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5 best free things to do in Hervey Bay (and 3 paid)

Free things to do in Hervey Bay C

Hervey Bay is the gateway to Fraser Island on the Queensland coast. Here are the 5 best free things to do in Hervey Bay – and 3 paid.

Like a gaping mouth, Hervey Bay yawns towards the north, surrounded by marine and terrestrial nature reserves. Notably, this includes the biggest sand archipelago in the world, Fraser Island. As such, many visitors stop at Hervey Bay as a transition point ahead of 4WD trips to the nearby island even though Hervey Bay is a wonder all on its own.

It was for this reason my family and I ended up in Hervey Bay over the 2022 Easter break. The 4-hour drive up from Brisbane to Hervey Bay wasn't all about Fraser Island for us, however. We took a few extra days to explore Hervey Bay. Our aim was to not only have fun but to also keep 3 kids aged 10, 8 and 6 engaged as they made life-defining memories.

Here's what I discovered were the best free things to do in Hervey Bay – as well as a few paid ones.

Free family activities in Hervey Bay

WetSide Water Park

As mentioned, Hervey Bay is a fair way up the Queensland coast from Brisbane, and warm to hot temperatures can be expected during most of the year. As a coastal town, there's a focus on water-based activities, and the local council should be commended for its efforts with WetSide.

WetSide is a free waterpark right up against the bay. Our children had a ball here. There's typical water equipment for the kids, including large tipping buckets, slides and jets. There's a shallow pool (shin deep) for babies to splash in. You'll also find a wide-open space with fountains to cartwheel and jump through, too.

On weekends and during school holidays, for a relatively small spend of $6, you can get 10 rides on larger 9-metre-tall waterslides. They're not Wet 'n' Wild in terms of thrills, but they're still good fun and while 10 doesn't seem like much, it gave our kids their fill.

There's a café right next door for food and coffee as well as seating for parents watching on. It's a great spot.

Urangan Pier

As one of the longest wharfs in Australia, The Pier at Urangan is a fun and free experience. At 868 metres in length, by the time you get to the end you're actually in a different climate. During our experience, the temperate coastline had become a windy rain squall by the time we got to its end.

For those heading on to Fraser Island, this will likely be your first good glimpse of your final destination, too. It gets the kids excited.

There's some interesting information about the wharf's history to read, and all along its length, you will see people fishing. I lament not having my rod on me at the time. It's accessible and wide, too, for those with restricted movement.

In the area just near the wharf's landfall, you'll find a smattering of shops where you can get ice-creams and things to eat and drink as well.

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Botanic Gardens

Not too far from the Urangan Pier, you will come across the Botanic Gardens. In particularly hot weather, this is a good place to retreat to for a picnic in the shade. There's a café here, but plenty of space on the grass to set yourself up with your food and drink as well.

In addition to the variety of flora, there are interconnected waterways overflowing with turtles and carp to feed. There's an obstacle course, with ropes, logs and other nature-inspired equipment to navigate. A stone maze is another highlight as well as a Chinese garden, an orchid house and some general walks.

It doesn't feel as big as its 26 hectares would indicate. You won't have to spend a long time here. But it all comes in at my favourite family holiday price – free.

Free things to do in Hervey Bay Torquay Beach

Sunset on the beach

There's no shortage of brilliant sunsets to be found around Australia, but the ones that kiss the waters of Hervey Bay are particularly spectacular. As the bay faces north, you get the full east to west vista as our star does its thing. Combine that with the warm weather and the crystal-clear water – complete with gentle, lapping waves – and you have something very special indeed.

Heading down to the water's edge, next to the small wharf in the main suburb of Torquay, an hour or so before sunset and riding it through is one of the best things to do in Hervey Bay. The kids will play in the sand and water. You'll enjoy a glass of wine or beer. And nature will go about blowing your mind.

You can fish off the wharf and I reckon you could jump off it at high tide, too. There's a large kid's playground right there on the shoreline. And nearby, along the esplanade, there are plenty of places for dinner afterwards.

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Adventure Park (aka Big Slide Park)

Speaking of playgrounds, there's an even better one you can explore further north. Indeed, not too far from WetSide is Adventure Park. This is a playground of the modern variety with tall rope climbs, huge stainless-steel slides that twist downwards from multiple stories above, swings and more.

We went here for lunch one day, making use of the picnic tables, BBQs, toilets and plentiful parking. The playground is joined to a skatepark, too. So, if you have scooters, skateboards or bikes with you, there's more fun to be had there. It's also a fully accessibly park, with equipment for everyone.

Just note that this park is likely too far for most kids to walk from Torquay. Get wheels instead.

Best paid things to do in Hervey Bay

Free things to do in Hervey Bay Eco Tour

Eco Marine Tour

If I had one big disappointment from my trip to Hervey Bay, it's that I didn't get to do the Eco Marine Tour. We were booked in and ready to go on the Turtle Discovery tour, but sadly Mother Nature didn't play ball. A blustering southerly came in and didn't relent. While the north-facing Hervey Bay was sheltered, the marine reserve was a choppy mess.

I can't vouch for this tour as a result, but my research prior to arriving leads me to believe it's well worth checking out. The Great Sandy Strait is teaming with life. Turtles were to be the star, but dugongs, crabs, fish, stingrays, whales, dolphins, reef sharks, sea birds, coral and more are on the cards as you journey along in a glass-bottomed boat.

This tour caught my eye for providing all the snorkelling equipment and lunch as well as having a guide from the local Butchulla people who can talk about the area's cultural history. It is an investment at $120 per adult and $75 per kid for just 4 hours in the sun though.

If, like me, your tour is cancelled. The team does try to find a new available time for you and if that doesn't suit your dates, a refund is offered.Free things to do in Hervey Bay Fraser Island

Fraser Island

Declaring Fraser Island as one of the best things to do in Hervey Bay is a bit misleading. It's a hard thing to do spontaneously. Yes, there are day tours that can rush you from point A to B, then C and beyond. But Fraser Island isn't something to tick off a list; it needs a good amount of time to really enjoy.

We went for 10 days and were never left twiddling our thumbs. Fishing, pipi hunting, swimming, hiking, dodging dingos, speeding along sandy beaches and more are on offer.

Don't miss Fraser Island. Do a day tour if that's all that's plausible. But otherwise, plan to hire a 4WD with camping gear pre-loaded and spend a few days exploring this natural treasure. There are plenty of operators who do just that in the area. You can stock up on everything you need at Hervey Bay. And the car ferry is a short 20-minute drive out of town.

Fraser Island National Park Discovery Tour
Fraser Island National Park Discovery Tour


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Not everything can be free though – notably food, something we're all slaves to. You'll find plenty of restaurants, cafes, pubs and ice-cream parlours along the esplanade. And a bit further inland, Hervey Bay is well provisioned with all the biggest shops and fast food joints. Like a seagull to a chip, I found a great brewery, too, called Cauldron.

However, for something different, there's the EAT café. This is run by Dan & Steph, winners of Season 4 of My Kitchen Rules. We went there for breakfast and can vouch for it being a really good feed, especially for the kids as the pancakes are sure to put a huge smile on their dial.

EAT is located on the esplanade opposite the bay, in the main central suburb of Torquay. We were staying at the Hervey Bay Discovery Park (which I've reviewed). As a guide, it was an easy walk from Discovery Park to EAT.

Hervey Bay activity deals

Disclaimer: I was invited to try breakfast at EAT by Dan & Steph. Opinions and photographs are my own. All editorial content is created independently by Finder.

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