Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and stretches 123 kilometres in length and 22 kilometres at its widest point. It is the biggest island on the Australian East Coast and forms part of the Great Sandy National Park which was World Heritage listed in 1992. The island has a diverse landscape which includes rainforests, eucalyptus woodland, mangrove forests, wallum and peat swamps, sand dunes and coastal heaths.
Fraser Island is a place of exceptional beauty, with its long uninterrupted white beaches flanked by strikingly coloured sand cliffs, and over 100 freshwater lakes, some tea-coloured and others clear and blue all ringed by white sandy beaches. Ancient, cool rainforests grow in sand (the only palce in the world) along the banks of fast-flowing, crystal-clear creeks.
The Butchulla people are the indigenous people of Fraser Island and their name for Fraser Island was K'gari which means paradise. According to Butchulla legend, Fraser Island was named K'gari after the beautiful spirit who helped Yindingie, messenger of the great god Beeral, create the land. As a reward to K'gari for her help Beeral changed her into an idyllic island with trees, flowers and lakes. He put birds, animals and people on the island to keep her company. Captain Cook first sighted the Fraser Island Butchulla people during 1770 when he sailed close past the island and named Indian Head on the eastern beach after them.
We took the Land Cruiser and Quantum over on a vehicle ferry and deflated the tyres before we cruised because all roads on Fraser are sandy 4WD tracks, some of them very rough and boggy. On the east coast of Fraser Island the 75 Mile Beach is used as a highway and you can travel up to 80km/h around low tide. The island is a 4WD paradise but also treacherous as we learned on our last day.
Our fist stay was for a couple of nights at a campsite in the middle of the island called Central Station, right in the middle of an ancient rainforest. This is close to Lake McKenzie, Lake Birrabeen and Lake Waddy and we took the scenic drives to visit the central lakes.
From Central Station we travelled north on the beach "highway" on Seventy-Five Mile Beach to Dundubara where we camped for three nights. On the way to Dundubara we stopped at the famous wreck of the Maheno. Built in 1905 in Scotland, the SS Maheno was one of the first turbine-driven steamers. She steamed a regular route between Sydney and Auckland until she was commissioned as a hospital ship in Europe during World War One. In 1935, she and her sister ship the Oonah were sold to Japan for scrap. The rudders of the boats were removed and they were being towed to Japan when a cyclonic storm snapped the tow chain and the Maheno drifted helplessly onto Fraser Island's Seventy-Five Mile Beach where she is still lying today. During the Second World War she served as target bombing practice for the RAAF which accelarated her destruction.
Behind the Dundubara campgrounds is the Wungul Sandblow, one of 43 large sandblows on the island. There is a walking trail to the sandblow and once on the sand it feels as if you are in a desert. These sandblows advancesa at a rate of one meter a year and engulf everything in their path even very tall trees.
From Dundubara we travelled north (only with the Land Cruiser) on the beach to Indian Head to check out the boggy inland track arounfd Indian Head to Waddy Point where we were booked to camp for the last four nights. It turned out to be too soft and boggy to risk taking the Quantum through it and we decided to change to a beach campsite just south of Dundubarra. The weather was ideal with no wind, just a gentle sea breeze to cool you down, making beach camping a fantastic experience. We saw Humpback Whales everyday and they entertained us for hours on end with their breaching and pec slapping.
During our stay on Fraser Island we saw dingoes on the eastern beach on four occasions. Whilst camping on the beach one dingo came very close for an inspection of the Quantum. Fraser Island dingoes are the purest strain of this fine predator in Australia.
On the 10th day of our stay on the island we packed up and travelled 80 km south on the beach to the most southern point Hook Point, to take the vehicle barge to Inskip Point on the mainland. A south-easterly wind was blowing at gale force and the low tide turned into high tide due to the sea surge. The last 10 km on the beach is very narrow and only recommended at low tide so we decided to take the inland track to Hook Point to be safe. On our first attempt to get off the beach and on to the ramp we got bogged down in soft sand. We decided to reverse and after shoveling for an hour we got the vehicles unbogged and I tried to go up the ramp again at higher speed but got bogged again. I tried to winch the vehicles out but we only moved about 10 meters before they became bogged solid in the the soft sand. A local tour operator from Sunshine Beach stopped to help us (many other vehicles just drove past without an offer to help) and he and the guys on his tour helped us to unhitch the Landcruiser, winch it out, turn it around and winch the Quantum out with the guys keeping the jockey wheel on the roller tracks that I bought for an occasion like this. After two hours we finally got the vehicles unbogged and we drove to the barge to get to the mainland, relieved again that we did not need to call for a recovery vehicle to rescue us.
We were supposed to continue our travel in the Great Sandy National Park (Cooloola section) today and drive south on the beach to camp at Teewha Beach but the tides were not in our favour due to the delay getting bogged. We are staying over at Rainbow Beach for the night and will attempt the beach drive to Teewha Beach tomorrow morning at low tide.
Lake McKenzie beach
Central Station campsite
75 Mile Beach highway
Dingo on the beach
Forest scenic drive
Turtle in Lake Allom
Campsite on 75 Mile Beach
Sand pattern on 75 Mile Beach
Humpback Whale breaching
Winching the Quantum