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Fraser Island

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Travel Guide Oceania Australia Queensland Fraser Island

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Introduction

Fraser Island Shipwreck

Fraser Island Shipwreck

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Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island, located in the central eastern coastal zone of Queensland, Australia, about 200 kilometres north of Brisbane. The island is about 120 kilometres long and 25 kilometres wide, together forming a 1,840 km² big sandy island which was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1992. Named after Captain James Fraser who ran his ship 'The Sterling Castle' aground here in 1836, the island is picturesque and has a unique ecosystem. Apart from loads of sand, there are also woodlands, forests and mangroves, and the fauna is impressive too with many birds, reptiles and amphibians.

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Geography

Fraser Island is separated from the mainland by Great Sandy Strait. The southern tip, near Tin Can Bay, is situated to the north of Inskip Peninsula. The most northern point of the island is Sandy Cape where the Sandy Cape Light operated from 1870 to 1994. The establishment of the lighthouse was the first permanent European settlement on the island. The nearest large town to Fraser Island is Hervey Bay, while Maryborough and Bundaberg are also close by. The bay on the north east coast is called Marloo Bay and on the north west coast is Platypus Bay. The most westerly place on the island is Moon Point.

Eli Creek is the largest creek on the east coast of the island with a flow of 80 million litres per day. Eli Creek has its own unique and varied wild life. Coongul Creek on the west coast has a flow rate of four to five million litres per hour. Some of the swamps on the island are fens, particularly near Moon Point. This was only discovered in 1996 when a group of experts who had attended a Ramsar conference in Brisbane flew over the island and conducted an aerial survey. From above they noticed the distinct patterns of potholed peat which are devoid of trees. This was the first instance of fens found in Australia and in a sub-tropical region, although more were subsequently found on the adjacent Cooloola coast.

All hills on the island have been formed by sandblowing. Sandblows are parabolic dunes which move across the island via the wind and are devoid of vegetation. In 2004, there was an estimated total of 36 sandblows on the island. With year-round south-easterly wind, the sand dunes on the island move at the rate of 1 to 2 metres a year and grow to a height of 244 metres. The dune movement creates overlapping dunes and sometimes intersects waterways and covers forests. Dune-building has occurred in episodes as the sea levels have changed and once extended much further to the east. The oldest dune system has been dated at 700,000 years, which is the world's oldest recorded sequence.

Fraser Island has over 100 freshwater lakes, as well as the second highest concentration of lakes in Australia after Tasmania. The freshwater lakes on Fraser Island are some of the cleanest lakes in the world. A popular tourist area is Lake McKenzie which is located inland from the small town of Eurong. It is a perched lake sitting on top of compact sand and vegetable matter 100 metres above sea level. Lake McKenzie has an area of 150 hectares and is just over 5 metres in depth.

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Sights and Attractions

  • Lake MacKenzie - the jewel of Fraser Island, Lake MacKenzie is a large perched lake with crystal blue waters and white sands. The area is one of the most popular on the island so can get crowded during the middle of the day in peak season. There are toilet facilities and an enclosed picnic area - no food or drink is to be consumed outside of this area in an attempt not to attract dingoes.
  • Lake Wabby - a green colored barrage lake approximately 45 minutes walk from the beach, with a large sand blow that is slowly encroaching upon the lake. Freshwater turtles and catfish can sometimes be seen swimming in the lake. The path to the lake will split with only 100m difference between the two however the slightly longer way takes you over a sand dune. This split is well marked. If you take the one way into the lake over the sand dune you will be walking down the sand dune - much easier than up the sand dune. On the way out, walk along the lake with the lake on your right and you will see the second path at the edge of the lake taking you through the rainforest. Walking through the sand dune can get quite hot during the summer and it's a good idea to bring water along. Locals bring bodyboards to slide off the sand dune into the lake. Do not run into the lake off the sand and attempt to dive. Many people get seriously hurt and even paralyzed trying to do this every year. The only toilet facilities available are at the beginning of the walk in.
  • Indian Head - the rocky outcrop at the northern end of the main beach. Climb to the top to look down into the ocean and spot sharks, rays, turtles and dolphins. Beautiful outlook.
  • Champagne Pools - north of Indian Heads, these rock pools provide a safe place to bathe in sea water. Their name is derived from the froth created when waves break over the edge and into the pools.
  • Eli Creek - a freshwater creek midway along the main beach where bathers can float or walk down with the slow current. The water in the creek can vary quickly but does not get above waist height of an adult 5'9". The deeper parts can usually be avoided by walking on the other side of the creek. A boardwalk provides access to the top of the creek. It is an easy walk both on the boardwalk and through the water.
  • Maheno shipwreck - The SS Maheno had been a passenger steamer, travelling between New Zealand and Australia and used by the New Zealand Navy as a hospital ship during World War one. The Maheno was retired and, in 1935, the SS Maheno was being towed to Japan for scrapping when a cyclone off the coast forced it ashore. The wreck of the Maheno sits a few km north of Eli Creek.

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Weather

Situated some 200 kilometres north of Brisbane, Fraser Island has a hot and humid climate, cooled by sea breezes. The summer maximum average temperature is about 30 °C. People with fair skins need to be wary in midday sunshine which can burn in a few minutes. Hats, cool clothing that protects from the sun, sunscreen and common sense are essentials to enjoying Fraser Island summers. Average temperatures of around 15 °C are usual in winter, which is mild, usually dry, and very pleasant. Most winter days are sunny and there is never any frost.

