This is our Grand Sandy National park guide.
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 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!
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.
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.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES ON FRASER ISLAND
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.
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
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.
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.
ESSENTIAL EXPERIENCES IN COOLOOLA
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.
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.
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)
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