Bundaberg and The Bumpy Boat

Linking up with The Lounge this week for the topic of Travel Tales.

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I consider myself extremely fortunate to have done a significant amount of travelling before children and responsibilities clipped my wings blessed my life.

But this post is not about one of the many amazing places experiences during my travels abroad. No, no my friends. The story for today’s post takes place slightly closer to home on a family holiday to the… uhhhm … *exotic* port of…


For those who are not Queenslanders Bundaberg is a reasonably sized town in on the central coast about 5 hours drive from Brisbane. It’s known for Bundaberg Rum and … sugar cane and… rum, really.

Why had we chosen Bundaberg for our family holiday?

Well apart from the rum there are also some very nice beaches in the area, some of which are home to one of the southern hemisphere’s most popular turtle nesting grounds!

It’s also located at the very southern tip of the great barrier reef so provided an opportunity to take a day trip out to some of the coral islands and do a bit of snorkelling.

Brisbane to Bundaberg Map

We embarked on this holiday in January 2011, during the wettest summer ever. In fact it was about two weeks before 1/3 of the entire state was devastated in the Queensland Floods.

So it was wet – really wet. The Rum Distillery was already underwater by the time we got there which was a great disappointment to Brook who was looking forward to indulging in a few of his favourite tipple straight from the source.

But despite this we were having a good time.

When I’d planned this holiday 6 months previously I’d had the foresight to pre-book two of our holiday activities ahead of time.

The first was going to see the turtles nesting at Mon Repos, a beach slightly north of Bundaberg.

It was magical. We walked down the beach in the pitch black and then up into the sand hills. There right in front of us was an ENORMOUS loggerhead turtle who had just finished digging a deep hole in the sand. The rangers had positioned a light behind her, at the business end so to speak, and before long was laying she hundreds of eggs that looked just like Ping-Pong balls.

Ok so this is not the greatest photo but the brown lump in the foreground is an  actual TURTLE laying eggs! And you can just Max (aged 3) in the background on the left looking extremely serious :)

Ok so this is not the greatest photo but the brown lump in the foreground is an actual TURTLE laying eggs! And you can just Max (aged 3) in the background on the left looking extremely serious πŸ™‚

I must admit I felt for her a bit, what with everyone peering at her during labour, but she seemed completely unconcerned by either the light or the crowd. Like I said… magical!

The second activity was a day cruise out to the Barrier Reef.

On the website it looked picture-postcard perfect – white sand and crystal clear water. We would be able to visit the coral island, go snorkelling and lunch was included. As I typed in our credit card details I basked in my motherly efficiency as the ultimate holiday planner.

Little did I know that smugness goes before a fall.

The day of the cruise arrived and we excitedly boarded the “Spirit of 1770”. A reasonably sized catamaran, the boat wasn’t new but it was pleasantly fitted out and comfortably sat about 70 people.

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful ship...

Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful ship…

The trip from out to the Island took 2 hours and it was pretty rough. We all felt pretty green and Oscar and Max (aged 6 and 3 at the time) eventually fell into a nauseated sleep.

Poor Jack (nearly 8 at the time) was not so lucky and vomited on and off most of the way there. However being a hardy little creature he perked up almost as soon as we anchored and proceeded to devour and hearty lunch and declare himself fit for the tour of the Island.

The day could not have been more perfect. We explored the island, went in a glass bottom boat and mucked around with some obliging sea cucumbers…

From left to right...  Jack playing with a sea cucumber, Max in the glass bottomed boat and Oscar playing cast-away on the beach

From left to right…
Jack playing with a sea cucumber, Max in the glass bottomed boat and Oscar playing cast-away on the beach

Then finally it was time to head back to Bundaberg.

Because Jack had been so ill on the way out we had enquired about giving him one of the sea sickness tablets that were available from the kiosk on board. The staff had advised that they were recommended for children from 8 years of age.

Jack was 7 at the time but he was turning 8 in about 6 weeks. Plus he was, and always had been, a big unit. Tall for his age and built like a front row forward (which he now is).

Brook and I had a quick chat and decided that it would be ok to give him half a tablet so half an hour before we were due to leave he swallowed it down.

We all settled into our seats and prepared ourselves for another rocky ride.

Taken just before we started the journey back to land, Max is already a very worried looking squishy.  Note also Jack in the background looking rather spacy.

Taken just before we started the journey back to land, Max is already a very worried looking squishy. Note also Jack in the background looking rather spacy.

I think we’d only been moving for about 3 or 4 minutes when the first wave caught us.

The boat tilted at an alarming angle as we travelled up, up, up one side of the wave. Then as we crested the top the boat plummeted straight down and hit the valley left by the wave smack on the catamaran’s flat bottom.


