Home » Towns » Queensland » Capricorn Coast » Fraser Island, QLD
Print

Fraser Island, QLD

Largest sand island in the world and superb tourist destination.

Fraser Island is one of the true natural wonders of Australia. It is the largest sand island in the world covering an area of 184,000 sq. km with sand dunes which rise to a height of 240 m. It is estimated that the sands which make up the island reach over 600 m below the sea and have been evolving for over 800,000 years. The island is 123 km long and ranges from 7 km to 22 km wide. The primary appeal of Fraser Island is a combination of extraordinary freshwater lakes, beautiful quiet streams, white beaches, rainforest, eucalypt forest, cliffs with remarkable coloured sand horizons and rugged headlands. Today Fraser Island is World Heritage listed and most of the island is protected National Park which is ideal for camping, 4WD exploring and bushwalking. The island is visited by up to 500,000 travellers each year yet it manages to maintain a sense of remoteness and isolation. It preserves ancient Aboriginal sites and is home to a rich diversity of wildlife including over 200 bird species, brumbies, dingoes, wallabies and echidnas. Accommodation on the island ranges from the upmarket Kingfisher Bay Resort to flats, motels holiday houses and campsites.

Location

Located just off the coast from Hervey Bay, Fraser Island is 123 km long and varies from 7 km to 22 km wide. It covers an area of 184,000 sq. km and has sand dunes which rise to a height of 240 metres. It is estimated that the sands which make up Fraser Island reach over 600 m below the sea.

^ TOP

Origin of Name

The island is named after Eliza Fraser who, along with her shipwrecked companions from the brig the Stirling Castle, landed on the island on 26 June, 1836. They had been drifting south on the Great Barrier Reef since 13 May, 1836 and were trying to reach Moreton Bay. At the time it was known as the Great Sandy Island. Hervey Bay is located 292 km north of Brisbane and 34 km east of Maryborough.

^ TOP

Things to See and Do

Ferries From Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach
Ferry Services to Fraser Island
Vehicular and passenger ferries depart for Fraser Island from Hervey Bay in the west and Rainbow Beach (Inskip Point) to the south.

(1) From Hervey Bay
From Hervey Bay the service is six times a day. Check out http://www.fraserislandferry.com.au/fraser-island-barges.html for details. As the website explains: "Fraser Island vehicle barges and passenger ferry services run daily from River Heads, south of Hervey Bay to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. The Fraser Venture runs three services daily from River Heads (20 minutes south of Hervey Bay) to Wanggoolba Creek and the Kingfisher Bay Ferry runs three services from River Heads to Kingfisher Bay Resort.  Limited parking is available on the roadside or at the ferry departure point. For guests staying at Kingfisher Bay Resort, you can book secure parking and the resort will shuttle you to the ferry departure point. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service permits are required for driving and camping on the island and we advise all visitors to check the QPWS Conditions report pre-arrival. Drivers should be aware of tide times and keep off the beach for two hours either side of high tide."

(2) From Inskip Point
Access from Rainbow Beach town centre to Inskip Point is via Clarkson Drive and Inskip Point Road. It is a 12-km narrow sandy peninsula which ensures calm waters in Tin Can Inlet and the Great Sandy Strait. Not surprisingly the water around Inskip Point are rich in sea life and turtles, dugongs and dolphins are regularly sighted. The Manta Ray Fraser Island Barges website (see http://mantarayfraserislandbarge.com.au/the-journey) explains: "When you arrive you look for the Green and Gold barges which are our signature colours on the waters edge at Inskip Point.  We aim to make sure the sand track to the Manta Ray Barge is in good order and please ensure your vehicle is in 4WD before leaving the sealed road. Follow the directions from our barge operators as they call you onto the barge and park where directed in the designated lanes on board. You need a Manta Ray Barge ticket to travel with us, as well as a Fraser Island vehicle access permit and camping permit, these can be purchased at our Manta Ray Barge Office in Rainbow Beach or online." There are two barges which operate all day and are available 365 days a year from 6.00 am - 5.30 pm.
Maps of the island are for sale at all ferry points. There are fees for usage of the camping facilities on the island.

Eli Creek
Eli Creek is the largest freshwater stream on the eastern coast of the island. It pumps 4 million litres of pristine, fresh water into the Pacific Ocean every day and is edged by banks of exceptional, tropical beauty. There are a number of boardwalks near the creek and a popular short, circular route which runs up the creek bank. It is possible to swim in the lower reaches of the creek.

75 Mile Beach
The beach on the eastern side of the island is 120 km long, hard, accessible to 4WDs and officially recognised as a highway with a speed limit of 80 km/hr. The main attractions of the beach, apart from beach fishing, are the wreck of the SS Maheno, the swimming destination known as Champagne Pools and the unusual volcanic rock formation at Indian Head. The surf is not safe. There are dangerous currents and the area is known to have an abundance of sharks.

