Since its World Heritage listing in 1992, Fraser Island has attracted hundreds of thousands of tourists and nature lovers.
Flying in and landing right on the beach is an experience that begins an unforgettable luxury wilderness trip.
“Welcome to Fraser Island Airport,” announces our flight Captain proudly over the loudspeaker. The eight-seat Australian-made executive turbo prop aircraft lowers its nose towards the sand and the longest runway in the world rushes into sight through the windows of the light aircraft; it is a long stretch of pure white sandy beach as far as the naked eye can see.
To the right of the aircraft the waves crash a turbulent welcome against the shoreline of the Seventy Five Mile Beach, as the trees dance a soft welcome in the wind to its left. Gerry executes a perfect landing onto the sand, always keeping a watchful eye out for 4WD’s, tourists and dingoes.
Largest sand island in the world
At 184,000 hectares, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and was listed on the World Heritage list in 1992. These massive sand deposits occurred through climactic and sea level changes over the last 700,000 years with the highest dunes reaching an amazing 240 metres above sea level.
The morning flight from either Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast Airport to Fraser Island follows the eye-catching south eastern coastline of Queensland over clouds, luxury canal developments, Noosa’s Hastings Street, then past the cliffs of the coloured sands and smack bang right onto the eastern beach of World Heritage Listed Fraser Island. It’s a sensational trip and a great way to experience one of this world’s natural wonders, especially for those with little time to spare.
At the beach, our ranger, Ben, waits with a brand new gleaming white Pajero 4WD to take us on our own private tour of the island. The choice of itinerary is entirely up to us; Ben and his trusty vehicle are completely at our disposal.
After a short discussion, we settle on a plan and off we go along the eastern beach to Indian Head which is one of the three rock formations formed millions of years ago by volcanic activity and where the sand deposits began.
The drive along eastern beach is an eye-opening experience in itself. It is a gazetted highway with an 80kilometre per hour speed limit, although not everyone keeps to it!
At Eli Creek, Ben expertly studies the ebb and flow of the tide biding his time for the best chance to drive through the pure clear water.
At Indian Head, we clamber up the cliff over stones and dirt to be rewarded by a magnificent 180-degree view of the beaches, forests and endless blue ocean.
White breasted sea eagles soar by the cliffs as sharks, dolphins and turtles dive gracefully in the waters below. Sitting with our heads in the clouds we contemplate the beginnings of this incredible sand island named K’gari (paradise) by the Butchulla aborigines who inhabited the island for at least 5000 years.
Adventures of James Cook
In the year 1770, they tracked what they thought was a giant bird feeding in the ocean along the coastline. It turned out that the bird was a ship, the Endeavour, captained by Captain James Cook who when he spotted the native aborigines thought they were Indians and thus named the point Indian Head.
Far below, an ant’s trail of vehicles snake their way further north towards the Champagne pools as sightseers queue up to be sprayed by the giant waves that break into fine champagne like bubbles against the rocks.
The cliffs and shoreline of the Pacific Ocean have other interesting places with inviting names to explore like The Pinnacles, Eli Creek, Maheno Wreck and Coloured Sands. Dolphins, dugongs, turtles and humpback whales cruise along the shore.
The total flexibility of our day gives us the benefit of avoiding the crowds and tour buses.
Inland from Eurong Beach, the open Eucalypt forests, with its signature Scribbly Gums, turn into closed dense vegetation forest. Even further inland, there are impressive giant majestic sub-tropical rainforests with their impressive Satinay and Brush Box trees, some three metres in girth and 32 metres high – the equivalent of a twelve storey building.
The middle of the forest is where Ben breaks out the lunch – gourmet sandwiches, fresh fruit and Australian cheeses washed down with a bottle of chilled champagne.
Another activity not to be missed is a dip in Lake McKenzie, one of Fraser’s freshwater lakes.
Kingfisher Bay Resort
Not far from Lake McKenzie, we end up camping in luxury air-conditioning at the Kingfisher Bay Resort. Designed to blend into the native Australian bush, Kingfisher Bay takes eco-tourism seriously. Its architectural design, infrastructure and activities minimise any adverse effects to the natural environment, conserve energy and minimise waste.
Resort buildings are below the tree line and the living areas look out onto native lakes and bush. There is even an on-site worm farm that turns sewage sludge, waste paper and kitchen preparation scraps into compost for the herb garden which supplies the resort kitchens.
The menu at Seabelle’s restaurant is peppered with dishes that are distinctly Australian cooked with these fresh herbs grown on the premises. Exotic dishes like crocodile, emu, kangaroo and local seafood are aromatised with a fusion of lemon myrtle, wild lime and coriander.
From forest to sea, this magical place takes on many different faces. It can be an exciting wilderness adventure, a romantic paradise, a restful retreat, a fun family holiday or simply just a relaxing getaway. Whichever you theme you choose it can certainly be wrapped in a luxurious parcel.
The writer was a guest of Kingfisher Bay Resort.
Fraser Island is a 45-minute catamaran ride from Hervey Bay and a 45-minute flight or a three and a half hour drive from the Queensland capital of Brisbane. There are plenty of other 4WD tracks around Brisbane but this is one of the best.
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