Fraser Island is one of Australia’s most unique landscapes of natural beauty. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1972, it boasts a landscape of undulating sand dunes and standing lakes.
The island itself has formed over thousands and thousands of years, thanks to the winds, waves, and ocean currents that have pushed sand from Antarctica and beyond in a zigzag pattern, which has left a string of sand islands that sit just off the coast of Queensland.
This collection of islands stretches from South Stradbroke Island, which lies off the Gold Coast, to Fraser Island, which can be found to the south of the impressive Great Barrier Reef. Fraser Island is the largest of them, and was formed as the sand filtered over a low, hilly terrain that was created millennia ago by volcanic activity.
The process began around 700 million years ago, when Antarctica had mountain ranges that were on par with the size of the Himalayas. They were eroded over time, with the sand accumulating on the continental shelf where Fraser Island can now be found.
This, combined with the changing temperatures of the earth over thousands of years have made changes in the sea levels, which have helped further in forming the island. It was during these times that dunes built up quickly thanks to the quick sweeping sand that bathed the continental shelf. The resident plants were unable to stabilise it, which meant that U and V-shaped parabolic dunes started to form.
Today, the island is made up of overlapping sand dunes that date back millions of years. It is one of the most unique landscapes in the whole of Australia and boasts an incredible amount of things to do amongst the natural scenery.
Things to Do on Fraser Island
This perched lake is an incredible sight to see. Set amongst the sand dunes, its waters are impressively clear, giving you the chance to take a refreshing dip while admiring the surrounding scenery.
Try your hand at fishing on 75-Mile Beach. Surf gutters along the ocean beaches mean that fishing is an ideal activity at all times of the year.
The Champagne Pools
This natural Jacuzzi is one of the most popular watering holes on the island. The depth of the pools depends on the tides and weather.
Float down the cascading fresh water of Eli Creek as it surges onto the beach, admiring the impressive age-old scenery of the creek while you go.
Fraser Island is one of Australia’s most unique landscapes of natural beauty. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1972, it boasts a landscape of undulating sand dunes and standing lakes.
Fraser Island boasts an incredibly diverse selection of native wildlife thanks to its eclectic collection of landscapes and unique scenery. On any one day, you might spot a dingo loping elegantly along the beach right before catching a glimpse of a prehistoric lizard slithering up one of the island’s many trees.
A lot of the species on the island are rare or vulnerable, which makes visit to Fraser Island even more special.
The Mammals of Fraser Island
The island is home to a range of mammals because of its exceptional diversity in ecosystems and scenery. There are around 47 species of mammal, including the Swamp Wallaby, the Small Eared Mountain Possum, and the Sugar Glider. When wandering around the island, you can catch these creatures in their natural habitat, whether that’s under the canopies of ancient trees, or crawling up the tree trunks themselves.
The Birds of Fraser Island
Fraser Island is home to a whopping 354 species of birds, partly because of its incredible range of food sources, and partly because of its huge collection of different nesting and breeding areas. Keep your eyes peeled overhead when exploring the island to catch a glimpse of some of the rarer species.
The Reptiles of Fraser Island
The Sand Monitor and the Lace Monitor are the two most commonly spotted reptiles on Fraser Island, but there are in total around 79 species of reptile which includes 19 species of snakes. You’re most likely to see these creatures around picnic areas and in open woodland spaces on the island.
The Sea Creatures of Fraser Island
The sea surrounding Fraser Island is filled with unique and majestic sea creatures that can be discovered via scuba diving, snorkelling, or taking a boat ride. You might get to see dolphins, dugongs, turtles, and rays. And, if you’re lucky enough to be visiting between July and November, keep your eyes peeled for the migrating humpback whales as they head in search of warmer waters.
As well as these groups of animals, you also have the opportunity to spot rare frog species, including the “acid” frogs in the swamps.
Exploring Fraser Island is a unique and special experience thanks to its numerous landscapes and wildlife spotting opportunities. There are plenty of native species to spot while you’re there, from colourful bird species, to beloved mammal species, and majestic sea creatures that languish in the waves just off the shoreline.
