Something happened in December 2008; Bundaberg opened a new museum, Hinkler’s Hall of Aviation. It sits on a few hectares with the Botanical Gardens, Fairymead House, Historic Museum, Japanese Garden and the 1928 Restaurant.
The town is proud of a man who is arguably Australia’s greatest ever aviator. His story reads like a fiction novel. Setting flying records all over the world and flying solo to Australia in a single engined plane in 1928. These days it seems like nothing when we jaunt over to Europe in 24 hours and people have the temerity to complain about the flight duration. Yet here was a man who found his way by looking at road maps on his lap while flying a plane on routes never before taken by man.
The new hall has a novel wing shaped roof that encloses, amongst other things, the largest globe in the southern hemisphere that has Hinkler’s routes laid out on its outside in lights. Dotted all around in chronological order are Hinkler’s planes or, at least, models of same. There are interactive displays and 3 theatrettes, one of which has the dulcet tones of Dr. Karl who has become part of Hinkler’s legion of fans.
I found the most interesting anecdote to be the fact that he is interred in Florence not a long way from where he tragically crashed into mountains at the tender age of 40, leaving a lady in England and a wife in America that no-one realised he had. He was given a state funeral by Mussolini. As I said, if it hadn’t actually happened, you wouldn’t believe it.
The well ordered, if somewhat busy, CBD has Bundaberg's finest architecture, such as it is.
Of course, that included some classic Aussie hotels with their lovely verandahs. Doesn't matter where I see them, they still look so attractive.....and I don't even drink!
There's a few like the one pictured, usually on corner blocks.
Baldwin Swamp - So, after a session with the ever-helpful Gail at the local Information Centre, I found myself doing a quick tour of the CBD and its historic and attractive buildings, having a quick look at the sculptures by the quay and then heading a few blocks down the road to Baldwin Swamp.
Now, I remember Gail wincing when she said the name and, when I saw the place I understood why. This has to be on your must-see list if you visit Bundaberg. Nothing like a swamp, it’s more a set of lily ponds linked by small channels with manicured lawns and native trees filling up the rest of the space. It’s also where over 140 species of bird have been spotted.
Take my tip. Find yourself a tree in flower and just stand there for about 15 minutes. You’ll be amazed at how prolific our feathered friends are. I counted a dozen different types in just one tree. The locals certainly know about this place and can be found by the first class playground and barbecue areas.
This house has had a moving experience. It used to be on a property about 8 kms from its present site. However, when larger companies swallowed up the smaller holdings, this house became redundant.....just like a lot of the employees.
What to do with it? Well, they gave it to the community who, of course, had to pay to move it. Still, it was probably a win-win situation in the end as this fine building now houses a museum dedicated to the industry that built it - sugar.
Within its walls are mementos, memorabilia and lots of photos and articles explaining what life was like in those bygone years.
One story I found fascinating was that of the three Italian brothers who made their way to Australia in the 1920's and ultimately designed and manufactured much of the machinery that is still in use today in this industry.
Fairymead is located in the same grounds as the Hinkler Museum
By now you’ll probably be wondering if there’s a cruise hereabouts and the Bundy Belle will serve you well here. The very informative and interesting commentary may have an addition to it as, while I was there, the business was being sold to a former music teacher. It does about a 2 hour down river trip; times can vary slightly due to tidal influence.
For those with an artistic bent you have the options of the regional gallery and the School of Arts, both buildings worth a look for their architecture alone, the former with a most striking colour scheme and the latter in Renaissance style with Corinthian columns.
I got my artistic hit by visiting the local art gallery with its thought provoking displays but I found more enjoyment at the old School of Arts where local artists held sway. I was impressed by the underpriced works there, particularly by Leslie French and Tony Hills.
The other things to see depend on your interests. If you have children in tow you are well served by Alexandra Park and zoo (birds only). The beauty of both is that they are free and conveniently situated in walking distance from the CBD.
