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The smell of blue gums, the chirp of cicadas, the sound of a babbling brook or the breeze through the trees brings an instant sense of peace. The Bundaberg Region is known for its pristine beaches and glorious coastline, but you don’t have to go far to find some beautiful hidden gems of bushland and nature reserves, offering a different outdoor experience.

The Natural Areas Team at Bundaberg Regional Council are loving caretakers of 10 spots; all worthy of exploring, For the cream of the crop, add these three to the top of your list.

RUSSO ENVIRONMENTAL PARK

Great for families, the Russo Environmental Park is just 7km from Childers and has three different walking trails.

Take a short stroll up to the lookout, walk through the bush and along the creek to a large blue gum or follow the rainforest track to a thicket of vines.

The riparian rainforest that grows in the park forms a beautiful shady canopy. Teeming with wildlife, the permanent freshwater Stockyard Creek is a haven for water skinks and birds, while the 200-year-old blue gums provide nesting hollows for owls, possums and gliders.

There are seats available, but no toilet facilities. Dogs are not allowed. Fishing and yabbying are also banned, due to platypus in the creek.

MEADOWVALE NATURE RESERVE

Just 10km from Bundaberg on Rosedale Road is where you will find Meadowvale Nature Reserve – a natural bushland and freshwater creek that is home to rare vegetation, wildflowers, birds and other native animals.

With picnic tables and toilet facilities, you will enjoy taking your time walking through the eucalypts, paperbarks and grass trees, while trying to spot friarbirds, rainbow lorikeets, olive-backed orioles, echidnas, sugar gliders and more.

Take a 1km circuit track through eucalypt woodlands down to Splitters Creek, or the 1.7km Cheeli Circuit through cabbage palms and the near- threatened Melaleuca cheeli for which the trail is named. Dogs are not permitted.

VERA SCARTH-JOHNSON WILDFLOWER RESERVE

A spectacular display of flora, the Vera Scarth- Johnson Wildflower Reserve, off Coonarr Road, impresses with rare plants, masses of colourful wildflowers and a diversity of birds and other wildlife.

More than 135 plant species have been identified in the 93ha of wallum health vegetation that also borders about 1km of the Elliott River.

The 1km circuit walking track will take you through the reserve where it is common to see bird species such as brush wattlebird, white cheeked honeyeater and the noisy friarbird. Echidnas have also been spotted. The wildflowers bloom throughout the year but are the most spectacular during Spring.

Dogs aren’t permitted. While the wildflowers are beautiful, please don’t pick them as their nectar and pollen are needed as food for birds, bees and butterflies.