Mission Beach, Tropical North Queensland

Back on the road north….

We caught a 9.55 am return ferry back to Townsville from Magnetic Island on Thursday June 25th and were soon back on the Bruce Highway heading North for Mission Beach.

Tropical North Queensland is a huge sugar cane growing area and the Bruce Highway is lined with mile after mile of sugar cane fields. These big plantations are serviced by light, narrow-gauge trains that connect the fields to mills which feature along the coastal strip as far north as Mossman. The trains are used to take the harvested cane to the mills for processing and the tracks cut through the fields of cane and across the main highways. At harvest time these operations apparently cause frequent delays for travellers using the Bruce Highway but thankfully we weren’t travelling during the harvest.

The road travels more or less north along the coast, then inland through the small town of Ingham and then back along the coast. The scenery here is wonderful with the Hinchinbrook Range on one side of the road with the mountainous Hinchinbrook Island just off the coast separated from the mainland by the Hinchinbrook Channel, a narrow strip of water.

We stopped for lunch at Cardwell, a small seaside town, which didn’t look particularly exciting except that it is located in such a beautiful area. This is the first time we came across regular signs warnings against swimming due to crocodiles and stingers (Box Jellyfish).

Like much of the Queensland Coast there is a corridor of coastal wetlands comprising mudflats, mangrove, saltmarsh or billabongs and in some places these are used for crop irrigation. These areas help contain coastal erosion and even though they might not all be wet all of the year, they do provide a coastal corridor for a diverse range of plants and animals, including some endangered ones such as the dugong and leatherhead turtle. There are many wetland walking tracks along and through this coastal strip and the unbelievably varied fauna and flora make these some of the best walking we have done so far.

Continuing our drive north we passed by a number of signs leading to swimming holes and waterfalls, including the Murray Falls, before driving by the small town of Tully. Tully is an inland town with a sugar mill complete with a giant chimney but banana plantations are also a major feature here; this is Australia’s main banana growing region. It also has the reputation of being the wettest place in Australia with an annual average of over 4M and a record 7.2M recorded in 1950. Another half hour or so after Tully we arrived at Mission Beach.

Mission Beach

Mission Beach is a natural mid-way point between Townsville and Cairns in the Wet Tropics of North Queensland which are World Heritage Listed and uniquely, run parallel to another World Heritage site, The Great Barrier Reef.

The town is actually made up of four villages linked by 14 Kilometres of wide, golden beach. The villages are, from south to north, South Mission Beach, Wongaling Beach, Mission Beach and Bingil Bay. This is a thriving tourist area but because it is spread out over a long coast it doesn’t seem very busy at all. It is quite a well-to-do area and there is a nice mix of restaurants of all persuasions from everyday to high-end. Trendy boutiques and art galleries all set against lush tropical rainforest. There is a very nice and friendly small town atmosphere in each of the villages.

This area forms part of the Cassowary Coast and there are road signs everywhere urging careful driving due to the presence of these famous flightless big birds. Ad-hoc signs at the roadside are frequently seen warning of “recent crossing here” but sadly we didn’t see one during our stay.

We stayed in a beachfront chalet at Mission Beach Shores - great accommodation
We stayed in a beachfront chalet at Mission Beach Shores – great accommodation

We had chosen to stay at Shores on Wongaling Beach, a very nice resort of only 5 or 6 chalets run by a South African couple. The resort stands in the midst of a small area of rainforest 50 metres or so back from the beach and each of the bungalows sits in its own area, private and unseen from the others, screened off by tropical trees and shrubs. There is a nice shaded and private outside dining area with comfy bench seats, sun beds and a very conveniently positioned private BBQ area with a great electric BBQ. It’s done in a Balianes style and all very attractive and only steps from a small but adequate swimming pool.

We loved our nice and private chalet at Shores even when we were rained in for a whole day............
We loved our nice and private chalet at Shores even when we were rained in for a whole day…
Avery nice open plan room with plenty of space...
A very nice open plan room with plenty of space…
Nice comfortable dining area
Nice comfortable dining area
A great little BBQ and also electric pan made al fresco dining a cinch - even when it rained...
A great little BBQ and also electric pan made al fresco dining a cinch – even when it rained…
And a nice dining area/office...
And the dining area doubles as an office…

The top right photo below shows a green ant nest. Green ants can be eaten alive as bush tucker but their main use to aborigines is as a cough and cold cure. The ants are crushed and taken as a drink with water or inhaled like a vapour rub.

