Nature Island

Australia's Fraser Island is home to an astonishing variety of flora and fauna

By: Roger Allnutt

FRASER ISLAND, Australia The straight, majestic trunks of the satinay trees reach skyward from the sandy soil of Fraser Island.

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 site.

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 structural tissue.

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 peregrine falcons.

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 paradise.

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 treacherous seas.


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 area.

A Note: For the past three years readers of Conde Nast Traveler have named Fraser Island one of the world’s top 10 tropical islands.

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.)

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: