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Fraser Island shows a new face as GoSeeAustralia joins a tour

June 26, 2006
Fraser Island shows a new face as GoSeeAustralia joins a tour

GoSeeAustralia made a third visit to Fraser Island, Qld, and found that while it is great to do-it-yourself there is real value in joining a tour.

GoSeeAustralia has been to Fraser several times before using our flagship Sahara 4WD turbo diesel auto Landcruiser but this visit we took the one day tour run by the Fraser Island Co. The first benefit is immediate most tours operate door-to-door from the Hervey Bay accommodation.

GoSeeAustralia found great benefit in the extra information provided by our seasoned tour guide. He provided insights into Fraser Islands history and attractions we had not realised when we took the GoSeeAustralia 4WD on our initial visits to the World Heritage island.

At about 8am the courtesy coach for our selected one day safari tour to Fraser Island picked us up from Happy Wanderer Caravan Park and we were soon aboard the MV Fraser Dawn which runs from Urangan Boat Harbour to the Fraser Island landing at Moon Point.

World Heritage listed in 1992 Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Fraser is 185,000 hectares in size, spans about 27 km wide is 124 km long and 244m above sea level. The vegetation which gets its nutrients from the rotting leaves dropped by trees and shrubs that grow on the sand and surrounding sand hills is thick. Thousands of tourists visit the island every year, including scientists who study global effects on the isolated, fragile eco system.

MV Fraser Dawn at Moon Point on Fraser Island
MV Fraser Dawn at Moon Point on Fraser Island

Our 4WD bus ride started in the lowlands where the wallum heathlands and saw banksias flourish. Soon we passed the mangroves where the sandflies and mozzies sting, and where Aboriginal women once gave birth to their babies when they inhabited the island since around 300AD.

A dingo in good condition crossed in front of the 4WD coach soon after and settled by the side of the road to watch us. The coach stopped for a photo opportunity. The healthy looking wild dingo, with its thick red coat, sat and watched us, almost posing for photographs.

As we drove further into the wilderness we saw the beauty of the fantastic Yidney Scrub Rainforest. Our guide, who was also the driver, gave us about 15 minutes to walk through part of this tranquil virgin rainforest before resuming the trip.

MV Fraser Dawn unloaded at Moon Point on Fraser Island
MV Fraser Dawn unloaded at Moon Point on Fraser Island

It was cool under the rainforest canopy, much like walking outside after a rain shower. Magnificent tall trees like the satinays, scribbly gums, brush box, strangler fig and skinny tall tree ferns painted the sky with their green leaves and branches. Whip birds cracked in the wilderness and triggered memories of the famous TV series Skippy.

A timber industry operated on the island from 1863 to 1991. The timber cutters preferred to fell the kauris and hoop pines, satinays and blackbutts, which they loaded using bullock teams and steam trains to pull huge logs to loading jetties.

Later in the 20th century heavy logging vehicles replaced bullocks and steam. The loggers were selective and did not fell the Yidney Scrub and several other areas considered beauty spots.

Sand tracks that criss cross Fraser Island
Sand tracks that criss cross Fraser Island

The 4WD tour bus is a bush driving experience at speeds of 25 kmh to 40kmh. It feels more like a bone jarring roller coaster ride as it rattles over the roots of the thick vegetation.

But it is an exhilarating 3D ride as branches brush off the sides of the bus as it negotiates the ups and downs of the ruts of the sandy road. The seasoned driver really knows his stuff, narrating one story after another until we marvelled at how he managed to remember it all.

A buffet lunch of ham, chicken and salads awaited us when we arrived at Fraser Island Wilderness Retreat. Soon after lunch we headed for the beach by bus. The narrow track opens up to a pristine beach that stretches for kilometres, with white sand dunes covered in green shrubbery.

Strangler Fig with the host tree now gone
Strangler Fig with the host tree now gone

We soon arrived at the much discussed Eli Creek. The challenges of crossing Eli Creek take up a lot of space on forums like the Jayco members website.

Eli is large freshwater creek. The creek runs for about 6.5km and has a flow rate of 4.5 million litres of fresh water per hour. We took a walk along the boardwalk that meanders through the dunes.

Over the years the beach crossing of Eli Creek has been the undoing of some either inexperienced or inattentive 4WD drivers.

Tour group take in the Fraser Island Rain Forest
Tour group take in the Fraser Island Rain Forest

Up the beach it washes away vertical walls of sand. This leaves a drop of just under a metre into the relatively shallow but fast flowing stream.

Once a vehicle gets stuck the sand quickly washes out from under the stationary vehicle and it sinks further. The only means of extraction is by tow. This usually requires more than one tow vehicle if it is in deep and the suction created by the sand and water must be broken. We hasten to add that the creek is easily navigated if care is taken.

We passed our next planned stop, the Maheno shipwreck. Too many vehicles and spectators were already taking in the attraction so our guide deferred stopping until the return trip.

Eli Creek crossing the Fraser Island Eastern side beach
Eli Creek crossing the Fraser Island Eastern side beach

We pressed on to Cathedral Beach and the sand hill peaks of the Coloured Sands. The coloured sand are formed by strong wind exposing minerals, iron, oxides and clay along the foreshore. The clay holds the sand together and the different minerals give the formations their colours.

After a brief halt we returned along the beach and stopped to take in the view of the old Maheno Shipwreck.

The Maheno was a passenger liner built in Scotland that saw service as a hospital ship in World War 1. It was on its way to a Japanese steel company to be scrapped, when it was caught in a cyclone, broke its towline and washed ashore onto the east coast of Fraser Island in July 1935. Since then it has been slowly sinking into the sand and corroding away.

Crossing Eli Creek on Fraser Island
Crossing Eli Creek on Fraser Island

Our next stop was one of the freshwater lakes, Lake Garawongera.

It is said that the sand grains are like silica and can polish rings with just a few rubs of wet sand.

The sand around the lake is fine grained and snow white, while the water is as clear as spring air which makes it ideal for swimming in summer. Afternoon tea was muffins, juice and coffee and then we returned to Moon Point the drop off and pick up point on Fraser Island.

With drink in hand we relaxed on the top deck on the return trip home aboard the MV Fraser Dawn and watched the sun slip into a golden sunset as a pod of dolphins bobbed by. Our courtesy bus dropped us at our Caravan Park about 6 pm.

Maheno Shipwreck on the Fraser Island Beach
Maheno Shipwreck on the Fraser Island Beach

We found great benefit in the extra information provided by our seasoned tour guide.

He provided insights into Fraser Islands history and attractions we had not realised when we took the GoSeeAustralia 4WD on our initial visits to the World Heritage island.

If you plan to take your own vehicles across to Fraser Island use the barge that leaves from the river mouth south of Hervey Bay. GoSeeAustralia saw campers and a few smaller pop top while we were on Fraser Island.

Editor's Note also see:

For more information
Contact: Garth Morrison
Editor Go See Australia Directory
Phone:02 6294 1941
Fax: 02 6284 9275
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Lake Garawongera - Fraser Island
Lake Garawongera - Fraser Island
Glorious Sunset of Fraser Island
Glorious Sunset of Fraser Island
4WD Ferry that leaves from river mouth south of Hervey Bay
4WD Ferry that leaves from river mouth south of Hervey Bay
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