World Heritage of Australia – Fraser Island (Sand Island)

The smallest continent in the world is located in the southern hemisphere and consists of more than 70 percent of desert areas and savannahs. Nevertheless, Australia is home to some of the most beautiful rainforests with fairytale bounty beaches. Fraser Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, with 1,800 km² of natural beauty, the largest sand island in the world. The island is home to no fewer than forty freshwater lakes and can therefore rightly be called a natural wonder of the world. Every year, around half a million visitors come to enjoy the landscape and to see, for example, the dingo in its natural habitat. The longest hiking trail is 90 kilometers.

Contents

  • Bounty beaches and rainforest
  • Tropical oasis
  • Freshwater lakes
  • Birds and dingoes
  • Tourism

Bounty beaches… / Source: Sensenmann, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

Bounty beaches and rainforest

Fraser Island is located off the coast southeast of Queensland. The largest sand island in the world has an area of approximately 1,800 km². It is over 120 km long and 25 km wide (only 5 km at its narrowest point). Striking are the extensive bounty beaches of no less than 250 kilometers long, the red sandstone formations and the beautiful lowland rainforest. It is the only rainforest that grows on sandy soil.

UNESCO

Since 1992, this special island has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List . It is also the largest island of both Queensland and the entire east coast of Australia.

Tropical oasis

The Aboriginal people named the island after the goddess K’gari, who after creation found the natural beauty of Fraser Island so beautiful that she wanted to stay there. In accordance with this legend, the Aboriginal people later called the island ‘paradise’. It proves that Fraser Island has also been a tropical oasis in times gone by and in the many legends of the original inhabitants. Over the past 5,000 years, Aboriginal people inhabited the sand island with some permanent settlements.

Thomas Cook

It is said that Thomas Cook was the first European to sight the island in May 1770. A few decades later Captain Mathew Flinders sailed along the coast. He was one of the most respected cartographers at the time. He went ashore at Sandy Cape. The European colonization of the island in the early 19th century proved disastrous for the Aboriginals. ‘Large-scale’ logging took place, a kind of plundering of the very species-rich rainforests, which was just short of clear-cutting. In addition to the high (approx. 70 m) satinay, the wood species Queensland kauri and the araucária were also popular in Europe.
Freshwater lakes… / Source: Public domain, Wikimedia Commons (PD) Eliza Fraser
Due to a lack of food and the emergence of fatal imported diseases, only a few hundred Aboriginal people remained on Fraser Island at the end of the 19th century. The first temporary European settlement was a fact in 1836. The sailing ship Stirling Castle , en route from Sydney to Singapore, struck the rocks. The island was named after the captain’s wife Eliza Fraser who, together with several others, survived the ship disaster and lived on the island. The shipwrecked people lived among hostile Aboriginal people and were rescued six weeks after the shipwreck.

Freshwater lakes

Fraser Island was created thanks to the three volcanic rocks Indian Head, Waddy Point and Middle Rock, around which the washed-up sand was deposited over hundreds of thousands of years, thus forming the sand island. After the last ice age , sea levels rose and the island separated from the Australian coast. Today, only a small part of the rainforests remains inland. Nevertheless, the landscape is very varied. With heathland on the coast and (sub)tropical rainforest inland, surrounded by the most beautiful, pearly white beaches in Australia. Among the 40 freshwater lakes are also so-called perched lakes , which are completely above the groundwater table and are fed by rainwater.
Dingoes… / Source: Marlen.w, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-2.0) Rainforest and dunes
The island consists partly of rainforest with some of the rarest fern species and equally rare frogs and birds. Furthermore, eucalyptus forests, mangrove areas, heathland, peat and sand dunes. As on any tropical island, palms and acacias grow there. The bottom of this small island at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef has been moving again for more than 140,000 years. Some crescent dunes are 250 meters high, formed by trade winds. Dunes that shift approximately three meters in a northwesterly direction every year due to the relentless southeasterly wind.

Birds and dingoes

Thanks to its highly varied landscape, Fraser Island has more than 300 bird species and is a popular destination for migratory birds that commute between Australia and the far north of the Eurasian continent, including Siberia. The mangrove honeyeater, a songbird, lives in the mangrove areas. Fraser Island also has some rare ground parakeets on the heath. The precious parakeet prefers the rainforest. The dozens of freshwater lakes are an attraction for the Isabelle curlew and the Mongolian plover. Compared to its bird species diversity, Fraser Island has relatively few mammal species, including dingoes and bats. Among insects, the bulldog ant is an ant species found only in Australia and the neighboring islands.

DNA

Purebred dingoes used to be very common on the island. However, the number of animals with pure dingo DNA has decreased drastically. To prevent interbreeding and disease among the original dingo population, no dogs are allowed on the island. The island is home to approximately 100 species of reptiles and 20 species of snakes.
…and the Maheno shipwreck on Fraser Island / Source: Alchemist-hp, Wikimedia Commons (FAL)

Tourism

There are ferry connections from Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island. Charter flights are also popular. Most ‘roads’ are only passable with all-terrain vehicles (for rent). There is no shortage of holiday resorts and campsites. Many tourists are attracted by the special natural beauty, and they naturally want to see the dingo in its natural environment. In addition, there are shipwrecks from a bygone era to visit, of which the ‘Maheno’ is even on the beach. Swimming in the sea is not recommended because of the sharks and the strong current. The inland lakes are ideal for swimming. The water is said to be so pure that it is drinkable. Very beautiful and well-known lakes are Lake Wabbey and Lake McKenzie.

Hiking and fishing

Fraser Island is a walker’s paradise. Among the trekking options, the well-maintained 90-kilometre Fraser Island Great Walk is very popular. Fishing is not allowed in the creeks and lakes, but fishing is allowed on the east coast and on the much calmer west coast. The humidity is always high on the island. Nevertheless, there is a mild climate with the most rainfall in summer and autumn (approx. 1200 mm) and a temperature between 21 C° and 27 C° with peaks of 34 C°. You can use the comfortable resorts or opt for a basic campsite with few facilities.

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