12 December 2012

Fraser Island - Lakes, Rainforest, Creeks, Shipwreck and Sand

Today promises to be another exciting day for us. Its a sunny day with high clouds and blue sky. We are off to Fraser Island which is just next door to Hervey Bay. By next door I mean getting up early in the morning, have breakfast and get down to the marina where we are to meet up with our Fraser Island tour bus. We got the tickets for the tour on our first day at Hervey Bay and I am glad we did. The bus was packed with tourist.

The bus took us to River Heads, about a 20 minutes drive south of Hervey Bay where a ferry, Fraser Venture, awaits to take us across to the world heritage listed island. You see, Fraser Island is separated from the mainland by the Great Sandy Strait. For a short period the island was known as Great Sandy Island. Fraser Island is about 120 kilometres in length and its width is approximately 24 kilometres. The island is considered to be the largest sand island in the world.

The ferry takes between 25 and 40 minutes to reach the island, depending on how fast the passengers and vehicles get loaded onto the ferry. To be accurate, the Fraser Venture is more a barge than a ferry.

If you want to drive or camp at Fraser Island, a National Park Permits and Vehicle Access from the barge landing sites is required. A 4WD is essential if you want to get around the island. As for us tourist, a specially designed bus await us on the island.

Lake McKenzie

Fraser Island has over 100 freshwater lakes but the most well known and visited lake on the island is Lake McKenzie, notable for its size, its crystal clear fresh water, the surrounding pure white sand on its beaches and the general peacefulness and tranquillity of the area. In short, it is a great place to swim, to have a picnic and to do absolutely nothing.

Unfortunately for us, as we came with a tour group, we had to keep to a schedule. Even so, there was just enough time for me to take a short quick dip in the lake. The water is a little acidic, said to be in the pH6 level, so after the swim it did give me a smooth skin complexion.

For more images of Lake McKenzie, click here.

Rain Forest

The tour took us for a short walk around the rainforest trees of the island. Imagine rainforest trees growing on the island of sand, a soil that is notoriously low in nutrients essential for any plant growth.

The rainforest on Fraser Island only cover a small area of the island and usually occur in small pockets that are protected by high dunes. Some rainforest plants found on Fraser Island include hoop pine, tree ferns, strangler figs, blue quandong trees, piccabeen palms and Cyprus pine trees. Fraser Island is also home to one rainforest species that dates back to the days of the dinosaurs, the king fern.

The rainforests are so dense in some places that light does not penetrate their canopy and many of the tall rainforest trees are festooned with huge crows nest ferns and staghorns.

For more images of Fraser Island rainforest, click here.

Eli Creek

Eli Creek is the largest creek on the eastern beach of Fraser Island.

Four million litres of fresh water flow from the creek into the ocean every hour. Its clear fast flowing water make it a popular picnic and swimming spot and we were encouraged to walk or swim up the creek just to get the feel of the cool refreshing water and surrounding vegetation.

There is also a boardwalk alongside the creek if you do not want to get your feet wet.

For more images of Eli Creek, click here.

4WD on the beach

Have you seen one of those TV ads of 4WD on the beach? Well I got to see one live. This is my take of the ad.

Driving rule still apply on the beach. Keep to the speed limits. If not you are liable to get a speed infringement ticket. Yes there are policemen here who do just that sort of thing.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service permits are required for driving and camping on the island. Drivers should be aware of tide times and keep off the beach for two hours either side of high tide. Driving conditions vary with weather and tides. Speed limits are 35km per hour on inland roads and 80km per hour on the Seventy-Five Mile Beach. 80km per hour! Normal road rules apply. Carry essential spares as well as a towrope, spade, water and first aid kit.

The Maheno Shipwreck

The Maheno is the most famous of the Fraser Island's wrecks and has become a landmark attraction.

Built in 1904 in Scotland, the SS Maheno was one of the first turbine-driven steamers. It also held the blue ribbon in trans-atlantic crossing for several years after she was launched.

SS Maheno was an ocean liner belonging to the Union Company of New Zealand that operated in the Tasman Sea, crossing between New Zealand and Australia, from 1905 until 1935. She plied a regular route between Sydney and Auckland until she was commissioned as a hospital ship by the New Zealand Naval forces in Europe during World War One. She also served in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.

In July 1935, the SS Maheno was sold to a Japanese shipping company. Once in Japan the Maheno was to be melted down and be sold as scrap metal. She was being towed by SS Oonah which was also sold to the Japanese company for scrap. The ships were linked by a wire rope. It was on this journey to Japan that the Maheno was hit by an unseasonal cyclone off the coast of Fraser. The wire rope snapped and the Maheno drifted helplessly onto Fraser Island's ocean beach.

The ship was subsequently stripped of her fittings but attempts to refloat the Maheno were unsuccessfully and eventually it was left abandoned on what is now known as 75-mile beach.

For more images of the Maheno Shipwreck, click here.

The Pinnacles

The Pinnacle exposed cliffs of coloured sands is the attraction of the place. However, at the time of the day, which was already late afternoon, the significance or the beauty of the place was lost to me. It is also the last attraction of the tour for the day.

However, the different colours of the sand are formed by the various levels of iron oxide in the sand causing the red, brown, yellow and orange colours. The spires and peaks are created by the slow erosion of the cliff wall by wind and rain blowing in off the Pacific Ocean.

The Pinnacles are best viewed in the morning light to highlight their natural beauty.

For more images of The Pinnacle, click here.

However, back at the bus, the highlight of the Pinnacle was detracted by two planes that landed on the beach.

As it turns out, it was part of the tour operators way to entice some of us to take a flight along the coast of the island, to find a pod of humpback whales spotted south of the island.

Sunset View

After the Pinnacles, it was a long drive back to the ferry. Well it felt like a long drive back. Along the way back we did spot two skinny Dingos and two policemen doing a spot check on a couple of campers along the beach.

One unadvertised attraction of the trip was the sunset view from the barge/ferry, on our way back to Hervery Bay. After the day's activities, it was good to just sit back, relax and enjoy the sunset.

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