The local Butchulla people call it K’Gari – paradise – and for good reason. Sculpted from wind, sand and surf, the striking blue freshwater lakes, crystalline creeks, giant dunes and lush rainforests of this gigantic sandbar form an enigmatic island paradise unlike anywhere else. Created over hundreds of thousands of years from sand drifting off the east coast of mainland Australia, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world (measuring 120km by 15km), and is the only known place where rainforest grows on sand.
Inland, the vegetation varies from dense tropical rainforest and wild heath to wetlands and wallum scrub, with sandblows (giant dunes over 200m high), mineral streams and freshwater lakes opening on to long sandy beaches fringed with pounding surf. The island is home to a profusion of bird life and wildlife, including the famous dingo, while offshore waters teem with dugong, dolphins, manta rays, sharks and migrating humpback whales.
Once exploited for its natural resources, sand and timber, Fraser Island joined the World Heritage list in 1992. The majority of the island is protected as part of the Great Sandy National Park.
This island utopia, however, is marred by an ever-increasing volume of 4WD traffic tearing down the beach and along sandy inland tracks. With an average of 1000 people per day visiting the island, Fraser can sometimes feel like a giant sandpit with its own peak hour and congested beach highway.
In late October 2014 the native Butchulla won a native title land claim for Fraser Island – they had been trying to get their land rights recognised since the 1970s. This will allow the Butchulla to protect places of cultural significance as they see fit, and potentially to teach visitors more about the historical and spiritual attributes of the island.
Before crossing via ferry from either Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay, ensure that your vehicle has suitably high clearance (if you're one of the few not visiting on a tour that is) and, if camping, that you have adequate food, water and fuel.