The world’s largest sand island
Off the coast 140 km north of Brisbane; ferries from Urangan (Hervey Bay), River Heads (12 km South) and Inskip Point (10 km North of Rainbow Beach).
If you’re taking a car, you’ll need a permit, which you can pick up at any local National Parks Office. But only take a 4WD on to the island, as there are no real roads and anything else just gets bogged down in the sand.
Fraser Island proudly boasts that it’s the ‘World’s Largest Sand Island’, gaining it a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List – and unlike many other things taken on by this organization, it looks like surviving.
Fraser Island is 123 km of sand dunes, lakes, isolated settlements, huge beaches, occasional outcrops of volcanic rock, and offshore wrecks. The Europeans found that the island’s woods contained the rare Satinay tree, whose hard tropical wood is uniquely resistant to submarine decay. Woodcutters arrived forthwith, drove off the native Aborigines, and began felling the Satinay trees for all they were worth. And they were worth something – enough for them to be shipped half way round the world to Egypt, where Ferdinand de Lesseps made use of the logs to shore up the desert walls of the canal he was building. Fortunately the Suez Canal was finished before the wood ran out.
Having failed to denude the island of its woodlands, industry decided to try a different tack. In the 1970s a large mining company bought the mineral rights to the island, and decided to have a go at selling the island’s rich mineral sand. As the rich mineral sand was the island, a fierce conservationist campaign was mounted by a local schoolteacher called John Sinclair. Legally, the mining company was quite entitled to alter the geography of Australia in such a fashion. But for once common sense prevailed over the law, and the mining company was forced out.
Now Fraser Island is facing a different threat – from people like us. The rapid increase of tourism is beginning to play havoc with the island’s natural beauty. Litter, the erosion of the sand dunes, and destruction wreaked by 4WD vehicles, are all beginning to take their toll. Alas, the best way to cover distance on the island remains by 4WD vehicles. There are several touring companies that will arrange a day or overnight trip around the islands, for a fee obviously. We recommend www.fraserexplorertours.com.au or www.cooldingotour.com.
The main beach is Seventy Five Mile Beach, which is on the east side of the island. At the northern end of the beach are some picturesque cliffs known as the Cathedrals. Inland you can see the remains of the island’s tropical rainforest at Yidney Scrub, and feed the turtles at Bowaraddy Lake. The western shore of the island is largely covered with mangroves. The best places for walking are inland, where there are scores of lakes, some of which are good for swimming. Be careful when swimming from the beaches: the breakers often have an unexpectedly heavy undertow, and sharks are not unknown.
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