FRASER IS­LAND DREAM­ING

JUST BE­CAUSE YOU DON’T OWN A 4WD DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T EN­JOY A NAT­U­RAL WON­DER AT OUR DOORSTEP

Life & Style Weekend - - MAGAZINE | ESCAPE - WORDS: SHIRLEY SINCLAIR * The writer was a guest of the King­fisher Bay Re­sort Group

So near and yet so far. Fraser Is­land and all its nat­u­ral won­ders lie barely a hop, skip and jump to our north but many Sun­shine Coast­ers put it in the too hard bas­ket to get there.

On any given week­end or school hol­i­day, dozens — some­times hun­dreds — of lo­cals pack up their four-wheel-drives, tak­ing ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing the kitchen sink and port-a-loo, and head to In­skip Point where they take the ve­hic­u­lar barge across to Hook Point on the south­ern tip of the world’s largest sand is­land.

They’re on a mis­sion to head “up the beach” to rough it for a few days or weeks on a big camp­ing ad­ven­ture or to spend a cou­ple of nights in a sprin­kling of va­ca­tion homes.

Oth­ers may join a tag-along or or­gan­ised four-wheel-drive coach tour for overnight and short-term dis­cov­ery hol­i­days in some of the smaller ac­com­mo­da­tion es­tab­lish­ments such as Eurong Beach Re­sort.

But what of those of us who don’t own a four-wheel-drive and still want to ex­pe­ri­ence this World Her­itage-listed is­land in all its glory and with a min­i­mum of fuss?

This nat­u­ral “won­der of the world”, as we dis­cov­ered re­cently, can be a seam­less long week­end desti­na­tion for the fam­ily sedan.

It just means you give it a hol­i­day too, at River Heads, south­east of Her­vey Bay.

Then you join the walk-on pas­sen­gers on the King­fisher Bay ve­hic­u­lar ferry.

After driv­ing less than three hours from the south­ern end of the Sun­shine Coast and leav­ing the car locked up safely be­hind coded se­cu­rity gates, we were en­joy­ing the breeze from the stern and al­ready snap­ping pho­tos on the 45-minute ride from the Great Sandy

Strait to the four-star Ac­cor-branded King­fisher Bay Re­sort. In be­tween was a never-to-be-for­got­ten reac­quain­tance with this unique is­land over four days and three nights.

With the help of a Fraser Is­land Ex­plorer Tours Beauty Spots ad­ven­ture, we cov­ered a great deal of ter­ri­tory over in­land tracks and the 75-Mile Beach high­way — more than we’d ever be able to ac­com­plish on our own in a day.

And with our min­i­mal four-wheel-drive ex­pe­ri­ence, we re­alised the is­land’s cur­rent dry and dusty tracks could be a lonely place if you found yourself in “The Pit of De­spair”, as one such area has been nick­named. It has caught many an un­wary driver who has then had to wait up to sev­eral hours for help.

Our cheer­ful itin­er­ary gave us plenty of opportunit­y to re­con­nect with na­ture, wildlife, and the land­scape.

We had barely fin­ished check­ing in be­fore we were mak­ing friends with a white egret out­side our Wal­lum La­goon view room — the first of many en­coun­ters with the “lo­cals” which also in­cluded a half-day whale watch­ing tour to Platypus Bay.

Only steps from the re­sort en­try, ranger Tess Schreck con­veyed her pas­sion for the is­land as a born-and-bred Her­vey Bay resident.

She ed­u­cated us on indige­nous food, tra­di­tions and medicine on a Bush Tucker Walk.

From how cin­na­mon myr­tle’s el­emicin was used as a numb­ing agent be­fore hav­ing a tooth pulled, to the in­tri­ca­cies of the na­tive sug­arbag bees liv­ing un­der the tim­ber sleep­ers of a re­sort walk­way, she had us mar­vel­ling at an­cient in­ge­nu­ity and wis­dom over the past 5000 to 20,000 years of Abo­rig­i­nal in­hab­i­tance on K’gari (mean­ing “par­adise”).

Ranger Jer­maine La Rocca brought his broad smile and happy per­son­al­ity to the ranger-guided Night Walk.

The di­rect de­scen­dant of the Butchulla Tribe of K’gari shone a light on the emer­ald­green sparkling eyes of a ven­omous fun­nel­web spi­ders, a tawny frog­mouth on his perch, fly­ing foxes and sugar glid­ers in the tops of bloom­ing trees, flat­head bury­ing them­selves in the sand of the clear bay waters, a cou­ple of big bar­racuda swim­ming by, a squid float­ing on the cur­rent, fresh dingo tracks near the Sun­set Bar and even Jupiter, Saturn and the Scorpio con­stel­la­tion over­head.

