Why there's more to Fraser Island than you think
IMAGINE replacing the hum of traffic with the melody of hundreds of species of birds sharing their song.
Imagine a place so free of noise pollution that voices on boats carry well ashore.
One thing you can't help but notice as you arrive on Fraser Island and leave the mainland behind is the songs of birds and a sense of clarity as you slowly forget about revving engines, rumbling busses and the hectic pace of modern life.
Walking is one of many ways to explore the island, and there are plenty of options on offer for both casual strollers and seasoned hikers alike.
Kingfisher Bay Resort has just launched their Great Walk Packages that allow visitors to rough it by walking during the day and glam it up by enjoying the resort's comforts by night.
Fraser Island's head ranger Ranger Annie says there's too much to see in just one day and seeing the island by foot is an incredible experience.
The western and eastern sides, she says, are completely different.
"You've got the Great Sandy Strait, it's mangrove area along the coastline on the western side down to the southern point and then on the eastern side you've got 75 Mile Beach then you've got the lakes, the rainforests, the sand dunes - there's just so much to see.
"The western side is the old side of the island, so it's a lot of heathland, bushland, wallum, banksias, grass trees - they're not tall trees because nutrients are really low on this western side but then you head into the centre of the island and it starts to get higher and then you've got your big tall trees, all your big hardwoods and pine trees in the centre of the island, then you get to the eastern side where they've got to survive through all that sea salt and the winds and the sands are also continually growing on that eastern side and building up on that eastern side so the trees are a lot sparser.
"The forest changes, it changes from one side to the other."
Ranger Annie said one benefit of walking rather than driving around the island was the personal experience that comes with discovering the world's largest sand island without a vehicle.
"Sometimes you walk some of these walks, you're going through areas that are hardly ever used - you don't get vehicle traffic, you've got it all to yourself so you're seeing areas that all these cars are driving past that they don't even get to see so it makes it a lot more personal," she said.
"You're walking though little streams, you're walking through rainforests, you're walking through massive, big tall trees that are like 60 metres tall and it's on these little paths where you've got it to yourself."
Walking through the forests can be quite the sensory experience.
Parts of the island's forests even become fragrant as breezes move through trees such as eucalypts.
While there are a range of walks visitors can enjoy, including the walk up to the Great Sandy Lookout, Kingfisher Bay Resort is offering three specialised packages for seasoned walkers wanting a little more activity.
The two-night package includes a stay at Eurong Beach Resort and self-guided walks to some of the island's most iconic spots including Lake McKenzie and Pile Valley.
The three-night walk has visitors staying at Kingfisher Bay Resort and makes the most of the lakes and rainforests.
The four-day Great Adventure package offers visitors two nights at each resort, with daytime walks around the island's diverse environments.
For information, head to www.kingfisherbay.com/great-walk-packages.html.
Ranger Annie's tips for Fraser Island first-timers (driving or walking)
- Tour guides and rangers are always happy to assist, talk about tyre pressure and give advice on different areas.
- It's a really big place - don't underestimate the size of the island or how long it takes to get from A to B.
- "It's really well sign-written if you're driving in a vehicle," says Ranger Annie, so if you're driving and know where you need to go, you probably won't need a map.
- If you're on a sand track and someone's coming towards you, just pull over and let them through until you're comfortable.
Documentary crew can't get enough
Documentary filmmaker Greg Grainger has travelled to some of the most beautiful, wild and exotic locations across the globe, but says he still can't get enough of Fraser Island.
The Logie-winning Sydney dad and TV personality brought his two sons and wife Patty along as he got about filming his second doco on the "phenomenal" island.
"It has got stunning beauty in so many ways and I think I start with the solitude here, it's just so, so peaceful," he said.
"Of course you've got sand everywhere - the sand tracks that you drive across to get from one side of the island to the other.
"You can take an hour and a half from Kingfisher Bay Resort to get from the western side to 75 Mile Beach on the eastern side, just to give you an idea of how big this place is.
"Then you drive along that beach and that's quite an exercise in itself, it's so wide and it's policed of course, you've got so many four-wheel drive vehicles going up, coming back - surf here, possibly a dingo there."
Mr Grainger said some of his favourite attractions on the island were the wreck of the Maheno and the island's beautiful inland lakes including the stunning Lake McKenzie.
