I’d spent a rainy week in Hervey Bay before making a last minute decision to stay a bit longer so I could head out to Fraser Island. When people think of islands they mostly conjure up images of resorts, palm trees and tiki bars, and that’s pretty much how I imagined Fraser Island, but I couldn’t have been more wrong— pleasingly so.
Fraser Island is off Australia’s eastern Queensland coast, and what makes it so remarkable is that it’s the world’s largest sand island, stretching over one-hundred-and-twenty-kilometres. Known for its white sand, turquoise water, dingoes, and a huge variety of wildlife, it’s a fifty minute ferry ride out there. What had kept me from visiting Fraser Island is my severe sea- sickness and concern that I’d spend the ferry trip over and back throwing up, and unable to enjoy the day. As usual, I was wrong, and I was very happy to have been assured by the receptionist at the ticket office that the trip was in the bay, and so smooth I’d barely notice.
Rather than take my car on the ferry, I elected to travel by foot. The ticket to Fraser Island cost $60, which included not only the return ferry trip, but access to the Kingfisher Bay Resort. I caught the 9 am ferry from River Heads Boat Ramp and was impressed with how large the ferry was. It had a kiosk and bar, and viewing platform on the top. The journey was smooth and scenic, and I was so excited to see a dugong on the way across. I was glued to the front of the ferry, watching and waiting for Fraser Island to come into view, and finally, it did. It was nothing like I expected— glistening white sand and aqua waters to be sure, but rather than palm trees and hibiscus, it had a thick coverage of Australian native plants and trees. It was remote and wild, almost eerie in how empty it was, and I couldn’t wait to explore.
A small tractor-pulled train picked us up from the jetty and the ranger who was driving warned us about dingoes on the way over. There have been a number of dingo attacks on humans, including children, so the resort had fenced off a large area around its perimeter so that visitors would be safe. Large signs with dingo warnings were posted above securely latched gates so that you well and truly knew when you were stepping out of the protective fenced area.
Kingfisher Bay Resort is an eco resort, with the philosophy of “Ecologically sustainable tourism that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation”. I was fascinated by the gentle lines and almost camouflaged design of the resort, so I jumped at the chance of attending the eco walk, and learning more about it. After an interesting tour I set off on my own for a bit of a nature walk and then crossed the dingo fence to spend some time on the beach. There was no doubt that I felt a bit nervous of dingoes as the beach was quite empty, but there was no way I could spend time on Fraser Island without enjoying the spectacular coastline. It was the end of winter and a bit cool to swim, but I found a great place to sit and relax, and not too far from the safety of the fence.
It was a bit unusual being on my own on Fraser Island as everyone was either in a couple, or a group. Especially as I was ever aware of the warnings about not venturing out on your own because of dingoes, but I had no option if I wanted to get the most out of the experience. I think I walked kilometres as I explored as much as I could, as safely as I could. I ate great fish and chips in the restaurant for lunch, wrote and posted postcards from the resort post-office, photographed some of the spectacular native plants, and drank great coffee whilst writing from the resort pool. Despite being the end of winter, and wearing my Alaska cap for most of the day, I managed to get a little sunburnt. The day grew remarkably warm and I watched a little enviously as a group of teens horsed around in the aqua waters.
After walking for hours, I was ready to head back. The return ferry ride to River Heads was calming, allowing me to rest my weary body, and I knew I’d sleep well that night.
I’ve done a lot of travelling, but the day trip to Fraser Island was really special. When I reflect on what made it so wonderful, I recognise that it was being able to explore and enjoy it on my own. Maybe it was simply that I was so utterly alone amongst the spectacular Australian native plants, with that tiny hint of fear? Maybe it was being immersed in a landscape that seemed so primitive and untouched? Or maybe it was simply that I had finally ticked off another of my bucket list items, and it was so close to home.