Whales ... and Rail Trails ...
Besides my eBike, I have a deep love and respect for the ocean and all within it. For the past few weeks I'd been watching the whales travel the Humpback Highway along the coast of Northern New South Wales. Every year, from June to September, the humpback whales stop to rest in the safe and secure waters of Hervey Bay during their breeding migration from Antarctica to Tropical North Queensland and back. The Queensland border had recently re-opened for travel, so off we headed to the Fraser Coast region as I had heard there was an opportunity to swim with the humpback whales - OMG !! I was also aware that the Mary to Bay Rail Trail was partially complete, so Sparky came along for our Whales and Rail Trails weekend.
Arriving late afternoon in Hervey Bay, we did quick reconnaissance of the Marina area and the Esplanade Bike Trail, and enjoyed a delightful moody sunset at Urangan Pier - an historic 868m long pier which is also the start of the Mary to Bay Rail Heritage Trail.
The Watch and Swim With Whales Tour with Ecotourism Australia certified Hervey Bay Dive Centre departs at 9:30am from the Hervey Bay Marina and heads out towards Platypus Bay and Fraser Island, where the whales frolic and play in the bay. There is no way to describe the feeling of hanging off the end of a mermaid line whilst nature's most majestic marine mammals swim right underneath you - but I'll try - how about totally mesmerising !!! Definitely an experience to add to your bucket list ...
After a sensational day on the bay, the rail trail beckoned. The Mary to Bay Trail is not yet complete, however there is 15km of sealed trail from Urangan Pier to just south of Nikenbah. Nikenbah has a lovely cafe, The Depot Espresso Bar, just off the trail, perfect for a mid morning coffee stop, and the opportunity to chat with other riders enjoying the trail.
From here you cross the main Hervey Bay to Maryborough Road, and turn right into Piggford Lane. The trail turns to a well formed dirt track for approximately 3 kms before coming to an end - around 20kms from Urangan Pier. We returned the way we came, stopping to enjoy the beautiful whale sculptures along the way. Once back at Urangan Pier, we then followed the Esplanade bike trail for 15kms to its end at Point Vernon, stopping at the delightful Enzo's On The Beach for a much needed carbo loading lunch of delicious nachos - and what a view whilst you savour the delicious food.
Onto Point Vernon, and then back the same way - in total just over 70kms on mostly flat and well maintained trails. Of course no ride is complete without the obligatory ice-cream - and with a choice of 72 flavours at Planet 72 Ice Creamery, there is definitely something for everyone.
Once the Mary to Bay Rail Trail is completed, all the way from Hervey Bay to Maryborough, we will be back. In the meantime, our magical encounter with the humpback whales, both above and below the water, will be on my mind for a long time to come.