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Bundaberg Set to Become Australia's Favourite Cruising Destination

By James Greenwald last modified Nov 01, 2003 09:01 AM

Published: 2003-11-01 09:01:01
Countries: Australia , New Caledonia , Vanuatu

Bundaberg Port Marina

The fairest-weather route to Australia from the South Pacific islands arcs north of New Caledonia, through the Coral Sea, across deep, wide-open Hervey Bay, directly into the very well-marked mouth of the Burnett River—no problem day or night. Why get spanked in the northern Tasman Sea when you could be flying your spinnaker in balmy conditions? Just inside the river mouth nestles a sparkling, brand-new marina and boat yard with all the amenities, Bundaberg Port Marina. To top it all off, this is an official port of entry for Australia, rapidly gaining a well-deserved reputation for featuring the friendliest customs and quarantine officials on the entire east coast. Simply call the marina on VHF Channel 81 International and they’ll make all the arrangements, and direct you to their quarantine berth. Quarantine officer Lesley Grimminck is a cruising yachtie herself, with one circumnavigation under her belt, and customs officers Neville and Darren couldn’t be nicer. But that’s only the beginning.

Youthful and energetic marina manager Geoff Beyer is an enthusiastic perfectionist, determined to provide visiting sailors with the very best experience possible. Yard manager Tony expertly hauls out everything from sailboats to big trawlers with his 70-ton travel lift, and braces and blocks them with the latest in shiny new supports, surrounds them with aluminum scaffolding and paint screens, and each vessel has its own electrical console and water hose supplied by the yard. He even provides stepladders to reach the higher areas under the hull. The work surface is smooth, clean asphalt, built to drain well. Also on site: Rampant Marine, a complete and comprehensive marine chandlery and excellent electronics repair shop (easily the best we’ve ever seen), Dennis Marine and General Engineering, A & G Shipwright Services, and Mobil Engine Repairs. Geoff provides a free, twice-daily courtesy van to the town of Bundaberg where you can find anything else you need—from propellor and drive shaft machine shops to big grocery stores and Internet cafes, not to mention some great restaurants, pubs, and the Bundaberg Rum Distillery. It’s easy to find either a cheap used car or rental car for ranging further afield. A daily high-speed train runs from Bundaberg to Brisbane and back.

Every Friday Geoff puts on a free barbecue lunch for his marina tenants, featuring everything from steak and sausages to swordfish and other fresh seafood. Donna’s Seafoods provides sailors with an amazing array of ocean fare including huge prawns, spanner crabs, tuna, and reef fish, all super-fresh since it’s offloaded direct from the fishing boat ice holds at the commercial seafood house next door. If you don’t feel like cooking, also on-site is The Baltimore Café, with everything from simple to gourmet, from fancy coffees to a full bar, and hot breakfasts second to none. And Eagle Boys Pizza delivers right to the marina.

It’s little wonder many boats end up staying at Bundaberg Port Marina much longer than they’d originally planned. The weather is idyllic—sunny and pleasantly warm, with an ocean breeze. The location is pleasantly rural—a family of kangaroos lives in the bush across the street. The marina provides easy access to very good fishing and birdwatching, southern Great Barrier Reef showcases like Lady Musgrave Island, local sea turtle nesting areas, nearby home to wintering humpback whales Hervey Bay, and World Heritage Area Fraser Island and Great Sandy National Park. Many sailors even stay on for cyclone season since although Bundaberg is in the southern margin of the hurricane belt, it seldom sees full-force storms.

Check out the annual Port 2 Port Fun Ocean Passage from Port Vila, Vanuatu to Bundaberg Port Marina, departing each October and free of charge (see,, or contact Judy O’Donoghue, Bundaberg Cruising Yacht Club, phone 61-7-4151-7583, [email protected]). The great prizes for all boats and fun events of the early November arrival week alone make it well worth participating.

The GPS waypoint for the middle of the outer entrance to the Burnett River is 24 45.45 S, 152 26.27 E. For complete information on Bundaberg Port Marina phone 61-7-4159-4399, [email protected], . The entire Bundaberg experience, including haulout, ranks among the finest-ever in our eight years of full-time voyaging from the Caribbean across the Pacific. Although barely two seasons old, and with the boatyard portion just completed, the word is out—Bundaberg Port Marina for good reason is rapidly becoming the most popular entry place for Australia. Don’t miss it!

Contributed by Scott Bannerot, S/V Elan