Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published June 10th 2016
A Wonderful World Heritage Wilderness
Top 7 Things to do on Fraser Island You'll need a 4WD to tour Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world and a World Heritage Wilderness. We are travelling in our family sedan so book on a 4WD bus tour with Fraser Explorer Tours. We are picked up at the caravan park to travel to River Heads for the ferry. The ferry trip is only 30 minutes across The Great Sandy Strait. Our bus driver and tour guide, Brian, tells us the roads vary from bad to really, really bad. If you like 4WD adventures you'll be thrilled. We drive through scrub by the shoreline, then eucalypt bush and eventually enter a rainforest.
Seventy-five Mile Beach on Fraser Island (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Our first stop is Central Station so named because it is where the logging industry used to be based. Fraser Island is a World Heritage Site now so the logging has long since stopped. The first thing we notice are the staghorn ferns. They are everywhere, with many growing on each tree. Some are bigger than golf umbrellas; you could shelter under them. I don't know how to describe them other than to say they are awesome.
Staghorn ferns bigger than golf umbrellas. (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
There are kauri pines and rosewood gums that rise so high and straight the top can barely be seen. Brian talks of the logging industry history and tells us about the different timbers. We set off along a board walk through the rainforest.
Kauri Pine at Central Station (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
In the rainforest stop at a large tree entwined within a strangler fig, which gives the appearance of having been deliberately woven. The host tree is starting to rot at the base but we are told it may be another ten years yet before it dies.
A strangler fig slowly killing its host tree (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Below the boardwalk Wanggoolba Creek runs over white sand, with water so clear it is almost invisible. Were it not for the ripples it might go unnoticed. The creek springs from the aquifer, a fresh water table beneath the island. Palm trees grow on the banks, again so tall we need to crane our necks for a sight of the tops. Many of the fallen branches and logs are covered in a vibrant green moss and rows of coloured fungi, truly the perfect picture of a rainforest.
A fresh water creek rising from the water table so clear the water is almost invisible (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Brian points out a satinay tree. Its bark appears to wind diagonally up its length like lengths of rope. These trees which grow straight for up to 40 metres were prized as timber for marine pylons and some of Fraser Island's satinay were used in the Suez Canal. Sadly the logging industry removed trees that were thought to be over a thousand years old.
Seventy-Five Mile Beach
We move on to Seventy-five Mile Beach, a sandy strip running along the island's east coast. It is used as a highway, and there are speed limit signs on the land side of the beach. It is permitted to drive at 80kms per hour except for a couple of spots of 40kms per hour where coffee rock has been exposed.
Seventy-five Mile Beach is a proclaimed highway with an 80kmph speed limit (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The coffee rock is a blackish brown in colour and is not actually rock at all but a combination of petrified sand and vegetation. It can be crumbled by hand and turns water a coffee colour.
Seventy-five Mile Beach is also used as an airstrip and vehicles are required to give way to planes. We are surprised by the number of 4WD's coming and going. Brain tells us that at peak time it's like a four lane highway. Creek crossings abound as over 200 creeks run into the Pacific Ocean across this beach.
Seventy-five mile beach is also used as an airstrip (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
We stop at the rusted wreck of the SS Maheno, a ship washed ashore in 1935 during a cyclone. The ship, built in 1905 as a cruise liner from Britain to New Zealand, was also used in the First World War as a hospital ship in the Mediterranean.
The Maheno wrecked in a cyclone in 1935 (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
At the end of its life in 1935 it was under tow when the line snapped during a cyclone. Salvage was not possible as no ship large enough to tow her off could reach the shore. She has toppled now and much of what is left is covered in sand. It is anticipated that erosion will claim her within ten years or so.
The SS Maheno is gradually rusting away to nothing (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
A bit further along the beach we stop at The Pinnacles Coloured Sands. The colours in these peaks are the result of minerals, mostly iron compounds leaching into the sands over 700,000 years. We see a mixture of yellows, white, reds and browns. The yellows and reds dominate but there are said to be as many as 72 different colours.
The Pinnacles Coloured Sands (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
The sand cliffs have been shaped by wind and water into the spires we see today. The peaks are crumbly and signs ask visitors to admire from a distance to preserve this site which is considered to be of world heritage significance.
Coloured sands at the Pinnacles (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
While some of the group chooses to take a fifteen minute scenic flight over the island the rest of us drive to Eli Creek. It is a popular spot for swimming where the creek meets the beach. We climb stairs and wander along a boardwalk amongst banksias and pandanus, to more stairs leading down to the creek.
Eli Creek where it meets the beach at Fraser Island (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
From here we can walk back on land or wade back to the beach in the creek's refreshing knee-deep waters. We choose to stay on land and watch small empire gudgeon fish struggling to swim against the current. Eli Creek pours as much as four million litres of water into the ocean each hour.
An Empire Gudgeon fish struggling to swim against the current in Eli Creek (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
We lunch at McKenzie's Restaurant at Eurong Beach Resort. The resort, which provides accommodation, also has a bakery and coffee shop, a general store and a Beach Bar. After lunch we are back on the road and headed for Lake McKenzie.
Lake McKenzie with pure white silica sand (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Lake McKenzie is a perch lake, a lake where organic matter fills a depression and hardens there to form a catchment, much like a pond liner. This lake is 100 metres above sea level and we have travelled the most challenging of our roads today to get here. The sand is a stark white; it is nearly pure silica. The water in the lake has a very low PH level, it is soft water and we are told it has therapeutic qualities. Many of our group go for a swim but we watch from the warmth of the shore.
Beautiful Lake McKenzie (Photo copyright Gayle Beveridge)
Love Fraser Island, we stayed at the Kingfisher, hired our own 4wd (which saved us about $500 from a booked tour for 5 people) and drove ourselves. It was an experience! Scary at first as the roads are ...not really roads, then so much fun we wanted to do it again the next day. Didn't see ONE dingo though. Lake Mckenzie is pure magic and the drive and sights along 70 mile beach Ah-mazing. Great article. Should've gone in the water at the Lake. I could have stayed there all day.