Just three hours north of Brisbane lies the Fraser Coast, the gateway to the South Burnett, to Maryborough, one of Queensland's oldest provincial cities and to Hervey Bay.
You won't find the hustle of traditional tourist resort strips here. Instead, there are golden beaches with space for everyone, and so much fresh country air it's easy to forget you ever have to do battle with traffic-choked freeways.
On the Fraser Coast, the patchwork of red soil farms meets the surf and sea. And as a bonus, there's Fraser Island, the world's largest sand island.
The South Burnett is one of Australia's newest (and award-winning) wine-producing regions but with a history from Queensland's early days. Visit the old timber towns of Yarraman and Blackbutt. Or drop into Kingaroy, peanut capital of Australia.
Hervey Bay, as well as boasting some of the prettiest and most user-friendly beaches in Queensland, also offers first-class dining and affordable accommodation. Nearby, Maryborough's historic character has been preserved in its classic Queenslanders, shops and Wharf Street precinct. The town's heritage walk includes 28 historical buildings.
See the whales close up
From late July to early November, the waters around Hervey Bay and Fraser Island become the playground of magnificent Humpback whales when they pause to rest from their annual migrations. People visit the Bay from all over the world to catch a glimpse of them. Tour boats have strict guidelines which prevent them from approaching the whales. But no guideline has been framed that will prevent a curious whale swimming where it likes. The clean clear waters of the Hervey Bay Marine Park are teeming with marine animals. Dugongs, rays, dolphins and turtles share the lake-like conditions with the whales.
The humpbacks drop by to feed in the warm waters. Their calves are with them, and the stopover at the Bay provides the calves with time to develop a protective layer of blubber that'll come in handy when they follow their mothers into cold Antarctic waters.
Often thirty or more whales may be present at one time in the whale watching area, giving onlookers a new understanding of having ‘a whale of a time'.
There is a wide range of vessels and cruises to choose from.
Hervey Bay Marina For a long time Maryborough people had Hervey Bay to themselves. Seaside settlements seldom saw tourists, but in the seventies, more and more people chose to live around the bay, until the string of villages has merged into a string of seaside resorts - Port Vernon, Pialba, Scarness, Torquay, Urangan - providing every facility for visitors.
Hervey Bay is the large area of sea protected by Fraser Island between Maryborough and Bundaberg, but it is also the name of the thriving city that has grown up on its shore. The community is dedicated to ecotourism and the preservation of its natural attractions, so the area has preserved its relaxed and simple lifestyle, the aspect that tempted many to call Hervey Bay home in the first place.
In the winter months, an influx of tourists from the south takes advantage of the ideal climate. The Esplanade boasts a variety of cafes and restaurants. In nearby areas, cocktail bars and nightclubs provide nightly entertainment.
Calm waters mean the Bay is a natural attraction for boat enthusiasts, anglers and water-skiers. Camping grounds abound for those who prefer a DIY approach to holidays, but a wide range of accommodation is available to suit all tastes.
Urangan Pier is a historic pier which is a former deep-water, cargo-handling facility originally built to facilitate the export of sugar, timber and coal.
Maryborough, settled in 1847, is one of Queensland's oldest provincial cities.
Only three hours from Brisbane, Maryborough became a major immigration port into Australia. A visit to the city's Wharf Street Precinct with its Bond Store Museum and Customs House takes visitors back to pioneering days.
Today, Maryborough is known for its distinctive Queenslander architecture, classic buildings that preserve Maryborough's character. Stop by Brennan and Geraghty's Store, preserved by the National Trust.
Maryborough's industrial base was established over one hundred years ago. Olds Engine House displays a collection of famous models by Australia's foremost model engineer, William Olds.
After a visit to Maryborough, many decide to search out their family's history. The Maryborough Family Heritage Institute helps visitors and researchers.
From its source, the Mary River flows north through the towns of Kenilworth, Gympie, Tiaro and Maryborough before emptying into the Great Sandy Strait.