Fraser Island, Australia

Photo: Sensenmann (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Sensenmann (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
So you think all islands are the same? You picture white-sand beaches, palm trees, and bougainvillea. They’re lined with sprawling resorts, sun loungers, and turquoise water. While sunburned tourists float in infinity pools and zip around on jet skis. Not so fast. First, that doesn’t sound too bad—minus the sunburns, of course. But, second, it’s not true. There’s an Australian island famous for so much more.

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and the only place on Earth where a rainforest grows in the sand. The 75-mile-long island lies off the southern coast of Queensland. It’s home to a sand highway, more than 100 freshwater lakes, and wild dogs called dingoes. It’s part of Great Sandy National Park and is included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. While four-wheel-drive vehicles are the easiest way to explore the island.

You arrived on the island yesterday afternoon after renting your own vehicle in Hervey Bay and riding the ferry from River Heads to Kingfisher Bay on the western coast. From there, it was a short drive along a sandy road to the Kingfisher Bay Resort. Most visitors camp on the island, but with dingoes, venomous eastern brown snakes, and god knows what else, you wanted to sleep between four walls. You followed the Balarrgan Circuit along Dundonga Creek to the White Cliffs Lookout, sampled Australian specialities (emu spring rolls, smoked kangaroo carpaccio, and a calamari-and-crocodile salad) at Seabelle Restaurant, and watched nocturnal creatures (flying foxes and ringtail possums) emerge from the rainforest after the sun set. Then you retired to your secure room for the rest of the evening.

Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland
Photo: Tourism and Events Queensland

Despite those sturdy walls, an orchestra of birds and frogs wake you up early this morning. You push open the glass doors, stand on the timber deck, and stare out at the water. The daytrippers have yet to arrive, so it’s still peaceful and quiet. You decide to head to the lakes first. Lake McKenzie looks like the ocean with crystal blue water and pure-white sand. Lake Wabby, a green lake at the edge of Hammerstone Sandblow, is filled with catfish and turtles. While Lake Boomanjin is the largest perched lake in the world.

Drive north along Seventy-Five Mile Beach. That’s right, drive. This sandy highway runs the length of the beach. But it’s also a runway, so keep an eye out for small airplanes with the right of way. Pass the rusty Maheno, a steam ship that wrecked on the east coast during a 1935 cyclone en route to Japan. Stop at the Pinnacles and the Cathedrals, the reddish sand cliffs. Hike Indian Head for gorgeous views over the island and sharks swimming in the water below. Then play in the Champagne Pools, natural jacuzzis named after the bubbles that break over the volcanic rocks.

You’ve seen lakes and pools, cliffs and wrecks, dingoes and sharks during your time on Fraser Island. You’ve gone driving, hiking, and swimming. You ate some interesting, if not entirely mouthwatering, new food. There were no jet skis, and few people spent the day around the pool. Plus, no one seemed to be the least bit sunburned. All islands are certainly not the same.

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