Fraser Island in Australia is the largest sand island in the world. It is hard to realize that it is just sand, as it is 123 kilometers long and 22 kilometers at its widest spot. Fraser Island is a World Heritage Site, but most of the visitors to this popular destination just enjoy touring and seeing the great diversity on the island.
Travel through different ecological zones all on one island
It is an amazing island with over 100 fresh water lakes, forests, a rain forest, and miles of wide beaches and colored sand cliffs. It is the only place where a rain forest can found growing on sand dunes. There are wildflowers during spring and fall. It is really quite surprising to travel across the island and find yourself going through different ecological zones.
One of the easiest ways to enjoy the amazing variety on Fraser Island is to take a tour. The small bus can drive along the beach or along the small sandy roads throughout the islands. When I took this tour, the tour guide was charming and helpful, and a source of a wealth of information about this World Heritage site.
History of Fraser Island
For thousands of years before the Europeans arrived Fraser Island was inhabited by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of indigenous people called the Butchulla. Portuguese and Dutch explorers first found and stopped at Fraser Island. Captain Cook documented seeing the island in 1770, although he thought it was a peninsula. Captain Matthew Flinders explored the entire coast line in detail and had contact with the indigenous people. The arrival of the Europeans changed the island, as they cleared land for farming and began logging as early as 1863. Logging has continued to be an activity on Fraser Island.
The dunes are constantly moving as sand moves with the wind. It is anticipated that the dunes will gradually stop their motion when they reach the places where there is shelter from the wind. The dunes are stabilized by grass and plants. It is such a surprise to drive from the wide beaches, along the narrow sandy roads, to a rain forest.
Fresh water lakes on a sand island surrounded by salt water
From the rain forest, our tour moved on to one of the cold deep fresh water lakes fed by rainwater and the huge reserves of water under the ground of the island. The lakes are not cleaned by constant changes of the water, so anything put into the water stays there for a long time. Even biodegradable products will cause changes in the biological balance of the lake. When we took a refreshing swim in the cool fresh water across the lake to a waterfall, we were careful not to use any sunscreen or other creams or chemicals which would wash off and cause problems for the lake and its inhabitants.
Unusual and fascinating animal life
Australia is a place to see unusual and fascinating animals, such as the huge Monitor lizards which hang around picnic tables hoping for a hand out. They will eat chicken, bones and all. Fraser Island has a wealth of animal and bird life, including wallaby, possum, sugar glider, and hundreds of species of birds. There are other lizards of all sizes and many snakes. These creatures, except the picnicking Monitors, usually keep out of the way of humans, so we saw only few of them. A few Brumbies, or wild horses, still remain, left over from horses used in the logging industry.
The dingo is one of the favorites for tourists to catch with their eyes or cameras. The dingo looks very like a coyote. We were excited to see a dingo trot out and sit watching us as we sat around a small pool on the beach, although I wondered if it was part of the tour plan and he hung around for every tour bus.
As with all the coastal waters of Australia, there is a wealth of sea life visible from boats or while snorkeling or diving, including dolphin, turtles, rays, and migrating whales.
Visiting Fraser Island
There are several hotels on the island which pride themselves on being ecologically green. We were living on our boat, so didn’t need accommodations, but we did have a lovely lunch at Kingfisher Bay Resort and booked our island tour with them. We were very happy with our tour and guide, and our lunch.
Sources: Personal experience updated on the Fraser Island website.