Fraser Island, off the coast of Queensland in eastern Australia, is the largest sand island in the world. This conjures up images of gorgeous white beaches – which is pretty accurate – but there’s so much more, including rainforest, woodland, mangrove forest and peat swamps, some really crazy wildlife, a lake with spa-like properties and quite possibly the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see.
I visited Fraser Island with Fraser Island Discovery Tours, as part of the BEACHES AND REEFS tour run by Contiki, which – fyi – was one of the best trips of my life (quite an compliment from someone who’s travelled almost solidly for over four years!). You can read through the posts on this blog to find out if you think this tour’s for you (I even have a video of the highlights), but – take my word for it – you will have the TIME OF YOUR LIFE!
EXPLORE FRASER ISLAND WITH CONTIKI…
…AND HAVE NO REGRETS
We were picked up from Noosa in purpose-built 20-seater ‘Warrior’ 4WD vehicles. Our guide immediately humoured the large proportion of English passengers by finding a radio station that was transmitting our first World Cup game and then miraculously timed it so that we arrived on the island’s pristine beaches at the precise moment the final whistle blew.
If there’s one place on earth that’s capable of instantly lifting the heavy spirits of a crowd of football fans whose team has just lost an important match, it has to be Fraser Island, and here’s why…
FRASER ISLAND BEACHES
Our first stop was on the island’s ‘superhighway’ – the beautiful Seventy Five Mile Beach. Our Warrior vehicles sped along the water’s edge and pulled to a stop beside a blood-red estuary. Our guide explained that this was the result of tannins from inland vegetation seeping into the sediment and being washed downstream.
We then had 20 minutes to stretch our legs and to take on some hearty breakfast in the form of muffins and tea.
Although the beaches of Fraser Island appear to be the perfect location for a dip in the ocean, the risk of shark attacks is very high. You could also encounter a deadly box jellyfish or a saltwater crocodile, so it’s probably best to keep your swimwear nice and dry until you reach the island’s prime swimming spot… Lake McKenzie.
Lake McKenzie’s waters are so pure that virtually nothing lives in it. This makes it a safe place to go for a refreshing dip, and there’s obviously the added bonus that it’s gobsmackingly beautiful. The water clarity is incredible and as if that wasn’t enough of a temptation, the sand around the lake is composed of pure white silica. You can use handfuls of it to exfoliate, but just immersing yourself will give your skin and hair a smooth, soft, conditioned feel.
Lake McKenzie is also the lunch spot. There’s a fenced-in BBQ area, and the food provided by Discovery Tours is exquisite.
You wouldn’t really expect much plant life on an island made entirely from sand, but sediment has accumulated over hundreds of thousands of years on volcanic bedrock and plants have been able to survive thanks to naturally occurring fungi that release nutrients.
As long as you stick together and keep an eye out for dingoes, a walk along one of the island’s designated shaded footpaths is very rewarding. Competition for light between the trees is intense, resulting in very tall, straight-stemmed trees with few branches. Keep an eye out for the scribbly gum tree, which has wiggly lines etched into its bark caused by the woodboring larvae of the scribbly gum moth.
WILDLIFE OF FRASER ISLAND
Fraser Island’s resident population of dingoes is the purest in Australia and continues to be protected by the local authorities, who have banned other dog breeds from accessing the island. While dingoes have been known to attack humans – and tragically killed a nine-year-old boy on Fraser Island in 2001 – if you follow the advice displayed on hundreds of information sheets around the island, you shouldn’t have any problems. Keep an eye on small children, stay in groups if you’re out walking and follow the park’s advice on disposal of food. Nine communities on the island have specially designed dingo-proof fencing to deter them. If you see one, count yourself lucky as the population is in decline.
The island is also home to more than 230 species of bird, from waders and gulls to impressive birds of prey, kingfishers and the endangered ground parrot.
Dugongs feed on the seagrass just off shore and you might see a wallaby, possum, flying fox or echidna further inland. As we sped along the beach in our 4WD, there was a humpback whale breaching on the horizon.
FRASER ISLAND SUNSETS
Round off your day with a wander down to the pier near the Kingfisher Bay Resort to watch a spectacular sunset. You might even see dolphins playing in the water at the pier’s end.
I experienced Fraser Island as part of Contiki’s Beaches and Reefs Tour from Sydney to Cairns, which was sponsored by Contiki. While they requested that I write about my trip, the choice of topics has been left entirely up to me. Any opinions expressed are a genuine reflection on how I felt about the experience.