Set off the coast of Queensland, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, sprawling out for around 120 kilometres. All around its pretty coastline, there are stunning sea views and plenty of activities to get stuck into. Top viewpoints can be found at Indian Head, while natural wonders include the Cathedrals, and the sights at Lake McKenzie and Lake Wabby are well worth a visit.
Happy Valley sits pretty much in the centre of Fraser Island on the east side of the coast. It is surrounded by lush sands and incredible sea views, and its nearby township provides a quaint selection of restaurants, hotels, and retreats, of which the Fraser Island Retreat is the most well-known.
Getting to Happy Valley
To navigate Fraser Island, you need a four-wheel drive vehicle to travel across the uneven sands. It’s best to travel on the beach close to the sea, as this proves to be the safest place.
You can reach Fraser Island itself by a barge from Inskip Point or River Heads. This is the easiest way to cross the small channel to the island, and is the quickest way to get directly to Happy Valley along the 75-mile beach it sits on.
When you disembark the barge at Hook Point, you need to drive east along the beach to the eastern side of the island, where you can then enjoy the drive straight to Happy Valley.
Things to Do Around Happy Valley
Its central location means there is plenty to do around Happy Valley. Lake McKenzie and Lake Wabby can be found to the south of the region. Both freshwater lakes boast crystal clear waters perfect for a refreshing swim in the stunning scenery.
Elsewhere to the south, you can find the Central Station, which is a picturesque rainforest landscape with a short boardwalk that weaves its way around Wanggoolba Creek.
If you head north from Happy Valley, you can reach Eli Creek, which is the largest freshwater creek on this side of the island, or check out Maheno Wreck, and old beached vessel that is half-buried in the sand by Eli Creek.
The Cathedrals, which are towering cliffs of vibrant sands, are some of the island’s most breath-taking natural wonders, while Lake Allom boasts a pretty forest backdrop home to tortoises.
For some more swimming opportunities, head to the Champagne Pools at Middle Rocks, where you can bask in the clear seawater and take a refreshing dip when the weather gets warm.
Set to the north of Brisbane and sitting pretty in between Noosa Heads and Rainbow Beach, Cooloola National Park offers visitors the chance to explore in a number of unique ways. Offering up some of the best scenery on Fraser Island, it’s the perfect place to be introduced to the mesmerising landscape that characterises this part of Australia.
On this stretch of national park, you can get your adrenalin pumping with a four-wheel drive adventure, and experience towering sand dunes and wild coastal cliffs. Keep your eyes peeled for vibrant blooming wildflowers as you hike through ancient rainforests, stopping off at picturesque viewpoints along the way.
Things to Do in Cooloola National Park
Take a Walk
Walking is a popular activity in Cooloola, thanks to the plentiful number of pretty hiking trails that weave through the rainforest scenery and along coastal paths. You can wander to historic highlights, like the Double Island Point lighthouse, or pack a tent and make the most of the adventurous Cooloola Wilderness Trail.
Have Fun in a Four-Wheel Drive
Lots of visitors choose to explore everything Cooloola has to offer via a four-wheel drive vehicle, as this gives them the chance to fully immerse themselves in the open forests and heathlands. You can also bump your way along the numerous sand tracks and the beach at low tide.
Canoe the Noosa River
For something a little more active, try your hand at canoeing the Noosa River. This is a great way to discover the nature and wildlife of the banks, and explore a different part of the Great Sandy National Park. You can glide up and down the winding tributaries of the Noosa River, picking out famous natural landmarks as you go.
Boating on the Everglades
As well as canoeing the Noosa River, you can also hire a boat and cruise around the Everglades that are formed by the tributary creeks of the river. Here, you can experience the area from a different perspective, soaking up the lush surrounding forests and spotting native wildlife as you go. You can hire boats from Tewantin and Noosa, as well as at Elanda Point on Lake Cootharaba.
