On Day 3 of our road trip to Rockhampton, we woke up in Bargara; a charming coastal town located 15 km East to Bundaberg, at the tip of the Southern Great Barrier Reef.
Looking at the horizon from our hotel balcony, I knew that we were in a very unique place. The sky was blue. It was a perfect day for us to do a little bit of exploration and see what the shore had to offer. We certainly were not disappointed…
Bargara, The Esplanade
Unlike Bundaberg, which has an old industrial-feel due to the dominant presence of the sugar cane refinery and distillery, I found Bargara very vibrant. There are lots of cafes, restaurants and bohemian clothing shops to entertain the tourists and locals. Although we were at the peak of the holiday rental season, it was not too crowded, just quiet enough for us to appreciate our surroundings and relax.
Since we like starting our day with a morning walk, we were naturally drawn to the Esplanade which stretches for over 2.5 km to Nielson Park Beach, home of the Bundaberg Surf Life Saving Club.
The Bundaberg Regional Council did a great job when designing the walking tracks, unveiling recreational parks and exercise stations along the way for the public to use. Make sure that you carry bottles of water and snacks with you if you plan to walk all the way to Mon Repos. The humidity and heat can easily take a toll on your body if you are unprepared.
Mon Repos Beach
Turtle Centre and Turtle Encounters
Mon Repos, means “My Rest” in French. It is the largest loggerhead turtle nesting beach in the South Pacific Region.
Mon Repos is named after the 1880’s homestead of one of the pioneering plantation owners of Bundaberg. At that time, over sixty-thousand South Sea Islanders (pejoratively called the Kanakas) coming from Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, New Caledonia, Fiji or Papua New Guinea; were lured, coerced, tricked or kidnapped to work in Queensland’s booming sugar cane industry in the promise of a better life. Although the term “slavery” is blatantly and conveniently omitted to refer to their working conditions; these men, women and children were not free to go back to their homeland, bound by a lifetime contract of misery and atrocity. It is another dark chapter in Australia’s history which only started to end during the passing of the Immigration Restriction Act in 1901, also known as the ‘White Australia policy’. Not all of them were to be repatriated, those who remained still had to face decades of discrimination.
Each year during the turtle season, which occurs from November to March, Mon Repos Turtle Centre offers visitors the unique opportunity to watch the nesting and hatching of turtles as part of a unique night-time experience.
When we looked into booking our guided Turtle Encounter Group for the night, it was all booked out for the next 12 sessions. That’s how popular this experience is. We may have missed the opportunity to witness a miracle of nature; but we will definitely try to come back for the turtle hatching season which starts from mid-January through to March. It’s now been added onto our Australian bucket list, in the David Attenborough category!
Don’t be fooled by the look of its earthy volcanic sand. Mon Repos Beach is a great spot for swimming which we were privileged to have almost all to ourselves. The shells and corals washed ashore are a testimony that we were definitely in the Great Barrier Reef region.
If you plan to go to Mon Repos Beach, keep in mind that its access is restricted after 6 pm, only allowing the presence of the guided tours until 6 am to allow turtles a safe and quiet place to nest.
The Port of Bundaberg
We watched the sunset from the Port of Bundaberg, near Burnett Heads, where ex-HMAS Tobruk has been temporarily berthed. It will soon be transformed into an artificial reef and diving site in the Great Sandy Marine Park waters.
By then, we had decided that we would stay one more night in Bargara. Luckily, our room was still available.