Australia is a country that is famed for its diverse landscape and natural wonders. The varied climate of this vast country means that many different ecosystems thrive; the fertile Daintree rainforest in northern Queensland contrasts dramatically with the dry barren outback that presides over the central and western regions, and the east coast is home to the majority of the population due to the location of key cities. Australia’s tourism industry benefits greatly from its natural environment. The Great Barrier Reef and Uluru draw thousands of visitors a year, and the addition of Cape Tribulation, the Whitsunday Islands and the Great Ocean Road makes Australia a must visit destination.
With the famous sights drawing in the visitors, Australia has no shortage of destinations that offer amazing travelling opportunities. One of these is Fraser Island, a 75 mile sandbank situated off the Queensland coast, approximately 120 miles north of Brisbane. Fraser Island has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992 due to the unusual natural landscape. It is the world’s largest sand island and home to a diverse range of plant and animal species. Rainforests grow from the sand, mangrove and eucalyptus trees dominate the horizon, and sandy beaches surround over 100 freshwater lakes. The island is also known for its rare form of highway; the main beach is an authorised coastal road that runs the length of the island, permitting vehicles to drive along the sand. Fraser Island is strictly four wheel drive territory. The uneven sandy terrain means that there are no paved roads, just rough tracks cutting through the forest, making navigation by car impossible.
The most popular way to access Fraser Island is by ferry from Hervey Bay. This small town can be bypassed by travellers on their way to the island, but it is worth staying for a night or two to sample the variety of shops, cafes and places to stay, as well as the beautiful sandy beach. There are two main ways to experience the island; either a self-drive tour with a group of other travellers, or a guided tour with meals and accommodation included. A self-drive is ideal if you want to do things at your own pace, however bear in mind that other people may influence how your trip turns out. It is a completely self-sufficient experience as you will be camping and cooking your own meals. A guided tour is a great option to ensure you see the best of the island while letting someone else do the driving! The Cool Dingo tour company offer tours over two or three days and includes lodge accommodation, meals and a fully stocked bar with entertainment for the evenings.
Lake McKenzie is one of the largest of Fraser’s freshwater lakes and allows swimming. This particular lake is shrouded in myth; it is said that the water contains cleansing properties, and bathing in it makes the person look ten years younger. Whether this is true or not, the water can be extremely cold! The lake itself is beautiful; pure white silica merging with clear blue water, all fringed by verdant forest. The island contains many examples of perched lakes, with colours varying from clear to green and even black, depending on the types of vegetation sustaining them. Lake Wabby is one of the few lakes on the island containing fish, but this lake is under threat as it is situated next to a huge sand dune. The sand is gradually burying the lake and eventually will consume it, leaving nothing to suggest what it once was. The dune is part of a surreal desert-like national park where it is easy to lose direction due to the lack of discernible landmarks; however the whole area is uniquely stunning.
In centuries past, Fraser Island was notorious for shipwrecks. Vessels travelling towards Asia and the Pacific would often get caught out by irregular tides or changeable weather conditions, and the ships would wash up on the island’s beaches. The Maheno is the most famous of these wrecks, as the rusting skeleton remains beached at the Pinnacles and has become a major tourist attraction. Caught in a cyclone en route to Japan in 1935, the ship is an impressive reminder of the power of the ocean and creates a haunting sight silhouetted in the sunlight.
The island’s location off the Queensland coast entices visitors year round due to its moderate climate. The temperatures average 28 degrees centigrade in summer, and winter brings temperatures of around 22 degrees. Certain areas are prone to cooler winds from the sea, and it can get cold at night so take appropriate clothing and camping equipment.
Fraser Island is a great destination to visit as it combines the excitement of off-roading with the wonders of a world heritage site. It is an ideal way to meet new people and provides the chance to experience dramatic landscapes and unique scenery, while only being a few miles from the Australian mainland. Fraser Island should be included on every travelling agenda….if not now, then definitely in the future!
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