75 Mile Beach

75 Mile Beach is the name given to the main beach on the eastern side of the island and it runs the length of the island. But this isn’t any old beach, 75 Mile Beach is also a gazetted highway with speed limits and all normal road rules apply, and police do definitely patrol and enforce this.

It also functions as a runway and landing strip for planes! So driving along this beach you you do need to be experienced and alert as you need to keep a constant look out for people, children, other vehicles, washouts and hazards, dingoes and planes!

It’s quite an experience the first time you are driving along and you see a plane coming in to land in front of you!

Driving along this beach is also dependent on the tides and this alone can change the landscape from one day to another. Dips and washouts can appear from one tide change to another so you do need to be alert. There are definitely many parts of the beach that are completely inaccessible and covered in water at high tide, so if you are planning a trip you must be aware of the tide times for the day and plan accordingly. As a general rule you should not drive 2 hours before or after high tide.

Whilst the beach is beautiful and a beach, you don’t want to go swimming here. There is a huge shark population that call the waters around Fraser Island home. But apparently the fishing is good, at any given time you will see fisherman lining the beach trying their luck.

Champagne Pools

Champagne Pools is one of the more isolated destinations on the island and you’ll find it on the eastern side, just past Indian Head. Once at the car park it’s a short walk via the boardwalk and stairs to get down to the pools.

Champagne Pools are just beautiful and you really must visit if you have the time. This is a group of naturally formed swimming holes which have formed among the rocks and as each wave crashes along the rocks, it foams and cascades down into the swimming holes.

With each wave, cool water bubbles and fizzes around you, creating the Champagne-like feeling.

To see this in it’s full glory you need to time your visit outside of low tide, but not at full high tide!

Due to the more remote location of the Champagne Pools, the travel time it takes to get there and the eastern beach being inaccessible at high tide, you must plan your visit well and check tides before heading here.

The natural beauty of Fraser Island

Hands up who’s never visited Fraser Island …. if you are sitting there with your hands in the air, what’s wrong with you! You really need to get off your butt and get yourself up to this amazing part of the country!

You’ll find Fraser Island located off the east coast of Queensland, about 4 hours drive north of Brisbane. Covering an area of 184,000 hectares, it is the largest sand island in the world. But it’s more than just a bit of sand surrounded by water, it’s one of the most naturally beautiful places you’ll visit.

You’ll find some of the most beautiful lakes filled with crystal clear fresh water, ancient rainforests, long white beaches, coloured sand cliffs, shipwrecks and a splash of history thrown in.

Fun facts about Fraser Island

  • Fraser Island stretches over 123 km in length and 22 km across at it’s widest point.
  • Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world.
  • Fraser Island is World Heritage Listed.
  • The highest dunes on the island reach up to 240 meters above sea level.
  • Fraser Island is home to 40 perched dune lakes (which is half the number of perched lakes in the world!).
  • It’s said that over 350 species of birds live on Fraser Island.
  • The dingoes of Fraser Island are the most pure strain of dingoes remaining in eastern Australia.
  • Fraser Island is the only place in the world where rainforests are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of more than 200 meters.
  • 75 Mile Beach is a gazetted highway and all normal road rules apply, and police do regularly patrol.
  • 75 Mile Beach is also a runway and landing strip for light aircraft.
  • Fraser Island’s dunes have the longest and most complete age sequence of coastal dune systems in the world.
  • At 200 hectares, Lake Boomanjin is the largest perched lake in the world.
  • Fraser Island is home to half of the world’s perched lakes.

How the island formed

An island like Fraser Island doesn’t just pop up overnight, it has been forming over many hundreds of thousands of years and is still evolving to this day. Many years ago the wind and ocean currents moved sands from all around the world and it began to accumulate in one place and formed an island, therefore Fraser Island is made up completely of sand. Over the years animal matter and debris started to form a base which then allowed plants to start growing. A sand dune is considered stable when plant colonies start to take root and you can see this towards the centre of the island, where you’ll find huge trees and rainforests growing in the more sheltered parts of the island.

Closer to the beach where the dunes are subjected to the more fierce weather elements you will see that they often only have a small covering of grasses and smaller plants that have learned to live with the constant battering of sand and wind.

Fraser Island Lakes

There are over 100 freshwater lakes on the island. The only area in Australia that has a higher concentration of lakes than Fraser Island is Tasmania. There are Perched lakes, Window lakes and Barrage lakes.

Perched lakes form when organic matter builds up in a depression in the dune. Leaves, dead plants, bark etc collects over time, slowly decomposing into the top layer of the sand and eventually forming a cement like crust which stops water from filtering through the sand. With the water being trapped it will eventually form a lake. Perched lakes are dependent on rainfall to maintain the water levels.

Fraser Island’s Lake Boomanjin is the largest perched lake in the world.

Barrage lakes form when moving sand dunes block off the path of a watercourse, creek or natural spring.

Window lakes form when a depression in the dunes exposes part of the regional water table. These lakes are generally found in dune depressions where the water table is higher than the ground surface level.

Fraser Island’s Lake Wabby is actually known as both a window lake and a barrage lake.

Whilst the lakes on Fraser Island are some of the most naturally stunning sights you’ll see, many of them hold nothing but water. Because of the purity and acidity of the water, they are not home to any creatures. There are a few lakes that do have fish and turtles living in them and a particular species of frog that have adapted to survive in an acidic and nutrient deficient environment.

