Fraser Island

Lake Mackenzie
Lake Mackenzie

The last time we came to Fraser Island was in May 1994 – a day trip from Surfers Paradise where we’d been honeymooning. Yes, that long ago.

I remember bits and pieces from that day. I remember the guide telling us that rubbing our jewellery in the pure sands of Lake Mackenzie would restore them to sparkling glory and I remember how I was thinking smugly just how bright and shining my week old wedding ring was. I remember the green of Central Station and I remember how terribly long the day was. Mostly, though, I remember thinking how much I wanted to come back and stay for a few days.

Since we’ve been in Queensland I’ve had fantasies about camping and four-wheel-driving up there – forgetting that:

  • I don’t really like camping
  • we have no camping equipment
  • Our RAV4 is not exactly equipped for serious off-road

Instead, we booked a mini stay at Kingfisher Bay Resort – and a 4WD Beauty Spots tour with Fraser Explorer Tours. After seeing the softness of the sand and the number of people in real 4WDs who were running into trouble in it, we definitely made the right decision.

Lake Mackenzie

The photos of this place on Instagram are amazing (check it out at #lakemackenzie) and although we weren’t lucky enough to have a clear shot of the lake as isolated as it is in those shots, it’s still mighty beautiful.

Lake Mackenzie is a perch lake – so called because the lake is “perched” on top of a sand dune. There’s no water source into or out of the lake – it exists purely on rainfall.

The water is held in place by a waterproof lining of decayed plant matter that has settled over many thousands of years. What’s even more fascinating is that there are only 80 or so of these perch lakes on the planet – and 42 of them are on Fraser Island.

The water is slightly acidic and the sand is white. It’s so clear that you can easily see the colour gradients as the depth increases.

Central Station

Fraser Island was heavily logged from the 1860s (when the originally gazetted status of Aboriginal reserve was revoked) until the early 1990s.

For a time, a thriving logging community was at Central Station. Nothing remains of that today.

We took a short walk through the valley, following one of the silently flowing creeks back to its sandy source. Speaking of which, the sand acts as a giant sponge – and filter. Rainwater is stored in the dunes, and gradually pushed downward and squeezed out by the pressure of the sand. What emerges is clear, fresh water.

The Pinnacles

The coloured sands of The Pinnacles have been formed by minerals leaching from the sands over hundreds of thousands of years.

pic by John

Of course, the Aboriginals have a much more interesting story about how the sands were formed. Their story is one of love and a rainbow serpent:

(It) tells of Wuru who was promised to an older man Winyer but fell in love with Wiberigan (the rainbow).  The older man threatened revenge after witnessing Wuru visiting Wiberigan on a daily basis.  Seeing her alone one day he chased and threw his boomerang at her..calling for Wiberigan help he stood in front of her and the boomerang of Winyer shattered the rainbow which spilled colour into the sand cliffs of the area.  Wuru escaped unharmed leading to the women of the Butchulla tribe believing that the coloured sands gave them luck that day.

The Wreck of the Maheno

The SS Maheno was on its way to a Japanese wrecking yard when it ran aground in a cyclone in 1935. It’s been on the beach here ever since. If you want to know more about the history of the Maheno, you can read about it here.

The back is a tad messy from where it was used for bombing practice in WW2, but that just makes it even more photogenic.

Eli Creek

Eli Creek is the largest of the free-flowing creeks on Fraser Island and pours up to four million litres of clear water into the ocean every hour. Yep, you read those numbers right. The same temperature (ie cold) all year round, the current is so strong that the best thing to do is follow the boardwalk upstream and then float down.

The day we were there (the last Saturday in December) it was seriously mobbed. So many 4WDs, so many people, so many flamingo and unicorn floats. I languished in the cool water so took no photos, these ones are courtesy of randoms from Instagram – obviously taken on a day much less busy than when we were there!

Where we stayed

There are two resorts on the island – Eurong Beach Resort (on the Western side of the island and accessed from Rainbow Beach) and Kingfisher Bay Resort (on the Eastern side accessed from River Heads). Other than that, there are also plenty of places to camp.

We stayed at Kingfisher Bay Resort in hotel style rooms overlooking the lagoon. I’ve always wanted to stay here and absolutely wasn’t disappointed. Our room had tea and coffee making facilities, but we brought a picnic bag and esky with us in the car and made our own brekky etc in the room. (Foot passengers are restricted to the amount of luggage they can bring in.)

The resort does have some self-catering villas – which we’d probably look at next time – and there’s a general store selling basic produce and supplies. Prices are inflated – mainly because we are on an island and everything has to be brought in by barge. There’s also a don’t miss photo gallery – a fab shot of Lake Mackenzie is now on our wall.

There are a few restaurants attached to the resort – although given the crowds and the time of year we were there (between Christmas and New Year) it would be unfair of me to review any of them. I’m sure that the food, the perceived value and the experience is different outside of peak times when both the crowds, the heat and the cost is inflated.

Getting there

…is half the fun. We brought the car over on the barge from River Heads – which is 20km south of Hervey Bay. It’s an easy 50-minute crossing, but a tad weird how you drive off onto the long and narrow jetty. The barge takes both cars and foot passengers and can be booked via the resort. We also checked into the hotel at River Heads – something that meant on arrival all we needed to do was pick up our keys and hit the pool.

The verdict?

We’ll be back – but preferably in the off-season when it’s cooler and quieter…and with a real 4WD to explore some more.

Have you ever been to Fraser Island? If so, what was your experience?

It’s Lovin’ Life Linky time…

It’s Thursday, so it’s time to look for our happy and share it about a bit. The Lovin’ Life Linky is brought to you by Team Lovin’ Life: Deep Fried Fruit, DebbishSeize the Day ProjectWrite of the Middle50 Shades of Age,  and, of course, me.


That’s a wrap – the Bundaberg edition

sugar cane just outside of Bundaberg

So, the week that was…and a mini break to Bundaberg…

I could tell you about how busy the partition job was, I could tell you that I got my copy edit back for I Want You Back, and I could tell you about a new place we tried for lunch on Friday – Chances at Mooloolaba. It was good.

I could also tell you about the lecture I went to on Tuesday about the state of the reefs around the Sunshine Coast – it was put on by Reef Check Australia and it was seriously informative. But I’m not going to tell you about any of that. Instead we’ll talk about the mini break we took this weekend… Oh, and a warning…the weather was dull – really dull…so my photos are too.

Where we went

Bundaberg, or Bundy, as it’s known locally.

Originally a timber town, Bundaberg today is known for sugar and rum – and is the gateway to the southern islands of the Great Barrier Reef.

It’s a few hours drive north from my home on the Sunshine Coast, and we could only manage one night away, but a break is a break, right?

What we came for

I wanted to see sugar cane. I had images in my head of fields of tall sugar cane against an impossibly blue sky. Sadly, all we got was grey skies and drizzle. I managed one shot with some blue sky behind it.

It’s not all about the sugar cane though. The soil around here is incredibly fertile and we saw fields of rockmelons, fields of berries, and fields of sunflowers.

Meanwhile back home in Buderim

The rain sheeted down. We’ve had 2 months worth of rain in 2 days – with more to come.

Where we stopped

All good road trips – even mini ones like this – need a good stop. On the way up we stopped in Maryborough. Yes, it was raining, but this town, on the banks of the Mary River, has some beautiful heritage buildings. One of its claims to fame is that PL Travers, who wrote Mary Poppins was born here.

We had breakfast at a little café in Customs House, A Spoonful of Sugar, and marvelled at just how high the floodwaters had got over the years.

This is a town that I’d like to spend more time in. The history fascinates me and, well, let’s just say I’d like to get under the covers some more.

Where we stayed

Bundaberg Spanish Motor Inn. It was clean, comfortable, blissfully quiet and a great price. The hosts provided a really friendly welcome. I’d absolutely recommend it.

Where we drank rum

Nope, I’m not a rum drinker – unless it’s in a cocktail by the beach. The thing is, Bundy is known for its rum and this weekend happened to be the Bundy Rum Festival – or something like that.

Despite the weather, they’d turned up in hordes to drink the stuff. Some dressed for the occasion, others just covered up in plastic ponchos.

Where we drank beer

The Bargara Brewhouse in Bundaberg. We each had a tasting paddle – and the beer was good. We were there a bit too early for lunch, but I’m told the sliders and chicken wings are worth sampling.

Where we sampled other fizzy stuff

Another thing Bundaberg is known for is ginger and, specifically, ginger beer. They do make other flavours as well – I use the lemon, lime and bitters to make scones, although apparently the ginger beer is good for this too.

