Stun­ning Fraser Is­land, a sand trip­per’s dream.

RON AND THE CREW HEAD FROM COOLOOLA TO FRASER IS­LAND FOR AN EX­TRA­OR­DI­NARY WEEK OF OFF-ROAD­ING.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS RON MOON PHO­TOS ALAS­TAIR BROOK

THE TIDE was per­fect for our run north to Sandy Cape, with the ocean still strip­ping wa­ter off the sand as we hit the beach at the Cathe­dral Beach Re­sort and turned north. The drive along the sand was easy, with the wide strip of hard-packed beach al­low­ing us to cruise ef­fort­lessly.

It was a far cry from a cou­ple of nights pre­vi­ously when we had been forced close to the sand hills, the high-tide waves wash­ing up over the low sand­bar to leave a 20-me­tre-wide cor­ri­dor of dry sand for our trav­els. We then got to the Eli Creek cross­ing where the Narva lights threw a long, wide beam across a vast ex­panse of wa­ter. I knew the cross­ing from past ex­pe­ri­ences, but that didn’t make it any less nervewrack­ing as I pointed the Ford Ranger into the lake and ploughed my way across; the rest of the con­voy fol­low­ing. With more good luck than good for­tune we missed all the deep holes and steep drop-offs that are of­ten a part of the creek bank here, and we all came out on the north­ern side of the flood and con­tin­ued our hur­ried run north.

Our trip to the Great Sandy NP of south-east Queens­land had started a few days pre­vi­ously when we had found our way from Cooroy along back and dirt roads to Harry’s Hut, where we threw down the swags for the night. The next morn­ing we went for a short, en­joy­able pad­dle on the Noosa River, be­fore we sad­dled up and headed north through the park, wind­ing our way to the coast at the Fresh­wa­ter camp­site and then, with tyre pres­sures low­ered, run­ning north along the golden sands to Dou­ble Is­land

Point. A high tide and some land­slips at the start of the Coloured Sands sec­tion of the beach had us back­track­ing (dis­cre­tion be­ing the bet­ter part of val­our) to find our way to the small ham­let of Rain­bow Beach, where we grabbed a meal at the pub and threw down our swags in the lo­cal camp­ing ground.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing we queued at In­skip Point for the short ferry ride across to Fraser Is­land. It mightn’t have been the school hol­i­days, or even a week­end, but there was still a long line of hope­ful trav­ellers wait­ing to de­scend on Fraser; such is the pop­u­lar­ity of the place.

Af­ter an un­event­ful 35km slog to Eurong, where you can get ba­sic sup­plies and fuel, we turned in­land here and wound our way through a rich va­ri­ety of forests and across lumpy sandy tracks to Cen­tral Sta­tion, once the main set­tle­ment on the is­land when the place was more a tim­ber yard than a tourist des­ti­na­tion.

Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple lived on Fraser for many gen­er­a­tions be­fore log­ging started, with ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence show­ing at least 5000 years of use and habi­ta­tion. Euro­peans first ar­rived when Cook sailed up the coast dur­ing his dis­cov­ery of Aus­tralia, and while he named a few head­lands he didn’t set foot on the is­land. Matthew Flin­ders landed on the is­land in 1802, and re­ports of good pas­toral land and forests in the 1840s brought the first per­ma­nent Euro­pean set­tlers.

Log­ging started on Fraser Is­land in the 1860s, and in 1920 a

large forestry camp was es­tab­lished at Cen­tral Sta­tion to har­vest hoop pine, gi­gan­tic sati­nay trees and a whole lot of lesser species for use in Aus­tralia and around the world.

The first area of na­tional park was es­tab­lished on the is­land in 1971, and in 1976 sand min­ing was stopped. Log­ging passed into his­tory in 1991 and by 1998 most of the is­land was pro­tected within the Great Sandy NP. To­day at Cen­tral Sta­tion there is a good dis­play of the is­land’s his­tory and its im­por­tance to the lo­cal Butchulla peo­ple, who call the hu­mon­gous sand mass, K’gari.

There are some pleas­ant walks start­ing at Cen­tral Sta­tion, in­clud­ing an easy one on a board­walk along the edge of Wang­goolba Creek, which passes through a tran­quil rain­for­est gully. Longer walks will take you to Pile Val­ley, where the gi­ant sati­nays still stand, or Basin Lake and mag­i­cal Lake Mcken­zie.

There is a camp­ing area not far from Cen­tral Sta­tion, but we wound our way south through more ver­dant for­est and around Lake Jen­nings, Lake Birrabeen and Lake Be­na­roon to a camp­site at Lake Booman­jin. These lakes are just some of the 40 nat­u­ral wa­ter sources that make Fraser so unique. Amaz­ingly they sit in the heart of a sand is­land (the big­gest in the world, we’re told) and Lake Booman­jin is the big­gest of all, cov­er­ing 200ha. Stained by tan­nin-flow­ing streams, Booman­jin, like its other sis­ter lakes, is low in nu­tri­ents and sup­ports few aquatic plants or an­i­mals.