Beach Fishing
75 Mile Beach is known as an excellent fishing destination. There are surf gutters on the beach which provide all-season angling with whiting, bream and swallowtail being plentiful all year round. The tailor season is in winter and rock species can be caught off the headlands from Indian Head to Waddy Point.

Dingoes
Fraser Island is famous for its dingoes. Occasionally, very occasionally, they attack humans and there are calls for culling but they are wild animals and who is to say that the attacks do not follow provocation. You can see them on 75 Mile Beach and at Central Station. Recently it was discovered that they are not dogs and are not descended from wolves. See http://www.techtimes.com/articles/5092/20140402/australias-dingo-not-a-wolf-not-a-dog-but-a-distinct-species-says-study.htm where it is noted by Dr Mathew Crowther from the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences that "We can also conclusively say that the dingo is a distinctive Australian wild canid or member of the dog family in its own right, separate from dogs and wolves. The appropriate scientific classification is Canis dingo, as they appear not to be descended from wolves, are distinct from dogs and are not a subspecies."

The Wreck of the SS Maheno
The SS Maheno was an ocean liner which operated between Australia and New Zealand from 1905-1935. The 5,000 ton ship was built in Scotland and when she was launched in 1905 she could hold 420 passengers. During World War I she was employed as a hospital ship serving off Anzac Cove during the Gallipoli campaign and subsequently shipping wounded troops across the English Channel from France to England. After thirty years of service in Australian-New Zealand waters the Maheno was being towed to Japan as scrap when it hit cyclonic conditions off the coast and was washed ashore on 9 July, 1935. The past 80 years of waves and weathering have reduced this once huge vessel to a small rusting hulk.

The Pinnacles and the Cathedrals
These coloured sand cliffs which lie beyond the SS Maheno have been sculptured by the wind and rain blowing in off the Pacific Ocean. The colours - red, brown, yellow and orange - are spectacular. The size of the cliff faces is a reminder of how large the sand dunes on the island are.  According to the local Aborigines the Pinnacles are sacred ground for the Butchulla women. They were created when a young woman named Wuru, who was promised to marry an older man Winyer, fell in love with Wiberigan, the Rainbow serpent. Wuru went to the beach each day to be with Wiberigan, but one day Winyer followed and saw her with Wiberigan. In a jealous rage, he threw his boomerang at Wuru but Wiberigan protected her and took the blow. The Rainbow Serpent shattered into thousands of pieces which fell to earth colouring the cliffs. Wuru escaped and the Pinnacles became a place of good luck for the Butchulla women.
According to Queensland’s Department of National Parks the cliff’s “yellow, brown and red colours were created as iron-rich minerals stained the sand with a complex array of tones and hues over thousands of years. Spectacular sculptures emerge where wind and rain eroded the sandmass, exposing this soft older core.” If possible, they are best viewed in the early morning.

Central Station
The Woongoolbver Creek which carries clear water through the island's rainforest at Central Station is one of the island's most idyllic retreats. Historically it was once the home of over 100 people and the centre of the forestry industry on the island. When the Australian Nobel Prize winner Patrick White wrote about the island in the novel A Fringe of Leaves he described the area as: "Now it hushed the strangers it was initiating. At some stages of the journey the trees were so densely massed, the columns so moss-upholstered or lichen-encrusted, the vines suspended from them so intricately rigged, the light barely slithered down, and then a dark, watery green, though in rare gaps where the sassafras had been thinned out, and once where a giant blackbutt had crashed, the intruders might have been reminded of actual light if this had not flittered, again like moss, but dry, crumbled, white to golden." It is rainforest at its most beautiful. There are a number of walks in the area. Be warned: it is common to see dingoes here. They are not to be fed.

Lake McKenzie and Other Lakes
There are 40 perched freshwater lakes on the island including Lake Bowarrady (120 m above sea level), Lake McKenzie, Lake Boemingen (reputedly the largest perched lake in the world), Ocean Lake, Hidden Lake, and Coomboo Lake. They are a phenomenon unique to sand dunes where the sand hardens to form an impermiable base and rainwater feeds the lakes thus making them incredibly clear and pure. Each of the lakes is notable for the clarity of the water, the purity of the white sands on the surrounding beaches and the peacefulness of the area. They are ideal places for picnics and fishing. Lake McKenzie is one of the most popular. It covers 150 ha, is over 5 metres at its deepest point and is located 100 metres above sea level. The island also has barrage lakes which are formed when sand dunes moves and blocks off a watercourse and window lakes when the water table is exposed by the shifting sands. The island's most important barrage lake is Lake Wabby.

