On the way, we stopped off at Rainbow Beach to see the colorful sand cliffs. It is also a popular spot for people to go off-roading on the beach, and its harbor is another launching point for getting to Fraser Island. The town of Rainbow Beach consists of a small collection of dusty old shops, but this is not why one visits Rainbow Beach. This is:
We arrived in Hervey Bay in the late afternoon and checked into our apartment at the Watermark, which was right across from the ocean. This apartment was every bit as lovely as the one in Noosa, although the internet was lackluster.
On our first night in town, we were driving around at dusk and heard a cacophony of squeals and squeaks coming from the trees above. We thought it was some sort of bird gathering, but it turned out to be megabats or flying foxes as they are commonly called here. By some estimates, 80,000 of these flying foxes call Hervey Bay home, and each night they fly over to Fraser Island to feast on fruits. This is what you see each night during bat season:
We had booked a day trip to Fraser Island departing early the following morning. Fraser Island is the world’s largest island made entirely of sand. It consists of many natural wonders including a huge beach called 75-Mile Beach, an interior rainforest and many beautiful lakes. It also boasts one of Australia’s largest dingo populations. There are no paved roads on the island and it can only be traversed with a high-clearance four wheel drive vehicle. There are a couple of resorts on the island, but most people go there to camp.
Our trip was through Fraser Explorer. We were picked up at 7:20am and spent the next hour or so picking up people from other hotels, while discussing the American real estate market with the driver’s sidekick. The guy was flabbergasted that we had not yet purchased several properties in Florida and Arizona, because evidently this is what all the Australians are doing, as they are so “cheap”.
We finally arrived at the dock and boarded the ferry over to Fraser Island. The ferry (or the barge as they call it) took about 45 minutes over calm, picturesque waters.
Our guide was David, a middle aged guy who grew up on and around Fraser Island. Unfortunately, we were a little put off by David, as it seemed he wanted to be anywhere other than giving this tour.
Our first stop was in the island’s interior rainforest. We spent about fifteen minutes sprinting through the forest behind David, while he told us to hurry it along and take pictures of this tree or that bird, commanding us to “click, click, click.” I wasn't fast enough to capture pictures of the birds, so instead, I took a picture of this fern. For those interested, it is the world’s largest fern. It was also the most interesting thing we saw in the rainforest.
Next came the best part of the day – 75-Mile Beach. Our bus cruised northward on the beach for about 20 minutes. It’s very common for vehicles to drive on this beach, in fact it’s the island’s main roadway and has speed limit signs posted along the way, topping out at 80 kph!
Next it was time for lunch. In contrast to Iceland where we ate whale, here we simply gazed upon them from afar. On our way back along the beach, we saw two whales frolicking in the waves, which was pretty amazing!
For lunch we stopped at the Resort that Time Forgot, which looked like the Dharma Initiative from Lost sans the maniacal hippie scientists.
After an average buffet lunch, we headed off to our final stop, Lake McKenzie. Normally the lake is supposed to look like this:
Rush Hour on Fraser Island
Finally, it was time to head back. On our way back, we got stuck behind another tour vehicle which had a flat tire. Since the paths are so narrow, you cannot pass and we had to wait for the tire to be changed, which took about a half hour. Luckily the ferry waited for our group since they did not want to strand so many people on the island. The ferry took us back at sunset which was very pretty, and we arrived back at our apartment by 7pm.
It was really interesting to see a giant island made of sand and 75-Mile Beach was beautiful. However, if we were to do it again, we would either skip Fraser Island altogether, or perhaps do it ourselves and either camp or stay overnight so that we could make our own schedule. The problem with this is that you need to rent a proper 4x4 vehicle for the island, which is very expensive. I am not a huge camper, however if you are into camping I think you’d really enjoy a few nights here. Just watch out for the dingoes and the 12 species of deadly snakes that make Fraser their home!