One Day on Fraser Island
Fraser Island is a really awesome place... that you've probably never even heard of. (I know I hadn't until recently). Also called K'gari in the local Butchulla language, Fraser Island is an Australian National and UNESCO World Heritage site. It's the world's largest sand island and is home to dingoes, rainforest, over 100 freshwater lakes, and even more natural attractions than I could begin to list. We got the chance to visit it on a blustery August day earlier this year, only just getting a small glimpse of the 455,000 acre island's magic.
Since selling tours was part of our job at the holiday park in Hervey Bay, our employers covered the cost of our trip to Fraser. (Thanks, Pauline & James!) They figured it would be a good investment - if we saw the place for ourselves, we would be better at recommending and selling it to the clientele of the park. So they booked us on a day tour with Fraser Explorer Tours. Here are some highlights from our day on Fraser:
Seventy-Five Mile Beach & The Pinnacles
After a boat ride, then a soporific bus ride through dense forest, and then a pit stop at the island's only "town," our big bus turned onto 75 Mile Beach. We had never made it to New Zealand's 90 Mile Beach, so I think it's safe to say this was the longest beach I've ever seen. It's seemingly endless golden sand for, well, seventy-five miles. Big 4WD tire tracks criss-cross the shoreline. Bus tours like ours and 4WD rentals are pretty much the only way to see the island. As we looked out at the vast expanse of sand, our driver reminded us to keep an eye out for Fraser's resident dingoes. Due to the island's isolation from the mainland Fraser dingoes are some of the most genetically pure dingoes in all of Australia.
I'll be honest right now: I was barely awake. We caught our shuttle to the ferry at 7:30. We got to Fraser Island around 9 AM. From 9 AM up until we got to The Pinnacles, with a few brief alert exceptions, I was fast asleep. So was Emmett. I blame our mutual motion sickness problem. Driving on only uneven sand roads, the bus inevitably lurches and wobbles during the entire ride. Luckily, drowsiness is always my first motion sickness symptom and if I sleep, I don't get sick.
Anyway, we soon woke up from our disorienting slumbers to discover that the bus had stopped! At the Pinnacles! The Pinnacles are a group of sand cliffs that beautifully display the variety in sand color that can be found on Fraser. Take a peek.
The SS Maheno Shipwreck
I saw a few shipwrecks in New Zealand, but the SS Maheno has to be the most impressive shipwreck I've seen yet. It looks like a movie set, not a real wreck. But it is real! The SS Maheno was a passenger ship that went between Australia and New Zealand back in the early 20th century. Then, during World War One, it was turned into a hospital ship. Later, on it's last leg in the 1930s, it was being towed to Osaka, Japan for demolition when it came loose from a towline in a cyclone. Eight men were actually onboard the ship when it first washed up off of Fraser Island. Luckily they all escaped alive and made camp on the beach, eventually returning home. Bids were considered to buy the hulking wreck, but it degenerated too quickly before anyone could claim it. Now it's just a rusty, eye-catching tourist destination. Don't get me wrong: I actually really dig shipwrecks - and this one in particular. They fulfill some deep-seated pirate-y dreams of mine.
I'm gonna be real: I found Eli Creek as underwhelming as this single photo that I took of it. It sounds like it would be cool, I guess? It's the island's largest freshwater creek. I saw a lot of people with those trendy, whimsical animal inner-tubes trying to float it. But we were at Eli Creek in wintertime. While it would probably be the perfect cool-down place to be in the summer, it had me like "hmm, yes, a very clear creek."
A Wild Dingo Appears!
These pictures are a bit shady, I know. But they were taken from a moving bus as the dingo moved too. It was pretty awesome to see - and be seen - by such an iconic Australian animal. Also: dingoes look like they could be someone's pet. They don't look that wild to me. Not that I'd ever try and get friendly with one.
Rainforest Walk to Wanggoolba Creek
Our next stop was at Central Station, the former logging camp on Fraser. We walked beneath towering kauri bedecked with staghorn ferns and felt the rough bark of barrel-wide satinay trees. It was a pleasant excursion into the shady Fraser rainforest. Before this tour, I hadn't known rainforest could even grow on sand. The boardwalk took us alongside Wanggoolba Creek, another example of the transparently pure freshwater that is abundant on the island.
Fraser's Crown Jewel: Lake McKenzie
I'm not sure that pictures can do justice to Lake Mckenzie. It is stunning in person. STUNNING. The sand is silica aka the softest, whitest sand ever. It feels and looks like a dream version of sand made real. And the water - like every other freshwater source we visited: crystal clear.
Visiting the lake was far and away our favorite part of the day. I wish we had been able to spend more time splashing in the (quite chilly) water. It was so serene and relaxing.
Know Before You Go:
- If you're prone to motion sickness, bring whatever remedy for it that you personally prefer. We took generic dramamine but we still nausea-napped on the bus because of the bumps on the sand roads across the island.
- Bring water and snacks. A buffet lunch was included in our tour, but we still got hungry on and off throughout the day. There is a bakery at Eurong (Fraser's only "town") but the prices are justifiably high. When you're the only bakery on an enormous island, you charge what you want.
- Wear sunscreen. A good general rule of thumb for any travel in Australia.
- Bring your swimsuit & towel. You're not going to be able to resist jumping in the sparkling pure waters of Lake Mckenzie.
- If it's winter time (June-August), bring a light jacket! The beach is windy (read: cold), the ferry ride is really windy (cold), and you'll get wet (cold) after a dip in the lake.
- Don't approach dingoes! They are wild dogs in the same vein as coyotes and wolves. Give them space and appreciate this vulnerable species from a distance.