Travel Tips / Discover K’Gari-Fraser Island, gem of the Australian East Coast
Today we take you to K’Gari-Fraser Island, a must-see on Australia’s East Coast for those who enjoy adventure away from civilisation. This island offers unique landscapes and a rich history of indigenous events and myths.
Imagine driving a 4WD on the sand of a stretch of beach, between a thousand-year-old forest and the Pacific Ocean. Sit around a campfire with your feet in the sand, try your blow at the didgeridoo, and learn about the Aboriginal legends of this isolated land.
Fasten your seatbelts and open your senses!
Where is it?
K’Gari is located on Australia’s East Coast, 250km north of Brisbane. The state of Queensland offers quite a few options for island lovers, but none compare to K’Gari. We are talking here of THE largest sand island in the world with its 1655 km² surface and 120 km length! No roads there, only paths dug in the sand, which never ceases to cover them. That’s why 4WDs are the only vehicles used to get around the island.
What’s the best time to visit ?
K’Gari has a subtropical climate with moderate temperatures due to the proximity to the sea. Average coastal temperatures vary from 22°C to 28°C in December and from 14°C to 21°C in July. However, they can be more extreme inland.
The wettest months are from January to March with around 160mm of rain per month. Winter and early spring are the driest periods, so it is from May to August that visiting is often recommended, to minimise the risk of rain. However K’Gari can be visited all year round but you can target certain periods according to your expectations:
- July to October will be excellent for fishing and the best time to watch humpback whales from close.
- August to March will be the ideal time to observe the eastern curlews that migrate here.
- From September to April to observe whimbrels.
How to get there?
To get to the island, two ferries are available, a short drive north of Rainbow Beach, or in Hervey Bay. The first drops you off at the southern tip of the island and involves direct immersion on 75 Mile Beach, not far from Eurong Beach resort. The other option, starting from Hervey Bay, drops you off on the West Coast, in an environment with the forest but also fitted out with the Kingfisher Bay Resort. A few minutes of crossing in the company of sea turtles, dolphins when you are lucky or even dugongs on a very big stroke of luck, and you disembark in another world!
Where to stay ?
Accommodation on K’Gari doesn’t involve a lot of options, and that’s for the best! The place thus remains preserved from mass tourism. Camping is the ideal option for a real taste of adventure. Some campgrounds are equipped with gates for dingoes, which is comforting for families with children. For the ones who don’t, you will just need to carry a stick. To know more about camping in K’Gari, click here.
For those who would like more comfort, we can find several hotels, from the beach cabin to the lodge, or resort for more luxury. Finally, in the case of an extended stay, you can also book a private apartment.
A unique and preserved natural heritage
After breaking away from the mainland several thousand years ago, this stretch of sand has developed its own ecosystem. A large forest covers the island, rising 244m above ocean level. From mangroves to eucalyptus… the flora is exceptionally diverse and well preserved. Some species here are classified as primitive and many trees are centuries old, reaching up to 50 meters! A very special atmosphere is felt when walking in these forests.
These peatlands are home to an unusual number of rare and endangered species of vertebrates and invertebrates. Of course, they are difficult to see, but the place is nonetheless rich in wildlife. To mention a few : small marsupials (bandicoot, potoroo, wallaby, opossum…), bats, echidnas, various snakes and lizards, sea eagles, whales, sharks, dugongs, sea turtles…
The most iconic species is probably the dingo, an Australian wild dog, whose breed is still believed to be pure for some individuals here. Its population thrives and it is sometimes visible on the beach, looking for carcasses when it is not too hot. If you come across them, keep your distance because for their own survival they must stay wild and you must stay safe. It is also recommended that you have a stick with you to impress them if they get too curious.