I don’t really drink soft drink so the tasting was wasted on me, but you can really taste the fruit in their range – mostly because they use fresh fruit to brew the drinks. Yes, the soft drinks are brewed – just like beer is. At the end of the process though, the alcohol is heated off so you’re left with just the taste. Cool, hey?

Oh, and if you’re on their website, check out the recipes. I think they should turn the recipes into a cookbook…just saying.

Where I would like to spend more time

Bargara. Ok, the beaches aren’t like Mooloolaba but, let’s face it, I’m pretty biased about what I like to think is my beach. The black rocks are quite striking, and it’s a great foreshore area with, I think, the best ever playground I’ve seen.

We had breakfast at Rick’s on the Esplanade. I had the corn and zucchini fritters with bacon and eggs and it was good.

What I’m coming back some day for

The turtles.

Regular readers of the old and anyways blog know that I have a thing about sea turtles. They truly represent sea voyages and exploration and are the sign of the navigator. Anyways, female turtles also return to the beach where they were hatched in order to lay their eggs – and Mon Repos, just north of Bargara, supports the largest concentration of nesting marine turtles on the eastern Australian mainland and has the most significant loggerhead turtle nesting population in the South Pacific region. I borrowed that last sentence from the website blurb.

The turtles nest between November and January and then 6-8 weeks later, from January through to late February/March, the little hatchlings emerge to scurry down to the sea. What makes this truly special is just how much the odds are stacked against these babies – just 1 in 1000 are likely to make it to maturity. I could go on, but I can see many of you glazing over already.

Suffice to say, I’ll be back.

How was your week?

22 things I’ve learnt about the Sunshine Coast…

Sunshine Coast Sunrise
Sunrise over Mooloolaba Beach

Ok, so we’ve been residents on the Sunshine Coast for just over a month now (less a couple of weeks in Vietnam). We’ve settled in well and are loving it beyond words. I have a list a mile long of places to explore, but here’s what I’ve learned already:

1.Active wear is appropriate for most social occasions.

2. So are thongs (flip flops or jandals…)

3. Everyone here can tell you exactly how long it takes them to get to Sunshine Plaza and Mooloolaba Beach.

4. The parking is actually free. Yes, really. That means you don’t pay for it. In most places.

5. Nearly everyone living on the Sunshine Coast came here from somewhere else. Apparently we’re all imports – with most of us coming from Sydney, Melbourne or Auckland.

6. There really is a (closed) Facebook group called Haunted: Sunshine Coast, for, well, haunted stuff on the Sunshine Coast.

7. There really is a suburb called Bald Knob, and a beach called Dicky’s. (insert juvenile titters… I said titters)

8. Surely the Sunshine Coast has more yoga classes, new age options, and organic food places than anywhere else – on a per capita basis? (Is there a statistic on this?) And acai bowls. They’re everywhere.

9. There are more markets held each weekend on the Sunshine Coast than anywhere else in Australia – on a per capita basis. (I just made that statistic up, but it seems true).

10. The Sunshine Coast has the lowest rate of smoking than anywhere else in Queensland. (I didn’t make that one up, but read it somewhere – so it must be right.)

11. Indicators on cars seem to be optional extras.

12. You don’t need to leave for the airport three hours before your flight.

13. The sign going into Noosa that points towards Noosa, or “all other destinations” annoys every non-Noosa local. The implication, of course, being that Noosa is the only place that matters.

14. There’s a lot more to the Sunshine Coast than Noosa. I saw this really funny meme that said it all but, in the interest of not upsetting Noosa locals – not that I’ve met any yet, but I’m sure that I’ll like them when I do – I won’t re-post here.

15. There’s a lot more to the Hinterland than Maleny – but Maleny is pretty fabulous.

16. We get annoyed when people mix up Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. It’s like the Australia and Austria thing.

17. There are at least twenty coffee shops in and around Mooloolaba that apparently serve the best coffee on the coast.

18. It’s tough to get a decent dumpling – anyone who knows where the best dumplings are on the coast, please tell me…

19. Beer yoga is a thing – and it’s happening at the pub in Eumundi.

20. Public holidays are really public holidays – even Woolworths and Bunnings is closed. What’s a public holiday without a DIY project (building Australian dreams – one project at a time).

21. The Queen’s Birthday holiday is held in October – which is Labour Day for most of the rest of the country – and Labour Day is held on the first Monday in May – closer to the Queen’s actual birthday. Go figure.

22. There’s absolutely nothing better on earth than watching the sunrise from a Sunshine Coast beach. Nothing. Except maybe a sunset…

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