All the home comforts on Fraser Island
ROOM AT THE INN
WHEN you’re up to your axles in soft sand and the people in the vehicles behind have taken their fishing rods off the roof and sauntered to the water’s edge, you know you’re on Queensland’s Fraser Island.
We let our tyres down lower than I’ve ever dared, dig out a bit more sand and pause to watch a whale breach offshore before revving up and finally moving forward.
We make it to Orchid Beach at dusk and enjoy a well-earned drink looking over treetops to the broad sweep of Marloo Bay, bounded by Waddy Point to the south and Sandy Cape to the north.
A huge goanna scales a tree right in front of us. Out the back two wallabies are enjoying a sunset sip from the foot-washing tray.
I haven’t been to K’Gari in years, not since the trees in front were saplings and the timber underfoot was new, but it feels like home.
During the past half century, the history of Fraser Island has been a valiant battle by conservationists to preserve the integrity of this sandy wilderness, punctuated by dodgy zoning decisions by white-shoe state governments. Orchid Beach, the island’s most northerly and remotest settlement, had its beginnings in 1962 when Irish baronet, cattleman, developer and aviator Reginald Barnewall obtained a leasehold over some flat clifftop land north of Waddy Point. He put in an airstrip and established a fishing lodge overlooking the bay.
Thirty years later, when I first visited, what had become Orchid Beach Resort was a crumbling collection of Samoan-style fales falling into the sea. Mismanagement, erosion and inaccessibility had led to its failure under a succession of operators, and the Goss government acquired it for $6 million to prevent yet another madcap expansion scheme.
The hillside 16ha available for development were opened up as residential lots with strict environmental controls, and the town of Orchid Beach was born.
Film editor Simon Dibbs and his then business partner Hans Pomeranz bought a piece of hillside and started building K’Gari (the Abor- iginal name for the island). As frequent guests, we helped build retaining walls, remove tree stumps, oil timber and put fish on the dinner table. And we watched K’Gari grow amid the trees.
The K’Gari property now consists of three separate bungalows at discreet intervals down the hillside, each with wilderness and ocean views.
K’Gari itself — reborn with new decks, polished floor and 1950s lanai furniture — sits above its siblings, an elegant, open-plan three-bedder.
Barely visible below it is Kyeema, a spacious studio for two with a perfect view through the trees to Waddy Point, while to the left is the most recent addition, Mia Mia, a twin for Kyeema. Like all properties at Orchid, the K’Gari houses are solar powered and it’s a a 15-minute walk or threeminute drive to the beach, general store and attached bar, along timberslatted avenues through the small residential precinct, although the tracks become soft sand very quickly.
There’s not much to Orchid, even now. At K’Gari you are right in the thick of it, but you’re really not.
Of course, if you love to fish the rocks and surf gutters, there’s no better place for it, but it’s very nice to leave the boys to their big toys and kick back with a good book and a glass of wine.
K’Gari, an elegant, open-plan three-bedder, has been refurbished and sits above smaller sibling properties