Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fraser Island

We waited in anticipation for our pick-up from FraserFree. We were the first on her list and as she went round Hervey Bay to gather the rest of those on her list, we were introduced to the smaller roads of the place and also other accommodation places.

We joined many others on the 40-minute ferry ride over to Fraser Island, including a really cute feline!

Fraser Island is an island located along the southern coast of Queensland, approximately 200 kilometres north of Brisbane. Its length is about 120 kilometres and its width is approximately 24 kilometres. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992.

The island is considered to be the largest sand island in the world at 1840 km². It is also Queensland's largest island, Australia's sixth largest island and the largest island on the East Coast of Australia.

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 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.

While on the rainforest walk at Central Station, we were introduced to Wanggoolba Creek, source of the second clearest fresh water source in Australia. Where is the clearest? In Tasmania, apparently.

The water was so clear that without the reflection of sun rays, I would not be able to tell that there was water there.

Fraser Island has over 100 freshwater lakes, as well as the second highest concentration of lakes in Australia after Tasmania (again). The freshwater lakes on Fraser Island are some of the cleanest lakes in the world. A popular tourist area is Lake McKenzie which is located inland from the small town of Eurong.

It is a perched lake sitting on top of compact sand and vegetable matter 100 metres above sea level. The lake has an area of 150 hectares and is just over 5 metres in depth. The beach sand of the lake is nearly pure silica, which saw many of us rubbing the sand on our bodies.

And yes, cleanest lakes in world, definitely - look at the clarity of its water!

After a buffet lunch, we were driven onto 75 Mile Beach. In the great tradition of many Australian place names, 75 Mile Beach was so named because it is approximately 75 miles long. Due to the constant movement of sea and sand, it is not always exactly 75 miles long, but then, '75.173 Mile Beach' just would not have had the same ring to it.

75 Mile Beach runs along most of the east coast of Fraser Island. The beach also acts as both a highway and a runway. The hard packed sand below the high tide mark can make for quite smooth driving, but care must be taken with speed; there are many deep wash outs and you can suddenly find yourself driving vertically into one if you are going too fast.

Aircraft often land on the beach and if you can afford it ($75), this mode of travel is a great way to see the entire island in a short space of time, with the obligatory beach landing, of course.

While it may not be the best place for swimming due to dangerous currents and plentiful Tiger sharks, it is extremely beautiful and has a number of excellent highlights such as the Maheno Shipwreck and Eli Creek. There is also the Coloured Sands, or also known as the Pinnacles, which apparently has 72 shades of colours.

Well, I only counted five. We were a little let down, really.

The shipwreck of Maheno is a landmark on 75 Mile Beach. Maheno was originally built in 1905 by William Denny and Brothers in Dumbarton, Scotland as a luxury passenger ship for trans-Tasman crossings. During WWI, the ship served as a hospital ship in the Mediterranean, Gallipoli, and the English Channel, before returning to a luxury liner.

In 1935, the ship was declared outdated and on June 25, 1935 the ship was being towed from Melbourne to Japan for scrap metal when it was caught in a strong cyclone. A few days later, she drifted ashore and was beached on the eastern shores of Fraser Island. Since then, much of the ship has either been destroyed or disintegrated, and the visible remainder has become severely rusted. We were not allowed near the wreck, being reminded to keep at least three metres away.

Eli Creek is strikingly clear and has its own its own unique and varied wild life. Eli Creek is the largest freshwater stream on the eastern coast of Fraser Island, with over four million litres of water flowing from its mouth onto the beach and into the ocean every hour.

It was there that we saw a dingo, too.

We bade the island farewell at sunset and had ourselves a simple meal of instant noodles (unhealthy, we know) back at the motel.

After a day of no driving, we prepared ourselves for more driving the next day.

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