How was Fraser Island named?

Written by: Cameron Ward

Published: 03/20/2019

Reading time: 3 mins

Learn the fascinating history of this island before you even step foot on it!

Everyone would have heard of the iconic Fraser Island. It is one of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions, as well as being the largest sand island in the world, spanning 123 kilometres down and 23 kilometres across. But how did this wonderland get the name, Fraser?

Its Original Name

Before it was ever known as Fraser Island, the island was known as ‘K’gari’. First forming during the Ice Age, slowly forming from years of wind, ocean currents, and waves that pushed the sand from the far south-east coast of Australia. The first humans to inhabit the island were the Butchulla (which translates to ‘sea people’) tribe, a local aboriginal community. The Butchulla community has a long history with the island, estimated to have resided there for over 5,500 years. The name ‘K’gari’ (pronounced ‘gurri’) is a Butchulla word meaning paradise, meaning that before the island was known as ‘Fraser’ it was seen and known as a paradise to its original inhabitants.

Changing it to Fraser

Europeans sighted the sand island in 1770 when Captain Cook saw it from afar. He named the area Indian Head as he saw a group of aboriginal people standing by the headland. However, a European did not step onto the island well until 1836, when Captain James Fraser and his crew landed on shore. Their ship had under gown a fierce storm, crashing to the north of the island on the Great Barrier Reef. The Captain named this section Eliza Reef, after his wife who was accompanying him and his crew. The surviving crew took to the waters in a long boat, surviving a full week in the seas before reaching the northern side of the island. Once ashore the remaining crew faced the local indigenous people, which lead to two different stories. Eliza Fraser, the captain’s wife, stated that the indigenous community murdered her husband, as they captured and spear him. Another survivor stated Fraser’s death was from natural causes and did not involve any of the aboriginals. To this day, the truth is still unknown, but despite this mystery, they named the Island ‘Fraser’s Island’ in tribute to the Captain, later shortened to Fraser Island.

What to do on the Island

The island is teeming with attractions and activities for any kind of traveller. Regardless of whether you’re looking for a relaxing break amongst the stunning natural scenery or a more upbeat adventure, Fraser Island has you covered. Adrenaline junkies can speed down the famous 75-mile beach with a 4WD, spraying the shallow seawater high as they weave in and out of the waters. Those after a more tranquil adventure can plunge into the calming waters of Lake McKenzie, enjoying the crystal clear waters that are said to have eucalyptus oil healing powers. Others who can a little bit of both can discover the natural wildlife within the lush rainforest, treking through the bushland before heading to one of the many lakes or creeks hidden within! No matter what you want out of your Aussie adventure, taking some time out of your holiday to discover this incredible sand island is well within your interest!

Related article: How was Fraser Island Formed?

Cameron Ward
Cameron Ward
Managing Director at Sightseeing Tours Australia

Cameron Ward turned his travel passion into a thriving Australian tourism business. Before he co-founded his own business, Sightseeing Tours Australia, he was enjoying being a Melbourne tour guide. Even now, Cameron delights in helping visitors from all around the world get the most out of their incredible Australian trip. You’ll see Cameron leading tours or writing about his favourite Australian places where he shares his local insights.