Hatching season is upon us and what better way to start the New Year than a road trip to one of Queensland’s many turtle havens to watch these cute little guys take their first steps. January through to March is the best time to see the annual turtle march when the summer heat rouses the hatchlings from their sandy slumber and out into the big, wide marine world. The Great Barrier Reef is home to six out of seven of the world’s sea turtles and their first magical moments can be viewed firsthand at up to 7 beach hot spots along the Queensland coast. It’s truly a bucket list moment that has to be ticked off. We’ve put together the best places to see baby turtles up close and personal as they set off on their first ocean adventure in our quick and easy guide below. We also list the closest East Coast Car Rental locations to make planning your road trip even easier. Keep reading to find out some fun facts about our little shelled friends too.
Capricorn Coast and Gladstone Region
• Lady Musgrave Island
60 kilometres off the coast of Queensland, this protected lagoon is a favourite for snorkellers and is home to baby green loggerhead turtles and the endangered hawksbill turtle. Pick up a hire car from our Sunshine Coast location for a 7-hour road trip to the seaside town of 1770, the closest access point where tours to the island operate daily.
• Heron Island
Head a few hours north in your Sunshine Coast hire car to visit Heron Island, a diver’s paradise nestled over 120 kilometres offshore and adjacent to the to the cities of Gladstone and Rockhampton. Here you will find the nesting sites of Green and loggerhead turtles.
Tropical North Queensland
• Green Island
This coral cay is not far from our Cairns pick up location and is an easy day trip by boat. As its namesake suggests, the island attracts an abundance of Green turtles every year.
• Great Keppel Island
A favourite of the flatback turtle, Great Keppel Island sits closer to the mainland than Heron Island and is slightly north of Rockhampton. Getting here in a Brisbane hire car will take you 7 hours. Visitors are spoiled for choice with up to 17 nesting sites at secluded beaches.
• Fitzroy Island
Home to the Cairns Turtle Rehabilitation Centre, this island sanctuary is certainly worth a visit on your Northern Queensland road trip. The centre is a volunteer-operated, non-profit organisation working hard to bring sick and injured turtles back to life.
Southern Great Barrier Reef
• Mon Repos
Only a 3-hour road trip north from our Sunshine Coast location and a 4-hour drive from our Brisbane Airport site you will find Mon Repos – the only popular turtle nesting spot situated on the mainland. You can find Mon Repos adjacent to Bundaberg and is the largest population of nesting marine loggerhead turtles in the South Pacific. There is also a new multi-million dollar Sea Turtle Centre providing education and support to our ocean friends
• Lady Elliot Island
Accessible by plane from Bundaberg Airport, Lady Elliot Island is a few hours north of Mon Repos and is known for its abundance of marine life. Three species of turtles frequent here, including the hawksbill, green and loggerhead turtles.
Fun facts about our tiny-shelled friends
- Hatchlings measure 5-7 centimetres, and weigh 15 to 30 grams
- Baby turtles have an in-built GPS formed when they were in the nest from the earth’s magnetic field. This is so they can find their way home when it is time to nest
- The average lifespan of a sea turtle is 50 to 80 years-old and only 1 out of 1000 make it past the age of 30
- The best time to see baby turtles is at night as temperatures are cooler and there are less predators
- Never use a torch. Baby turtles instinctively head towards the lowest natural light, which for them is the sun on the horizon overlooking the ocean