Cooloola National Park is one of the most popular attractions on Fraser Island – and for good reason. The plentiful opportunities for hiking through lush undergrowth and along pretty river banks, combined with the unique selection of fast-paced adventure activities to get stuck into mean you’ll never be bored while you’re exploring this part of Australia.
Situated off the coastline of Queensland, Fraser Island unfolds in a unique eco-system filled with sand dunes, lakes, and sea views. It is the largest sand island in the world, sprawling out for 120km along its coastline.
The eco-system is like nowhere else in the world, combining an eclectic mix of landscapes each filled with their own characteristics and sights. As well as half of the world’s perched lakes, Fraser Island is also a World Heritage listed site, providing the perfect backdrop for exploring.
The Different Eco-Systems on Fraser Island
The island itself brings together rainforests, wallum forests, coastlines, beaches, freshwater lakes, and sand dunes, providing a constantly-changing backdrop for visitors.
The rainforests on Fraser Island are incredibly dense and humid, and are home to an abundance of plant and animal species. Expect to see fungi, liverworts, saplings, mosses, ferns, and lichens basking in the cool air beneath the thick canopies overhead.
Also known as open woodlands, wallum forests are a haven for a range of colourful flowering plants. You might be able to spot eucalypts, acacias, and grass trees amongst other varieties, many of which provide vital food for nectar-feeding mammals, birds, and insects.
With more than 120km of coastline, it goes without saying that Fraser Island is home to some incredible beaches. Flanking the sands, you’ll find shrubs and grasslands, as well as sand dunes that provide homes for adaptable plant species. To the west of the island, the beaches are edged with complex mangrove systems and pristine white beaches.
Despite it being just an island, there are over one hundred freshwater lakes on Fraser Island, and they are made up of three varieties: perched, window, and barrage.
Perched lakes are characterised by their sealed bases and solely rely on rainfall to keep their levels on the rise. Window lakes happen when the ground level falls below the water table, while barrage lakes are formed when sand dunes on the move block the route of free-flowing water.
Sand dunes are a large part of the eco-system of Fraser Island, and can rise up more than 200 metres above the sea. The most impressive dune on the island is Flinders Sand Blow, which has evolved and moved over thousands of years.
Fraser Island really is a sight to behold with all of its different eco-systems. There’s a little something for everyone, from rainforests and lakes, to forests and sand dunes.
Located in the heart of Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie unfolds in a swathe of crystal clear water against a backdrop of pristine white sand. Making up part of the Great Sandy National Park, it is one of the most popular attractions on the island, drawing visitors in with its breathtaking beauty and its fascinating ecology.
Why Is Lake McKenzie So Special?
Lake McKenzie causes such a stir because it’s a perched lake. This means it simply contains rainwater and no other water – it is not fed by weaving streams that crisscross the island, and it doesn’t merge with the ocean at any point.
The standing nature of the water means it is incredibly clear, while the land that surrounds it is a sight to behold. Made of pure white silica, the sands create an impervious layer that makes it impossible for the water to flow away and for many of the island’s native species to set up camp.
Not only is the sand stunning to look at, it is also magically soft, but the pureness of the water means there is very little life in the lake. However, the rich blues and greens that characterise it are well worth the visit, particularly if you witness them glistening away in the low light of dawn.
Things to Do at Lake McKenzie
Take a Walk
The sands around the lake lend themselves perfectly for a leisurely stroll. While you walk, you can marvel at the pristine waters from numerous angles and discover the incredible beauty of this natural wonder.
Experience Lake McKenzie at various times throughout the day by setting up camp and staying overnight. There are developed camping spots at Lake McKenzie, where you can witness the warm Australian sun rising over the eggshell-smooth water and experience the lake as it rests peacefully beneath the glow of the night sky.
There are basic facilities located at the designated camping site, including public toilets, showers, a carpark, and barbecue facilities.