Tours
Fraser Experience Tours - http://fraserexperiencetours.com.au/1-day-experience-tour - is typical of the tours available of the island. The standard highlights are the Central Station and the rainforest, the near-perfect Lake McKenzie, the famous 75 mile beach which can be driven along, Eli Creek which is ideal for a freshwater swim, the coloured sands at the northern end of the island, and the famous Maheno shipwreck. Check out http://www.visitfrasercoast.com/destinations/hervey-bay/tours for more tours of the island and the surrounding waters.

John Sinclair's List of Essential Sites on the Island
John Sinclair, who has been awarded numerous environmental honours, fought for thirty years, and effectively saved, Fraser Island from both rainforest logging and sand mining. He knows and loves the island. To learn more about him check out http://www.sinclair.org.au. In one of his many books he listed what he considered to be the twenty essential experiences on the island. If you manage to see and experience all these then you can truly say you have seen the island in all its diversity and beauty.
"There is Woongoolbver Creek which carries clear water through the island's rainforest at Central Station; Lake Wabby, the island's deepest lake which is rich in fish and surrounded by ancient melaleucas (it is slowly being filled by a giant sandblow); Rainbow Gorge with its coloured sand formations; Eli Creek; the wreck of the Maheno; the rocky outcrops at Indian Head, Middle Rocks and Waddy Point; the multi-coloured 'Cathedrals' and 'Pinnacles' which lie to the north of the wreck of the Maheno; the various lakes on the island which include Lake Bowarrady (120 m above sea level), Lake McKenzie, Lake Boemingen (reputedly the largest perched lake in the world), Ocean Lake, Hidden Lake, and Coomboo Lake; the scrubs and swamps; and McKenzie's Jetty which was originally built as an access point to the mainland for the timber cutters and subsequently used by the Z Force during World War II."

^ TOP

Other Attractions in the Area

The Eliza Fraser Story
The most famous story about the island is that of Eliza Fraser (after whom the island is named) and her shipwrecked companions from the brig the Stirling Castle. On 13 May 1836, while travelling from Sydney to Singapore, the Stirling Castle struck the Great Barrier Reef about 320 km south of Torres Strait. Captain James Fraser, his pregnant wife Eliza, and 18 passengers and crew launched the ship's longboat and pinnacle and set course for Moreton Bay. During the next six weeks Eliza gave birth (the baby survived for only a few hours) and the pinnacle was cut adrift and, although Captain Fraser had been trying to avoid the coast for fear of the Aborigines, he was forced to land for water on the Great Sandy Island (Fraser Island) on 26 June. The local Aborigines stripped the survivors and separated Eliza from her husband. For the next two months the Frasers (the Captain was to die) and the other survivors were put to work and forced to live in difficult conditions. A search party from Moreton Bay led by Lieutenant Charles Otter was sent out to look for the survivors. John Graham, a remarkable convict who had once lived with the Aborigines, found Eliza and escorted her back to Moreton Bay. She subsequently sailed to Sydney where she was feted as a heroine. The people of Sydney, impressed by her bravery, raised a considerable amount of money for her by public subscription. Before Eliza departed for England she married Captain Alexander John Greene of the Mediterranean Packet. In England she published a book of her adventures which went by the delightful title of The Shipwreck of Mrs Fraser, and the loss of the Stirling Castle, on a Coral Reef in the South Pacific Ocean. Containing an account of the hitherto unheard-of sufferings and hardships of the crew, who existed for seven days without food or water. The dreadful sufferings of Mrs. Fraser. who, with her husband, and the survivors of the ill-fated crew, are captured by the savages of New Holland, and by them stripped entirely naked, and driven into the bush. Their dreadful slavery, cruel toil, and excruciating tortures inflicted on them. The horrid death of Mr. Brown, who was roasted alive over a slow fire kindled beneath his feet. Meeting of Mr. and Mrs. Fraser, and inhuman murder of Captain Fraser in the presence of his wife. Barbarous treatment of Mrs Fraser, who is tortured, speared, and wounded by the savages. The fortunate escape of one of the crew, to Moreton Bay, a neighbouring British settlement, by whose instrumentality, through the ingenuity of a convict, named Graham, the survivors obtain their deliverance from the savages. Their subsequent arrival in England, and appearance before the Lord Mayor of London. One of the longest titles in publishing history. However it became a huge bestseller and after being lionised by London literary society, Eliza, quietly returned to anonymity, sailed for Australia with Captain Greene and, ironically after all her adventures, was accidentally run over and killed in Melbourne in 1858. The story is one of those iconic Australian tales of heroism which has been made into a TV program and a film. The painter, Sidney Nolan, did two series of paintings based on the story and Patrick White's novel A Fringe of Leaves is based on the events.

