Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and it was given world heritage listing in 1992 for its natural diversity. It sits at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef and boasts more marine and fish diversity than the reef itself.
After we drove off the barge onto Fraser Island, we charged up the beach for about 40 kms and found a nice camping spot with great beach views. The rain is still with us so we had a relaxing afternoon in the van. We saw a few dingoes on the way along the beach but were in a hurry so didn’t do any photos. In the end those were the only ones we saw. Dingoes are wild, predatory animals and a key wildlife feature of this island. Their conservation is of national significance as they may become one of the purest strains of wild dingo (since they have rarely interbred with domestic or feral dogs). Visitors are encouraged to read an 8 page brochure on how to be dingo-safe and reminded that a 9 yr old boy was killed here by dingoes in 2001. In 2010 a photographer was fined $40,000 and given a 9 month suspended sentence for feeding and attracting dingoes. Those dingoes became aggressive (savaged a child and cornered adults) so they had to be put down. Some campgrounds have dingo proof fences to keep them out. Visitors are advised to never feed them, lock away food and rubbish, walk in groups and carry a stick. Not a good place for a solitary beach jog (or any running). Of course bush walking is a key feature of the Island – should be interesting!
Our time on Fraser Island was intermittently sunny and rainy, lots of rain; but in spite of that we managed some nice walks, mostly on ‘sandblows’ – this means sand blown inland from the coast that engulfs vegetation in its path. The largest is called Knifeblade Sandblow and it stretches 3.5kms inland and advances >1meter each year. They are interesting and impressive areas. We did a 4 km walk on Kirrar Sandblow and later a 6.5 km walk through Wan’gul Sandblow – it was huge and one could easily imagine being lost in the Simpson or Sahara deserts.
The island features over 100 freshwater lakes and we did some nice walks around a few of them. Seeing the lakes requires driving inland on what I would call “challenging” 4 WD tracks. Dick seems to enjoy those drives and does them well. Even as a passenger I struggled with them!
Managed to find lots of lovely beach campsites and had them to ourselves. Lots of beach driving with our days planned to suit the tide. Some interesting history was learned at the Maheno Wreck – a luxury 420 person passenger liner built in 1905 in Scotland that sailed between NZ & Australia, then became a NZ government hospital ship from 1915-19 (operating in the Med, the English Channel and Australasia caring for >20,000 men), before returning to civilian cross-Tasman passenger services. It was retired and sold to the Japanese for scrap in 1935. On the journey to Japan the Maheno broke her tow in a winter cyclone and marooned on Fraser Island. There is not much left of her now but it is still one of the most popular sights on the island.
Also learned how the island got its name when we visited Central Station, which was once the site of a 16 house village during the timber days, and is now a tourist spot with lots of stories about the history of the island including the story of the shipwreck of the Stirling Castle, which was captained by James Fraser and made famous by his wife, Eliza Fraser, who toured the world telling tales of her survival and his death whilst in the captivity of local aboriginals.
We visited Champagne Pools on a low tide, cloudy day and then on a high tide, sunny day – looks like two different places. Enjoyed a nice walk to Indian Head (named by captain Cook because he saw aboriginals there) which features magnificent views up and down the beach.
Some of my impressions from being here are: stunning beach scenery, great walks over the sandblows, and picturesque, private beach camps, as well as difficult 4 Wheeldriving inland and around some of the beach rocks, and a constant concern about being attacked by dingoes (every toilet door has a new warning sign about dingo-safety).
As we left the island and before we took the barge back to the mainland, we visited Kingfisher Resort which seems to offer a non-camping alternative for people who want to see the island in style.