Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rediscovering The Fraser Coast

GUEST BLOG: Journalist Kim Anderson is the Vice President and Administrator of Coolum Business and Tourism and recently visited the Fraser Coast (as a guest of Kingfisher Bay Resort and Tourism Fraser Coast) to see what we have to offer.  She recently published her story on ViewNews and we're chuffed to share it here for you...

Sunshine Coast residents and businesses have spent the past few weeks happily welcoming holidaymakers during one of the busiest holiday periods the region has seen for some time.  It’s little wonder then that our own tourism operators are feeling the need to take a short break themselves, but when you are lucky enough to live in an idyllic holiday destination on a daily basis, just where is it that locals can escape to when the need arises?

Why not visit the reinvigorated Fraser Coast?

You'll come away with a 'whale of a tale'
The area has ‘grown up’ over the past few years and while it has always been there, how many of us have actually taken the short drive north lately?  You’ll feel surprisingly like you’re a world away with a stunning range of experiences now on offer to cater for any type of holiday.

The Fraser Coast is Australia’s ‘Home of the Humpbacks’, with Hervey Bay widely regarded as the whale watching capital of the world. From late July through to early November, the area’s calm waters play host to an estimated 13,000 Humpbacks who, rather than just pass through on their annual return journey south, make the Bay their temporary home.

It’s easy to see why Hervey Bay is regarded as the ‘Whale Watching capital of the World

The majestic animals stop in for three-four days’ refuge to rest, frolic and play, giving their incredibly cute newborn calves a chance to fatten up before continuing the arduous journey back to Antarctica.  Surprisingly, the Humpbacks are just as curious about us humans as we are about them, and the
phenomenon of a boat being ‘mugged’ by inquisitive whales is an exciting part of the uniquely special whale encounters experienced by close to 50,000 visitors a year.

Gorgeous Eli Creek on Fraser's famous 75-Mile Beach
But, it’s not only Whale Watching that has visitors flocking to the area. The Fraser Coast is also a gateway to the iconic Fraser Island and the chance to experience eco-tourism in its purest form.  The world’s largest sand island is a sanctuary for some 350 species of birds, wallabies, echidnas and of course, some of Australia’s purest Dingoes. It’s also one of the few places on earth where pristine rainforests thrive in sand.

While 4WDing, camping and fishing are well-known activities on the island’s expansive eastern beaches, it’s not until you get a chance to explore the inland regions of Fraser Island that you can truly appreciate the magnificent beauty of the World Heritage-listed icon.

And, there is absolutely no better way to experience that wilderness than from the spectacular surrounds of the laid-back, eco-friendly Kingfisher Bay Resort.  Having recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, the highly awarded resort remains an ecotourism benchmark, setting standards now aspired to by ecotourism ventures worldwide.

The large-scale resort has 152 hotel rooms, more than 100 self-contained villas and Holiday Houses, a Wilderness Lodge for groups, three restaurants, four bars and a shopping village; and is the perfect place to unwind after a day of exploring Fraser’s many freshwater lakes, beaches, rainforests and historical sites.

Rush hour at Kingfisher's jetty after a day spent exploring
Although visitors are welcome to bring their own 4WD’s or hire one from the Resort, the best way to
discover the island is aboard one of the Ranger-guided Fraser Explorer 4WD bus tours.  The beautiful Wanggoolba Creek is easily accessed via a boardwalk, and visitors can view the spectacular ‘sand-grown’ rainforest

The full-day ‘Beauty Spots’ tour traverses the inland island tracks, stopping at the sapphire-blue freshwaters of Lake McKenzie, exploring the deep woods of the historical Central Station, pristine Wanggoolba Creek and rainforest and calling in at the Eurong Beach Resort Restaurant for a full buffet lunch before heading onto the sandy highway of 75 Mile Beach.

From there, it’s a somewhat smoother ride to the Maheno Shipwreck, the coloured sands of The Pinnacles and the popular freshwater swimming hole, Eli Creek.  The island’s Dingoes are commonly spotted along the beach and the tour makes one final stop at the breathtaking Stonetool sand blow before returning to Kingfisher Bay.

Air Fraser Island, which also operates aero-commute services from Sunshine Coast Airport, conducts spectacular 20 minute scenic flights from the beach, and tour guests have an opportunity to explore Fraser from above for just $70.

Access to Kingfisher Bay Resort, and the many wilderness discovery opportunities is via a 45 minute barge transfer from River Heads, with the Resort’s mainland reception also offering bus transfers from Hervey Bay Marina or secure car parking at River Heads.

Whether it’s a day away, a short weekend escape or a longer break, you can discover more about the many exciting opportunities to holiday on the Fraser Coast.  There's also a gallery of photos from the trip on my website.

This blog has been reproduced with the permission of the author.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chris and Marvin's Adventures Continue...

GUEST BLOG: One day is just not enough to discover Fraser Island... on Day 2 (after time out at the Dingo Bar with fellow travellers) Ranger Les takes the boys to discover some of the top spots on this World Heritage-listed island.

On the road again....
After a very good breakfast, hearty and savory for Chris (bacon and beans) and sweet for Marvin (chocolate flakes and honey toast) we were back on the 'rollercoaster' road. We were crossing the island for about an hour to get to Fraser Island's Eastern Beach.

Les was driving along the lonely, wide beaches - which are actually a gazetted highway - at approximately 80 kilometre per hour. On the left we saw the island's forests and dunes passing by and on the right we were greeted by a wild and rough ocean – The Coral Sea.  There were plenty of shore birds and we were eagerly watching the shoreline to see if we could spot any migrating Humpback Whales.

