Australia: Fraser Island

Sandy playground

The Skinny
Australia's Fraser Island—186 miles north of Brisbane and just south of the Great Barrier Reef, its more famous World Heritage cousin—is a paradise of shifting sand dunes, tropical rainforest, and freshwater lakes. Eliza Fraser, the lone survivor of an 1836 shipwreck, was washed ashore on what was then known as Great Sandy Island. Nursed back to health by the local Koori community, the widow Fraser returned to England to tell outrageous tales of savagery and torture at the hands of the island's natives. This ingratitude towards her rescuers was unfairly rewarded when Australia's colonial masters subsequently changed the island's name to Fraser.

Fraser Island also happens to be the world's largest sand island—and well, it's a sandbox par excellence for outdoor enthusiasts. An extensive network of walking trails threads across the 75-mile-long spit of land, with campsites in abundance. Alternatively, explore the island in a four-wheeler, either hired or as part of a tour. On your travels, visit the carcass of the Maheno wreck, a cruise liner washed ashore in the early part of the 20th century, the sandstone Pinnacles, a stretch of sacred red-cliffs, and Lake Mackenzie, an exquisitely transparent freshwater lake. Head north past Waddy Point to see the magnificent dunes in Great Sandy National Park, continually swept clean by a breeze off Hervey Bay.

The Short
When to Go: Year-round (although the summer months, December to February, are hot and humid).
Other activities: Surf fishing and whale watching; humpback whales and their calves winter in Hervey Bay between May and September. Whale-watching tours can be organized on and off Fraser Island.
Farther afield: Travel north to visit the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Go "walkabout" in the Queensland outback to the west. National parks such as Carnarvon are miles from most tourists and sealed roads.
Best not to:

  • Speed: the island has one serious accident per week.
  • Forget your tide table; keep vehicles off the beach several hours before high and low tide.

Published: 22 Aug 2002 | Last Updated: 14 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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