Fraser Island History

Captain Matthew Flinders was one of the first white men to have contact with the islanders of Fraser Island in 1802.

In 1836 the ‘Stirling Castle’ was shipwrecked and after spending weeks in a lifeboat at sea, they landed on the island. The survivors lived on the island for a few weeks before being rescued. One of these was Eliza Fraser, the wife of the Captain, James Fraser. It was after Eliza, that Europeans named the island Fraser Island.

The Butchulla people are the indigenous people of Fraser Island and their traditional name for the island is K’gari (pronounced “gurri”), 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 then added birds, animals and people onto the island to keep her company.

The island is now referred to as both “K’gari” and ‘Fraser Island” (and “Great Sandy National Park”), and whilst the Native Title rights were handed back to The Butchulla people in 2014, the day-to-day management of the island is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Environment and Heritage (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service).

Fraser Island Logging history

Logging is a huge part of the Fraser Island story. Due to the abundance of timber available and the quality of the pines, logging on Fraser Island ran for quite an extended period of time, first starting in 1863 and continuing until the end of 1991.

Logging initially started near Wanggoolba Creek by ‘Yankee Jack’ Piggott. In 1913 the first State Government Forestry Camp was set up at Bogimbah Creek, later moved to Wanggoolba Creek and in 1920 this moved to Central Station. In 1918 building began on the first and only timber mill on Fraser Island at the McKenzie’s Jetty site. McKenzie Ltd. was responsible for this mill, a jetty and a number of steam locomotives and tracks servicing its logging areas. When the Forestry Camp moved to Central Station, there were workers and their families living there and a community formed, including huts, houses and sheds, a school for the children and nurseries and vegetable gardens.

Nowadays Central Station is a camping and picnic area, but it also includes plenty of information on it’s former life as a logging camp.

Fraser Island’s WWII Connection

Many wouldn’t know, but Fraser Island played an important role in WWII.

The Fraser Commando School trained personnel for the highly secret ‘Z Force’. These personnel lived on the island and were trained to operate undercover behind enemy lines. The ruins of the training school are found on the western side of the island near Kingfisher Bay Resort.

The Maheno shipwreck, located on the eastern beach, was also used during the WWI as a target for explosives training.

Maheno Shipwreck

The Maheno shipwreck is one of those must visit places on Fraser Island. You’ll find it on 75 Mile Beach on the eastern side of the island, not far past Eli Creek.

The ship ended up beached on the island during a cyclone in 1935 and has laid there wasting away ever since.

The Maheno was built in Scotland in 1905 and was the world’s first ever triple screw steamer. She was initially built as a luxury passenger ship. During World War 1 she served as a hospital ship treating and transporting the wounded from Gallipoli and the Western Front. She was later used by a shipping company for journeys between Sydney and New Zealand.

By 1935 the ship had been declared outdated and taken out of service and was sold to a scrapping company in Japan.

On 8 July 1935, while under tow to Japan, the Maheno became caught in a cyclone and the towline broke. After drifting in rough seas, the Maheno eventually beached on Fraser Island.

The ship was unable to be re-floated and no buyers wanted her, so she was abandoned on the beach and remains there today.

It is said that the locals put the shipwreck to use in the year or so after it washed ashore by holding weddings and concerts aboard. Years later the wreck was used as bombing practice during World War 2.

She has definitely been showing her age in recent years as the constant battering of waves and the environment take their toll on her. Our photos of the Maheno from our first visit to the island 13 years ago compared to now definitely show the deterioration.

Today, the rusting hull is all that remains and this is gradually being washed away with every tide, wave and storm that hits.

Definitely still one of our favourite places to visit and photograph on the island though.

Back in our happy place

We left home at 4am on Saturday morning on our drive up to Queensland. Leaving early we missed a lot of the traffic, but still had plenty of vehicles on the road and a few stops due to roadworks …. 🚧 the never ending roadworks that seem to be on that Sydney to QLD route!

There was plenty of smoke and burnt out bush the whole way up the coast, these fires are so far reaching.

Even whilst we were headed off on holidays, others were battling the fires back at home. These photos below were taken by Shelly’s sister after she was evacuated from her home on Saturday. Taken on Grose Vale Rd looking back towards Kurrajong Heights & Bowen Mountain. Other family members were evacuated due to fires further down south. It’s such a scary time for all. As long as everyone remains safe, that’s the best we can ask for.

So here’s the stats for our first day

Our first day was a total of 936km and approx 10 hours driving (including stops) and the Prado averaged 13.6 litres/100km towing the camper. We arrived at our hotel for the night (AKA Danny & Cat’s house 😆) in the early arvo and settled in for a chat and a few beers. Danny, Cat and the kids will join us, along with a few others, on the island after Christmas.

Sunday morning we left at 6.30am to make the final relatively short drive to Inskip Point where we jumped on the barge to head over to the island and find a place to camp and set up home for the next couple of weeks.

The drive was fairly good with no traffic. Inskip was very firm (as many may know, this beach is known for bogging vehicles!) and once on the island, the beach run up to camp was easy and smooth, much easier than our last visit. We found a great campsite big enough to fit all of our group.

The bushfire is still burning down the southern end of the island, but thankfully you cannot really smell it from camp. We’ve had a juvenile dingo visit us at camp a few times already and saw one whilst driving on the beach so they are definitely around! Thankfully not too many people around though, we will make the most of this while we can as we expect the crowds to arrive from Boxing Day onwards.