Fraser Island is a World Heritage listed destination for a justifiable reason – it is a magical reflection of nature at its best! How to experience all the island has to offer in the best way possible, is the real challenge for a visitor to the region with a limited time and expense budget. With this in mind, it is first worth explaining why Fraser Island is unique, and why it is a MUST visit destination on your east coast excursion.
Fraser Island is located off the southern Queensland coast, and is the largest sand island in the world. The island is 125km long and 25km wide, and other than a few small urban settlements, almost the entire 1840km2 landmass is a protected National Park.
The sand, which has been accumulating for over 750,000 years, is almost 98% pure silicon quartz, and is as soft and pure as talcum powder. There are over 36 sandblows on the island, which are huge parabolic dunes which constantly move and change under the influence of prevailing winds. The eastern “75 mile” beach is known as the “beach highway” and doubles as a landing strip for small planes and a roadway for vehicles.
Fraser Island is the only place on Earth where a rainforest grows entirely out of sand. In Pile Valley there are 1000 year old satinay trees, as well as scribbly gums, red gums, piccabeen palms, pandanus and brush box. More than 850 species of plants thrive on the island, growing entirely from sand!
Fraser Island has over 100 freshwater lakes, including 40 perched lakes – some of the cleanest lakes in the world! The fresh water in the perched lakes, sitting on top of compact sand and vegetable matter, is so pure and soft, that you truly experience a sense of weightlessness as you float above almost pure white silica sand. Lake McKenzie is the most famous lake and is a photographer’s dream.
For the bird watchers there are over 350 species of bird on the island. There are over 74 species of reptiles and of course there is also the famous Fraser Island dingo – one of the last pure bred dingo species in the world.
Fraser Island is MUCH bigger than most people anticipate. There are no sealed roads on the island – they are all sand tracks. During long dry periods these tracks can get VERY rough and dug up by the constant daily traffic and tour buses. It can be very challenging crossing from the west coast to the east coast of the island if you are not experienced in driving offroad and in sand.
If you are considering a self-drive trip (and you have not been to the island before), you should plan a minimum of 2 days (preferably more). To try to “see” the island in a day when driving in unfamiliar and challenging conditions is inviting trouble. I recommend 3 days / 2 nights if you want to self-drive and get a full and meaningful experience of the island.
The other advantage of a tour is that there is SO much fascinating and interesting information about the flora, fauna, European and Indigenous history, and geology and biology of the island. You can only get this from an experienced guide. You simply miss out on 50% of the experience if you wander around the island yourself with a guide book.
My recommendation is to do a guided tour (either 1 day or 2 day) the first time you visit the island, and then when you come back embark on your own self-drive adventure.
There are numerous options for guided tours to Fraser Island (and I will dissect the different Fraser Island tours in another blog post). As discussed, Fraser Island is BIG, and there is a lot to see, so trying to do it in a day is a real rush. You can get a taste of the island in a day, but if you want to spend time enjoying the beauty of the different sites on the island I really recommend you take the time to do a 2 day tour.
The 1 day tours (from Hervey Bay) only go as far north as the coloured sands, just above the Maheno Shipwreck, whilst on the 2 day tours you also get to experience Indian Head and the Champagne Pools, and obviously get to spend aa lot more time at all of the stops.