Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, it is situated 160 kms north of Brisbane and lies off the coast between the latitudes of Gympie and Bundaberg (25050 S and 24040’). It is separated from the mainland by the narrow Great Sandy Strait in the South, and North of that forms the eastern side of Hervey Bay.
It is 123 kms in length with an average width of 14 kms, ranging up to 22 kms at its widest. It covers an area of 184,000 hectares, with dunes reaching as high as 240 metres.
Fraser Island is still largely an unspoilt wilderness, with spectacular perched dune freshwater lakes, (over 40 of them) scenic creeks, dramatic rocky headlands, and exposed cliffs of coloured sands.
Despite the extent of its sand-mass, almost all of it is covered with vegetation, some of the grandest vegetation to be seen in Australia. It has almost 1,000 species of vascular plants. These are arranged in a variety of vegetation patterns — rich rainforests, open forests, tall wet sclerophyll forests, mangrove forests, fens and heathlands.
Fraser Island has immense interest for scientists, which led one leading geomorphologist to declare, “Fraser Island is to the sand-masses of the world what the Great Barrier Reef is to the coral reefs of the world”.
Known to the traditional owners, the Butchulla people, as K’gari, Fraser Island has had a very turbulent history since the advent of Europeans who were keen to exploit its resources. Fraser Island is rich in mineral sands, timber, and aesthetic qualities. It was the desire to protect all of these resources that led to the formation of the Fraser Island Defenders Organisation (FIDO) in 1971. It resulted in Fraser Island becoming the centre of one of the largest nature conservation battles to occur in Australia in the 20th century.
Fraser Island is the largest single natural area remaining in all of South East Queensland, and Sandy Cape is about as remote from the artefacts of modern civilisation as one can be in South East Queensland. As such the logistics of getting to and moving around Fraser Island are very challenging. However as a wild natural area Fraser Island (K’gari) has special significance to many people who may never visit it but who bask in its outstanding aesthetic qualities vicariously.
Most of Fraser Island (K’gari) is now part of the Great Sandy National Park that manages camping on the island. All visitors to the island have to pay an access fee to Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS), this includes vehicle access permits for every vehicle and camping permits for QPWS camping areas. If visitors are part of a commercial tour, as are more than half the island visitors are, the fee is built into their tour cost.
While Fraser Island is widely known as a 4WD destination, it also offers magnificent challenges for adventurous bushwalkers.
The region experiences a subtropical maritime climate, with generally moderate temperatures. Mean annual temperatures recorded for Sandy Cape on the northern part of Fraser Island are: maximum 28.6 degrees C, minimum 20.7. Average annual rainfall for Sandy Cape is 1,263 mm; the West Coast of Fraser Island 1,740 mm and on the highest dunes in the centre of the island about 1,800 mm. The average rainfall in Cooloola is approximately 1,500 mm, with annual mean temperatures of 26 degrees C (max) and 15 degrees C (min). In the Great Sandy Region the driest months are August / September, wettest January / February, hottest November to March and coldest July / August.
There are a number of micro-climatic variations on Fraser Island due to differences in topography and vegetation.
Fraser Island (K’gari) and all of Great Sandy Strait and Hervey Bay are within the Fraser Coast Regional Council political jurisdiction.
Population and Settlements
While Fraser Island attracts about 400,000 visitors annually, there is a surprisingly small resident population on the island. Fewer than 200 gave Fraser Island as their address in the last Australian Census but about half of those were itinerant works temporarily residing on the island. The resident population is almost exclusively confined to three small villages on the east coast and Kingfisher Resort on the West Coast. The east coast settlements are; Orchid Beach north of Waddy Point; Happy Valley in about the centre of the island; and, Eurong. Each of the above settlement have small convenience shops.
Resorts and Accommodation
There are three resorts: Fraser Island Wilderness Retreat at Happy Valley, Eurong Resort and Kingfisher Bay Resort. All of the settlements have holiday rental accommodation. There are a few smaller settlements stretched along the East coast that also offer accommodation. Cathedral Beach also runs a shop and is located about midway between Happy Valley and Indian Head. Accommodation is also offered at Yidney Rocks. The University of the Sunshine Coast operates a Research and Learning Centre south of Eurong that caters for school groups, and offers camping, as well as budget accommodation.
There are regular ferry services operated by the Kingfisher Group between Mary River Head and both Wanggoolba Creek and Kingfisher Resort. The Manta Ray shuttle service runs between Inskip Point and Hook Point at the southern-most point of the Island. All ferries carry both walk on passengers and motor vehicles.
Police and Ambulance
There is a police base at Eurong and an Ambulance Station at Happy Valley.
There are no pharmacies or schools on the island. Most of the island is outside mobile telephone reception. People planning to travel to Fraser Island, but not as a part of an organised tour, need to be very self sufficient with fuel, food and emergency equipment.