The whole boat shook and I felt the first spike of terror surge through me.

One of the little girls sitting across the aisle immediately began to scream hysterically – ear piercing shrieks that she was in no way in control of. Max and Oscar were sitting in between Brook and I and were just as terrified.

I looked over at Jack siting on the other side of Brook. He seemed fine – he certainly wasn’t sick but neither did he look particularly frightened.


Thus began a nightmarish cycle that would continue for another 3 and a half hours. Up, up, up we’d go, only to come crashing down with an almighty bang seconds later.

Then the vomiting started. All around us adults and kids alike began heaving up the prawns and salad we’d all had for lunch. There was no shame – we were all scared and sick and social conventions could go fuck themselves.

Stoic looking staff carted away full bags and replaced them with fresh ones over and over again.

We were doing pretty well – both Max and Oscar had thrown up but we’d been ready with the bags. Then the staff came around with lolly-pops – apparently they can help kids take their mind off being sea-sick.

That may have been the case for some children but it certainly wasn’t for Max. No sooner had he put it in his mouth than he started to vomit. This time I wasn’t quick enough with the bag and he vomited all over my leg and in between the where the two of us were sitting.

I was so paralysed with fear by this point I didn’t even care.

It was at this point I looked over at Jack. He must have felt me looking and he looked back at me.

Unlike everyone else on the boat Jack did not look petrified and green with nausea. On the contrary he was smiling.

“Jack, buddy are you OK?” I asked, slightly concerned.


This was true. Sometimes when we crashed down the other side of the waves the impact would send spray crashing over the front of the boat. Just one more layer of fear to add to the seventy million layers already in place.

Then he said…


And then I realised… Jack was STONED! The sea-sickness tablet had stopped him from getting sick but it had also sent him straight to la-la land.

Suddenly I realised... Jack was STONED!

Suddenly I realised… Jack was STONED!

As Brook, Max, Oscar and I huddled together in abject misery, Jack sat with his feet up on the seat in front of him and happily watched the waves break over the front of the boat.

He was having the time if his life.

Some of his other delightfully “out of it” exclamations included…


… and perhaps more worryingly


To which the answer from all of us was a resounding NOOOOO!

We obviously made it back safely in the end and I have never been so pleased to see land before or since.

Although it was frightening at the time we still often recount this story as a family. Even Max, little as he was at the time, still often talks about the time when we went on “the bumpy boat”!

37 comments on “Bundaberg and The Bumpy Boat

  1. Mon Repos is on the top of my sand bucket list! I can’t wait for the kids to get a little bit older so we can take them. I’ve had my share of scary boat rides, but none since we had the kids. Just as well – I’d likely be too busy holding my own bag to assist them! Thanks for the invite to the lounge! x

    • Rachel says:

      Yeah it was really worth it. Quite incredible to be so close to these magnificent creatures. Thanks for visiting The Lounge, Amanda! I hope we see you back again soon πŸ™‚

  2. Oh my god. Just…terrifying…I can’t even…have you read my story about our trip to phi phi island? Similar! Eerily similar! I’m linking up the Parisian beau story as requested…but it was a toss up.
    Love your work. I want what Jack was having!

    • Rachel says:

      No I haven’t but I will because your travel pieces always make me literally cry with laughter! I certainly wished I’d taken what jack was having at the time. He was transfixed by the water crashing over the front of the boat – it was endlessly entertaining for him while we cowered for our lives!

  3. Tegan says:

    Oh man how scary! I would have been freaking the fuck out!

  4. I’ve had similar experiences in Fiji. Not cool!

  5. OH ewwwww. How bloody terrifying. I went on a cruise once with a boyf and the whole ship vomited for days. Have i ever told you how much i HATE vomit? Everyone was lying on the deckchairs under blankets with their full bags. HILARIOUS that Jack got stoned. I’d be asking for some of that! My usual tactic is to drop straight off to sleep. Slight rocking? My body knocks me out. Perfect!

    • Rachel says:

      Yeah I usually try to sleep to but massive adrenalin surge put paid to that. And it was revolting – I remember a young Japanse tourist sitting near us who just kept retching long after there was anything left in him to vomit up. Have you ever seen the movie ‘Stand By Me” when they have the pie eating competition and everybody spews? Yeah well THAT.

  6. Me says:

    I don’t know what I would have done if that had happened to us when we went out to the reef – I would have been one of them throwing up all over the place – just once I smelt someone else’s vomit – that would be me gone for the rest of the trip.
    Glad you made it back safely – where would we be without your stories ??????????
    Have the best day !

    • Rachel says:

      I’ve got a pretty strong stomach thank go so I didn’t vomit. And to be honest I was too scared to really be that sick. It was dreadful though – they opened the windows but it didn’t even help a bit!

