All the home com­forts on Fraser Is­land

ROOM AT THE INN

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - PHIL JAR­RATT

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

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