Apart from the usual walking, the one thing we did want to do here was to visit Dunk Island which is just off shore and apparently has some lovely walks and very good snorkelling. Neither of us had ever snorkelled but we were keen to learn and we had found an outfit happy to take out a couple of novices. After all we would shortly be visiting Cairns – the major jump off for the Great Barrier Reef – and we could hardly go there and not snorkel. Not only that but many of the places we plan to visit in Asia are also renowned snorkel and diving areas and so we really need to be able to do it.

We were warmly welcomed at the Shores by the owners Mike, a retired airline pilot and his wife Marie who thanked us for bringing good weather – we arrived in sunshine but June 2015 had been one of the wettest ever. Unfortunately the good weather wasn’t to last. We enjoyed a couple of warm sunny days with the rest giving us various degrees of dampness including a day and night solid of seriously heavy tropical rain when we just couldn’t get out of the house.

Throughout our week here, even on the warm and sunny days, the sea was rough with breakers and snorkelling trips were postponed. Very disappointing but there will be many more opportunities. Weather aside we had a great week at Mission Beach. There is a really good Woolworths Supermarket and bottle shop and so apart from our first night when we had pizza at Millers Beach Bar and Grill, we were able to make the most of the BBQ and self cater with salads and BBQ steaks and burgers and the like – much nicer than eating out and also wallet friendly.

Whilst snorkelling wasn’t do-able this week, we did manage some good walks. Walking South, we walked a round trip of around 15km down to Lovers Beach on the Kennedy Track.

A few snaps from our walk south to the Kennedy track:

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Going North, we did a similar length walk to Clump Point Jetty and with better weather enjoyed a picnic lunch.

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As lovely as Mission Beach is, after a week of mostly poor weather we were ready to move on. Hopefully the weather will improve as we move further North.

Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island

Arriving at Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal on Magnetic Island
Arriving at Nelly Bay Ferry Terminal on Magnetic Island

Magnetic Island in Tropical North Queensland sits in the Great Barrier Reef National Park and  is unique in that it is an offshore suburb of Townsville 8km from the mainland.

The island is triangular shaped and quite small at 52 sq miles with over half of it comprising National Park. It is 7 miles wide at its widest point and has 25 miles of coastline. Its highest point is Mount Cook at 497 m above sea level.

The name of the island came about  because of an apparent magnetic effect on the ship’s compass of Captain Cook as he passed the island when sailing up the east coast of Australia in 1770. People have since explored the island with various instruments to try to establish what caused the effect that Cook reported but nothing has been discovered. The local name for the island is Maggie Island.

A sealed road follows the East Coast but there are no roads on the West coast nor much of the north coast except in the Horseshoe Bay area which is probably the most developed area on the island with perhaps 10 or so restaurants, a pub, water sports shops and a few gift shops and the like. Unlike Fraser Island, most of the roads are sealed and so we were able to take our car over to the island.

This is a World Heritage listed island with a landscape of unspoilt natural beauty. The island is hilly with massive boulders everywhere and rocky headlands creating secluded beaches which are some of the best in North Queensland. Some beaches are easily accessible by road, other more secluded ones are only accessible by sea or by foot. A fabulous place.

Over half of the Island is National Park with tall Hoop pines, eucalyptus forests and small areas of rainforest. The west coast is largely tidal wetlands and mangrove with saltwater swamps.      There is an abundance of wild life with koalas, rock wallabies, possum and bats together with a huge variety of birds – curlew are everywhere as are bush turkeys, parrots and cockatoos.

There is a resident population of around 2,500 some of whom commute to Townsville for work. We were astounded at this number of residents but the population and the holidaymakers are thinly spread out mostly along the East coast and so it never seems too busy even in high season.

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We spent 5 nights on the island staying at Arcadia Motel on Geoffrey Bay in Arcadia village. The Motel is rather confusingly adjacent to a hotel of the same name in the same complex and there is also a pub with a decent bistro, bottle shop, Italian restaurant and part time (twice a week) Asian restaurant. A top place!

