FRASER ISLAND, Australia The straight, majestic trunks of the
satinay trees reach skyward from the sandy soil of Fraser
These trees are the very epitome of durability. They are so
impervious to water that their wood was carried halfway around the
world to build the Suez Canal and the London docklands.
Yet, they are only one of many special things about Fraser
Island, the world’s largest sand island and a UNESCO World Heritage
The sand mass, which has been building for more than 800,000
years and now measures more than 76 miles long, supports an
astonishing variety of flora and fauna.
The island is the only place in the world where rainforest
growth springs from sand. It also has huge stands of brush box and
200-year-old kauri trees. During August and September, the wallum
heathlands are filled with wildflowers. The west coast is fringed
with mangroves backed by areas of cypress pine.
Fraser’s rainforest is home to rare and ancient plant species
including the angiopteris fern, which has the largest fronds in the
world, which stay erect through water pressure rather than
The island, named after shipwreck victim Eliza Fraser, has
crystal-clear freshwater streams and 42 of the world’s 80 “perched”
lakes, a term used for lakes that form above the water table.
There are numerous small mammals and dingoes, while overhead
soar 230 species of birds including oyster catchers, gulls,
pelicans, Brahminy kites, white-breasted sea eagles, ospreys and
It is no wonder that the indigenous Badtjala people, who lived
on the island for more than 5,000 years, called it k’gari or
Fraser Island is real four-wheel drive territory. A number of
companies offer motorcoach tours and self-drive vehicles are also
popular, although you need a permit to drive on the island.
The rusting wreck of the Maheno, a liner swept ashore during a
1935 cyclone, sits nearby as a dramatic reminder of the area’s
Getting There: Brisbane, the closest international airport to
Fraser Island, is served by a large number of carriers, including
Qantas and Air New Zealand. Commuter air service is available daily
for the 45-minute hop to Hervey Bay, known as the gateway to Fraser
Island. Or clients can hire a car for the 3.5-hour drive.
Most visitors come by way of the Urangan Boat Harbor at Hervey
Bay. There is also a vehicular barge that runs every day between 7
a.m. and 4.30 pm from Inskip Point to Hook Point, the barge
terminal on the southern tip of Fraser Island. In recent years,
Inskip Point has blossomed into a thriving resort and retirement
A Note: For the past three years readers of Conde Nast Traveler
have named Fraser Island one of the world’s top 10 tropical
Accommodations: Camping is popular but, if your clients really
want to enjoy themselves, the Kingfisher Bay Resort is the choice.
It pays a 10 percent commission for reservations booked directly
with the resort.
The complex, an ecotourism project, blends into its surroundings
and offers both hotel rooms and self-contained accommodations.
There are various dining options, water activities, nature walks
and ranger-guided tours. (I did a full-day four-wheel drive tour
with David Warren, an excellent guide.) www.kingfisherbay.com.
Special Attractions: From August to October, whale-watching
cruises leave from Fraser Island, Inskip Point and other spots. The
humpback whales grace the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay on their
annual migration route from the Coral Sea to the Antarctic.
Web Site: www.seefraserisland.com.