|Queensland - Fraser Coast|
| The Fraser Coast begins less than 200 kilometres north of Brisbane, taking in Fraser Island and the coastal strip adjacent to it. Travelmate can help with all your accommodation needs on the Fraser Coast. |
Fraser Island is one of the world’s most magnificent sand islands, as well as one of the largest. It has formed from sand washed north along the continental shelf from northern New South Wales over the last 800,000 years. Gradually the dunes built up to become one large island, and Fraser Island now covers more than 160,000 hectares.
The growth of thick rainforest on such sandy soil is one of the marvels of Fraser Island, which is all sand apart from four volcanic outcrops. As vegetation took hold organic matter leached down to lower sediments, cementing the sand into a watertight layer. Now 40 or so beautiful freshwater lakes perch on the impermeable sandy layer, surrounded by lush rainforest of ferns, vines, brush box, kauri and satinay. Walking tracks and four-wheel drive circuits trace out routes around some of the largest lakes, such as McKenzie, Birrabeen, Benaroon, Boomanjin and Wabby.
|The island contains a range of environments other than rainforest. Alongside Lake Wabby you can see an example of unvegetated sand still being shifted around in the wind. Areas of wetland, as well as heathland close to the coast, contrast with the dense forest, and visitors to the island might catch sight of wallabies, possums and echidnas, as well as dingoes and brumbies in the northern section. Air and sea whale-watching tours are conducted from the island, as they are from mainland centres on Hervey Bay.|
|Fraser Island is now protected with World Heritage listing, but for many years it was both logged and sand-mined. Kauri, blackbutt then satinay, which proved particularly useful for ships, piers and other saltwater structures, were logged from early last century until 1991. Sandmining ceased in the 1970s after much protest by conservationists.|
|Another main attraction of the island are the many shipwrecks off the coast. A lighthouse was built on northern Cape Sandy in 1870, but even after this the wrecks continued. Among those accessible from or on the island are the Maheno, which foundered in 1935, and can be seen on the east coast north of Happy Valley; and the Marloo which sank in 1914, and is situated underwater in Marloo Bay. Fraser Island derives its name from Eliza and James Fraser, whose ship the Stirling Castle foundered on a reef off Rockhampton in 1836. Along with the other survivors they took to small boats and eventually reached Fraser Island, where they were kept prisoner by the island’s Aborigines. James Fraser died on the island, but Eliza and another later escaped.|
|Accommodation on the island ranges from camping in commercial sites (or privately with a permit) to resort-style facilities. Access to the island is by ferry, boat or air, and a four-wheel drive vehicle is essential on the sandy tracks if you’re planning to drive around the island.|
|The strait separating Fraser Island from mainland Queensland is the Great Sandy Strait. Seaside townships line the coast from Rainbow Beach in the south to Hervey Bay at the northern tip of the strait. Any of these townships, which you can reach turning eastward off the Bruce Highway, offer activities such as swimming, surfing, fishing, plus opportunities to view the local wildlife, in particular the vast bird populations and the many dolphins that swim along the strait.|
| Hervey Bay, about three and a half-hours drive north of Brisbane, is particularly popular, with its 40 kilometres of sandy beaches and sparkling ocean and its accessibility to Fraser Island. Tours leave Hervey Bay township for both Fraser Island and the Great Barrier Reef, and visitors with cars can take the car ferry to Fraser Island from here. All the usual water pursuits are available at Hervey Bay, with the added bonus of possible sightings of migrating humpback whales in the August to November period. For a closer look at these splendid creatures, a range of whale-watch tours out to sea are available.|
|Major towns in the Fraser Coast district are Maryborough, on the Bruce Highway about 30 kilometres or so south of Hervey Bay, and Bundaberg, nearly parallel with the northern tip of Fraser Island. Named after the wife of Charles Fitz Roy, Governor of NSW from 1846 to 1855, Maryborough features many classic Queenslander-type buildings. A stroll along the city’s Heritage Walk will take you past 28 noteworthy buildings, including Brennan and Geraghty’s store on Lennox Street, which has been restored by the National Trust and is now a museum. On Thursdays the Heritage Markets (in Adelaide and Ellena streets) bring a cast of actors in historical dress to the streets as well as vendors of art, craft and other local produce.|
| Bundaberg is primarily a sugar-producing city, cane having been grown in the district since the 1870s. Its climate, stinger-free beaches and proximity to the Great Barrier Reef and the two coral islands Lady Elliot and Lady Musgrave have made it a popular tourist destination. Lady Elliot Island is renowned as a superb diving location, with clear visibility to 25 metres. Visitor numbers to the island are limited to 140 at a time, and accommodation ranges from camp sites to units and suites. Visitors reach the island by plane from Bundaberg. Lady Musgrave, north-west of Lady Elliot, is accessible by boat, and cruises to the island depart from Bundaberg.|
| In these southern reaches of the Great Barrier Reef activities such as diving, snorkelling and reef-walking are the main attractions, but ecotourism is becoming increasingly popular. One of the area’s spectacles is to watch colonies of leatherback, loggerhead, green and flatback turtles crawl up the beach from the sea in November to lay eggs. Mon Repos beach near Bundaberg is the site of Australia’s largest turtle rookery, and Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot islands are also regular nesting places. Visitors might see the hatchlings enter the water between January and March. Information about guided walks to observe the turtles at Mon Repos can be obtained from the visitor centre there.|
| Visitors to Bundaberg can also pay tribute to the town’s most famous son by inspecting the Hinkler House Memorial Museum, at the Botanical Gardens. Aviator Bert Hinkler grew up in Bundaberg, spending much of his childhood studying the flight of birds. He later lived in England, and his English house was transported to Bundaberg in the 1980s and established as an aviation museum.|
| National parks in the Fraser Coast region include Great Sandy National Park on Fraser Island, Poona National Park south-east of Maryborough, Burrun River National Park and Woodgate National Park on Hervey Bay. Both Woodgate and Great Sandy national parks have well-defined driving circuits and walking tracks. Woodgate National Park also features a boardwalk over swamplands.|