The motel was fairly quiet at the time of our visit and the lovely owner upgraded us to a great upper floor family sized unit at the front overlooking the swimming pool and the beach on Geoffrey Bay. The beach here is lovely but within a few hundred meters around the corner but still in Arcadia is the stunning Alma Beach.

Arcadia Motel

Reception Building at Arcadia
Reception Building at Arcadia

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Alma Beach nearby

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Alma Beach - only two hundred metres or less from our Motel
Alma Beach – only two hundred metres or less from our Motel

Our first full day here was spent doing not very much other than a walk around the village and a very nice Sunday roast lunch at Gilligan’s Restaurant Bar nearby.

Ann was still struggling to walk any distance but it was quite a dull day and we spent the rest of it catching up on paperwork.

On our second morning here we completed the Forts Walk, an easy 4km walk up to some WW2 gun placements and look-outs. These fortifications were part of a series of defenses built along the coast to defend against Japanese invasion. There was an American base at Townsville and the town was actually bombed on three occasions but apparently the guns at Magnetic were never fired. There are great 360 degree views to be had from the look out here and it’s a very popular walk.

Rain had threatened as we started the walk but we pressed on and were happy that we did as we saw our first koala bear with baby whilst walking up to the fort albeit they were so high up in a shady tree that we couldn’t get any good photos.

The Forts Walk

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Great Views from the look out post

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And an unexpected bonus of spotting a koala with baby (albeit we couldn’t get great photos).

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After finishing the walk we drove down to Horseshoe Bay and enjoyed a lunch of fish at the Marlin Bar which is in a great position across the road from the beach with views of the wide bay and the boats on the water. Lunch was good but just as we were finishing the heavens opened and there was a torrential downpour which happily we could sit and watch as although we had a pavement table, we were sheltered from the sun and now the rain by an overhead canopy.

Lunch over we drove back to Arcadia but before returning to the hotel we stopped off at an old disused ferry jetty at the northern corner of Geoffrey Bay where we were told me might see rock wallabies. Sure enough we found half a dozen wallabies sipping water from puddles on the ground left following the heavy rain. It seems a local resident feeds the animals and so they turn up each day for easy pickings.

Rock wallabies

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Our next day started with a drive back to Horseshoe Bay and then a half hour walk over a steep hill through some fantastic boulder strewn forest to the lovely Balding Bay. This turned out to be a nudist beach but not surprisingly, as is often the case, the only nudists to be seen were the usual type namely middle aged males – much to Peter’s disappointment!

This was a really good walk to a lovely spot and we spent a couple of hours lounging on the beach -unbelievably this was the first time on this entire trip that we had actually sat down and enjoyed a beach for more than an hour.

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After a picnic lunch we decided to go back to Horseshoe Bay for more sunbathing and en route came across two small koalas one of which posed for photographs – we felt very lucky to see these, a second sighting in 2 days!

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Horseshoe Bay

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Our last day ,Wednesday ,was spent in similar fashion walking in the morning, this time to Arthur and Florence beaches, followed by a picnic lunch and then beach and fishing in the afternoon at Horseshoe. Wildlife spotted today was a sole rock wallaby on the beach at Horseshoe Bay.

Arthur Bay

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Florence Bay

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We got back to the motel for a quick shower and then had a very good Indonesian meal at the pub before an early night in readiness for the next leg of our trip.

We left Maggie Island on Thursday 25th June quite sad after a fantastic week despite mixed weather but nevertheless looking forward to our next port of call, Mission Beach.

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Leaving Maggie Island .A bit sad to leave such a lovely place but looking forward to
Boarding the ferry to leave Maggie Island .Sad to leave such a lovely place but looking forward to our next stop Mission Beach.

Townsville

Townsville is the largest city in North Queensland and the launch pad for Magnetic Island which is where we were heading next after Airlie Beach. Not sure too many travellers bother to stay here but we had read that it’s a place visiting for its own sake and so we decided to give it a try and stay a couple of nights before visiting the Island.

We arrived around 1PM on June 18 after a short drive from Airlie Beach. Our Motel was in an elevated position, albeit with no views, overlooked by Castle Hill which gives great views of the town, the coast and Magnetic Island.