The island is part of the Great Sandy National Park and was declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1992, for the beauty of its landscapes but above all because it is the result of a rare, if not unique, phenomenon. It is the only place in the world where the primary forest takes root on coastal dune systems. The entire island is representative of the geological process of coastal drift. Over time, the sand dunes overlap and stabilise thanks to the rainforests which have grown to a sufficient height for their maintenance (240m). It would take too long to list here all the reasons that make K’Gari such an exceptional and classified environment. We invite biology enthusiasts to read more about it, with Unesco’s own words.
Unfortunately, many trees perished under European axes from 1949 to 1970. The island has seen the development, despite the disapproval of its inhabitants, of a rare woods mining industry and timber trade. Satin wood, for example, thanks to its strength and impermeability, has been used to cover the hulls of hundreds of ships as well as the edges of the Suez Canal. This exploitation has traumatised the local population, for whom the land and the trees are of vital and spiritual importance. Later, seeing that the natural beauty of the island was attracting more and more tourists, the Government put an end to this deforestation. Even today, some traces of it can be seen in some inland places.
It is therefore easy to understand why K’Gari is protected. It attracts between 350,000 and 500,000 visitors per year and they must comply with the following rules:
- a visit permit must be obtained before visiting the island
- dogs, cats or any other pet are prohibited
- campfires are allowed in only two places and with wood imported by visitors
- visitors can only camp in places indicated and with a permit previously obtained.
The most beautiful places to see on K’Gari
If you want to visit K’Gari island in a spirit of discovery and respect, here is what it can offer you. You can enjoy exceptional places there, designed and coloured by Nature:
- the Kirrar Sand Blow with its palettes of sand from the purest (white silica) to the varied mixtures created by the winds.
- the Pinacles, splendid geological formations in dozens of cream and orange shades, visible from the beach in the centre of the island,
- the Champagne Pools, rock formations on the beach allow the ocean water to form swimming pools where you can cool off and play in the foam.
- the inland freshwater lakes offer spectacular views and incredible colours! The white sand beaches and the azure blue of Lake Mackenzie will make you feel at the end of the world. The intense green of Lake Wabby at the bottom of a huge sand dune feels like an explorer’s secret spot! Swim in the warm orange-yellow water of Lake Garawongera, like in a cup of tea! And it’s not over, you still have lakes Boomanjin, Birrabeen, Allom … To each their own charm and picnic area.
- Eli Creek, where a small river a few feet deep gently transports you to the ocean under the shade of the trees. Take your buoy and let yourself be carried away by transparent water, with your feet and eyes in the air! In addition, do not hesitate to fill your water bottles here (upstream of the river), the water is pure and drinkable!
- the sunrise on 75 Mile Beach, simply stunning!
- it is also possible to fly over the island by plane or helicopter to land on the beach! A unique and breathtaking experience.
For walker-campers, we highly recommend doing the Great Walk, a 90km circuit that can be done in 6-8 days. This gives a perfect representation of the beauty of the island. Traced by the traditional owners of the land, the Butchulla people, the path starts from the beach, takes you through the forests of the island, crosses the Happy Valley, the Valley of the Giants and the sand dunes. It passes by some of the most beautiful lakes on the island (Boorangoora-Mackenzie, Benaroon, Wabby, Boomanjin, Garawongera …).
That being said, this hike requires experience, a good athletic level and a taste for wild camping. For those who would like adventure with a little more comfort, we can offer walks with different levels of service, with guide and transported transfers. Some options allow you to not carry a backpack, not have to set up your camp or to cook. It is also possible to enjoy some portions of the walk only if you do not want to go for several days. There are options suitable for everyone!
A place of Aboriginal history and legends
K’Gari-Fraser is a place steeped in history, starting with its name, which not everyone agrees with. K’Gari is its traditional name, chosen by its inhabitants thousands of years ago. It means “paradise” and derives from an Aboriginal story where a goddess named K’Gari fell in love with the earth and never wanted to leave it.
Then why Fraser?