Ranger Cassie Dun­can, a Univer­sity of the Sun­shine Coast grad­u­ate and Her­vey Bay lo­cal, com­bined with chef Mark Sam­son for the Bush Tucker Talk and Taste.

Together, they revealed the “se­crets” of a plat­ter of na­tive seeds, nuts and leaves found around the re­sort, as well as pre­pared bunya nut and macadamia basil pesto and na­tive rosella syrup to have with freshly bar­be­cued roo, croc and emu. The award-win­ning Se­abelle Restau­rant staff were equally will­ing to share the “se­crets” of bush tucker flavours and how they can put “zing” into mod­ern Aus­tralian cui­sine.

But the full-day Beauty Spots tour is where Fraser Is­land re­ally comes alive.

Resident pho­tog­ra­pher, gallery owner and ranger Peter Meyer acted as our four-wheeldrive coach driver ex­traor­di­naire, lo­cal his­tory and geography en­thu­si­ast and wannabe standup co­me­dian.

His ex­pert driv­ing and com­men­tary took us as far south as Eurong Beach, along the eastern beaches north to the rusty ship­wreck marvel of the Ma­heno and The Pin­na­cles’ coloured sands, to the stark white sand and turquoise and sap­phire waters of Lake Mcken­zie that are breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful no mat­ter how many times you visit.

We saw the lush green epi­phytes and tall trees and ferns of Cen­tral Sta­tion and Pile Val­ley, the clear, cool waters of Wang­goolba Creek, fam­ily favourite Eli Creek and the serene splen­dour of Stone­tool Sand­blow.

In our “down­time” across the week­end, I

took ad­van­tage of The Is­land Day Spa for a much-needed mas­sage, and we squeezed the fi­nal rays from the day with a mo­jito in hand and cheese plat­ter at the ready as we kicked back with other vis­i­tors at the Sun­set Bar by the jetty.

Un­ex­pect­edly, we watched cheeky kook­abur­ras steal a piece of cala­mari over an un­sus­pect­ing diner’s plate and a goanna sun it­self inches from a lunch­ing fam­ily at The Sand Bar.

And we walked in the foot­steps of Prince Harry and his new bride Meghan around the re­sort and saw the mas­sive girth of a 100-yearold sati­nay tree that sym­bol­ised the Queen’s Com­mon­wealth Canopy — a net­work of for­est con­ser­va­tion projects.

The im­por­tance of Fraser Is­land’s ma­jes­tic scenery, its frag­ile ecosys­tems, and bounty of bush tucker and na­tive medicine reme­dies were high­lighted way more than I could ex­pect on a week-long camp­ing hol­i­day.

And I’ve rel­ished the chance to do it in ef­fort­less style.

Don’t get me wrong. I love camp­ing. But the bot­tom line is that to me, an easy hol­i­day is a good hol­i­day — one that is laid out be­fore you that takes lit­tle think­ing about. A hol­i­day jam­packed with sights, sounds, new tastes and ad­ven­ture but in­clud­ing a la­goon-style pool with sun lounges, drinks of choice on tap, a comfy bed, hot shower and the sounds of si­lence at the end of the day.

Some­times you just have to put the tarp back in the garage, step away from the camp­fire and toss the sleep­ing bag and stretcher beds back in the cupboard.

Once you’ve ex­pe­ri­enced Fraser Is­land like this, there may be no turn­ing back.

The King­fisher Bay Re­sort Group has a bevy of tours and ac­tiv­i­ties to al­low you to im­merse yourself in the is­land’s beauty spots, indige­nous cul­ture, rain­for­est, lakes, creeks and sand blows. www.king­fisherbay.com www.fraser­ex­plor­er­tours.com.au

• The Is­land Day Spa is your go-to for ultimate is­land in­dul­gence, with a se­lec­tion of sooth­ing treat­ments us­ing or­ganic, Aus­tralian prod­ucts.

www.fraseris­landspa.com.au

Pic­tures: Shirley Sinclair

MAIN PHOTO: Pris­tine Fraser Is­land. BE­LOW: Lake Mcken­zie; colour­ful Wal­lum La­goon in King­fisher Bay Re­sort; The Pin­na­cles.

Picture: King­fisher Bay Re­sort

King­fisher Bay Re­sort sits lightly on the land­scape.

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