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Castle Hill seen from the Strand
Magnetic Island from Castle Hill
Magnetic Island from Castle Hill

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We booked into the Summit Motel, dropped our bags and wandered into town taking the circuitous route taking in the Strand which is the main seafront promenade and Trip Adviser’s Number 1 of things to do in Townsville – probably says a lot!

Nice beach but strangely deserted....
Nice beach but strangely deserted…

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The waterfront is indeed very nice with a lovely beach lined with manicured parks and gardens. The gardens were busy with families with kids but the beach itself was strangely deserted. We discovered later from TV news was because there is currently a four metre crocodile living in the bay which the authorities are struggling to capture and remove. The gardens include play areas for the kids and a public swimming pool but best of all for kids is a great little water park (free of charge.) There is also a quieter but impressive ANZAC Memorial Park.

Kids having a great time at the free
Kids having a great time at the free water park.

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It was 3PM by the time we reached the town proper and most of the restaurants had shut up shop for the afternoon. We were getting hungry and a bit desperate but luckily we came across the Brewery. The Brewery is a large pub formerly a post office with a reputation for good food and with its own micro-brewery which brews all the beer sold in the place – very drinkable too! After a couple of drinks and some lunch, we continued our walk around town and then wandered back to the Motel stopping at Woollies en route to buy some cheese and wine for supper.

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The Brewery, good ales and food…

The next morning was spent at Reef HQ. This is a reef aquarium which is the largest of it’s kind anywhere comprising a massive tank containing living corals and creatures that live on the Great Barrier Reef including a variety of sharks and rays and a multitude of other fish and sea critters. The natural conditions in the main tank are maintained by a wave machine which simulates the ebb and flow of the ocean. There are many, many other smaller tanks and other great exhibits and touch tanks with starfish and the like which are excellent for small and big kids. One could easily spend a full day here and this really ought to be the town’s number one attraction except that the place seems slightly run down and in need of some TLC and probably investment.

Reef HQ - fantastic collection of fish and other creatures living on real life coral but the place needs a bit of tlc and investment.
Reef HQ – fantastic collection of fish and other creatures living on real life coral but the place needs a bit of TLC and investment.

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After our Reef visit, we ventured over the river, Ross Creek, that snakes around the town to South Townsville and the Palmer Street area which we found is much more touristy. This area contains most of the town’s bars and eateries but although this was Friday lunchtime many of the places were shut – as were many of the shops in town. This is a phenomenon we continue to see and be bemused by in this part of the world.

After a wander back and forth we made our choice and enjoyed a pleasant lunch in a steak house before Ann left me for a couple of hours whilst she visited a hairdresser! I spent my time usefully completing some reading up on our forthcoming travels whilst at the same time putting a few more of the Brewery’s products to the test. Not such a bad afternoon.

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Townsville has a very nice Anzac Memorial and garden
Townsville has a very nice Anzac Memorial and garden

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The museum was closed for some reason we couldn't fathom .This was a school day after all.
The museum was closed for some reason we couldn’t fathom. This was a school day after all.

Townsville is quite a big sprawling town and much bigger than we expected. It’s pleasant enough with some nice art deco buildings but some areas are not quite so smart – in particular there are a couple of blocks of older buildings on Flinders Street occupied by nightclubs, restaurants, pubs and takeaways badly in need of demolishing or better still re-developing as the structures themselves have some architectural character. Also, at the time of our visit quite a big block on the main shopping area of Flinders Street was under re-construction and so perhaps we didn’t see it at its best. It’s also fair to say there are a number of attractions, museums, wild life sanctuaries and water based sports and trips outside the town that are available that we didn’t visit or partake in and so others might well take a very different view of the place.

A different view of Castle Hill
A different view of Castle Hill

The next morning, Saturday June 20th, we caught a morning ferry to Magnetic Island.

Our ferry to Magnetic Island
Our ferry to Magnetic Island

Airlie Beach

Having left Fraser Island on the 10.30 ferry back to River Heads, we collected the car and made our way north to Gladstone, a rest point en route to Airlie Beach which is in the Whitsundays area and one of many departure points for the Great Barrier Reef.