  7. Ness says:

    Holy fuckola I HATE boats. I’ve had similar experiences in Tasmania. The first time we went to Cairns we went out to the Barrier Reef and it was fine. I even managed to do some snorkelling. The second time we went about 3 or 4 years ago they informed us that it was choppy that day and I absolutely refused to go. We’d already paid and Mick was furious. But we ended up getting a refund and then he took the two older boys the next day. No way I was going. He said it was really rough and choppy and people were puking. Meanwhile the boys where whooping it up, enjoying it as if it were a ride. No thanks.

    Glad you guys enjoyed the rest of your trip. We’ve been to good old Bundaberg and the rum factory tour too.

    • Rachel says:

      My Mum reckons the Bass Strait is the WORST for rockin and rolling! I’d be very wary about going on another trip like that. I think I’d want to make sure it was much bigger than the one we went on. Don’t blame you for bailing on your trip to the reef – I think having been through this experience I might have done the same!

  8. Mrs D says:

    Ha ha that’s hilariously terrifying! I don’t normally get sea sick but I reckon even under those circumstances I would. The smell & sight of large groups of people vomiting is just too much. Love your work. xx

  9. Oh man, the vomiting is what gets me about that story. The rough seas wouldn’t bother me so much as I’ve experienced that but once people start hurling I am outta there, so with no where to go I would have been in hell. At least you have an awesome story to tell for many more years to come!

  10. Oculus Mundi says:

    I love boats and I even love rough weather on boats – but rough weather plus my children, argh, terrifying! Also, where can I get me some of those tablets? Asking for a friend…

    • Rachel says:

      Yeah the worst part was trying to pretend everything was fine, fine, fine for the boys sake (well for Oscar and Max anyway, obviously Jack couldn’t have cared less!). I did think several times throughout the journey that I would have been far better off necking one of those tabs myself πŸ˜‰

  11. katyberry says:

    As an ex-Navy girl, I can totally relate to both the spaciness of sea-sickness medication and the rise and thumping fall of a boat on high seas.
    Pass me the sick bag, indeed.

  12. Lisa says:

    I have had a few of these rocky sea sickness type adventures pre-kids. One self inflicted-after a big night out I went on a catamaran to Fraser Island the next day-not good at all…another i tagged along on a diving boat with my hubby…huge waves at night time. 3/4 of the boat got seasick for 2-3 days. Never again!

    • Rachel says:

      Oh Lisa that trip to Fraser would have been very hard work with a hangover! Bleeuurrgh! And out on a dive boat for 3 days? I would have been out of my mind with no way of getting off the boat.

  13. Oh my goodness this makes me feel sick just reading it! I’ve never been good with boats, but I don’t want that to deprive my kids of any possibly great holidays just because I’m likely to spend the trip hanging over the side. I’d love to take the kids to Mon Repos too – but maybe I’ll plan it with some of your experiences in mind!

    • Rachel says:

      Hey Lara! Yeah I was a bit cross with the company – I think they should have put a warning on the website. Parents really should have an idea of the potentially rough trip they are letting themselves in for. To be honest I may still have booked but at least I would have known what I was in for.

  14. Nikki Morgan says:

    Done the scary boat trip thing in the Whitsundays’, but fortunately never get sea sick, the smell of rum tends to curdle my tummy though πŸ™‚ Nikki @ Wonderfully Women

  15. What a fabulous story – FUNNY – and I can almost hear everyone hurling – GROSS. I would have HATED that so much, I’m so bad on rocky boats, I think I prefer Jack’s option πŸ™‚ x

    • Rachel says:

      I think I was actually one of about 2% of passengers who didn’t hurl. And even sitting in Max’s vomit for the rest of the trip didn’t phase me because I was just so fucking terrified!

  16. Lydia C. lee says:

    oh, how terrifying – but I love that Jack loved it (that’s one of the best things about travel with kids! They view things differently)
    Boats + Kids = vomit. Always.

    • Rachel says:

      Yes even without the drugs Jack is quite an intrepid soul! And I have definitely proved your equation in this story πŸ™‚

  17. mumabulous says:

    I want some of that gear!

  18. I would definitely go for Jack’s option!
    I can remember a terrifying boat trip from Green Island to Cairns just as a cyclone was brewing!!

    • Rachel says:

      Oooh that sounds like it would have been dreadful. Wish I HAD gone with Jack’s option as I would have spent 3.5 hours away with the fairies rather than fearing fro my life! xx

  19. Is it wrong that I started laughing from “One of the little girls sitting across the aisle immediately began to scream hysterically” and didn’t stop for the rest of the story? Is there something wrong with me?

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