^ TOP

History

* Prior to European settlement the area was occupied by the Badtjali (Butchulla) Aborigines who occupied land from Maryborough to Fraser Island.

* The first European to sight Fraser Island was Captain James Cook who passed along the coast between 18-20 May, 1770 and named Indian Head after seeing a number of Aborigines assembled there. He was not impressed with the island observing that: "The land hereabouts which is of moderate height, appears more barren than any we have yet seen on this coast, and the soil more sandy".

* In 1799 Matthew Flinders sailed past the island. He mapped it and suspected that it was an island but was unable to sail around it. Like Cook before him, Flinders was far from impressed with the land noting: "This part of the coast is very barren; there being great patches of moveable sand many acres in extent through which appeared in some places the green tops of grass, half buried, and in others the naked trunks of such as the sand has destroyed."

* Flinders returned to the area in 1802 on his circumnavigation of the Australia. He identified Fraser Island but could not find a channel between it and the mainland.

* On 13 May, 1836  the Stirling Castle struck the Great Barrier Reef about 320 km south of Torres Strait. Captain James Fraser, his pregnant wife Eliza, and 18 passengers and crew launched the ship's longboat and set course for Moreton Bay. The ship was forced to land for water on the Great Sandy Island (Fraser Island) on 26 June.

* In 1846 Lieutenant Joseph Dayman became the first European to navigate the channel between the mainland and Fraser Island.

* It has been estimated that the Aboriginal population of Fraser Island was between 2000-3000 in 1850.

* In 1860 the island was gazetted as an Aboriginal reserve.

* By 1863 timber cutters, led by an American known as Yankee Jack, had moved in to the island and were exploiting its stands of trees.

* In 1870, as a result of a series of shipwrecks, a lighthouse was built at Sandy Cape. This was the first permanent European settlement on the island.

* By 1890 the Aboriginal population of the island had been reduced to 300.

* The first attempt to establish the island as a National Park was made as early as 1893 but the timber interests which were already on the island managed to dissuade the government and for the next 60 years the island was logged.

* The last of the Fraser Island Aborigines to be removed to the mainland was 'Banjo' Henry Owens who was sent to the Cherbourg Mission in the 1930s.

* In 1935 the SS Maheno was caught in a cyclone and wrecked on the island's east beach.

* During World War II the island was used to train the secretive Z Special Unit.

* In 1950 leases were granted to mine for rutile, ilmenite, zircon and monazite on the island.

* In 1961 there was a move to give the island to the Nauruans to compensate them for the wholesale destruction of Nauru by phosphate miners from Australia and New Zealand. The timber industry managed to ensure that this proposal did not proceed.

* From the 1960s until around 2000 Fraser Island was at the centre of a series of bitter environmental battles.

* By the mid 1960s a number of mining leases had been taken out on parts of the island by Queensland Titanium Mines Pty Ltd and Murphyores.

* The first environmental battle, in the 1970s, focussed on sand mining.

* In October, 1976 the historic Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry decided that all sand mining should be banned and that the island should be recorded as part of the National Estate. The inquiry concluded that: "The natural environment of Fraser Island is of great significance, complexity and fragility. The island possesses individual features of great attraction and importance - such as its perched lakes, immense beaches, cliffs of Teewah (coloured) sands, sandblows and rainforested sand dunes. But the inevitable highlighting of the presence and importance of these individual features of its natural environment should not be allowed to obscure the links and interdependency of its many fragile elements, while, overall, an impression of wilderness gives unity to the broad spectrum of the particular natural features of the island."

* By 1990 there were still battles going on over the logging of the island's rainforest. The arguments of the timber lobby were predictable. Timber had been logged on the island for over a century so how could further logging damage an already damaged environment.

* In 1991 the logging of the island was stopped officially.

* Today Fraser Island is World Heritage listed and almost the entire island is protected National Park.

* In 2014 the Federal Court of Australia recognised the native title rights of the indigenous Butchulla tribe who had inhabited the island for potentially 50,000 years.

* Today Fraser Island is a popular destination for backpackers and grey nomads making their way up the coast from Sydney to Cairns.

^ TOP

Visitor Information

Hervey Bay Visitor Information Centre, 227 Maryborough-Hervey Bay Road, Urraween, tel: 1800 811 728.

^ TOP

Useful Websites

There is an extensive and detailed local website. Check out http://www.discoverherveybay.com for deals on accommodation and whale watching. There is also http://www.visitfrasercoast.com/. There is a downloadable brochure - check out https://issuu.com/fcopps/docs/fco_visitors_guide_noads_2014/1.

^ TOP
Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.