I choose Hervey Bay as my gateway to Fraser Island, reason being that the town is meant to be bigger than that of the other main option, Rainbow Beach. Still, there was nothing much to do in Hervey Bay the one night I was there, especially as there was a huge storm that night. Helped by my jet lag, I went to bed pretty early and woke up at 5.30am to check out the Esplanade and Hervey Bay beach before my pick up for Fraser Island.
The sun was already up and there were a few walkers and joggers on the beach. There wasn’t much to see, but it was quiet, clean and serene at this early hour.
There did seem to be a number of these guys washed up on the beach though. I hadn’t heard about the jellyfish in this part of Australia, but I found out later that the sea crossing between River Heads and Fraser Island was just teeming with them.
I passed by this sign on my walk back from the beach to the hostel. I made a mental note of it, not knowing how true it would be by the end of the day.
Fraser Island Attractions
Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island at about 123km long and 22km at its widest point. It has an average depth of about 100m. I opted for the two day tour which takes visitors round the main sights of the island with an overnight stay in the Eurong Beach Resort.
We started at Lake McKenzie, a perched dune lake (i.e. freshwater lake located on top of a sand dune) and the most famous lake on the island. Picture sparkling water surrounded by sandy beaches on one side and eucalypt forests on the other.
We were then taken on a short walk starting at Central Station, where we passed by Wanggoolba Creek. Can you make out the creek in the photo? It has water so clear that you almost don’t notice it’s there!
Another famous creek on the island is Eli Creek, which flows out onto the Seventy-Five Mile Beach. Whilst it is not very deep, it is the latest fresh water creek on the eastern side of the island and therefore very popular for swimming.
It is not particularly safe to swim in the seas surrounding the islands, due to the strong tides and presence of sharks. The Champagne Pools, the largest rock pools on the island, provide a way of accessing the sea at hide tide when the waves rush over the rocks, creating “bubbly” swimming holes.
Sure, these natural landscapes were all lovely to see, photograph and experience, but for me, the true highlights of Fraser Island were features of the 2 day tour which I would’ve missed, had I opted for the 1 day tour.
Fraser Island – The Unexpected Highlights
1. Lake Wabby
We were placed at the start of the Lake Wabby trail for a short-ish walk that would lead us to Lake Wabby. We didn’t know what to expect, but it turned out to be a hell-lot of sand. And it wasn’t moist, packed sand either – think hiking through a sand dune. It was tough, hot work, but the sights made up for it.
After seeing sand everywhere, we suddenly spy a bit of blue in the horizon, topped by forest. I imagine that this is what an oasis or mirage would look like if I ever found myself in the desert.
Lake Wabby, surrounded by the Hammerstone Sandblow and a eucalypt forest was surreal. I began to understand why the indigenous people of Fraser Island call it K’gari, which translates to “paradise”.
2. Air Fraser Island: flying off and onto a beach airstrip
This was an optional extra in the tour which our guide started telling us about as we were driving along the Seventy-Five Mile Beach, a beach which is 75 miles long – long enough to be used as an airstrip for a charter plane. For AUD75, we were taken on a 15 minute flight tour around Fraser Island, lifting off and landing on the beach. There’s not a lot of places in the world where you can do that and having never flown in such a plane before, I took the opportunity to do so.
It was a great choice. Flying over top, you see how large and uninhabited the island is and just how much sand there is! What was cool for me also was seeing the 75 Mile Beach in in entire lengthy glory, something you just can’t appreciate when you’re standing on land.
Our landing point was right next to the Maheno shipwreck, a 78 year old wreck of a luxury cruise ship that had been on its way to Japan (for scrapping thankfully, so no dead bodies!).
3. Indian Head
Indian Head is a 60m high rocky bluff, now used as a view platform. Looking straight down into the rocks below, we saw sting rays and turtles bobbing along the sea (no sharks or whales unfortunately!). Looking to our right, we saw a beautiful view of Seventy-Five Mile Beach, and to our left, the Marloo Bay. I had spent two days on the island at this point but I still couldn’t get over how remote the island felt. I’m so used to seeing beaches with resorts, deck chairs and umbrellas lined along them. There was nothing here, apart from a few fishermen and their trucks dotted about.
4. Meeting new people
Meeting other solo travellers for the first time was definitely another highlight of coming to Fraser Island. It’s easy to feel lonely when you arrive in a hostel and everyone else seems to be in a group, but all of the few solo travellers who I have met so far have been pretty awesome – from Tracy (who pretty much does the same job in Dublin as what I used to do in London – scary!), to Nicole the bubbly German, Douglas the Viking (the most mature 18 year old I have ever met) and Max, my bus companion who I had lots of fun conversations with over the course of 2 days, discussing Swedish culture and history, as well as our shared love of books and travel.
My next stop is Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays. Let’s see how the beaches there compares because this is going to be a tough act to follow.