Zigzag patterns, both natural and man-made, catch the eye all along the boardwalk at Wanggoolba Creek on Fraser Island. Sunlight sparkling on a delicate spider’s web; the sharp leaves of the palms on the creek bank; a walking track with lots of corners; the aerial roots of a climbing fig. Zigzags are everywhere.
Take a drive along Seventy Five Mile Beach on the east coast of Fraser Island and it doesn’t matter which side of the car you’re sitting on, because the view is spectacular no matter where you look. The vast, blue expanse of the Pacific Ocean stretches to the horizon on one side…
…while the steep, ochre coloured cliffs of the Pinnacles reach to the sky on the other.
The coloured sands of the Pinnacles are rich in hematite, a mineral which causes the sand to become hard and allows the cliffs to form. It also creates the vibrant bands of colour which have built up over thousands of years. Seventy-two shades of colour have been identified in these cliffs.
To the indigenous inhabitants of Fraser Island, the Butchulla people, the Pinnacles are a sacred women’s place. The dreaming story of their creation tells of the young woman Wuru, who although pledged to an older man Winyer, fell in love with Wiberigan, the Rainbow Serpent. Winyer followed her along the beach one day when she went to visit 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 was saved and the coloured sands of the Pinnacles became a place of good luck for the Butchulla women.
Today visitors who spend time on Fraser Island may well consider themselves lucky too.
Often when I’m bushwalking I find myself looking up at the majestic trees around me, and if the path is rocky, uneven or sloping I’m concentrating on watching where my feet are going. While we were holidaying on Fraser Island my friend Jane and I walked 4.8 kilometres to Lake Wabby and a whole new world opened up to me. Instead of looking up or one step ahead Jane noticed the little things along the path. I came away with a new outlook on bushwalking – in all directions!
The ocean liner SS Maheno was built in Scotland and first set sail in June 1905. She could carry 420 passengers with 240 of those in 1st Class and was fitted out with all the latest luxuries including electricity.
From 1905 she operated on a trans-Tasman route between New Zealand and Australia until she became a hospital ship for the New Zealand Navy during World War One. After the war the Maheno returned to her original use. In 1935 she was sold to a Japanese shipping company for scrap metal. The fateful decision was made to remove and sell her brass propellers to fund the cost of towing her from Sydney to Osaka by the SS Oonah, a Bass Strait Ferry also destined for the scrap yard.
On 7 July 1935, off the coast of Fraser Island, an unseasonal cyclone struck both ships, the towline broke and without her propellers the Maheno disappeared in the rough seas. The ship was found on 10 July stranded on Seventy Five Mile Beach, with the crew safely camped on the shore.
Unsuccessful attempts were made to refloat the ship and eventually she was put up for sale. No-one ever bought her and she was simply abandoned on the beach.
Since then the Maheno has been left at the mercy of the ocean and today she is nothing more than a rusted hulk, so dangerous that access is forbidden.
In this state it’s hard to imagine how grand she must have been in her glory days.
The sight of wild animals in their native environment is always thrilling and the same safety rules always apply, for both the animals and tourists. This is particularly so when it comes to the dingoes who live on Fraser Island.
Dingoes were first introduced to Australia from Asia around 4 500 years ago and the ones living on Fraser Island are the purest strain in the country. Even though they look similar, they are not related to dogs and they do not bark. Dingoes are not pack animals but live together in complex extended family groups. They have one litter of pups each year and all members of the group are involved in their care.
Dingoes are omnivores – their diet includes small mammals like bandicoots and goannas, fish and birds, seeds and nuts as well as carrion. They spend several hours every day guarding their territory, leaving scent markers and searching for food. Because they are naturally inquisitive dingoes will not hesitate to investigate campsites and vehicles, and will help themselves to food and rubbish that is left within reach.
Over the years dingoes have become used to people being a part of their environment. They can be aggressive and unpredictable, especially at breeding times and when juveniles are learning to explore and play together. There are strict guidelines visible on signs and in brochures everywhere on the island, and in order to ensure visitors’ safety park rangers will fine those who ignore the rules.