To understand, we have to go back to 1836 when the English ship Stirling Castle was wrecked in the north of the island. The 11 survivors split into two groups. Eliza Fraser, wife of Captain James Fraser, was one of the few survivors of her group who was forced to walk for miles to reach the south of the island, with no other food than berries found in the wild. She later recounted being abducted and abused by the local Butchulla tribe, which was later denied by other survivors. Unfortunately, these accusations have meanwhile led to the massacre of the locals and their dispossession of the island, renamed Fraser. In the end, a very sad story and two names remain to us. We recommend this interactive documentary to better understand this story and its consequences.
Fortunately the local people, the Butchulla, have not completely disappeared and their culture manages to pass through time, thanks to those who tell it. This is one of the reasons why we invite you to visit K’Gari with a guide who knows it well. The Butchulla are the traditional owners of the land. They are divided into six clans whose territory extends over Double Island Point, Tin Can Bay, Bauple Mountain and north to Burrum Heads in Queensland.
Each of the places described above has associated beliefs. Everything that has to do with the land is the most important for the local communities. Moreover, they have established three main principles that govern their individual and collective lives and actions:
- What’s good for the earth comes first
- If you have a lot, share
- Don’t take what’s not yours
Several important places on K’Gari are culturally and even spiritually important to the local Aborigines. Others are historical sites that will make you travel in time. You have the opportunity to visit some of them, with due respect of course.
- Indian Head is a beautiful vantage point to admire the length of K’Gari and you can sometimes see whales, turtles and sharks from there. It is also a sacred place for the local tribes whose ancestors saw an ethnic massacre take place here. A sad story, but one that should not be forgotten.
- the Maheno shipwreck: from Scotland to Australia, this ship has many, many stories to tell since she was first launched in 1904! Click here to learn about its history before seeing it with your own eyes.
- Central Station is a sacred place for the local Aboriginal tribes. Due to the richness and robustness of the flora that grows here, its “Wanggoolba” stream was traditionally used by women to give birth, and no man was allowed.
K’Gari: a ‘must see’ island on the East Coast
You now understand why we are in love with this island. Exciting stories and unique landscapes await you there. We invite you to live an unparalleled adventure here, in a spirit of withdrawal from the world and respect for the land.
There isn’t a place where you will be more recommended to opt for an organised and guided trip. There is so much to learn and explore on K’Gari that you might miss things for logistics reasons (transportation, accommodation …) or access permits (restricted sacred areas). We work with the most qualitative and responsible operators in terms of environmental protection.
We can also help you to organise an autonomous trip with a personalised itinerary, the rental of a 4WD vehicle with or without camping equipment and/or accommodation.
You can go on an adventure with a peaceful mind and help protect the island and its culture.
Contact us to start planning your adventure on K’Gari!
Excerpt from my K’Gari travel diary:
“One after the other, we can taste the adrenaline rush, this unique sensation of driving on the sand. Wind in the face, we are driving on a road that is nothing but the path drawn in the sand by the previous car. The wheels alternate between jolting and gliding, woohooo!!
We are stopping. What is it? A white-bellied sea eagle! A local species and a professional fisher! We’re talking more of a fighter plane than a quiet pink flamingo. Such a special moment to be able to observe it feasting in its natural habitat. We get back on the road as he flies in front of us with a fish in its claws. Wow, I feel like I am immersed in an animal documentary.
We’re turning! We’re now penetrating in the forest to get to one of the freshwater lakes. The pace is slower but the jolts are intensifying. The wind is shielded by the trees that become bigger as we are progressing further inland. This jungle is deathly quiet yet so alive and mysterious. There is only us and the forest! Our guide, located in the car ahead of us, is waving to show us local essences as he tells us about them via the walkie-talkie. Such a Jurassic Park moment!
They call me the cautious adventurer and the animal paparazzi. Travel and photography are my two passions. I love to conceive and experience those unique journeys where we dive into History and take the time to reconnect with Nature.
Feel inspired ?
Plan your next adventure with your dedicated consultant now!Get in touch
Get our latest posts and info in your inbox.