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The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

Fat Mum Slim /

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road TripI’ve had a little travel dream for a while now, and it’s to see turtles hatch. There’s something beautiful and almost magical about turtles that I just love, and being able to see them surface for the first time and make their way to sea… I have just always wanted to witness it.

I think my obsession with turtles happened when I first saw Crush in Finding Nemo, and then when I saw my first turtle while snorkeling with Hubby off Heron Island. If you’ve ever experienced a turtle in the wild, you might know my obsession. It’s real!

One of the perks of living in beautiful Australia, is that we have the best snorkeling in the world, the most beautiful beaches, and turtles, and lots of them. I’d been planning a trip to Bundaberg a few years ago, but then some devastating storms and flooding happened and the trip was canceled. So a few years on, we made it happen, and it was everything I had dreamed it to be.

DAY 1: PICKING UP OUR WHEELS AND HEADING TO BUNDABERG

We do some pretty amazing trips, which we’re really grateful for, but this trip was one I was especially excited about and so was the fam. I loved that we weren’t flying, and that it was almost self-paced. If the kids wanted to stop we could, and if there was something we wanted to see more, we absolutely could. I was looking forward to the freedom that a road trip would allow us.

We arrived at Apollo to pick up our wheels mid-morning. We’d packed simply, because we didn’t want to clutter the van, and also packed some food to put straight into the fridge and freezer in the van. We opted for the Apollo Euro Deluxe, which is a 6 berth van.

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

TIP: Forget suitcases when packing for the campervan, soft bags are your friend. It means you can unpack, and store your bags more easily.

We hit the road, and took the easy drive up the coast for around 4.5 hours to Bundaberg. We were tempted to stop into beautiful Noosa and Hervey Bay along the way, but also knew we wanted to get to Bundaberg before it was too late.

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

Once in Bundaberg we took a few moments to check out where we were parking for the night, at Big4 Cane Village Caravan Park. It’s central to everything, and super clean and organised. We then headed to the coast, to Bargara, to have some dinner and let the kids burn off some energy.

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip
And then it was turtle time. We had booked to go to the Mon Repos Turtle Centre, to do a guided tour on the beach and see turtles hatch. We were joined by a volunteer and a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service Ranger for the experience. Every year the turtle hatching occurs from January to March, and the nesting season {where female turtles make their way up to the sand to lay eggs} happens around November to January.

TIP: Wear comfortable shoes for walking on a sandy beach, and bring a torch for the experience too. You will be asked to keep it off for most of the night, as the turtles are attracted to light and it can confuse them. There will be times when the ranger asks you to turn it on, and you’ll be glad you brought your own to use. Also, sometimes the turtles will hatch as soon as you arrive, and other times you might have to wait until the turtles make their way. You can’t rush nature!

And when those teeny tiny turtles make their way up and out the sand, it’s as magic and as cute as I had imagined. They’re small {under 10cm in length} and so strong. Sometimes there can be over a hundred little babies.

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

The turtle eggs are around 60cm under the surface, so you don’t see them physically hatch from the shell, but instead you witness then emerging from the sand, and then making their way down to the ocean.

The girls got to help them find the ocean by standing in a line with other visitors, shining their torches and making a path for the turtles to follow.

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

Once the turtles were all out at sea and ready to start their brand new life, we headed back to our van, and then onto our campsite where we slept soundly for the night.

DAY 2: ENJOYING LADY MUSGRAVE ISLAND

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

We woke early, showered and and then packed up the campervan to head to Bundaberg Port Marina to board the Lady Musgrave Experience boat to start our day-long adventure.

TIP: Arrive early in order to grab a table and seat for your family. The boat is spacious, and has plenty of space, but you’ll be using the boat as a base for all of your experiences, so it’s good to have a table for everyone sorted early.

The boat took a little over 2 hours from Bundaberg Port to Lady Musgrave, and while the boat was bumpy and a few of my clan suffered a little sea sickness, it disappeared as we spotted dolphins as we sailed along, which is always a treat. Morning tea and afternoon tea is provided on the boat, as is a beautiful buffet lunch which has seafood, meats and salads.

The Lady Musgrave Experience has three experiences included for guests, including a walk through the island, a  glass bottom boat tour and snorkeling. All were equally amazing, and a must-do!

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

TIP: Wear reef shoes, or other shoes appropriate for sandy, and coral beach conditions. Snorkeling gear is provided on the boat, so are life vests, swimming noodles and fins, so you don’t need to pack your own. Just bring a towel, and your sense of adventure.

Once we lolled about in the water, snorkeling and witnessing the beauty of the Southern Great Barrier Reef, we took the 2 hour ride back to shore and headed back to camp, happy and ready for a good night of sleep.

DAY 3: THE EXPERIENCE OF A LIFETIME, LADY ELLIOT ISLAND

So, you’d be right in thinking that the Mon Repos hatching experience and the snorkeling off Lady Musgrave was enough turtles for a lifetime, and you might be right… BUT I’m telling you right now, if you can swing the budget, Lady Elliot Island is worth your time and money {and it’s probably one of the more affordable islands in Queensland, to be honest}.