We spent a pleasant evening in a very good apartment at Park View Motel in readiness for an early start on the 4 hour journey to Airlie. On the motel owners recommendation we ordered a chinese meal delivery which was excellent with a nice bottle of red.

Setting off at 9.00AM the next morning, Sunday June 14th, left us with a comfortable drive to get us to Airlie for a 2PM check in but I still managed to carelessly pick up a speeding ticket from a humourless police offer for driving at 92 in a 70 limit area. AUD 220. Damn it! You can be sure I was very careful to stay within speed limits for the rest of our travels!

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We arrived at Waterview, a luxury apartment development, in time for check in at 2PM. The apartment was lovely, clean and modern and very well kitted out and in a superb position only a few hundred metres walk to the town and with great views over the town and the sea. The landlord was a very amiable and helpful soul and gave us maps and brochures and a run through the various attractions in town.

A very nice apartment with furnished patio overlooking the town and the sea.
A very nice apartment with furnished patio overlooking the town and the sea.
The place was clean and comfortable and nicely kitted out.
The place was clean and comfortable and nicely kitted out.

As a launching point for the GBR, this place attracts a lot of backpackers and there were lots of young Brits and other Europeans in town. Backpackers are fine by us as they are invariably good humoured and chatty and bars and restaurants set their pricing accordingly with virtually every establishment offering one deal or another of the happy hours, BYO booze or free drink with meal variety. However, with a super modern kitchen and a nice big supermarket in town we planned to cook for ourselves rather than eat out too much.

This is actually quite a skall town but well served with lots of cafes bars and restaurants and countless shops selling trips to the Great Barrier Reef et al
This is actually quite a small town but well served with lots of cafes bars and restaurants and countless shops selling trips to the Great Barrier Reef et al

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Airlie isn’t a big town but with nice residential areas and a modern harbour with harbour side apartments, it has a well heeled feel to it notwithstanding the backpacking fraternity. As always, facilities for leisure are excellent. Apart from all manner of watersporrts and other activities and trips available, the town offers a free swimming lagoon which is really excellent and especially for kids. A very nice place to sit out, sunbathe, swim and enjoy a picnic or a take away from the many shops nearby. In addition, there are the usual walking tracks with park areas provided with nice seating areas and BBQs.

Apart from cooking, the only thing we planned to do was a trip to Hamilton Island but the weather was mixed with sun, wind and rain for the most part and we didn’t fancy doing this in rough seas and rain; this and Ann’s poorly foot led us to give up on that idea – there would be lots of opportunities for water activities over the next several weeks and of course, as we travelled north we could expect the weather to improve and the ocean to be warmer.

So we had a very lazy few days in Airlie Beach doing nothing very much other than catching up on our “household” book-keeping and paperwork and some easy walking around the area. This is a beautiful spot with a great laid back feel.

Here are a few photos:

Town centre swimming lagoon
The very pleasant town centre swimming lagoon

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Airlie Harbour - there is a large residential apartment development here with ground floor shops and offices - a very attractive place to stay or live
Airlie Harbour – there is a large residential apartment development here with ground floor shops and offices – a very attractive place to stay or live

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This is the Coral Sea Resort.We popped in one lunchtime for a drink and a sandwich not realising this is a smart and quite exclusive resort. No worries , we enjoyed a budget breaking fish platter for 2 and 2 (or was it three ?) bottles of wine
This is the Coral Sea Resort. We popped in one lunchtime for a drink and a sandwich not realising this is a smart and quite exclusive resort. No worries, we spent the rest of the day there and enjoyed a budget busting fish platter and two (or was it three ?) bottles of decent sauv blanc. The very pleasant Manager kindly kitted us out with beach towels so that we could enjoy the pool. Luckily we had great weather on this day.
This was really a super hotel in a lovely spot
This really is a very nice hotel in a lovely spot…
with its own jetty
…with its own jetty
Weather was mixed but we did have some angry skies
But the weather didn’t last – this was later the same day…

Our stay at Airlie Beach was very pleasant indeed. Yet another town on this coast we would love to re-visit one day.

Next stop Townsville for Magnetic Island!

Fraser Island

We left the lovely Noosa for a two and a half hour drive to Hervey Bay around 8am on Monday June 8th.