Enjoy a Picnic
If you don’t plan on spending the night at Lake McKenzie, at least plan to spend a few hours soaking up its mesmerising charm. While there, you can indulge in a picnic set against a backdrop of pure white sands and surreal blue water. There are plenty of picnic tables for you to set up on, as well as facilities to use.
Lake McKenzie is one of the key highlights on Fraser Island. So, if you find yourself in the vicinity, be sure to check out its pure waters and vibrant sands.
Languishing close to Fraser Island, between Noosa Heads and Rainbow Beach to the north of Brisbane, Cooloola Recreation Area sits pretty in the Great Sandy National Park.
This region of the Sunshine Coast lets you escape the busy crowds of the city centre and enjoy the incredible scenery that this part of Australia is renowned for.
In Cooloola, you’ll get to experience a whole host of different landscapes, from towering sand dunes, wide rugged beaches, and tall forests that hide copses of wildflowers and magical paperbark swamps. Throughout it all, there are a smattering of freshwater lakes, as well as the mesmerising expanse of the upper part of the Noosa River.
Things to Do in Cooloola
Cooloola is a popular recreation area and, with its eclectic selection of scenery, has a wide range of things for visitors to do.
Canoe the River
The upper part of the Noosa River forms an important part of Cooloola, and exploring it by canoe is a great way to immerse yourself in the stunning scenery. You can take your own canoe and explore at your own pace, or you can join a canoe tour that will take you to all the notable spots.
Cruise the River
If you fancy something a little more leisurely, opt for one of the relaxing cruises that sweep up and down the river each day. You’ll get a unique vantage point of the pretty banks – keep your eyes peeled for the local wildlife.
Take a Walk
The landscape of Cooloola is varied and fascinating, making it a great place to take a leisurely stroll. You can walk through woodlands and waterholes, discovering the collection of freshwater lakes and unique views along the way.
Take a 4WD Tour
Get your adrenalin pumping with a 4WD adventure north along the beach from the North Shore of Noose. As you go, you’ll power past colourful sand cliffs and emerge of wide swathes of beaches that have been pummelled by the wild wind and water.
Camp Amongst Wildlife
The stunning natural beauty of Cooloola lends itself perfectly to camping. Throughout the region, there are a few camping spots that let you bed down amongst the wildflowers and sleep beneath the stars. Really unwind by living the old fashioned lifestyle of catching your own fresh fish from the sea and rise early to watch the milky pink sunrise over the river.
Cooloola is filled with an excellent selection of coastal and marine wildlife, too, so keep your eyes peeled on every adventure you take – you never know what you might see.
Eli Creek is one of the most coveted tourist hotspots on the beautiful expanse of Fraser Island, a haven of natural wonders in Australia. As the largest creek on the island, it pumps more than four million litres of crystal clear, fresh water into the ocean every single hour. Set on the eastern beach of Fraser Island, it boasts a picturesque backdrop that’s perfect for a range of activities.
The Aboriginal Significance of Eli Creek
The Creek is a very important landmark for the local Butchulla people. According to mythology, it flows from the island right across to the Hervey Bay mainland. This was once a significant meeting place for the locals as it marked the spot where Aboriginal women christened their children.
Things to Do at Eli Creek
Swimming is one of the most popular activities at Eli Creek thanks to the crystal clear waters that characterise it. You can cool off in the calm waters and splash about in the shallows.
Have a Picnic
When you get peckish, unpack your picnic and eat it surrounded by the stunning scenery of Fraser Island.
Take a Walk
There is a boardwalk that follows the creek in-land, taking walkers through banksia and pandanus. If you’re looking to explore the beauty of the region, this is the perfect way to do it.
Soak up the History
The rich history and Aboriginal culture that is imbued in and around Eli Creek makes it a fascinating place to explore. Learn about the myths and legends that have become a part of the landscape over thousands of years.
Because of its breath-taking natural scenery and colourful history, Eli Creek is a popular place for adults and children. This means it can get busy on any given day, but there is still plenty of space for everyone to enjoy what’s on offer. If you want to avoid most of the crowds, head down there early to beat the masses.
