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It was one of those moments when the world reveals to you how magically perfect it is.
Arianna Huffington says in her recent book Thrive, that WONDER is an essential component of living a successful and happy life.
I was more than checking off the Wonder Box here on Fraser Island.
We were bouncing around in a 4WD along sandy tracks, expertly driven by our guide, Kevin. The girls squealed in the back, hands in the air as we went down another dip.
“It’s a roller coaster!”
We drove through ancient forest of towering box brush and satinay trees, their roots digging down into a ground that deceived you into thinking it was rock solid dirt.
Propping it all together was just a pile of sand. Except for a couple of rocks on a few points along the beach there’s no rock on this island.
The same statement was tossed around many times through the day by myself, Craig and even Kevin. He’s been running tours here for over 15 years and the wonder and awe still runs through him.
“What about how great my office is?” he’d keep asking us.
Yep it’s pretty special.
Fraser Island stretches 123 km long and 23 km wide. The largest sand island in the world dumped over 800,000 years ago from places as far as Antarctica when it was still joined with Australia.
It’s a World Heritage Site because it’s constantly moving and evolving. Fraser Island is the only place in the world where tall rainforests are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of over 200 metres.
Later on in the day from above the island through the window of a small Cessna we saw how the wind and sand have worked to shape this island.
A massive dune slowly makes its way through the middle of the island, claiming the forest as it goes. Dead tree stumps can be seen proudly standing amongst some of the dunes, the last visual reminder of the forest that was once there.
It’s a forest that grew from a pile of leaves on the sandy floor. The perfect, couldn’t-recreate-it-if-you-tried conditions to have towering trees, ancient ferns, and the clearest water you’ve ever seen running through streams.
Water so clear, you only know its there when a leaf floats past you. It’s water that’s been filtered by the sand for up to 100 years – OMG the purity!
There are several creeks to visit and marvel at. Eli Creek the most famous for wading, tubing, or swimming through. Eli pumps nearly 3.5 million litres of fresh water in the ocean every hour.
There is no place in the world like it.
In the middle of the island is Lake Mackenzie.
A lake that holds the key to youth. Water that is said to keep you younger.
It was too cold a day for me to test out that theory, but my feet sure liked it. I could see them easily enough – not a murky streak to be found.
Crystal clear water that glows iridescent blue and white silica sand so powdery soft waiting for you to clean your jewellery and exfoliate your skin.
Lake Mackenzie, while perhaps the most special lake on Fraser, is not the only one. The island has over 100 freshwater lakes.
When you take a scenic joy flight with Air Fraser Island, you’ll see the pretty Butterfly Lake, surrounded by forest that looks like heads of broccoli. Air Fraser run 15 minute joy flights from 75 Mile Beach all day long.
Kalyra was enthusiastic until the plane began to turn. Because you know in a small plane, you feel every inch of the turn, so much so that you think it’s going to roll.
“Get me out of here!” she screamed, barely audible above the noise of the engines.
“I want to go back. The plane is going to roooolllll.”
You really shouldn’t want to laugh at your child’s terror, but the knowing she was safe and the look on her face made it so difficult to control the outburst and short bursts of giggles kept escaping. I quietly talked her out of her fear, letting her know if I was not scared then she shouldn’t be.
Thankfully below us in the ocean, a baby humpback whale swam gracefully next to her Mama.
“I’ve never seen a whale like this before Mama.”
A slight bit of joy for the flight returned. (But didn’t last long. She swears she’ll never do another!)
It’s whale season now and earlier in the day when we first emerged from the forest for some beach driving, we were greeted with a baby whale breaching out of the ocean just off shore. (read this post for more info on whale watching)
Not only will the land blow your mind on Fraser Island, but so will the wildlife.
Whales, dolphins and tiger sharks like to chase the fishes just beyond the waves. The currents don’t run through here so they pool out the back. I wouldn’t bring your surfboards and I’d save your swimming for the lakes and creeks.
But keep an eye on your small children
Dingos are tamer than they should be here on Fraser.
Thanks to the poor choices of humans, they’ve learned not to respect people and so keep their distance. You’re bound to have dingos coming pretty close to you on the beaches, particularly near Eli Creek, sniffing for food.
Despite signs warning of the danger all over the island, we see tourists moving close to them to get their shot of the cute wild dogs. We preferred to rely on our 300mm zoom lens to do the trick from afar.
Fraser’s National Highway
It was fun to drive up and down 75 Mile Beach on the eastern side of the ocean.
