Stretching 120kms along the coast of Queensland, Australia – at a width of roughly 24kms – Fraser Island (K’gari) is the world’s largest sand island and an area of both stunning beauty and constant change.
According to Aboriginal legend, when humans were created and needed a place to live, the mighty god Beiral sent his messenger Yendingie with the goddess K’gari down from heaven to create the land and mountains, rivers and sea. K’gari fell in love with the earth’s beauty and did not want to leave it. So Yendingie changed her into a heavenly island – Fraser Island.
The Traditional Owners – the Butchulla people – lived in harmony with the environment, until arrival of the first European settlers in the 1840’s saw their numbers decimated with weapons, disease and lack of food. If that wasn’t enough, in 1904 the remainder were forcefully relocated to missions on the mainland and forbidden to speak their language.
Today the remaining Butchulla people are trying to rebuild their culture and connection with the island. In fact it wasn’t until October 2014, that native title rights were acknowledged.
Early European and American settlers extensively logged the island’s rainforest from the mid 1800’s until early 1990’s and sand mining operations ran from 1950 to 1977. It was declared a World Heritage site in 1992 and today, outside of a few small villages, is a national park.
Melany (my wife and partner in adventure) and I were in our long term project Toyota Hilux D4D on this 6 day trip. We were joined by friends Jessica, Geoff and Leonie for a few days. There’s nothing better than travel with likeminded people – especially in camp at the end of the day.
I’m not going to focus too much on vehicle preparation or driving skills needed for sand, as much has been written already on Expedition Portal (see The 10 Commandments of Modifying an Overland Vehicle) and HEMA maps have a great article on sand driving, except to say that Fraser Island is not really difficult for an experienced driver in a high clearance 4×4 that’s sensibly loaded and running correct air pressure.
If you’re planning a visit to Fraser Island, here’s a basic list of essentials:
A pre-trip vehicle mechanical inspection • Vehicle and camping permits • MAXTRAX recovery tracks • Quality shovel • ARB snatch strap, rated recovery points and bow shackles, E-Z tyre deflator, air compressor and tire plug kit • HEMA iPad and printed maps • Vehicle specific tool kit & spares if needed • Comprehensive first aid kit • Diesel/Fuel • Drinking water, food, drinks and camping equipment • Fishing rod, quality knife and high power flashlight • Visit the Queensland National Parks page on Fraser Island, Great Sandy National Park
Fraser Island is a place where magic can still be experienced by those who seek it. As overland travelers, we often say it’s about the journey not the destination. The experiences that shape our lives, our connection with the earth and the constant search for wonder in a world that seems to be losing it. Fraser Island epitomizes this perfectly for me.
Let me share the island I know with you. I hope these images will kindle in you a sense of awe at it’s beauty and both a desire to visit for yourself and also to protect one of the world’s true natural wonders!
Fraser Island - a Photo Essay
The trip over on the Manta Ray Barge from Inskip Point – when the ramp drops on the sand at the southern tip of the island, there’s always a feeling of excitement at the coming adventure!
Hook Point – this expanse of dunes feels like a desert, until you see the ocean. Watch out for patches of very soft sand!
Lake McKenzie (Boorangoora) – Approximately 150 hectares in size, this perched lake is rightly one of Fraser Island’s most famous landmarks. Sunshine, pure white silica sand and crystal clear water!
Wanggoolba Creek – This crystal clear silently flowing freshwater creek is at the heart of the island near the old logging camp Central Station. The sand has been bleached white from many 1,000’s of years of rainforest trees extracting nutrients. A truly magical place to stop, listen and let the forest envelop you.
Curious dingo pup in the rainforest near Central Station. Fraser Island has the purest strain of Australia’s wild dog, but sadly due to human interaction a lot of them are shot or poisoned. It was good to see this little guy had a healthy fear of humans, hopefully something he keeps for life!
The inland tracks on Fraser Island. Awesome contrast from towering rainforest canopies to dense tea tree scrub and open country – all growing on the world’s largest sand island.
The satisfaction of setting up camp at the end of a day exploring is hard to beat.
Eli Creek – The largest creek on the island with a flow of 80 million liters a day! Slowly drifting along in the sparkling clear water on a hot day is pure bliss.
The Maheno Shipwreck – this once proud ocean liner and WWI hospital ship ran aground here in 1935 after a tow line snapped in a cyclone. Now she sits on the beach, waves crashing over her crumbling frame.
Knifeblade Sandblow – the largest on Fraser, it moves at close to 1 meter per year, rises to a height of 115 meters and stretches almost 4km inland.
I’m not normally that into fishing. But sometimes casting a line morphs into a form of meditation and connection with the ocean that’s hard to resist. Watching the sunrise on Seventy Five Mile Beach, Fraser Island with a surf rod in hand would have to be one of those sometimes.
Love the feeling of waking up to a new day in our roof top tent and surveying the world from its elevated position while thinking about the day’s coming adventures.
Indian Head (in the distance) on a clear day is a fantastic location to scout for turtles, manta rays, dolphins and sharks in the water below. During the whale season (August to October) Humpback Whales can be seen in abundance.
Looking towards Waddy Point from Champagne Pools.
The sand track from Champagne Pools to the northern most township of Orchid Beach.
The western beach and inland north-west of Fraser Island is isolated and wild – expanses of untouched woodlands filled with wallum banksia, stunted eucalypts and the occasional scribbly gum dot the landscape.
Racing the fading light as we head to Sandy Cape. I love the remoteness of this part of the island – off the tourist trail it still feels untouched and wild.
The meeting of two currents at Sandy Cape – the Coral Sea and the Pacific Ocean. In the fading light with this brilliant blue sky it’s a surreal vista.
Thanks for sharing the journey!
The Aboriginal legend of Fraser Island being a heavenly island isn’t far from reality. This photo essay is only the surface! Each trip there uncovers more hidden wonders.
Questions, praise, criticism? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below. 🙂