Fraser Island Cruise Port

Port of Fraser Island: An Overview

Fraser Island (known as K'gari in the local Aboriginal language) is the largest sand island in the world, accessible only by ferry and the occasional cruise ship.

Situated 200 km north of Brisbane, it is the largest of Queensland's 100-plus islands, and has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its diverse range of landscape features.

Located a few kilometres offshore from Hervey Bay across a body of water called the Great Sandy Strait, Fraser Island is 124 km long and about 24 km wide.

The west coast is sheltered, as it faces the mainland, while the east is 'wilder' and made up of a series of long beaches, collectively known as 75 Mile Beach (120 km) for obvious reasons. In between the coasts are areas of towering rainforest, more than 100 freshwater lakes, huge sand dunes and sand blows, multi-coloured sand cliffs, hiking trails and almost 1000 km of narrow one-lane 4WD vehicle tracks.

One of the main attractions of Fraser is the allure of driving a 4WD along the endless east coast shore, stopping off at fascination sites along the way such as the famous Maheno shipwreck (which has been stuck in the sand since 1935) and amazing landforms such as the Stonetool Sand Blow and Eli Creek, the largest on the island.

Camping and fishing are traditional pastimes, while today accommodation is rather more sophisticated with two resorts, a few small hotels and a variety of holiday homes. Bird and animal life is plentiful on the island, with more than 350 species of birds and many reptiles including monitor lace lizards and snakes (one or two of the poisonous variety).

Dingoes also roam the island, although you may not see one during a short port visit. Numbers are estimated to be between 150 and 200 and people are warned to keep their distance (and to especially watch their children) and not to feed these wild dogs or leave food lying around.

Cruise passengers wanting to see beyond the island's west coast-located Kingfisher Bay Resort, need to book a tour -- be it a half-day 4WD tour, a Jet Ski trip and a guide walk, or strike out on one of the many self-guided bushwalks that range in length from 1.2 km to about 6 km.

Kingfisher Bay itself has a calm beach ideal for families and swimming. It is possible to hire a 4WD for half a day -- it takes about an hour to get to the east coast from the resort, although 4WD is only recommended for experience drivers. The island's terrain is hard to tackle and time is limited.

Port Facilities

As time ashore on Fraser Island is likely to be between five to seven hours depending on how soon passengers disembark, there is good reason for independent passengers (those not taking shore tours) to stay close to Kingfisher Bay and the nearby Kingfisher Bay Resort.

Facilities for day visitors are located near the jetty -- two swimming pools, a play area for teens and children with video games and pool tables and the Sand Bar bistro. The Jetty Hut, located on the jetty itself, doubles as a bar and tour booking kiosk for short tours such as canoes, stand-up paddleboards and Segway bikes. It also serves as a bar selling alcoholic drinks as well as soft drinks and ice creams. A beach volleyball court is nearby. Sunset Beach is a long sandy beach fronting the resort. Other west coast beaches are located within an easy walk and are generally calm, making them good for young children and families. During cruise ship visits, tourism and resort staff set up stalls near Sunset Beach selling souvenirs and providing information about the island.

The Kingfisher Bay Resort Village Store, a five-minute walk from the beach, sells an array of beach wear (such as swimming costumes) as well as fluffy animals (dingoes and other creatures), groceries and toiletries, sunglasses, sunscreen and fishing gear. It also sells snacks, such as hot pies and sandwiches and soft drinks and bottles of wine and other alcohol. There is also a petrol station nearby.

The resort welcomes visiting cruise passengers who are free to use the bar, restaurant and other facilities.

Don't Miss

Lake McKenzie: This is the best known of Fraser Island's 100 freshwater lakes. This large expanse of water (measuring 150 hectares) sits 100 metres above sea level on layer upon layer of sand, built up over millions of years. As a 'perched lake' its structure is much like that of a huge swimming pool but with a sandy bottom rather than a concrete base. The lake's contents consist entirely of rainwater; ground water cannot penetrate the lake's base. A wide sandy beach edges this crystal-clear expanse. The sand is blindingly white and so fine it makes an excellent exfoliant. Grab a few handfuls and rub it over arms and legs for a quick beauty fix. The lake has a picnic area where tour operators will usually have a refreshment break.

The lake is about 10 km from the resort; active people can hike to the lake in 2.5 hours one way, but this is not recommended for cruise passengers on short stays.

Central Station: This fascinating attraction, with a network of rainforest bushwalk trails, is a former logging camp. Despite its name, it's not in the centre of the island but about 15 km south of the resort. During the thriving logging era of the 20th century huge kauri pines, Satinays and other tall trees were felled and taken by small trains to the port on the western side of the island. Today the train and train tracks are gone, however, several old buildings remain from the days when this logging community sported 30 homes and a small school. Informative signage tells the story of the logging industry as well as identifying the tall trees of the forest and surrounding natural environment. Walking trails, of various lengths, wind through the rainforest. Several meander past Wanggoolba Creek, a waterway that is so crystal clear one can see to the bottom from every angle.

