Down Under: Life in Paradise
My semester in Australia is winding down, but there are still a few places on my bucket list left to cross off.
Among these is Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island.
A World Heritage listing, Fraser Island ranks alongside Australia’s Uluru and the Great Barrier Reef as a special part of the country’s natural and cultural heritage to be protected for all of humanity to enjoy.
The local Aboriginal people call the island “K’Gari,” which fittingly translates as “Paradise.”
A place of exceptional beauty, Fraser Island boasts long, uninterrupted white beaches, over 100 freshwater lakes, ancient rainforests, colorful sand blows, a ship wreck, and wild dingoes running about freely.
Our tour began at Rainbow Beach, where our spirited guide Woody picked us up in a 4-wheel- drive tour truck, equipped to cascade over sand and rocks.
We drove onto a barge and arrived on the famous 75-mile beach composed of crystal white sand overlooking clear, blue waves. Lovely as it is, you can’t swim at the beach. The undertows and man-eating sharks make it a definite no-go.
You can swim at the freshwater lakes, however. Our first stop was at Lake McKenzie, the island’s most beautiful lake. Like a lot of the sand in Australia, Lake McKenzie’s sand is nearly pure silica. The texture is fine enough to clean jewelry with. And no need take a water bottle. The water is fresh enough to drink.
Our next stop was a lush rainforest, overlooking Wanggoolba Creek, another freshwater body. Unlike other creeks, Wanggoolba does not flow. It is still and quiet, making the rainforest even more peaceful than we imagined.
The rainforests at Fraser are the only rainforests in the world growing on sand dunes. Here we heard kookaburras singing in the trees and extended our necks to see hundreds of kinds of trees, some over 160 feet high.
After devouring a delicious lunch prepared at the island’s resort, we headed back to the beach to explore the wreckage of the SS Maheno and the colorful sand pinnacles.
The SS Maheno is a major landmark on Fraser and the sight of the old rusted ship remains a huge part of the island’s mystery and intrigue.
Next stop was the Pinnacles National Monument. These are composed of immense sand cliffs of multi-colored sands that are part of the longest and most complete age sequence of coastal dune systems in the world. And they’re still evolving.
Our final stop was at Eli Creek, a freshwater creek that flows through the sand dunes and out to the sea.
We made it back to Rainbow Beach just in time to watch the magnificent sunset over the small beach town at the look-out point a drive up the hill.
Just another day in paradise.