It’s a balmy beachy evening, the kind that reminds you of those old-fashioned holidays when you were young. You remember the type. When mum miraculously tossed out the rule book about being home by the time the sun conceded to another sultry summer day. Instead, she allowed you to frolic by the ocean with your mates. Mind you, not too late, just enough time to allow you to squeeze that last bit of oozy goodness out of your day, before crawling into your summer sheets, sandy feet and all. Reading under the covers by torchlight way beyond bedtime? You had that sorted too.
Late November/early December in Bundaberg and it’s that same scent of nostalgia. These are languid lollypop days in Queensland’s coastal city most renowned for its rum. The Tilt Train & Turtles Getaway begins aboard Queensland Rail’s Tilt Train. Crawl into your comfortable seat and let the world wash over you on this 351km journey which takes just 4.5 hours.
You’ll rocket out of Roma Street and before you know it the jagged Glass House Mountains will rise from the horizon. This is pineapple-picking country as you weave your way through the lush valleys of the Sunshine Coast and onwards past the historical cities of Gympie and Maryborough. In what seems like the blink of an eye, you’ll be spotting the sugar cane paddocks which herald your arrival into Bundaberg, where you’ll be transferred to the beachside village of Bargara.
It would be remiss – perhaps even criminal – to visit Bundy without a visit to the Bundaberg Rum Distillery where you’ll learn all about fermenting and distilling of this sugary spirit which injects the soul into the town. If this dark drink is the soul, then the turtles of Mon Repos are its heart. Once the sun plummets into the ocean, you’ll travel to the Mon Repos Turtle Centre where a National Park ranger will guide you onto the beach to experience the turtles laying their eggs between November and January.
On a sanguine summer evening, your feet firmly planted in that cool sand, you’ll witness the miracle of the same turtles returning year after year to deposit their clutch. Return to Mon Repos between January and March to experience the baby turtles as they emerge from their shells and race towards the ocean. Mother Nature’s theatre? You betcha. Bring some tissues, as these tiny turtles may even make you cry. Finish this sweet story with a trip to the Fairymead Sugar Museum and the Hinkler Hall of Aviation which pays homage to Bundy’s favourite son – Bert Hinkler. On this trip you’ll also take time to smell the roses at Bundaberg’s Botanic Gardens.
Bundaberg Tourism Marketing Manager Ellie Tonkin said demand to experience the turtles had been “ridiculous” with the laying and hatching a “bucket-list” experience for many travellers with Bundaberg the biggest regional destination for Queensland Rail travel.
“To give you an idea, we sold 1200 tickets for the first day of the season in 2019; 4000 tickets in 2020; and on September 1 this year we sold 5500 tickets,” she said.
“It is just incredible, people are absolutely desperate to do the experience. It is a combination of being so accessible to south-east Queensland it is incredibly easy to come here and have a really nostalgic beach holiday.
“It is that kind of holiday that people have been meaning to do for years and now is the time to do it.”
Ellie said for those choosing between the nesting or hatching experience, both held their charms.
“The hatchlings have a unique appeal because they are so cute but to experience the nesting, I felt so honoured to be there. It is a very different experience where you are really connecting with an ancient animal and watching the whole life cycle begin,” she said.
“It is a beautiful experience.”
Bundaberg has borrowed the name Mon Repos from the French. Meaning “place of rest” we guarantee you’ll feel relaxed and refreshed after this rail journey which ends with a turtle tale or two.
Tilt Train & Turtles is one of Travel at 60s most popular community holidays so far.
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