Kingfisher Bay Resort: Situated some 100 m from the jetty, the resort has two pools, a casual restaurant called Maheno and a bar, all available to cruise passengers. Passengers can also rent canoes and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs) from the resort's Jetty Hut by the beach. Each is priced at $20 an hour. Fishing rods can be rented at $50 for the day; bait can be purchased at Jetty Hut.

Getting Around

On foot: It's an easy walk five-minute walk to Kingfisher Bay Resort and minute or so to the village store. There are several bush and beach walks that begin at the beach: a 10 to 15-minute walk to the lookout for a glorious view over Great Sandy Strait to the mainland; a three-hour return walk along the beach to another jetty called McKenzie Jetty and various short walks over boardwalks in the rainforest area around the resort.

By Segway: Guided Segway tours with a ranger take place on the sandy beaches when the tide is out. No set times are provided and interested cruise passengers should ask at the Jetty Hut or resort reception desk about departure times. Tours are $79 per person for an hour.

By 4WD vehicle: Apart from taking a tour the only way to see beyond the west coast area is to hire a car and drive along the sandy roads leading to the main visitor sports Lake McKenzie, Central Station and east coast beaches. Aussie Trax 4x4 Rentals offer half-day rentals from Kingfisher Bay Resort. All cars are manuals, so passengers wanting an automatic car must pre-request it. Two types are available: a small version seating two passengers; and a larger vehicle with up to eight seats. Renters must buy a national parks permit (provided by the 4WD operator on the day) and undergo a comprehensive briefing. Driving on the sandy tracks of the island is quite challenging, and should only be attempted by experienced drivers.

Beaches

Sunset Beach: Located on the west side of the island, this is the beach where cruise passengers disembark after being tendered ashore. It is safe for swimming, unlike the eastern side beaches that have strong rips and currents and are frequented by sharks.

Food and Drink

All the lunch options are provided by Kingfisher Bay Resort, either at the resort itself or the pavilion for day visitors located near the jetty. The resort village store also sells snacks. Lunchtime menus feature typical cafe-style casual meals, Mod Oz dishes as well as a selection of international cuisines.

Sand Bar: Located near the jetty at the beach, Sand Bar is a casual bistro open for lunch and for snacks. Meals include pasta, battered fish and chips, burgers and salad and steaks. Children's meals are also offered. Snacks include wedges, hot chips, garlic pizza bread and dips with Turkish bread. This casual indoor-outdoor cafe is surrounding by lush rainforest and is located in the day visitors' pavilion. Outdoor seating overlooks the pool. Sand Bar is only open seasonally, which will coincide with cruise ship visits. (07 4120 3333; open on cruise ship days, 11.30 a.m. to 2.30 p.m.; snacks 2.30 p.m. to 9 p.m.)

Maheno: This restaurant in the resort's main complex is open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The casual pizza bar opens from Monday to Thursday only. Meals are more substantial than at the Sandbar and include quite a bit of seafood (oysters, barramundi, seafood baskets and 'towers', grilled salmon) as well as steaks and pastas. The indoor-outdoor eatery overlooks the resort pools and lush greenery. (07 4120 3333; Monday to Thursday, 11.30 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

Kingfisher Bay Resort Village Store: Food offerings are limited but they will keep the munchies away if you just want a snack. Hot pies, wraps, potato crisps, chocolates, sweets and other snack foods are the order of the day here. Alcohol, such as bottles of wines and beers, can also be purchased. Open daily from 7.30 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.

Where You're Docked

Very few cruise ships actually visit Fraser Island, as navigation along the Great Sandy Strait, the waterway that separates the island from the mainland, requires exact precision. Vessels must enter and exit the strait at specific times to coincide with the tides as the waterway is very shallow in parts. Ships anchor in the strait about 500 metres off the island on the sheltered western side, at the same point on the island as the biggest accommodation provider, Kingfisher Bay Resort. Passengers are tendered to a jetty that extends for several hundred metres into Kingfisher Bay. They then walk along the jetty to Sunset Beach. It's then a five-minute walk through bushland pathways to the resort itself. There is a day visitor pavilion near the jetty that offers a bistro, games area for teens and children and two swimming pools, while the beach itself is calm and perfect for families, although it's quite shallow at low tide.

Good to Know

Expect lots of sand on the world's largest sand island. 4WD drivers can be easily bogged and sink into the deep sand or be thrown about by the deep ruts and potholes in the tracks. Tides on the eastern side of the island mean that beach driving is only possible at certain times of the day. There are no 4WD driving tracks on the west coast.

Dingoes (wild native dogs) roam the island. While there may look like normal dogs, they are not and should not be approached and certainly not fed.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Currency is the Australian dollar (AUD). It's best to come to the island with enough cash for the day. There's just one Automatic Teller Machine (ATM) in the foyer of the Kingfisher Bay Resort, however there are EFTPOS facilities available to pay for drinks at the bar and meals at various resort outlets. Credit cards are accepted by the car hire operators, in and around the resort, and in the resort village store. For currency conversion rates, visit www.xe.com.

Language

Fraser Island is in Australia, so the language spoken is English.

Shopping

Framed photographs of majestic sand dunes and lakes, or books of these photographs by Fraser Island guide and acclaimed photographer, Peter Meyer, are good souvenirs. For those who collect fluffy toys, it's hard to go past the many baby dingo toys on offer.