It’s exciting to see the dingoes that live on Fraser Island in their own natural setting. Just remember, they are wild animals – treat them with respect.
Ocean swimming is not a safe option when you’re holidaying on Fraser Island. The waves are rough and unpredictable, the sandbars are constantly moving and sharks have been known to cruise through the surf, but if you do fancy a swim there’s plenty of choice. There are more than 100 freshwater dune lakes on the island and their water is reputed to be the world’s cleanest.
Lake Mackenzie is a perched lake, shaped when a hard layer of decayed organic matter forms between dunes and water from runoff and rain begins to collect. Lake Mackenzie is the most popular of the lakes for water sports; its fine, white sand is almost pure silica and there is plenty of room for everyone.
Lake Birrabeen and Lake Boomanjin both have glistening, white, sandy beaches with water tea-stained by tannins from decomposing plants. They are also perched lakes and are not affected by surrounding groundwater. The water level rises and falls depending on the amount of evaporation and significant rains. At 200 hectares, Lake Boomanjin is the largest perched lake in the world.
Lake Wabby is classified as both a window lake and a barrage lake. A window lake forms when the level of the sand dune is below the water table, and a barrage lake is created when a sand dune blocks a water course. The constantly moving sand of the Hammerstone Sandblow is gradually overtaking Lake Wabby and eventually it will fill the lake completely.
All this fresh water has to go somewhere and the coastline is crisscrossed by a myriad of waterways. Some are tiny rivulets that flow out of the coastal bush across the sand to the ocean…
…while Eli Creek, on the east coast, is the largest. With a flow of 80 million litres a day more water pours out of Eli Creek into the ocean than out of Sydney Harbour.
So if it’s swimming and sailing you’re fond of, the inland lakes of Fraser Island are the perfect place to play.
Father and son enjoying a quiet moment together; fishing on Fraser Island.
Fraser Island lies 15 kilometres off the southern Queensland coast. With an area of 184000 hectares it is the world’s largest sand island and its diverse range of plants and animals along with its cultural heritage have contributed to its listing as a World Heritage Site. The only way to get to the island is by car and passenger ferry, either from Inskip Point near Rainbow Beach or River Heads near Hervey Bay. From River Heads it’s a 35 minute journey across the Great Sandy Strait to either Wanggoolba Creek or Kingfisher Bay.
Once on the island access is restricted to four wheel drive vehicles as there are no sealed roads and some of the inland tracks and beach routes can be rough and hazardous.
The main roads are wide and well maintained and with a speed limit of 30 km per hour there is plenty of time to admire the surrounding forest.
Some of the sandy inland tracks are one way, but many are not and it’s a case of size matters when it comes to giving way.
The main beach driving route takes in much of Seventy-Five Mile Beach, from Dilli Village in the south to Corroboree Beach in the north. Here the speed limit is 80 km per hour and at times the beach is more like a freeway with cars and tourist buses travelling in both directions.
It’s important to check tide times when planning a day trip. At high tide some beach areas become impassable and more than one vehicle has been lost to the sea over the years.
Sometimes the beach doubles as a landing strip. Planes need to land on firm sand near the water’s edge and cars must give way.
If it’s a fun-filled four wheel driving adventure you’re after, Fraser Island is the perfect getaway.
Fraser Island hugs the coast of Queensland from Cooloola at its southern end to Hervey Bay further north before jutting out into the Pacific Ocean. At 123 kilometres long and 25 kilometres at its widest Fraser is the largest sand island in the world, and with stunning scenery, a huge diversity of flora and fauna, and a continuously evolving landscape its World Heritage status is a comfortable fit.
More than half a million people visit Fraser Island each year. 250 km of glistening beaches, 43 sandblows that are constantly shifting, rainforests and several dune lakes provide plenty for them all to do. The network of sandy roads and the long stretches of beach provide great opportunities for some rough and ready four-wheel driving, while those seeking a more serene activity can explore some of the forty walking tracks and boardwalks on foot.
We’ve just returned from a week’s holiday on this island paradise – I give you the colours of Fraser!