FRASER ISLAND DREAMING
JUST BECAUSE YOU DON’T OWN A 4WD DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN’T ENJOY A NATURAL WONDER AT OUR DOORSTEP
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.
MAIN PHOTO: Pristine Fraser Island. BELOW: Lake Mckenzie; colourful Wallum Lagoon in Kingfisher Bay Resort; The Pinnacles.
Kingfisher Bay Resort sits lightly on the landscape.