Look at that DIN-GO!
After only a few minutes of Fraser on 75-Mile Beach, we spotted one of the island's most famous inhabitants – a dingo - one of about 200 left on Fraser Island.

Today, our first stop on the Eastern Beach side was Eli Creek - a fresh water creek that flows to the ocean. The water there felt even clearer than the crystal clear water of Lake McKenzie and we thought we wouldn't taste water any fresher than that - we were wrong!. We started exploring the creek and surrounds on our own with permission from our guide - during summer this place is jam-packed as it's the perfect place to cool off in the Queensland sun.

Afterwards we went further to get to Fraser Island's Champagne Pools. They were true to their name, possibly due to the roughness of the sea or the surf on the day we visited.
Protected by a rock barrier, the warm foam is created when waves crash into the rock - it's enough for us to believe that we're sitting in a sparkling pool of Champagne. As we had lunch on the rocks enjoying the magnificent view of The Coral Sea we spotted Humpback Whales on the horizon. What a treat!

The Champagne Pools are the perfect way to relax on Fraser Island
We went further to Indian Heads - a cliff which even today is a very important area for the Butchulla Aborigines of Fraser. Again, this rock formation offers a fantastic view of The Coral Sea. On the way to the top Les explained the local flora and fauna and showed us a wild bush fruit which we have never heard of, with a very nice taste. 

Afterwards we visited the Red Canyon and were amazed about the many different minerals of Fraser Island's shifting sands. The orange-red colour of the sand is quite unique.

The last stop on our tour was possibly the most well known attraction of the island – a stranded shipwreck, called The Maheno. It was awesome. Unbelievable! Very interesting to see how the ocean has taken over the wreck in the last decades. Covered with shells and many colourful crabs it provided an unforgettable view.

Before heading back to the Dingo Bar for dinner we stopped at another lookout for a great view, coffee and snacks as well as some more useful tips and information about the natural environment from our tour guide Les.

During dinner we said "Goodbye" to Les and headed towards the ferry. As we had some time left we walked along the mudflat whilst the sun was going down.

In a nutshell the trip was well worth it however we would definitely recommend staying an extra day and doing the 3 day / 2 night tour. When travelling to Australia do yourself a favour and go on a Fraser Island Cool Dingo Trip.  We loved it!

Marvin and Chris Discover Fraser Island

GUEST BLOG: Boomerang Reisen backpackers Marvin and Chris travelled more than 14,000 kilometres from Germany to Australia on a trip of a lifetime.  They recently joined us on a two-day Cool Dingo Tour - as part of their Australian east coast adventure.  Here's their story...


We are sitting in the car travelling around 800 kilometres to get to Airlie Beach (in Tropical North Queensland) which means we have enough time to blog about our amazing adventures on Fraser Island from the last few days.

Sunday morning and our first thought was Mother Nature's revenge!  We woke in a very unpleasant way, heavy rain lashing down on the roof of our Juicy Camper. Maybe that was payback for us complaining about our first and so far only rainfall during our otherwise rather sunny trip.

However, we were still very excited and got ready for our Cool Dingo Tour bright and early.  At our check in at the River Heads Mainland Terminal in Hervey Bay we were welcomed in a very friendly manner and  parked our Camper in their secure car parking facilities, before jumping on the ferry to Fraser Island ready for our adventure on the world's largest sand island.

The very enthusiastic Ranger Les!
On arrival we were welcomed by a very happy Ranger called Les- our guide for the next two days. We couldn't have asked for a better tour guide. Les has travelled all over Australia and has been working on Fraser Island for a few years.

After some quick information about the largest sand island in the world we were on our way to our first stop in the Cool Dingo Tour vehicle: Lake McKenzie. And we soon realised why one can only travel on the island by 4WD. The 'roads' which lead towards the inland of the island and take you through tight overgrown forests - they really were a real highlight, which everyone has to experience! The drive felt like a roller coaster and now we know why we were told to make use of those secure seat belts in the vehicle.

However our tour guide Les led us in a more than perfect, secure and professional manner through the heavy terrain. Not that easy when the width of the vehicle and the road are almost the same. Lake McKenzie is a spectacular fresh water lake with the most crystal-clear water and the purest and smoothest sand we have ever seen. And we were given enough time to play and have fun at and in Lake McKenzie!

This was followed by time for snacks and talks where we were given lots of information about the island.

Lake McKenzie viewed from Air Fraser Island
More highlights followed during the first day of our tour: Central Station, the former central living point for the people living on the island. Lunch was followed by half an hour walk through the island's rainforest - with a very picturesque creek. We were able to see and hear many different types of birds: A must for bird lovers!

Once we finished our walk, we were greeted by Les who took us to our accommodation for the night - Kingfisher Bay Resort's Wilderness Lodges. Each lodge has got a common kitchen area and separate bedrooms and bathrooms. Since we have shared beds for quite a few nights we were happy to have a bed to ourselves again. After a nice and fresh shower we were ready for Fraser Island's famous Dingo Bar, where Les was waiting with dinner. As you can see there was no shortage of food and we had almost as much today as we had during our first two weeks of our trip. Thanks to the wonderful hospitality we did not miss a thing!

After dinner Les chatted about his quite adventurous life in a campfire like atmosphere which was very charming and funny. With some drinks together with the rest of the group we ended our first great day on the island.  However the second day was full of adventures too... and we can't wait to share them with you.