The last time we came to Fraser Island was in May 1994 – a day trip from Surfers Paradise where we’d been honeymooning. Yes, that long ago.
I remember bits and pieces from that day. I remember the guide telling us that rubbing our jewellery in the pure sands of Lake Mackenzie would restore them to sparkling glory and I remember how I was thinking smugly just how bright and shining my week old wedding ring was. I remember the green of Central Station and I remember how terribly long the day was. Mostly, though, I remember thinking how much I wanted to come back and stay for a few days.
Since we’ve been in Queensland I’ve had fantasies about camping and four-wheel-driving up there – forgetting that:
- I don’t really like camping
- we have no camping equipment
- Our RAV4 is not exactly equipped for serious off-road
Instead, we booked a mini stay at Kingfisher Bay Resort – and a 4WD Beauty Spots tour with Fraser Explorer Tours. After seeing the softness of the sand and the number of people in real 4WDs who were running into trouble in it, we definitely made the right decision.
The photos of this place on Instagram are amazing (check it out at #lakemackenzie) and although we weren’t lucky enough to have a clear shot of the lake as isolated as it is in those shots, it’s still mighty beautiful.
Lake Mackenzie is a perch lake – so called because the lake is “perched” on top of a sand dune. There’s no water source into or out of the lake – it exists purely on rainfall.
The water is held in place by a waterproof lining of decayed plant matter that has settled over many thousands of years. What’s even more fascinating is that there are only 80 or so of these perch lakes on the planet – and 42 of them are on Fraser Island.
The water is slightly acidic and the sand is white. It’s so clear that you can easily see the colour gradients as the depth increases.
Fraser Island was heavily logged from the 1860s (when the originally gazetted status of Aboriginal reserve was revoked) until the early 1990s.
For a time, a thriving logging community was at Central Station. Nothing remains of that today.
We took a short walk through the valley, following one of the silently flowing creeks back to its sandy source. Speaking of which, the sand acts as a giant sponge – and filter. Rainwater is stored in the dunes, and gradually pushed downward and squeezed out by the pressure of the sand. What emerges is clear, fresh water.
The coloured sands of The Pinnacles have been formed by minerals leaching from the sands over hundreds of thousands of years.
Of course, the Aboriginals have a much more interesting story about how the sands were formed. Their story is one of love and a rainbow serpent:
(It) tells of Wuru who was promised to an older man Winyer but fell in love with Wiberigan (the rainbow). The older man threatened revenge after witnessing Wuru visiting Wiberigan on a daily basis. Seeing her alone one day he chased and threw his boomerang at her..calling for Wiberigan help he stood in front of her and the boomerang of Winyershattered the rainbow which spilled colour into the sand cliffs of the area. Wuru escaped unharmed leading to the women of the Butchulla tribe believing that the coloured sands gave them luck that day.
The Wreck of the Maheno
The SS Maheno was on its way to a Japanese wrecking yard when it ran aground in a cyclone in 1935. It’s been on the beach here ever since. If you want to know more about the history of the Maheno, you can read about it here.
The back is a tad messy from where it was used for bombing practice in WW2, but that just makes it even more photogenic.
Eli Creek is the largest of the free-flowing creeks on Fraser Island and pours up to four million litres of clear water into the ocean every hour. Yep, you read those numbers right. The same temperature (ie cold) all year round, the current is so strong that the best thing to do is follow the boardwalk upstream and then float down.
The day we were there (the last Saturday in December) it was seriously mobbed. So many 4WDs, so many people, so many flamingo and unicorn floats. I languished in the cool water so took no photos, these ones are courtesy of randoms from Instagram – obviously taken on a day much less busy than when we were there!
Where we stayed
There are two resorts on the island – Eurong Beach Resort (on the Western side of the island and accessed from Rainbow Beach) and Kingfisher Bay Resort (on the Eastern side accessed from River Heads). Other than that, there are also plenty of places to camp.
We stayed at Kingfisher Bay Resort in hotel style rooms overlooking the lagoon. I’ve always wanted to stay here and absolutely wasn’t disappointed. Our room had tea and coffee making facilities, but we brought a picnic bag and esky with us in the car and made our own brekky etc in the room. (Foot passengers are restricted to the amount of luggage they can bring in.)
The resort does have some self-catering villas – which we’d probably look at next time – and there’s a general store selling basic produce and supplies. Prices are inflated – mainly because we are on an island and everything has to be brought in by barge. There’s also a don’t miss photo gallery – a fab shot of Lake Mackenzie is now on our wall.
There are a few restaurants attached to the resort – although given the crowds and the time of year we were there (between Christmas and New Year) it would be unfair of me to review any of them. I’m sure that the food, the perceived value and the experience is different outside of peak times when both the crowds, the heat and the cost is inflated.
…is half the fun. We brought the car over on the barge from River Heads – which is 20km south of Hervey Bay. It’s an easy 50-minute crossing, but a tad weird how you drive off onto the long and narrow jetty. The barge takes both cars and foot passengers and can be booked via the resort. We also checked into the hotel at River Heads – something that meant on arrival all we needed to do was pick up our keys and hit the pool.
We’ll be back – but preferably in the off-season when it’s cooler and quieter…and with a real 4WD to explore some more.