1 of 1000: Fraser Island, Australia

Posted by on July 16, 2012
Fraser Island explorer tours truck

Fraser Island Explorer Tours truck

When someone tells you, that you will see the largest sand island in the world, you might think of sand dunes and dry land as far as your eyes can see. At least that’s what I expected to see when we went to Fraser Island (or Great Sandy National Park as it is also called). If you read on, you’ll find out that I was (almost) totally wrong. But don’t worry; Fraser Island is an awesome place anyway.

Instead of seeing a landscape that reminded me of the movie “Dune”, we saw rainforests and crystal clear creeks and freshwater lakes. I guess that’s what you get for not informing yourself where you are travelling to 😉

Lake mckenzie, fraser Island

Crystal clear rainwater lake

We spent so much time travelling that we actually don’t really look everything up before we go. Especially when we do a guided tour, we rely on the tour guides. We do check the different tour operators on tripadvisor and other online platforms, but we don’t spend too much time researching what we are going to see. This way, we can enjoy whatever  we do and our minds are open to whatever we are going to see.

Fraser Island – The Great Sandy National Park

You probably want to read more about Fraser Island than about our travel philosophy, so here it goes:

Us at Lake McKenzie

Us at Lake McKenzie

Fraser Island is situated just a few hundred meters off Rainbow Beach at the coast of Queensland and is completely made out of sand. Even more impressive than its size of 1840 square kilometers (124 km long, 15 km wide) is the fact that the highest point is more than 240 meters and it is full of flora and fauna.

Fraser Island has about 100 fresh water lakes (some with pure white sand) and lots of creeks that are fed from the water table. Now, I don’t know if you think this is impressive, but I think that having a stable water table on a sand island is awesome. And because the creeks are not directly reliant on rain, the water level of most creeks stays always the same – no matter how much it does or does not rain.

Rain forrest, frasier island

Extraordinary rain forrest tree

In the 19th and til mid 20th century, the island was used for its timber, which reduced the number of huge trees on Fraser Island. Luckily they used a very sustainable way of harvesting the trees so that the rainforest is still quite remarkable and this will only improve as time goes on, since the whole island is now a protected National Park and even listed as a UN World Heritage.

The Great Sandy Highway

There are only sand roads on the island (duh) and that’s why one of the most exciting things is to cruise along the beach in a 4WD. The eastern beach of Fraser Island is actually a highway and Australian road rules apply. There are even speed limit signs and a police that does random speed checks.

4wd fraser island

Sand Highway – only exploreable with 4wd

Intersting anecdote: When the police station opened up on Fraser Island, the Queensland government was looking for police men willing to live on Fraser Island. If fou would assume that not many would want to live in a place that has nothing but sand roads, only two small tourist resorts and a handful of people who call this big island their home, you would be wrong. The job for the police on Fraser Island was the most applied for position in the history of Queensland.

Part of our tour was driving up and down the beach highway in the tour bus, which of course is also 4WD. It is an amazing feeling to drive 2 meters next to the waves which keep crashing onto the beach.

Maheno wreck at Fraser Island

The Maheno Wreck

I guess the only way this could be more exiting is driving your own car along the beach. Rental cars on Fraser Island are quite expensive, but if you can afford it, you should do that. You can even get a 4WD campervan and camp almost anywhere on the beach – an option which many, many Australians choose. I guess, the main reason for them is the fishing, which is supposedly great.

If you choose to drive on your own, you should be careful. There are many “Walls of Shame” at Rainbow Beach with tons of pictures of broke down cars that either landed in the ocean, got stuck on the coffee rocks or have been driven into a creek because of speeding. So think twice before taking your own car if you have no experience with 4WD.

Other Amazing Facts About Fraser Island

Fraser Island, dingo

Purebred dingos

Fraser Island is full of wrecks, even new ones. As we were driving along the coast we saw a bunch of them, the most famous one being the Maheno, about 100m long luxury ship that “arrived” on Fraser Island in 1935.

The island is the one place in the world where the dingoes are the most pure dingoes. Most dingoes on the Australian mainland have been mixed with the domestic dog. We even saw 2 of them on our day tour.

I mentioned the coffee rocks earlier. These rocks, which are mainly found on (and underneath) the beach, are not really rocks, but they are thousands of years old organic mass that has been pressed into this coffee rock.

coffee rocks, faser island

“Coffee rocks”

Some people might be confused to see rocks since Fraser Island is promoted as a complete sand island. Well, now you know that even with the coffee rocks, it still really is all sand.

Fraser Island is still growing and changing. There is still sand being washed ashore making the island even longer. In other areas, sand is taken away. And you can’t imagine at what speed this whole process can work. We drove around a field of coffee rocks as our guide told us the entire area was covered with more than 2 meters of sand just 2 weeks back. Evidently, the sand on some beaches gets washed away and gets washed ashore quite frequently.

The pinnacles, fraser island

The Pinnacles

There are areas with different colored sands on the island. In some areas you can see the different colors in a single place, e.g. at The Pinnacles. It would be too much to explain, why they are differently colored, but the Aborigines believe that a rainbow got smashed into pieces and this produced this amazing display of colors.

If you are lucky enough to go to Fraser Island on a nice day without clouds and a calm sea (we didn’t have such luck), you might be able to see whales from the beach. We did see a whale though. It wasn’t as pleasant as that sounds. It was a dead beached whale that already started to rot away. Pretty disgusting.

Is Fraser Island truly 1 of the 1000 Places?

Cruising along the beach, Fraser Island

Cruising along the beach

Except from the title of this post I haven’t mentioned that this is one of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die, which we made a life goal to actually see. Even though I haven’t mentioned it, it does deserve to be on this list. There aren’t too many places with a highway made out of sand, ship wrecks full of history and amazingly crystal clear fresh water lakes. And there is only one place in the world where a rainforest grows on sand in such an altitude. So yes, another one that does stay on the list.

I wish we would have had more time to explore the Great Sandy National Park, since there are so many things that we didn’t get to see. So if you are planning to see Fraser Island and you have the possibility to do a 3 day tour or even explore the island on your own, do it!

What about the dolphins

FYI, the pictures of the dolphins are not at Fraser Island (but you can see them there), but at Tin Can Bay, which is near Rainbow Beach. You can buy a fish and feed wild dolphins.

Feeding dolphin at Tin Can Bay

Feeding dolphins at Tin Can Bay

These wild estauarine dolphins come to Tin Can Bay every morning and have been doing that for 4 generations since the 1950s.

If you have any doubts if that is harmful to the dolphins, let me put your mind at ease. The dolphins only get so much fish that it represents a maximum of 15% of their daily intake so they won’t forget how to hunt for themselves. Before and after the dolphins are fed (you are not allowed to pet them), everyone has to sanitize their hands so that no deceases are transferred to the dolphins.

Also, you are only allowed to feed the fish you buy from the Barnacles Dolphin Center, this way you won’t feed them something that might be harmful to them. If you see a dolphin in the wild anywhere else (or any wild animal for that matter), do NOT feed them. You don’t know what is good for them and feeding them might do more harm than good.

So if you are going to Fraser Island from Rainbow Beach, you might want to take the 30 minute drive to Tin Can Bay in the morning (it starts at 8am) and buy your fish from the dolphin center and feed a dolphin.

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