During a recent family trip to Queensland’s Fraser Island, we wanted to explore the island, so we decided to take a day trip from our base at Kingfisher Bay Resort. As most of the roads on Fraser Island are sand tracks through dense bush, a high-clearance 4 wheel drive vehicle and some expertise in navigating the wild roads is definitely required – we have neither. We left it to the experts and took the 4WD Beauty Spots tour on a groovy pink 4WD bus.
As luck would have it, we landed Peter Meyer as our tour guide. Peter is a successful photographer with a gallery at Kingfisher Bay Resort, a nature enthusiast and he has lived on Fraser since 1995, making him an absolute expert on the place. He’s got a great sense of humour, and spent most of the time cracking jokes as he drove us through some pretty tough terrain with expert precision.
From Kingfisher Bay, we headed South East for 11km to reach Lake Mackenzie. You might think this would take about 15-20 minutes to drive on a sealed road. I think it took about 45 minutes to get there due to the condition of the sand roads. We sure were glad we didn’t try to drive ourselves – we saw three groups of people whose 4WDs were bogged throughout the day. Peter said there’s usually more than that – and there are regular accidents, mostly due to inexperience or a lapse in judgement. A young woman died last year in a 4WD rollover accident.
Lake Mackenzie, one of 100 freshwater lakes on Fraser Island, is a beautiful clear lake which covers about 150 hectares and is up to 5 metres deep in parts. The sand is just so white, as it consists of almost pure silica. We were quite taken with this picturesque body of water. We were encouraged to go for a swim in the beautiful warm crystal clear water and use the white sand as an exfoliator. Peter swore it would make us look 10 years younger! I’m not sure about that, but everyone was lathering the damp sand onto their faces and bodies, then rinsing it off as they splashed about in the lake.
After our swim, we had morning tea, then headed off to a place called Central Station and Wanggoolba Creek. If you’re thinking train station, like we were, it certainly isn’t one. Central Station was originally occupied by the Butchulla women, as a birthing place – and men were excluded. Later, between 1920 and the late 1950’s, the area was headquarters for Fraser Island’s forestry operations. At that time there were around 30 homes and a school, none of which remain today. Now there’s just a picnic area amongst the stands of Bunya pines, satinays, flooded gums and kauri pines.
We took a stroll on a rainforest walking track which snaked along the edge of stunning Wanggoolba Creek. The water in the creek is so clear, it’s hard to tell how deep it is. The creek is home to fish, turtles and eels. The walk has a boardwalk section and a variety of short and long walks start and end in this area. It was so peaceful, and it was quite lovely to walk for around 30 minutes without hearing any cars or other noises of modern life.
Peter kindly collected us further along the track and we then headed off to the Eurong Resort for lunch. Considering its relative inaccessibility, it was surprising to find a mini town at Eurong, which is owned by the same people as Kingfisher Bay Resort. Beside the sizeable resort, there’s a variety of shops and a pub, as well as some houses. The place was busy with 4WDs and trucks coming and going. A lot of campers come here to stock up on supplies too.
We were fortunate to be able to escape the hustle in the resort’s restaurant. Lunch was a basic buffet, but the food was good and satisfied our hunger.
After lunch, we were back on the bus and down onto the beach for a drive along the aptly named 75 Mile Beach, which runs along most of the east coast of Fraser Island. This beach is more like a highway, with cars and buses travelling up and down the wide stretch of sand all day. The beach is even used as a landing strip for small planes. We were offered a 20 minute plane ride over the island, but at $80 per person (there are 4 of us), it was a bit too expensive – especially as we hadn’t budgeted for it. I encouraged my husband to go, but he declined.
We headed north to a site called The Pinnacles, which is a group of steep cliffs of coloured sand. The colour comes from the sand being stained by clay, with the sand being set by hematite, a mineral which then acts like cement and holds the sand together. When this sand dissolves in water, it provides a coffee colour, so it’s called Coffee rock and is found in outcrops along the beaches around the island.
There were warning signs about an anti-social dingo frequenting the area, so we kept a close eye on all the children in our group and made sure nobody strayed too far away.
A little further along the beach, we inspected the Maheno ship wreck, which was very interesting. The Maheno was built in Scotland in 1904. It was used as a hospital ship in WW1, then bought by a Sydney shipping company who used it on the journey between Sydney and New Zealand. In 1935, the ship was sold to a Japanese company, who stripped it of its huge brass propellers before attempting to tow the Maheno back to Osaka, Japan to be melted down and sold as scrap metal. The Maheno only made it as far as Queensland before a cyclone hit and the ship broke away from the bigger ship that was towing it and washed up on 75 Mile Beach – and there it has stayed.
Despite signs all around the wreck warning people to stay 2 metres back, there were those who couldn’t help but climb on the structure. It’s very old and very rusty and it would take a long time to get to a hospital if you were seriously hurt. Peter warned us that the National Parks & Wildlife officers patrol the site regularly and hand out hefty fines to anyone who ventures within the wreck itself or the 2 metres around it – they’ve even been known to track people down via their number plates. I’ll admit, I wanted to get great photos of the wreck, but I wasn’t going inside!
Once we’d all finished photographing The Maheno, we were off to Eli Creek. This pretty crystal clear creek is the largest on the island, apparently pouring 80 million litres of water into the ocean every day… and it’s a very popular swimming spot. The water in the creek comes from a spring deep within the island’s water table and is said to take 100 years to get filtered through the sand. The water is so pure, it’s used as the main source of drinking water for campers on the island.
We trudged across the sand to reach the boardwalk which winds up a few hundred metres along the creek’s edge, before coming to an area where steps lead down toward the water. I managed to slip off the last step and fell into the water – entertaining everyone who was waiting. The creek is quite shallow, so the smart people brought along something to float on or in to truly enjoy the experience. We just floated on our stomachs, using our hands to “walk” along the bottom. The flow of the water guides you down towards the beach, where there’s another set of steps which help you climb out of the creek. The kids went for another round, but I opted to stay and watch for them to come down. Unfortunately, I left the camera back on the bus, so we didn’t get any photos of this beautiful place.
Our final stop was the mighty Stonetool SandBlow, which is an active mobile blow. The shifting sands covered a forest many years ago, and now this ancient forest is slowly being uncovered as the sand blow moves across the island. Incredible stuff!
It was getting late by the time we made our way back to Kingfisher Bay, where we were staying for 4 nights, and the kids were ready for dinner.
What a fabulous day we had. To be honest, I had some hesitation in booking the tour, as I thought the kids might be a bit bored – they certainly weren’t bored. We all thoroughly enjoyed all the sights we visited, and having Peter as our guide made it all the more fun.
Have you been to Fraser Island? Have you visited any of the places mentioned in this post?
BumbleBee Mum for #TravelTuesday