Although ‘Fraser’ is covered by sand, if you expected to find here a mere desert you would be much mistaken. What defines this protected area is dense eucalyptus woodland, tropical rainforests, exotic birdlife and wild dingoes. Besides, the endless beaches make ideal conditions for adrenaline and water sports – the Fraser Coast an outstanding vacation deal.

The Great Sandy National Park is divided into two sections: Cooloola (mainland) and Fraser Island (offshore).

The Great Sandy National park is far from being a desert although it is made up of sand

FRASER ISLAND

The sand dunes on Fraser Island are unique. Formed by sand blowing through various vegetation, their shape and colour are astonishing, especially at Rainbow Gorge, The Cathedrals, The Pinnacles, Red Canyon and Coffee Rock.

The island is the only place on our planet where rainforest grows on sand dunes – Lake Wabby is probably the best demonstration of the phenomenon!

Fraser Island is a place where rainforest grows on sand dunes, Lake Wabby

More than one hundred freshwater lakes can be found within the island (that is the second-highest concentration in Australia), and due to the high level of organic acids and nutrients, these lakes have been recorded as the cleanest in our planet. There is nothing like diving into their pure, brilliant waters in the sweltering summer heat.

Lake McKenzie is one of the highlights on Fraser Island

Once known as the ‘Dingo Island’, Fraser has always been closely associated with wild dogs. Although their population is decreasing wild dingoes can still often be seen on the island. Besides, there are wallabies, echidnas, possums, bandicoots, reptiles and abundant birdlife.

What is more, the saltwater crocodile, only found in the far north tropics, seasonally pays a visit to Fraser`s seas.

’Fraser’ is also called “Dingo island” for a large population of the native wild dogs

ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES ON FRASER ISLAND

  • Indian Head – panoramic viewpoint at the easternmost tip, exposed volcanic rocks
  • Cathedrals – colourful sandstone cliffs with sculpted ribbons, good camping
  • Middle Rocks/Waddy Point – spectacular spot for dunes, views and camping
  • Lake McKenzie – the lake is sitting on the top of compact sand has pure silica-beach sand, it is said to have the softest sand on earth, you should try it yourself and dip into the crystal-clear water
  • Lake Wabby – the deepest lake on the island offers a good swim and fish pedicure for free while waiting for a catch 😉 NOTE you will need to walk for about 45 minutes to reach the lake (access from the One Tree Rocks car park)
  • Lake Birrabeen – (a hidden gem), less touristy lake beach with silvery sands, ideal for  swimming and sunbaking, run up and down the dunes if you like it active
  • Maheno Wreck – an excellent spot for a quick break and photography. Don`t miss out on the fascinating story of ‘Maheno’!
  • Eli Creek – walk up the boardwalk and float down the crispy, clear stream to the bridge as many times as you can!
  • 75-Mile Beach – the beach is used a highway hence hop on your 4WD and embark on an exciting road trip along its infinite coastline but watch out for sharks and stingrays if having a swim and wild dingoes along the beach
  • Champagne Pools – grab the snorkelling equipment and enjoy the sensational swim in the rock pools after a long drive – the final stop of Fraser Island
  • Kingfisher Bay – it is reputed for the best sunsets on Fraser
  • Pile Valley – take a stroll through the bush in the Pile Valley and try some bush tucker
  • Fraser Island Great Walk – the nature lovers and adventure seekers will surely appreciate the 90 km long (6-8 days to complete) walk across the island. For more information visit  https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/great-walks-fraser-island/
The famed Champagne Pools must not be skipped, Fraser Island

TRAVEL TIP

You can easily see most of the natural attractions of Fraser Island in a day if you drive a 4WD via 75-mile Beach road.  You can watch the wildlife from a safe spot (do your own safari) and stop on the main points of interest on your way – Lake Wabby, Maheno Shipwreck, Eli Creek and Indian Head.

There are many tour operators that offer dingo and seasonal whale watching tours (Aug-Oct), snorkelling and scuba diving expeditions, departing from Hervey Bay – Australia`s premier location for whale watching. The bay is also known for calm waters, the 12-km long beach has a nice walkway and offers safe swimming.