The camp­ground here is en­cir­cled by a wire fence de­signed to keep for­ag­ing din­goes away from care­less cam­pers who may leave food. We had no such in­ci­dents; al­though, the fol­low­ing morn­ing we had fresh dog tracks along the road near the camp where a wan­der­ing dog had passed by.

We spent the day ex­plor­ing and en­joy­ing the lakes in the cen­tral part of the is­land, in­clud­ing Lake Mcken­zie, which is with­out a doubt the most pop­u­lar lake on the is­land – once you’ve been there you will un­der­stand why. Even though more

WE PUSHED NORTH A SHORT DIS­TANCE BE­FORE THE SOFT, BOGGY SAND AND HIGH TIDE CAUGHT US OUT

than 100 peo­ple were there when we ar­rived, it was still an en­joy­able spot to re­lax for an hour or two.

Feel­ing ad­ven­tur­ous we headed to the west coast where we found our way onto the beach just north of Urang Creek, and we pushed north a short dis­tance be­fore the soft, boggy sand and the high tide caught us out. Hur­riedly, with roar­ing en­gines and sand spew­ing from spin­ning tyres, we clawed our way out and got back onto safer ter­rain and headed east for the more gen­tle beaches of the east coast. With dark­ness de­scend­ing we hit the sand near Happy Val­ley, be­fore we ar­rived at the afore­men­tioned cross­ing of Eli Creek and stopped that evening at Cathe­dral Beach.

We were up early the next morn­ing to watch the sun throw its golden rays onto the old wreck of the Maheno. A well­known land­mark on Fraser, the Maheno was blown ashore in

1935 and there it has stayed ever since.

From the Maheno we drove north, pass­ing In­dian Head and Waddy Point and drop­ping onto the shore again near the vil­lage of Or­chid Beach. From here it is still an­other 50km or so to Sandy Cape, with the no­to­ri­ous trap of the Ngkala Rocks in be­tween. We wanted to be close to low tide to get around this ob­sta­cle, not only for the run north but also for the re­turn trip later in the day.

We eas­ily slipped around the rocks on the way north and stopped at Sandy Cape to en­joy the view of the coast and its tan­gled web of sandy chan­nels run­ning clear blue wa­ter, iso­lated dry­ing sand­bars and the whipped-up wa­ter off­shore where the Break Sea Spit plays tur­moil to the cur­rents, winds and waves.

Less than 10km west is Sandy Cape Light­house, where ve­hi­cle ac­cess far­ther west (or south) ends. From the carpark we walked up the steep sand dune to the light­house, which is looked af­ter by a ro­tat­ing group of care­tak­ers, each of whom spend four to six weeks in this small patch of nir­vana. We yarned to the cou­ple while tak­ing in the ex­pan­sive view from this lofty perch, but the tide was call­ing so we re­traced our steps back along the east coast of the is­land.

We were just in time, too, as wa­ter was start­ing to edge to­wards the rocks as we slipped past Ngkala and con­tin­ued south, stop­ping for the evening at Waddy Point. This is one of the most pop­u­lar camp­sites, and you can choose to be down along the edge of the beach or among the trees a lit­tle far­ther back from the shore.

Our time on Fraser was fast com­ing to an end, so for the last night we headed to King­fisher Bay Re­sort on the west coast. I had spent a bit of time here years ago, but the re­sort is much bet­ter these days with many more ac­tiv­i­ties for the en­tire fam­ily to en­joy (or for those who want to add a bit of pam­per­ing and a fair bit of lux­ury to their Fraser Is­land es­cape). Ann Bauer, the chief ranger at King­fisher, took us around the de­light­ful na­tive gar­den that sur­rounds much of the re­sort, while giv­ing us the run­down on the ex­pe­ri­ences the re­sort of­fers: more than 20 ranger-led walks, bird­watch­ing ex­cur­sions, bush-tucker tast­ings, ca­noe trips, 4WD tours and lots more. We set­tled for some cold beers, a great feed and a few wines.

The next day we caught the ferry which runs from the re­sort to the main­land at River Heads, near Har­vey Bay. As we drew away from the is­land I vowed it wouldn’t be an­other 20 years be­fore I came back to this mag­i­cal area of the Great Sandy.

AS WE DREW AWAY FROM THE IS­LAND I VOWED IT WOULDN’T BE AN­OTHER 20 YEARS BE­FORE I CAME BACK

1. Head­ing to rain­wa­ter-fed Lake Mcken­zie and its stun­ning white sand beach. 2. Snap­shot of Cen­tral Sta­tionand en­vi­rons. 3. The con­voy on com­pactsec­tions of Fraser’s sand.

1

1. Camp­fires are only per­mit­ted in Qpws-pro­vided fire rings in camp­ing ar­eas. 2. Waddy Point of­fers beachand fenced camp­ing.

1

2

1 1. No bi­tu­men on Fraser. 2. Take note of tide times. 3. Fraser Is­land’s in­te­rior is well veg­e­tated and fea­tures some 40 nat­u­ral lakes.

3

2

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.