bundaberg. Enjoy the tranquillity of the river while enjoying a drink or two. The cruise is BYO alcoholic drinks, but they sell soft drinks onboard.
The cruise starts right in front of the Grunske’s by the River restaurant. I’d recommend having lunch there for some amazing seafood before you start.
Check out Elliott Heads
Elliott Heads is situated at the Elliot River mouth, 15 kilometres south of Bargara. The mouth of the river joins the ocean, and it creates some stunning scenery.
Elliott Heads has great surf on the ocean side and calm water swimming in the river mouth. It is also a popular spot for windsurfing and jet-skiing and gets busy during peak season or on a beautiful day.
Elliott Heads is an interesting place to explore, especially the rocky foreshore. Bring a picnic as you may want to spend a while here.
Fly to Lady Elliot for the day
If you have enough time and can afford it, a trip to Lady Elliot Island should be on the cards. After just a 30-minute plane ride from Bundaberg Airport, you’ll discover the beauty of what we reckon is the best island for diving and snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.
The island is small enough that you can walk around it in 45-minutes, and it is the ideal place to snorkel directly from the shore to the reef. Turtles are everywhere here, and Lady Elliot is also the home of the Manta Ray. There are many mantas that frequent the waters around the island.
We’d recommend staying more than a day on Lady Elliott Island. There is one eco-resort on the island which has been carefully built to complement the natural environment.
Find out more about Lady Elliot Island here.
Take a drive to Woodgate Beach
About an hour’s drive from Bargara, you will find another spectacular small coastal town called Woodgate Beach. Woodgate Beach is another great spot to spend the day, either to enjoy it’s 16 kilometre long beach or its Theodolite Creek.
Find out more about Woodgate Beach here.
Where to stay in Bargara?
C Bargara Resort
Overlooking Bargara Beach, Manta Bargara Apartments offer a spa bath and a private balcony with lovely sea views. The property features a tennis court, an outdoor pool, and a fitness centre. It is an eight-minute walk from the beach. Find out their latest prices here.
BIG4 Breeze Holiday Parks
If none of those are suitable, try using the search box below to look across all the major accommodation websites.