"It's a wonderful place to come to and a wonderful place to film," he said.
Mr Grainger said it wasn't the first time he'd filmed on the island and it certainly wouldn't be the last.
Tourists from far and wide
GERMAN traveller Sven Knoff has been to many places, but like documentary maker Greg Grainger, there's something about the island that keeps him coming back for more.
"We like the island, it's perfect," he said.
"I've seen 80% of Australia and this is my favourite spot, it's awesome."
Mr Knoff, joined by fellow adventurers Steffi Zettelmayer and Nadine Strzempek, said highlights of the island included the Maheno at sunrise, riding a floaty down the beautiful freshwater Eli Creek, Indian Head, Lake McKenzie and the inland tracks.
Follow their adventures on Instagram at sundinesbackpack and svenonearth.
When you think of places to go for incredible food you probably don't think Fraser Island - but you should.
Dining options range from the delightful Eurong Bake House and its fresh cream cream buns to casual dining and high class adventures for your tastebuds - just when you thought you were totally adventured out.
A hidden gem among the country's culinary assets is the Seabelle restaurant at Kingfisher Bay Resort.
The restaurant takes its name from the brig Seabelle, a 153-tonne vessel which was built in Scotland in 1847.
In April 1857 the Seabelle left Gladstone bound for Sydney and disappeared off the Fraser Coast.
Sous chef Nathan Roberts describes the blends of contemporary cuisine with native bush flavours as "a little bit daring".
He has been on the island for more than three years experimenting with creating gourmet delights with Australia's flavours - including some ingredients harvested in the wild on the island.
"What's kept me on the island so long is the challenge," he said.
The chef said he enjoyed experimenting and creating new and innovative ways to use the country's flavours.
"We do a lot of fusion," he said, adding that Australian cuisine is multicultural in its nature.
Mr Roberts said one of his favourite options on the menu was the sand crab linguine featuring sand crab, linguine, fermented chili aioli, roasted fennel puree and native finger lime.
Crab not your thing? What about crocodile paired with watermelon and native flowers?
The native-inspired, house-made ice creams and sorbets are too incredible to put into words - flavours like lilly pilly, lemon myrtle, wattle seed and cinnamon myrtle will have you wondering why we're not paying more attention to the transcendental flavours of our wild plants.
The restaurant even serves up native cocktails, just so you can drink in the flavours of the island.
Things you have to try on Fraser
- Segway tours
There's nothing more exciting than riding a ranger-guided Segway along the wide open beaches and enjoying little snippets of info about the island while you're flying past with the wind in your hair (they'll even explain why the island's coffee rock is called coffee rock). The experience is a little scary at first, but once you're ready and rolling it's incredibly exhilarating.
- Joy flights
Family-run business Air Fraser runs joy flights over the island. It's an exhilarating and fun way to spot whales, see the sand tracks from the air and take in the majestic beauty of the island.
- Paddle a canoe
Guided canoe tours take visitors out on the water in a relaxing and enjoyable experience.
- Take a day tour
If you're not sure what you want to check out, head along for a day out. The Beauty Spots tour is a completely ranger-guided tour that takes you to some of the island's most stunning spots including Eli Creek, Lake McKenzie, Pile Valley and Eurong. Just be aware that the specially-made tour bus runs on bumpy, rugged sand tracks and there's a reason the journey is lovingly referred to as the rollercoaster.
- Watch the sun go down with a cocktail
The Sunset Bar at Kingfisher Bay is the perfect place to unwind, with a perfect view of the stunning sunset and a colourful, fun menu of cocktails to make it all the better.
- Get pampered
The Kingfisher Bay Resort day spa offers massage and pampering services to help you forget your stresses. Qualified massage therapists offer a range of services that'll leave you relaxed and revived.
- Enjoy the birdlife
From baby birds sleeping on nearby branches to cockatoos and birds of prey, the island is home to hundreds of bird species - and their majestic songs.
Kingfisher Bay Resort - Fraser Island
Phone 61 7 4120 3000 Toll-free 1800 072 555.
Fraser Island Barges
Phone 61 7 4194 3000 Toll-free 1800 BARGES
Fraser Explorer Tours
Phone 07 4194 9222 Toll-free 1800 678 431