Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Fraser Island - Queensland

I was told no trip to Queensland is complete without a visit to Fraser Island. Fraser Island is an island located along the southern coast of Queensland, Australia, approximately 200 kilometres north of Brisbane. Its length is about 120 kilometres and its width is approximately 24 kilometres . It was inscribed as a World Heritage site in 1992. The island is considered to be the largest sand island in the world at 1840 km. It is also Queensland's largest island, Australia's sixth largest island and the largest island on the East Coast of Australia. The island hosts three resorts and a number of camping and picnic areas.

The island has rainforests, eucalyptus woodland, mangrove forests, wallum and peat swamps, sand dunes and coastal heaths. It is made up of sand that has been accumulating for approximately 750,000 years on volcanic bedrock that provides a natural catchment for the sediment which is carried on a strong offshore current northwards along the coast. Unlike many sand dunes, plant life is abundant due to the naturally occurring mycorrhizal fungi present in the sand, which release nutrients in a form that can be absorbed by the plants. Fraser Island is home to a small number of mammal species, as well as a diverse range of birds, reptiles and amphibians, including the occasional saltwater crocodile.

Fraser Island has been inhabited by humans for as much as 5,000 years. Explorer James Cook sailed by the island in May 1770. Matthew Flinders landed near the most northern point of the island in 1802. For a short period the island was known as Great Sandy Island. The island became known as Fraser due to the stories of a shipwreck survivor named Eliza Fraser. Today the island is a popular tourism destination. Its resident human population was 360 at the 2006 census.

My day started at 6am standing on the road outside Trish and Nick's house watching a wild turkey while I waited for the 4wheel drive bus from Nature Tours to pick me up.

After picking up the rest of the tour participants we drove for a couple of hours to reach Rainbow Beach where we would catch the 20 minute barge to Fraser Island. Since I was the first person picked up and a single I got to sit in the rock star seating beside the driver with a fabulous front view of all the scenery.

Rainbow Beach where 3 meters of beach has been lost due to recent cyclone

Black in sand are minerals

looking at Rainbow Beach from back of the barge

View if Fraser Island from the barge

Tick another item off my bucket list - 4 wheel driving along a beautiful sandy beach

The benefit of sitting in the front seat I could take these amazing photos





The beach is used as an informal two lane highway where you can do 80 km per hour as well as a landing strip for small planes.

One of the inhabitants of the island are dingos.


Dingoes were once common on the island, but are now decreasing. The Fraser Island dingoes are reputedly some of the last remaining pure dingoes in Eastern Australia and to prevent cross-breeding, dogs are not allowed on the island. According to DNA-examinations from the year 2004, the dingoes on Fraser Island are "pure". It is believed there are 120 to 150 dingos on the island. All camping and picnic areas are fenced to keep dingos out.


The geological wealth of the island lay in its rich deposits of rutile, ilmenite, zircon and monazite (used in the making of steel). The mining leases were first granted in 1950, and mining continued until 1977. Without public knowledge the Queensland Government granted mining leases to the American mining company Dillingham-Murphyores in the 1960s. In 1971, the Fraser Island Defense Organisation (FIDO) opposed the granting of more leases to the company. Despite more than 1,300 submissions that were made to the local mining warden objecting to new leases, the submission was granted. FIDO took the case to the High Court of Australia which overruled the decision noting that the public interest was not being upheld. Dillingham-Murphyores continued mining. The Government established Australia's first environmental impact inquiry which recommended that mining cease. Eventually Malcolm Fraser canceled the company's mineral export license which halted mining on the island (which cost the governament over $4 million in compensation).

Going off the beach making our way inland to lake MacKenzie


Logging on the island began in 1863. Blackbutt trees (Eucalyptus pilularis) and kauri pines (Agathis robusta) on Fraser Island were logged extensively as they provided excellent timber. The logging industry continued right through until 1991, and ceased following the concerns of the Fraser Island Fitzgerald Inquiry.

Lake Mackenzie

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 (totally rain water). 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. The beach sand of Lake McKenzie is nearly pure silica (used in the production of materials such as glass and concrete). The lakes have very few nutrients and pH varies, though sunscreen and soaps are a problem as a form of pollution. Freshwater on the island may become stained by organic acids found in decaying vegetation. Because of the organic acids a pH level of 3.7 has been measured in some of the island's perched lakes. The high acidity levels prevent many species from finding habitat in the lakes.

Some of the lakes on Fraser Island are window lakes. These form when the water table has risen to a point higher than the surrounding land. Most of the valleys on the islands have creeks which are fed by springs.Motor boats and jet skis are banned from the island's lakes.

We spent an hour relaxing around the lake and taking a dip in the fresh, warm water before having lunch.

This looks like a postcard but it is a real photo taken by me

Lunch was a choice of steak, fish or prawns (I decided on prawns), accompanied by sausages, 8 different and delicious salads, fresh fruit and your choice of beverage. What a delicious meal!

These were my prawns - much larger than the ones we get in the Pacific Northwest.
Another inhabitant of the island is the kookaburra. Here is one beside our picnic table just waiting to scoop down on any unattended meat.

On the road again and not to be a front seat hog I gave up my seat and went to The back of the vehicle - I think I was in the worst seat now as I was tossed around so much my lunch is now a milkshake in my stomach.

We drove to the rainforest area of the island. The sand is so deep it is like wading through snow.
The water here looks stagnate and mearky but once you get up close it is absolutely clear, running water with a sandy bottom. Fraser Island is the only place in the world where tall rainforests are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of over 200 metres. The low "wallum" heaths on the island are of particular evolutionary and ecological significance, and provide magnificent wildflower displays in spring and summer.


Close up of the creek! You can barely tell there is water here as it is so clear.

notice the plant growing up the tree

After our walk in the rainforest the tour guide mentioned there are spiders, pythons and deadly snakes in this area - nice to know since I only had thongs on my feet!

Over the bumpy sand trails and back to the beach

A quick stop for afternoon tea before catching the barge back to the mainland.



After off loading from the barge our vehicle got stuck in the sand and was not going anywhere - luckily a vehicle from another tour company was able to tow us out of our predicament and we were on our way back to Noosa Heads. I was dropped back at Trish and nick's at 6:30 pm - a long but wonderful day and yes do not miss seeing Fraser Island if you ever visit the Sunshine Coast.


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