We flew from Bundaberg Airport, but there are flights from the Gold Coast, Brisbane and Hervey Bay. The planes are small, but the trip from Bundaberg is short and sweet. Lacey even got to sit in the cockpit. She’s living the dream!

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

{You know how I feel about small planes, but it was a breeze!}

The view as we flew over the island I got so excited. I’d heard so much about the island and how beautiful it was, I couldn’t wait to land and check it out.

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

TIP: Watch for turtles and manta ray as you fly over the island. They’re easily spotted just off the coast.

Lady Elliot Island is the most southern island in the Great Barrier Reef, and home to some of the best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced. The water clarity is just out of this world, and then when it comes to turtles, OMG… it’s magic. More about that in a moment.

We were given a quick tour of the island, then we jumped over to the dive shop to grab some gear and head to the water. And THIS is what we were treated to within seconds of getting into the water.

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

{Look at Lulu swimming with the turtle! It’s just magic}

TIP: Reef shoes are provided on the island at no extra cost, or you can pick up some inside the small island store for less than $20. You’ll need them for walking to and from the beaches, and around the island.

Lady Elliot Island has a few spots for snorkeling, plus a lagoon to take advantage of. When we visited the island it was at capacity guest-wise, and I never would have known if someone didn’t tell me. Most of the time we were snorkeling alone, just our little family and the turtles. There are so many spots to hang out and explore, plus there’s also activities to get involved in too – scuba diving, snorkeling tours and glass bottom boat tours being just a few.

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

The accommodation on the island is simple, and it should be because you want to be spending your time our on the water, no in your room. There’s no air-conditioning, and all laundry is done off-site, so it’s beautiful, clean and back to basics, but in a really cool way. I love that my girls were totally disconnected from technology and back to nature. Perfect! Your accommodation includes a buffet breakfast and dinner, and an option for a buffet lunch or a menu that can choose from. The food is delicious, and fresh and something I looked forward to {hey, you know I like to eat!}.

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

We had dinner outside, watching the sunset and then went exploring to watch turtles hatch. When visiting in January and February there’s a chance to get the best of both worlds and see turtles lay their eggs and turtles hatch as well. We went exploring for an hour or so, and didn’t spot any… and the girls were knackered from all the swimming we did, so we missed out. Apparently a turtle also came up and lay her eggs while we were sleeping in the morning.

TIP: Bring a torch to see after the sun goes down. Watching turtles hatch on Lady Elliot Island is self-guided, so you’ll need light to be able to explore and see any turtle action.

DAY 4: SAYING GOODBYE TO PARADISE

We spent our last day on Lady Elliot snorkeling, playing in the coral shore, and taking in the beautiful scenery. We loved the island so much and were sad our stay was so short, but were certain we’d soaked as much as possible out of it.

The Ultimate Turtle Tour Road Trip

{Walking to the lighthouse snorkeling point – our favourite!}

{Lacey loves to snorkel!}

{Yeah no big deal, a SHARK!}

{Playing in the coral}

{Lulu made an ice cream shop out of coral, I love her imagination!}

On you flight back to Bundaberg we said goodbye to the island. Thankfully the pilot took us on a visual tour of the west side of the island, and then back to the airport {on our way over we got a special tour of the east side – it seems to be the thing they do, which I love}. I vowed to return, I loved it so much, and so did the rest of my gang.

Once we landed back in Bundaberg we popped back into the campervan and headed south to Big 4 Rivershore Resort, which took about three hours. Rivershore is located right on a river, and was opened mid-2016, making it the first brand new caravan park to be built in Queensland in over thirty years. The amenities are modern and beautifully designed, but it’s the pool and cooking areas that knocked our socks off. The pool features not one huge waterslide, but two, and there’s a baby paddle pool for the smaller children too. Can you even? Isn’t it amazing?

Big4 Rivershore Resort has something for everyone, with stand-up paddleboarding, a popular restaurant and bar for night, and a bustling cafe and playground for during the day. Annnnnnnnd a jumping pullow too.

We had a great night sleep, knowing that we’d want to wake up and play.

DAY 5: SAYING GOODBYE

We had a big play in the morning, scooting around the park, swimming, jumping and making the most of the cafe – the cake selection is next level! And then it was time to pack up and say goodbye to our beautiful van that we’d become very fond of.

This was one of the best trips we’ve ever done, and one I’d highly recommend {if you don’t live in or near Brisbane, you could fly in and pick up a van}. Traveling this distance in a campervan was new to us, but I loved the time together, the pace we moved at, and the bonding time we had. And then there were the turtles. OMG, the turtles. All of it was such a great experience for the girls, and for me, and Hubby loved it too. So add it to your travel bucketlist, and start planning for turtle season next year.


We traveled as guests of Tourism and Events Queensland and Apollo.

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  • Wow!! Amazing and this is just up the road! Will definitely be putting this on the after baby’s must do holiday experiences list. It’s a big list!

  • Oh my, the turtles … sooo cute. I would love to see them hatching some time. You’d think living just off the Great Barrier Reef that I would head out snorkeling and see turtles all the time but sadly not.

@Fatmumslim