Hervey Bay, enclosed by the north part of Fraser Island on its east and the coastline extending from Bundaberg to Urangan, was named by Lieutenant James Cook in 1770. Augustus John Hervey (1724-79), 3rd Earl of Bristol, was a career naval officer, commander in chief of the Mediterranean (1763) and in line for a lordship of the Admiralty (1771). Described as active and brave, but reckless and over-confident, he died without a legitimate heir.

Apart from pastoral settlement which began in the 1850s, the nearest town settlement was Maryborough (1847), 30 km southwards. Maryborough served as a port for the pastoralists, and timber getters were also active. Cotton was grown profitably during the American civil war (1862), but was superseded by more profitable sugar. The district was stimulated by its proximity to the Gympie gold field (1867) which coincided with the expansion of sugar farming. Scandinavians settled on virgin scrubland inland from Hervey Bay in the 1880s, and the Urangan Sugar Company was formed in 1884. The coast from Pialba to Urangan also became a watering place for Maryborough residents. The opening of a railway from Pialba to Maryborough in 1896 gave sugar growers improved access to the large Maryborough sugar mill and Maryborough residents readier access to the seaside.

As early as the 1880s a Maryborough promoter had subdivided foreshore allotments at Torquay-by-the-sea (west of Urangan). Whilst premature, his investment was a foretaste of the coast's tourism potential. Pugh's Queensland directory (1924) recorded a hotel at each of the localities of Point Vernon, Pialba, Scarborough/Scarness, Torquay and Urangan. Torquay was a favourite spot for beach picnics and the long Urangan pier was a favourite promenade. The census populations of these places, including part of Nikenbah, were 1013 in 1911 and 3090 in 1947. In the next census year, 1954, the population was recorded under the descriptor 'Hervey Bay'. Its suburbs were Point Vernon (dress circle of the bay), Pialba (shopping centre), Scarness and Torquay (holiday areas), and Urangan (fishing). Foreshore camping continued and caravanning increased - 'Hervery Bay, caravan capital of Australia'. Despite the steady population increase, car travel snuffed out rail travel and the Pialba line closed in the 1970s. The Seaview picture theatre closed in 1971 and the cinema experience was moved to a drive-in.

The local government area was Burrum Shire, headquartered in Maryborough. In 1976 it was renamed Hervey Bay Shire, but with areas such as Toogoom and Howard in the adjoining shire. In 1982 those areas were added to Hervey Bay, and in 1984 Hervey Bay was given city status. Its population was approaching 17,000, most of which was urban.

Accommodation and home purchase costs have been comparatively modest, and there are numerous choices for keen anglers. Cruises to Fraser Island, sailing and canoeing provide low cost pastimes, and whale watching is popular during July to October. In 2002 there were 20 caravan/camping grounds from Toogoom to Urangan. A new airport was completed in 2005, serviced by direct flights by two airlines from Sydney. A 42 ha industrial park was built next to the airport.

Hervey Bay has become a favoured retirement location. At the 2011 census the median age of residents was 45, compared with 37 for Australia.

Burrum Shire's and Hervey Bay City's census populations have been:

Census DatePopulation
19216838
19548408
197110,737
198620,660
199130,867
2001Incl. visitors 45,878
Residents only 41,803
200641,225
201148,680

The area of Hervey Bay City was 2346 sq km.

In 2008 Hervey Bay City was amalgamated with Maryborough City, Woocoo Shire and Divisions 1 and 2 of Tiaro Shire to form Fraser Coast Regional Council.

Further Reading: 

Frances Chan, Hervey Bay and the Fraser Coast, Rockhampton, Central Queensland University Press, 1999

Joan Christiansen, They came ... and stayed: a history of Hervey Bay, Pialba, R. & J. McTaggart, 1991

Aldershot, Antigua Shire, Burrum Shire, Burrum Heads, Dundowran Beach, Hervey Bay suburbs, Howard, Kawungan, Maryborough, Pialba, Point Vernon, Scarness, Tinana, Toogoom, Torbanlea, Torquay, Urangan and Urraween entries