Hervey Bay is the name of the bay which separates Fraser Island from the mainland by about 9 km.We would stay at the Kingfisher Bay Resort on the island and leave our car at Kingfisher’s mainland long term car park at River Heads where there is also a Reception Building and a mini retail park with cafe, supermarket and not much else.

The drive was uneventful but on this route we saw our first serious road kill of kangaroo – and lots of them. It was actually pretty scary as some of these animals are big and the thought of hitting one of these critters full on didn’t bear thinking about -one reason that at the outset we decided that we wouldn’t do any after dark driving here – especially on the Bruce Highway, the main drag up the East Coast.

Only 4WD vehicles are allowed on Fraser Island and if you want to take your own vehicle then you need to obtain a permit in advance. Although our Mitsubishi had 4WD capability, travel to the island was excluded in the hire conditions which is a pretty standard exclusion in the car hire market as accidents are a frequent occurrence .

We parked up and checked in and waited for the shuttle bus which would take us to the ferry.Whilst waiting we made use of a cafe for a coffee and a small supermarket where we stocked up on a few bits and pieces in anticipation of sky high prices on the island.Around noon a shuttle bus took us down to the jetty and within an hour we were disembarking at Fraser Island.

The Fraser Island Ferry
The Fraser Island Ferry
The hotel from the outside
The hotel from the outside…
and from the inside
…and from the inside
Accommodation buildings were remote from the hotel but connected by walkways and a boardwalk
Accommodation buildings are detached from the hotel but connected by walkways and a boardwalk

Fraser Island is an amazing place and we expected this to be one of the highlights of our trip. We were not disappointed.

Here are some facts about Fraser Island:

  • The Island lies just south of the Great Barrier Reef
  • The Island is actually the world’s largest sand bar being 120KM by 15KM.
  • There is no soil or clay on the island and only a few rocky outcrops – and yet unlike on many sand dunes, the island is very largely covered in dense forest due to a fungi present in the sand which releases nutrients in a form that is absorbed by plants
  • The sand mass has accumulated over 7oo,000 years, extends up to 500 metres below sea level and it is estimated that the combined sand mass above and below the island is more than can be found in the Sahara Desert.
  • This is a heritage listed Island since 1992
  • The northern half of the island is protected as the Great Sandy National Park.
  • The island was named after Eliza Fraser, the wife of a ships captain and survivor of a shipwreck

A place of exceptional beauty, it has long, uninterrupted white beaches with sand cliffs, rainforests and numerous freshwater lakes of crystal clear water. There are huge sand dunes with the biggest reaching 240 metres above sea level and in places they have buried areas of tall forest leaving just the upper branchs of the trees visible to resemble petrified forests.

75 Mile Beach on the East Coast taken from the air.This is the island's main road - you can see the od car....
75 Mile Beach on the East Coast taken from the air. This is the island’s main road – you can see the odd car and our tour bus…
Giant sand blows covering an area of tall forest leaving only the upper branches of trees visible
Giant sand blows covering an area of tall forest leaving only the upper branches of trees visible

Forty perched dune lakes, such as Lake McKenzie pictured below, can be found on the island. These are freshwater lakes with crystal clear water are formed when organic matter, such as leaves, bark and dead plants, gradually builds up and hardens in depressions created by the wind.

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A surprising variety of vegetation types grow on the island, ranging from mangrove and coastal heath to subtropical rainforests. It is the only place in the world where tall rainforests are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of over 200 metres.

A big variety of vegetation and landscapes:

There are more than 350 species of bird, 0ver 70 species of reptiles and 18 species of snake on the island. Over 40 species of mammal include wallaby, possum, bats and the infamous dingos – there are around 200 dingos and signs everywhere warning about dingo safety. The area immediately adjacent to the resort is alive with honey eating birds feeding on a variety of plants on the wetlands but especially the different kinds of banksia which proliferate. Unfortunately these birds are so small and fast we didn’t manage to get any photos !

The history of the Island is that this was aboriginal land but in the 1860s the aborigines were driven out when loggers arrived to log Satinay, a rainforest tree that only grows on Fraser Island and is valued because of its water resistant qualities. Satinay was used to line the Suez Canal. Logging ceased in 1991.