Fraser Island promises plenty of incredible sights and scenes, and Eli Creek is just one of many. But it is well worth a visit if you find yourself exploring the pretty clutches of the island. Not only can you take a refreshing dip in the cool waters, you can also take a stroll through surreal scenery and learn more about the significant past the area has had on the local Aboriginal community.
Fraser Island acts as a kind of living museum of sunken ships. With more than twenty-three wrecks recorded in its waters between 1856 and 1935, it has a fascinating history and plenty of stories to dig into.
The Maheno is perhaps one of the most popular shipwrecks in the region, which is beached near The Pinnacles. Though the Sandy Cape lighthouse was switched on in 1970 to try and avoid as many shipwrecks, it did very little to lower the number of incidents.
Today, the Maheno acts as a popular tourist attraction to those visiting Fraser Island. It was built back in 1905, set sail as the SS Maheno, and was one of the very first turbine-driven steamers. The ship followed the designated route between Sydney and Auckland, until it was taken on as a hospital ship in Europe during World War One. Afterwards, it served in the Mediterranean and Red Seas.
In 1935, the Maheno was sold to Japan to be made into scrap metal, but on its journey there through Queensland waters, a cyclone got it into trouble and it was marooned on a Fraser Island beach.
The Maheno as a Tourist Attraction
Though it has had a turbulent past, the Maheno is now an important part of Fraser Island life and forms one of the island’s most popular attractions. It is now a heavily rusted shell that keeps on being eroded by the harsh salt water, but it remains a reminder to visitors and locals alike that there have been some fascinating stories that have happened to an island with relatively few signs of human history.
You can now explore the landmark as one of the stops on a tour around Fraser Island. As well as getting to know the lush landscape filled with rainforests, pristine beaches, and crystal clear waters, you can delve deep into the fascinating history of the shipwrecks that have come to be such an important part of the island’s past.
The island is a firm favourite amongst nature lovers, as it promises so many unique natural scenes, but the mysterious waters that surround it tell their own stories. When you visit the site of the Maheno shipwreck, you’re not just getting to know this one story, but you’re learning more about the many other stories of the other ships that found themselves in trouble in the waters surrounding the island.
Fraser Island is a haven of wildlife opportunities and encounters just waiting for you to enjoy against a backdrop of pristine beaches, shallow waters, and lush rainforests. As well as numerous outdoor activities and fun adventures to be had, there’s one special thing you can do on the island that draws in thousands of animal-lovers every year.
At Tin Can Bay, you can feed the resident Australian Humpback Dolphins. The pod is home to nine animals at the moment that are led by Mystique, the alpha male. Others in the group include Patch, Ella, Squirt, Harmony, Aussie, Valentine, Chompy, and White Fin.
What Are Humpback Dolphins?
These unique creatures are river and estuarine dolphins that need around 20 metres of water in order to fish. When they’re not out hunting or feeding at Tin Can Bay, they like to bask in the sunshine in shallow tidal creek areas. For the most part, the dolphins’ diet is made up of squid, fish, and crustaceans.
The History of the Dolphins at Tin Can Bay
The dolphins at Tin Can Bay have been visiting for around 30 years ever since a dolphin nicknamed Scarry appeared in the bay with a young male dolphin, now called Mystique. He was thought to be her youngest surviving offspring. Though Scarry hasn’t been spotted in the area since 2003, Mystique and his pod still come into the boat ramp every day to watch the humans that gather there to feed them.
Feeding time starts early, giving visitors the perfect way to start their day on Fraser Island. The humpback dolphins swim right on up to visitors who stand knee-deep in the shallow water.
As the creatures arrive, you can hand them their treats and watch as they frolic in the shallow waters in the early morning sunshine.
The dolphin feeding is a popular and important part of life on Fraser Island, and it is regulated by the Queensland Government to ensure that the daily occurrence is safe and enjoyable for both the human and dolphin participants.