It’s the wild and pounding side, in contrast to the Western side where the clear and calm water laps gently onto soft, white sand.
75 Mile Beach is classed as part of the Bruce Highway so strict road rules apply. There are cops around ready to nab those who speed or drink drive.
It’s also important you understand how the tides work when driving this stretch so you don’t get cut off. Due to the constant movement of sea and sand, it’s not always exactly 75 miles long and the width changes dramatically.
You want to drive it when it’s flat and hard, then it becomes easier driving as long as you’re paying attention to the steady stream of 4WD’s, the roaming dingos, the ambling tourists, and the joy flights taking off on the beach.
Not any 4WD can drive Fraser!
Fraser is the off-road driver’s dream and it is strictly only made for serious 4WD’s.
Our Nissan X-Trail, whilst it’s been a nice suburban family 4WD didn’t have the necessary clearance from the ground to take on Fraser, which is why we now found ourselves on a personalised tour in a Toyota Prado being expertly driven along the sand by Kevin from Fraser Explorer Tours, organized through Kingfisher Bay Resort (more on that magical place here).
It’s a highlight tour on an island full of highlights. We only barely scratched the surface and I’m keen to return to explore so much Fraser has to offer.
We set up a picnic at Central Station, once a forestry township for about 150 people. We took a stroll along the boardwalk next to Wanggoolba Creek, which carries clear water through tranquil rainforest filled with ancient ferns.
A short walk after lunch through the Pile Valley shows us some of the older and bigger Satinay trees – the ones that were spared from the forestry felling.
The Maheno Shipwreck
Fraser’s sand continues to amaze us as we drive alongside The Pinnacles, a small section of coloured sandy cliffs along the Surf Beach (I can’t believe they’re made from sand!)
Right near here washed up on shore at Happy Valley is one of the most photographed and visited sites on Fraser, the Maheno Shipwreck.
The Maheno, a former Trans-Tasman luxury liner and a World War 1 hospital ship, was washed up on shore in 1935 when she was being towed to Japan and a cyclone viciously ripped her from the chain and spewed her up on Fraser.
Sunrises are meant to be picture perfect here with the Maheno as the foreground.
Everything is picture perfect on Fraser Island.
You leave behind only your footprints that quickly absorb into the sand, but in your heart remains the memory of a place that revealed to you a story of a Universe that is so magical that it conspires to bring the most perfect elements to create wonderlands that baffle.
It’s a moment that draws your awareness to miracles – the trees, the air and of course, even yourself. One day a tiny sperm met a tiny egg against all odds – when conditions were just perfect. We’re all just as amazing as the sand that trees can grow out of.
We all need to travel more to experience such awe and wonder. You sure will thrive if you do.
Click to read more things to do on Fraser Island
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Staying on Fraser Island – Tour Options:
We stayed at Kingfisherbay Resort who can organise 4WD tours of the island or a rental. Options include:
- Self drive with Aussie Trax Hire car. Rental prices start from $175.
- Full day Beauty Spots Tour (4WD bus tour takes in Lake McKenzie, Central Station, Pile Valley, 75-Mile Beach, Eurong Beach, Eli Creek, The Maheno, The Pinnacles coloured sands). Full day tour includes lunch, morning tea and national park fees. $160 adults, $110 for children and $495 for a family of 4.
- Full day Champagne Pools Tour (4WD Bus tour takes in the eastern beach sites including 75-Mile Beach, Kooloro Sandblow; Indian Head; Champagne Pools; Stonetool Sandblow and Red Canyon). Full day tour includes lunch, morning tea and national park fees. $160 adults, $110 for children and $495 for a family of 4.
- Personalised Tour of Fraser Island is only restricted by tides and time – if you have particular interests (like bush walking, bird watching etc), your guide will tailor your itinerary to suit. Tours take place in a Resort 4WD and include a gourmet lunch hamper. Price $1100 for full day including National Park fees, lunch, personal driver, vehicle permit, morning and afternoon tea.
For more information on the above tours click here.
Not Staying on Fraser Island – Tour Options:
- Fraser Explorer Tours operate one and two-day tours of the island leaving from Hervey Bay, Rainbow Beach, the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and Brisbane. For all their tour info click here.
- Air Fraser Island run 15-minute joy flights from 75 Mile Beach all day long from $75 p/p.
Disclaimer: We visited Fraser Island in partnership with Kingfisher Bay Resort & Tourism Queensland