There are no sealed roads. All roads are of sand including the main road along the east coast which is actually the beach and also the “airport” as a few light planes operate from here providing scenic flights for tourists.

All the above adds up to a truly amazing place and luckily we chose to stay at Kingfisher Bay, an eco resort which would help us get the most from our visit.

Kingfisher was first developed in 1992 and comprises a large Reception, Lounge, Restaurant Building built on a forested wetland area. The resort has villas and hotel rooms all built in clearings created in the forest with a good deal of space in between the various buildings so that each villa or hotel room block is itself within the forest with the buildings connected by boardwalk. The buildings were constructed in materials sympathetic to the environment and built above ground level so that the wetlands and the flora and fauna exist as previously as far as possible. Permission was given for this development because of its’ eco-friendly nature and with various continuing undertakings regarding ongoing eco-projects, provision of eco-education etc.

This is the wetlands on which and around which the resort was built - teeming with birdlife
This is the wetlands on and around which the resort was built – teeming with birdlife

We stayed for five nights, four full days, and had a fabulous time. The weather, whilst warm, was mixed and we had a fair amount of rain.

What was so good about this place, apart from the excellent accommodation and restaurant, was the activities laid on by a team of Rangers and others. There were a couple of quite pricey day tours available but in addition there was a programme of activities throughout each day which were either free or available at nominal cost.

Upon arrival on our first day we did little other than book an island tour and a few activities for during the week.We then enjoyed a nice lunch and a wander around to get our bearings. After a late lunch we didn’t bother with dinner but managed a couple of drinks on the Jetty Bar whilst watching the sunset.

A nice beach with a bar perfect for sunset cocktails
A nice beach with a bar perfect for sunset drinks
at sunset
At sunset

We had an early start the following morning to join a guided bird watch walk around the resort, its’ wetlands and beach. Later in the day we did a Wallum Walk with a Ranger who explained the very unusual nature of the wetlands here, where banksia and other vegetation flourishes in nutrient poor sandy soils, swamp and wetlands subject to regular wildfire. Our afternoon was spent walking and fishing on the beach – a lovely day that was marred late afternoon when Ann stubbed her toe on a rock – this was still painful and difficult to walk on several weeks later.

On Day 2 we had booked a tour of the island but postponed this until our last day due to Ann’s injury. So it was a lazy day doing not very much at all although we did join a Bush Tucker presentation that evening.

The Presentation was a joint presentation by the Ranger and the Head Chef and it was to give an insight as to how the resorts restaurant incorporates bush tucker ingredients into its food. Apart from wild nuts, berries and leaves we also tasted crocodile, kangaroo and emu which was cooked by the Chef before our very eyes. The presentation and food were both excellent although we weren’t smitten by emu!

A selection of seeds , nuts and meats - kangaroo, crocodile and emu.
A selection of seeds, nuts and meats – kangaroo, crocodile and emu.

There was rain on and off throughout the day and became heavy through the evening and night. We went to bed thinking the island tour next day might but cancelled but miraculously day break brought sunshine which lasted through much of the day with only the odd shower. We did have second thoughts about doing the trip in view of Ann’s injury but we went ahead and it turned out to be an excellent day both interesting and amusing thanks to a very entertaining Guide. This was one of the absolute high lights of our visit to Australia.

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We travelled by special 4 wheel drive vehicle across to the East coast on some quite hairy 4-wheel tracks and then along the beach road north stopping to look at notable features from time to time, unusual trees, plants, sand “rocks” and of course sand blows. After a pleasant lunch Ann managed to talk me into a scenic flight over the island in a ridiculously small plane during which I managed to put aside my fear of heights and enjoy the scenery.

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The rest of the afternoon was spent in the forest visiting and completing a short walk of an hour or so in the area known as Central Station which is the area which was used as base for the logging operations in the past. There is very little infrastructure remaining but its hard to see how many hundreds of men could be based here.

We returned to Kingfisher Bay around 4.30PM. A good day had been had by all.

We finished off our stay at Kingfisher Resort with a memorable Bush Tusker dinner comprising a multi course feast including a main course of kangaroo – all cooked using bush tucker ingredients. After a long day and a couple of bottles of wine we slept well!

Next morning we would continue our journey northwards. In the meantime, a few more random photos:

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