NOTE

Camping is very popular on the island, but there are some restrictions and permits required, for more information visit https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/fraser/camping.html

The famous Maheno Shipwreck is wrapped in a mystery and you can learn about its fascinating story on Fraser Island

COOLOOLA

Fraser Island is often seen as an extension to the continental dune section of the Great Sandy National Park, whose major recreation area is Cooloola. A good base for all trips is Rainbow Beach with a wide range of tourist accommodation and facilities.

Cooloola`s mainland location and its close distance to the celebrated Noosa make it more accessible and visited than Fraser Island, and it is a popular tourist destination. Similarly to the island, it features long sandy beaches backed by large dunes, calm waterways, woodlands, wildflowers and wildlife.

40-mile Beach in Cooloola is a popular four-wheel driving spot, Great Sandy National Park

Most of the locals like traversing the beaches using monster tracks (only with a permit). There are fantastic conditions for four-wheel driving, fishing, walking, cycling and camping, sand is a big part of life here and most of the activities related to it.

There are numerous campgrounds within Cooloola. For bookings, camping permits and more information visit https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/cooloola/camping.html.

The Rainbow Beach is the icon of the coastal Great Sandy National Park

ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN COOLOOLA

  • Tuan State Forest – lovely forest park with creeks, estuaries, pine plantations, good camping, boating and fishing (mostly visited by the residents), access from Maryborough or Gympie/Wallu
  • Rainbow Beach – a seaside town with a long, coloured-sandy beach, sand-boarding, horse riding, skydiving, surfing, sea kayaking, eco-tours, a gateway to the Fraser Island (Inskip Point, 4WD only), access from Gympie/Wallu
  • Double Island Point – a favourite location for all 4WD enthusiasts, lighthouse, great views
  • Wolf Rock – four volcanic pinnacles submerged in the ocean provide perfect conditions for scuba diving – a habitat area for the critically endangered grey nurse shark (Rainbow Beach)
  • Tin Can Bay – Great Sandy Strait separates the Fraser Island from the pristine shores of the Tin Can Bay (dolphins, birdlife), great facilities & lots of tourist attractions, Tin Can Bay Seafood Festival in September, access from Gympie/Wallu
  • Noosa River – canoeing, boating, fishing, swimming
  • Teewah Beach – the Cherry Venture Shipwreck used to be a major attraction, but it was removed for safety reasons, still a good spot for a beach road trip, access from Noosa Heads
  • Lake Cootharaba/Boreen Point – sailing, boating, fishing, swimming, canoeing, kitesurfing, golfing, walking, camping at Elanda Point, access from Noosa Heads
  • Cooloola Great Walk – a popular coastal walk leading from the Rainbow Beach to Noosa Heads or the opposite way (5 days to complete), for more information visit https://www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/great-walks-cooloola/
Diving with Grey Nurse Shark near the Wolf Rock, Great Sandy National Park

WHEN TO TRAVEL

Great Sandy National Park is a popular holiday spot for both Australians and foreign travellers. Hence prices during the peak season rise and the locality gets very busy. Therefore, try to avoid all school holiday times throughout the year, particularly between Dec-Feb.

Generally speaking, the region enjoys pleasant weather all year round. The whale watching season is between August and October.

NOTE

Marine stingers such as Irukandji jellyfish are present, especially during the summer months (Nov-March), in the waters off Fraser Island, Hervey Bay and the Great Sandy Strait.

Hervey Bay is a good spot where to catch a ferry to Fraser Island (50 min) – if driving 2WD or on foot

HOW TO GET THERE

Fly to Brisbane or Sunshine Coast. Hire a vehicle (4WD recommended)

TO FRASER ISLAND: drive to Hervey Bay where you can catch a ferry to Fraser Island (50 min) – 2WD or on foot access. NOTE 4WD access to the island via ferry is from the Rainbow Beach/Inskip (1.5 hr) or River Heads (20 min). You will need to obtain a vehicle permit to enter the national park (at the ferry terminal)

TO COOLOOLA: depending on your destination, there are access points at Maryborough, Gympie/Wallu or Tewantin/Noosa Heads (see the above mentioned essential experiences)

For all flights visit www.momondo.com or www.skyscanner.com

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Eva Bodova

Eva Bodova

Monday 8 June 2020

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