The Upside Down Under
Fraser Island


Fraser Island is a World Heritage listing and ranks with Australia's Uluru, Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef. Fraser Island is a precious part of Australia's natural and cultural heritage, it is protected for all to appreciate and enjoy..

Fraser Island, off Australia’s eastern Queensland coast, is the world's largest sand island, stretching over 120 kilometres (75 miles).  It covers an area of 1840 sq kilometers (710 sq miles).

Map of Fraser Island
Map of Fraser Island

The island has rainforests, eucalyptus woodland, mangrove forests, wallum and peat swamps, sand dunes and coastal heaths. It is made up of sand that has been accumulating for approximately 750,000 years on volcanic bedrock that provides a natural catchment for the sediment which is carried on a strong offshore current northwards along the coast.

Unlike on many sand dunes, plant life is abundant due to the naturally occurring mycorrhizal fungi present in the sand, which release nutrients in a form that can be absorbed by the plants. Fraser Island is home to a small number of mammal species, as well as a diverse range of birds, reptiles and amphibians, including the occasional saltwater crocodile. The island is protected in the Great Sandy National Park.

Cooloola, Great Sandy National Park
Cooloola, Great Sandy National Park

Panoramic viewpoints include Indian Head, a rocky outcrop on the island's easternmost tip, and the Cathedrals, a cliff famous for sculpted ribbons of coloured sand.

The island is a camping and ecotourism destination, with beaches and swimming sites at Lake McKenzie, Lake Wabby and other freshwater pools. Ocean swimming is inadvisable due to strong currents and sharks, but it's possible to splash around in the Champagne Pools, pockets of sandy beach protected from the surf by rocks.

Lake McKenzie
Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island

Boardwalks along eastern Eli Creek and Wanggoolba Creek invite short strolls, while the 90km Fraser Island Great Walk winds through rainforest, eucalyptus stands and mangrove habitat. Saltwater fishing is the draw along 75 Mile Beach, where 4WD Jeeps cruise between prime spots. Whale-watching boats offer outings in sheltered Hervey Bay.

Seventy-Five Mile Beach
Fraser Island's 75 mile beach

Fraser Island's Sandmass formation?

The total volume of sand above sea level on Fraser Island is directly proportional to the mass of 113 cubic kilometres (27 cubic miles). All of the sand, which originated in the HawkesburyHunter and Clarence River catchments in New South Wales has been transported north by longshore transport. Along the eastern coast of the island the process is removing more sand than it is depositing, resulting in the slow erosion of beaches which may accelerate with sea level rises attributed to climate change. The sand consists of 98% quartz.

All hills on the island have been formed by sandblowing. Sandblows are parabolic dunes which move across the island via the wind and are devoid of vegetation. In 2004, there was an estimated total of 36 sandblows on the island. With year-round south-easterly wind, the sand dunes on the island move at the rate of 1 to 2 metres a year and grow to a height of 244 metres. The dune movement creates overlapping dunes and sometimes intersects waterways and covers forests. Dune-building has occurred in episodes as the sea levels have changed and once extended much further to the east. The oldest dune system has been dated at 700,000 years, which is the world's oldest recorded sequence.

The Pinnacles
The Pinnacles, Fraser Island

The coloured sands found at Rainbow Gorge, The Cathedrals, The Pinnacles and Red Canyon are examples of where the sand has been stained over thousands of years due to the sand conglomerating with clay. Hematite, the mineral pigment responsible for the staining acts like cement. This allows the steeper cliffs of coloured sand to form. Coffee rock, so-called because when it is dissolved in water it turns the colour of coffee, is found in outcrops along the beaches on both sides of the island.

Cathedral Coloured Sands
The coloured sands of the Cathredrals

Strictly 4WD territory

Fraser Island is strictly four-wheel-driving territory. Seventy-Five Mile Beach is an actual highway that runs up the surf side of the island. Four-wheel-drives share the highway with Air Fraser planes making joy flights. Sand tracks cross the island linking lakes and rainforests.

4 Wheel Driving on Fraser Island
4 Wheel Driving on Fraser Island

Driving conditions vary with weather and tides. Speed limits are 35 km per hour  on inland roads and 80 km per hour the Seventy-Five Mile Beach. Normal road rules apply. Carry essential spares as well as a towrope, spade, water and first aid kit.

Vehicle access permits are required for all vehicles entering the island. Permits may be obtained from River Head Barge landing, at Kingfisher Bay Resort reception and at Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service offices including Brisbane, Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Bundaberg and Rainbow Beach.

4 Wheel Driving on Fraser Island
Vehicle access permits are required for all vehicles entering the island.

Fishing on Fraser Island

Fraser Island's famous 75-Five Mile Beach is right on the action for some of the best beach fishing in the world.

Surf gutters along the ocean beaches provide all-season angling. Whiting and bream are plentiful in the gutters in warmer months and swallowtail can be caught all year round.

Fishing on Fraser Island
Lyn Jones with a fabulous 16lb snapper caught on a 50g Caprice Kid jig

The tailor season in winter sees dozens of fishing groups along the beach. All the usual rock species can be caught off the headlands from Indian Head to Waddy Point.

Fishing on Fraser Island
Fishing on Fraser Island

Trailer boats can be launched in the calm water behind Indian Head and Waddy Point.

Off shore, both northern coral and southern reef species can be found.

History of Fraser Island

Captain Cook first sighted the Fraser Island Butchulla people during 1770 and named Indian Head on the eastern beach after them. Captain Matthew Flinders was one of the first white men to have contact with the islanders and had peaceful meetings with them in 1799 and 1802.

Colonization by Europeans caused great conflicts with the Aboriginal people as the European settlers did not understand or respect their tribal boundaries, their social structure or the importance to them of their environment.

Land was cleared and agricultural practices established which in turn disturbed the natural supply of food cycles of the native people. Traditions and hunting methods had to be altered for survival.

Logging was started on Fraser Island in 1863 by Yankee Jack' Piggott and continued until December 1991 when the island was nominated for World Heritage listing.

Logging on Fraser Island
Logging on Fraser Island

Day-to-day management of the island today is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Environment and Heritage through the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service.

Indigenous Significance of Fraser Island

The Butchulla people are the indigenous people of Fraser Island. There were six clans in the Butchulla Nation and the territory extended through Fraser Island, Double Island Point, Tin Can Bay, Bauple Mountain and north to a point at Burrum Heads in Queensland.

Aboriginal Dancers
Aboriginal dancers perform on Fraser Island.

The Butchulla people's traditional name for Fraser Island was K'gari which means paradise. According to Butchulla legend, Fraser Island was named K'gari after the beautiful spirit who helped Yindingie, messenger of the great god Beeral, create the land. As a reward to K'gari for her help Beeral changed her into an idyllic island with trees, flowers and lakes. He put birds, animals and people on the island to keep her company.

It is uncertain how long Fraser Island had been occupied by the Butchulla people. Evidence suggests that it was more than 5,500 years and maybe 20,000. Population numbers are unknown though it has been said that during times of plentiful resources up to 2,000 people lived on the island with the stable number around 300 to 400.


Cool fishing at Fraser Island


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