When I first read that Fraser Island was the world’s largest sand island, I kind of thought that was a gimmick. Like naming them the Pancake Rocks because they “look like stacks of pancakes” (only if your pancakes are especially sharp-angled) or calling it the Blue Mountains cause of a slight blue-ish haze off in the distance (not exactly the dramatic scene I was picturing).
In other words, I assumed it was a bit of a stretch. Why not? After all, everyone else was doing it.
But Fraser Island actually is just that: a big island made of sand. I suppose my cynicism had to catch up with me some day.
And, as it turns out, that’s far from only unique feature found there. Fraser Island — or K’gari, as it was named by the Butchulla people who originally inhabited it — is made up of some of the most diverse and bizarre landscapes I’ve seen anywhere in the world.
Here are my top five highlights.
Fraser Island’s most popular lake is, without question, Lake McKenzie. And for good reason: it’s gorgeous, and the water is meant to have some seriously profound effects on your life (or at least your skin). But at the end of the day, McKenzie is more or less what you picture when someone says “lake.”
Lake Wabby is something else altogether.
This lake seems to magically appear at the bottom of a huge, dramatically sloping sand dune. One second, you won’t even see it; the next, you’ll practically fall into it. I come from a part of the U.S. nicknamed “the Land of 10,000 Lakes” and even I was impressed. That’s gotta count for something.
You probably think there’s a path of sand in that photo. It’s actually a stream of the clearest running water I’ve ever seen anywhere on earth. If I hadn’t put my hand right in it, I wouldn’t even be confident it was there.
In Fraser Island’s forests, you’ll also find heaps of cool trees — including some that appear to be eating the other ones. Here, you can see a tree wrapped up in a plant called a “stangler fig.” Eventually, this organism will block any sunlight from getting to the tree, effectively “strangling it” to death. (No one does creepy quite like nature does, eh?)
Unfortunately, Fraser Island was badly affected by logging back when the Europeans first invaded and colonized the area, cutting down trees that were hundreds of years old. In 1992, the island was deemed a World Heritage site by UNESCO, and efforts are being made to restore it to its former glory — though it will obviously be some time before the forests looks anything like they used to.
Luckily, this ridiculous view of the water rushing in and out of the rocky shallows, backdropped by the raging winter sea? That kind of made up for it. (Kind of. Next time anyone offers me champagne, it better be in a bottle.)
This ship was on its way to Japan when a storm beached it on Fraser’s coast. By the time they got another out to tow it, the ship was too far in the sand to pull out — so here it stays. At this point, the wreck is so badly rusted and falling apart that visitors aren’t allowed to climb on or touch it.
What you can see is only about 1/3 of the remains; the rest is buried under the surface.
Last but not least, Fraser Island’s very own sand highway. Provided you’ve got a proper 4WD vehicle (or, of course, a seat on a tour), you can drive down this beach right alongside the ocean waves. But watch out for the tide — and the planes. 75-Mile Beach isn’t just a highway, it’s also an air strip for scenic coastal flights. On the right day, you can spot all kinds of wildlife from the air, including dolphins and whales just off shore.
You also might come across a dingo or two, frolicking among the waves (and/or looking for unsuspecting humans to eat, so be careful).
Visiting Fraser Island: Fraser Island lies a short distance off the southeastern coast of Queensland. We took the ferry from the town of Hervey Bay, but you can also depart from River Heads or Rainbow Beach. For more info, check out Visit Fraser Coast.