To make sure everything goes to plan, visitors are only allowed to feed the dolphins with food purchased on-site, and the total amount of food given out each day is rationed so the dolphins still have to go out and hunt for themselves like the wild animals they are.
Forming the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island promises visitors miles of natural beauty and plenty of wildlife to soak up. Predominantly made up of a National Park, it was listed as a World Heritage site back in 1992 and remains an important conservation area. The wild and isolated nature of the island means it is only accessible via a 4-wheel drive, by plane, or by foot, and you need to pick up a vehicle and camping permit before you visit.
There are several starting points you can get to Fraser Island from, and Rainbow Beach is one of them – perhaps the most popular. There are several barge operators that depart from Rainbow Beach to the Island every single day, giving you plenty of opportunities to make the crossing at a time that suits you.
For the most part, it is quicker, easier, and cheaper to get to Fraser Island from Rainbow Beach, and the small town itself is well worth a little explore while you wait for your crossing.
Throughout town, there are some charming restaurants, cafes, and bars you can kick back and relax in while getting to know what sleepy small-town life is like in Australia.
Why Go to Fraser Island From Rainbow Beach
Though Rainbow Beach is the most popular place to cross over to Fraser Island, there are other starting points. Here’s why you should go from Rainbow Beach instead of the others.
Firstly, Rainbow Beach is a picturesque seaside town perfect for chilling out in. A visit to Fraser Island is a relaxing experience, so start your exploration as you mean to go on with a lazy time in a small town.
Secondly, when you travel to Fraser Island from Rainbow Beach, you’re exposed to a lot of incredible landscapes along the way. You’ll get to see Double Island Point, Rainbow Beach’s Coloured Sands and Cooloola National Park, which means you’ll get to soak up some of the region’s best-loved attractions en route.
If you plan on sticking around in Rainbow Beach for a little while, that’s fine, too. The beach is made up of pretty coloured sand – hence its name – and has a little surf. However, the waters are flat most of the time, meaning you can head out for a relaxing swim to cool off in the warm Australian weather before you make the journey across to Fraser Island.
Heritage-listed Fraser Island is a sight to behold. As well as stunning white-sand beaches characterised by unique sand dunes and colourful Aboriginal history, it is home to over 100 unique freshwater lakes. The most popular of these (and the most visited attraction on the island) is Lake McKenzie.
This so-called “perched” lake sits well above the water level, which means it only holds rainwater. The thick layer of sand and built-up organic matter at the bottom of the lake prevents any rainwater from draining away which is how the lake stays full year-round.
Perhaps the most stunning thing about the lake is the pure white sand that surrounds it. Not only is it incredibly beautiful to look at, but its unusually soft, too. This acts as a kind of filter that ensures the water is crystal clear, but it also means that, because the water is so pure, it can’t support any animal life.
To see the lake at its best, visit just as the sun is coming up or going down, as the low light really brings out the blues and greens of the water.
Things to Do at Lake McKenzie
1. Go Camping
There are plenty of places to camp out on Fraser Island, giving you the chance to see Lake McKenzie early in the morning and late in the evening. Grab a spot at Lake McKenzie itself, where you can marvel at the unique natural wonder under the canopy of Australia’s night sky.
2. Go Swimming
Lake McKenzie’s incredibly pure waters are ideal for swimming in. Not only are there no creatures to dodge, but the soft sand underfoot makes it an incredibly peaceful experience – and works wonders on the skin. Be sure to avoid wearing sunscreen, soap, or oils when swimming in Lake McKenzie, as these are considered to be pollutants to the pure water.
3. Have a Picnic
Fraser Island boasts a backdrop of pristine sands and stunning lakes, providing the perfect place to enjoy a picnic with all the family. Around Lake McKenzie, there are numerous picnic tables for you to try out so you can enjoy a hearty meal set against the surreal beauty of the water.
Lake McKenzie really does look like it has just stepped out of a novel. The white sand and the vivid blue water bathe the surroundings in serenity, but taking a swim and exploring the surrounding region should be high on your to-do list, too.