Of course, Bundaberg’s most famous attraction is the rum distillery and the fact that they can charge up to $25 per person for a full tour (interactive display and guided) indicates just how popular it is.
The famous and well patronised rum distillery where you get to do not only the hands-on display (available on its own for a lesser price) but you get a guided tour through the factory where you can don a hard hat and watch bottles going around in ever decreasing circles while learning everything about how rum is made. The well stocked souvenir shop may well tempt you afterwards.
I thought it amusing how the tour area is all tarted up in sunlight yellow while just across the road the glum tones of a time worn factory support the belching smoke stacks that dominate the Bundaberg landscape.
I’d drifted past all these and the new Coral Cove resort golf course that sits beside Barolin Esplanade. It’s a championship resort style course that was constructed to attract residents to this new residential area and, very successful it appears to have been with lots of new dwellings either built or currently under construction. I queried why when I asked a local resident, who also happened to be a cab driver, and she said that it was the peace and quiet that attracted her to this area.
I stopped in at the Point Elliott Holiday Park, one of four caravan parks with water frontage in the area, just before the chirpy manager bounced back and took down his “back in 20 minutes sign”. They always worry me because you’re never sure whether they’ve just left or it’s been 19 minutes already.
His holiday park is conveniently situated across the road from the Surf Lifesaving Club though I feel it’s a bit of a misnomer as the only time you’d see genuine surf here is in a cyclone.
If you’re looking for sand though, you’d best head to Elliott Heads where the river of the same name exits. Otherwise you’ll expect to see ancient volcanic black rocks lining the foreshore. Oh, and if you think you can cast a line in, check first. There happen to be a few marine parks where diving, a popular activity, takes precedence here. Hoffmans Rocks and Barolin Rocks are two that spring to mind.
Bundaberg came into view around 5 a.m. in the morning and I aimed for a park, Innes Reserve it was named. Turned out it was fairly typical of many seaside parks hereabouts where you can picnic but not stay. They all have excellent toilet facilities and some are linked by a pathway suitable for casual cycling and walking.
Rum, rum, rum
in every which way you like it!
You can't miss the Bundaberg Rum Destilatory Store which has plent of rum to spare. There are lots of modalities of that drink and prices are better than in stores. I guarantee you, you wont leave empty handed or with an empty bottle of rum :)!
I personally use rum for cooking and if it's any advice to anyone the mixture of rum with chocolate and coffee is great for cooking/steeming of veal! Try it you might like it!
Bundaberg is famous for it's rum. You known the one with the polar bear on it. They did that because people in south Australia thought it was a tropical drink, the polar bear was supposed to make them feel like drinking the rum too.
The distillery has already burned down a couple of times, so smoking is not allowed. You can't take any pictures eather and you'll have to leave your bag behind. Included in the tourprice are a couple of drinks though and the souvenir shop is pretty cool to.
The tours run every hour:
The Great Barrier Reef is known for being the world's largest collective organism and a wonder of our natural world boasting beatiful visions of aquatic grandeur. Well, it appears as though the rumors are true. I can testify. My experience involved a guided snorkeling endeavor that brought me up close and personal with a group of sea turtles gathered on a piece of coral nearly the size of a house known as a "cleaning station" because the organisms in the coral eat parasites off of the turtles. Ah symbiosis! This place is awesome and worth the three hour boat ride from Bundaberg. my excursion took place in the winter so waters were a bit choppier. This was evident on the way back when our boat was hitting ten foot swells. Nearly the entire boat was lifted out of the water. The trip was nauseating, but thrilling and i'll never forget that respectable power.
When in Bundaberg the most important thing to do is visit the Bundaberg Rum Distillery!!
Don't expect to find any signs to follow, there aren't any! I asked why and was told that they always get stolen!! Bundy rum is very popular here in Oz, and I guess a Bundy sign is fair game. All we found to follow was a small handwritten sign saying "Rum Distillery". We had to stop to ask directions.