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Permits

All vehicles travelling to Fraser Island must have an official permit. It must be attached to the windscreen. Campers other than those using commercial camp sites must have a camping permit which should be attached to the tent in clear view for inspection by the park ranger.

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Getting There

The only way to get to Fraser Island is by boat from Hervey Bay, as there are no airstrips on the island. Many visitors to the island hire 4WD vehicles from Hervey Bay and explore under their own steam, camping as they go. It is also possible to visit the island as part of an organised tour.

There are a few different options on how to cross the Great Sandy Strait from Hervey Bay to Fraser Island, depending on whether you are driving your own 4WD or not, and where you are headed.

By Boat

Fastcat Transfer
Catch the fastcat transfers at Urangan Boat Harbour, on the southeastern end of the bay. Once in Hervey Bay stay on the main road, which turns into Boat Harbour Drive. At the end make a left hand turn and follow the signs to Urangan Boat Harbour. There is secure parking available at the harbour. You can not take your 4WD with you on the fastcat. Takes approximately 45 minutes and will drop you off at the Kingfisher Bay Resort jetty.

Barge/Ferry transfers from River Heads
If you want to take your 4WD onto the island with you, River Heads is one of your options. The terminal is about 15 minutes north of Maryborough, or 20 minutes south of Hervey Bay. From Maryborough, follow the signs for Hervey Bay and take the right turn onto Booral Road when you see the sign for River Heads. After about 10 minutes turn right at the sign onto River Heads Road. It's about 10 minutes from the turnoff to the ferry terminal. At River Heads you have two choices depending on where on the island you want to be:

  • Take the Fraser Venture to Wanggoolba Creek, directly opposite the Eurong Beach Resort, on Fraser Island's West Coast. The trip takes roughly 30 minutes.
  • Take the Kingfisher Bay Ferry to Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island. The trip across takes about 50 minutes.

Barge/Ferry transfers from Inskip Point, Rainbow Beach
The other departing point to get your 4WD onto Fraser Island with you is Inskip Point. To get there, turn off the Bruce Highway at Gympie onto the Tin Can Bay Road. Follow the Rainbow Beach signs until you get there (takes about 60 minutes). Once at Rainbow Beach, follow Inskip Point Road until you see the barges. The journey from Inskip Point takes about 10 minutes and will take you to Fraser's most Southern tip, Hook Point.

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Getting Around

By Car

Self drive 4WD is one of the most popular ways to get around Fraser Island, although the environmental effects of thousands of vehicles using Fraser's wide beaches as roads is a controversial affair. Check Fraser 4wd hire, Fraser Island Tagalong Tours or Nomads Fraser Island.

By Bus

There are a few organized trips around the island which take place in 4WD buses, driven by qualified guides.

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Eat

While you will need to be relatively self sufficient for food if you aren't staying at on of the resorts, the resorts do have restaurants attached and are open to visitors. This said, Eurong Beach Resort has a bakery which sells pies, sausage rolls and some sweet treats as well as fresh baked bread. The shops at Eurong, Happy Valley, Cathedrals on Fraser and Orchid beach have basic supplies.

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Drink

Soft drinks and alcohol can be purchased from shops at Eurong and Happy Valley, although alcohol is not available before 10AM due to state licensing laws. Note that prices are substantially higher on the island than on the mainland; save money by bringing sufficient supplies with you!

Drinking water can be obtained from taps in various campsites and from a tap on the beach 500 metres north of Eurong; untreated water from the creeks or lakes should not be drunk.

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Sleep

Sleeping on Fraser Island ranges from luxury resorts through campsites to rough camping amongst the dunes along designated stretches of beach.

There are a number of camp sites on the island which house standard facilities (toilets, showers etc.) and are fenced to keep dingoes out. Fires are permitted in these sites within fire rings, but noise is forbidden after 9PM. Never bring any food inside the tents as dingoes will tear apart the tents looking for it - even if it's already gone they can still smell the food that was there and will look for it. When possible keep food in a dingo cage off of the ground. There is also a camp ground at Central Station and this must be pre-booked.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

  • Fraser Island is home to approximately 150 dingoes - Australia's wild dog. These animals can become aggressive - a 9 year old boy was killed in 2001 - and should not be approached or fed. Feeding of dingoes carries a $250 fine, and all food should be secured (in vehicles or food boxes) when unattended.
  • Swimming in the ocean is not recommended owing to both the dangerous surf conditions and the number of sharks that inhabit the waters (Indian Head is a shark breeding ground).
  • Drive safely on the sand and obey the speed limits - the beach is classed as a highway, so police will run speed checks and breath tests for drivers. Speed limit on the main beach is 80km/h and on soft sand tracks 30km/h, unless otherwise signed.
  • Due to the temperate climate, saltwater crocodiles are not normally present within Fraser Island's waterways. However, there have been reports of crocodiles sighted in the Fraser Coast region, including on Fraser Island. This is very rare and almost unheard of, yet the presence of a large (4 metres) male saltwater crocodile was reported in March of 2009. The crocodile, however, was not captured so the report remains inconclusive.

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This is version 12. Last edited at 8:43 on Aug 11, 17 by Utrecht. 8 articles link to this page.

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