It’s hard not to get carried away when describing Fraser Island. Ask any Aussie for a list of their favourite places and the chances are this miracle of nature will be the near the top. But while the photographs and testimony of others can tell part of the story, Fraser really has to be seen to be believed.
Such is the magic of Fraser that it’s also difficult to go past the Aboriginal legend of its creation. According to the Butchulla people who lived here long ago, Fraser was named K’gari Island after the beautiful spirit who helped the great god Beeral create the land. As a thank you for her help Beeral transformed the spirit into this idyllic island with tall trees, freshwater lakes, and flowers, animals and people for company.
Understandably the Butchulla thought of K’gari as paradise and lived here happily for possibly as long as 40,000 years, roaming its gigantic sand dunes and towering rainforests and relishing its plentiful supplies of freshwater and of foods such as fish, seafood, nuts and fruits.
Fraser remains a place of abundant natural gifts, with a remarkable variety of vegetation and animal and bird life. All the more remarkable when you consider that there’s more sand on Fraser than in the Sahara desert, and sand is hardly renowned for its life-fostering properties.
In fact, at over 123km in length and covering an area of 184000 hectares, Fraser is the world’s largest sand island. Yet it also encompasses the second largest concentration of lakes (after Tasmania) in Australia with a total of over 70, including as many as 40 perched lakes — a rare phenomena elsewhere in the world.
Set in a constantly altering landscape of overlapping sand dunes, the island’s lakes, creeks and streams are often visually stunning. The dazzling turquoise of the perched Lake McKenzie, bordered as it is by vanilla coloured sand, is particularly irresistable while the shimmering emerald of Lake Wabby, surrounded by a huge sandblow (which is gradually swallowing it) and by eucalypt forest, is also deeply alluring. Equally delicious are the cool translucent Eli Creek on the eastern side of the island and Wanggoolba Creek which winds along under a thick canopy of rainforest at its centre.
Even Fraser’s abundant sand comes in many shades, from the whitest of white through caramel and coffee-coloured to hues of orange and ochre, sometimes, as at the Pinnacles and at Rainbow Gorge, all in the same place. The island’s sandscape is also exceptionally diverse with cliffs and gorges, and desert-like dunes giving way to swathes of dense mangrove and rainforest, as well of course as the seemingly endless surf beaches which contour the island.
Tourism Queensland The island’s most impressive beach is the 75 kilometre Eastern beach, billed as the “world’s most amazing highway” for its four wheel driving possibilities. Along, or just off this long wide stretch of beach are a number of Fraser’s sights, including the rusting wreck of the Maheno, a former luxury liner which became marooned on shore in 1935. The wreck serves as a reminder of the sometimes treacherous conditions which have seen the loss of at least fifty ships offshore. Indeed, Fraser was renamed after a survivor — Eliza Fraser — of one such wreck, that of the Stirling Castle, who landed on the island in 1836.
However, at its heart Fraser Island is a place of intense calm, largely because of its profusion of rainforest. In areas like Central Station and the Valley of the Giants, the stillness and the slight sound of the crackling, rustling forest are enormously soothing. Here, unusual and ancient giant ferns are frequent, as are scribbly gums and eucalypts, while in places kauri and satinay pines reach high for the sky. These splendid trees once formed the basis of a flourishing logging industry which provided wood for the likes of the Suez Canal and the London docks. But thankfully the last logs were taken from the island in 1991 and the forests are now protected under Fraser’s World Heritage status, granted to it in 1992 in recognition of its superlative natural phenomena and environment.
The island is home to as many as 230 species of bird, 25 types of mammal — including the purest breed of dingo in Australia — and no less than 12 sorts of bat. The waters that surround Fraser, meanwhile, teem with sea life including dugongs, dolphins, sharks and turtles, and between August and mid-October the island is further blessed by the arrival to Platypus Bay of humpback whales on their annual migration from Antarctica.
With so much on offer on this idyllic island, the question you should ask yourself is not if you should see it, or even, when, but how much time you can spare to take it all in.