Fraser Island. It conjures up images of white sands, blue waters, lush rainforest and sun sun sun. Paradise found? Definitely, as writer Jessica Jane Sammut recently discovered.
When I was growing up in London I used to dream of a paradise island. A place where the living was easy, my skin glowed with the warmth of the sun, and the natural beauty of the area was such that it took my breath away. So, when I was 22, I set off around the globe with a rucksack on my back to find this place. And although I unearthed a few islands which almost fitted the bill, none did quite so much as Fraser Island.
Named ‘K’gari’ (literally meaning paradise) by the Butchulla people who lived on the island for over 5,000 years, Fraser is situated at the start of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland off the East Coast of Australia, and truly lives up to its namesake.
World Heritage-listed, it was all I had envisaged in my mind on those cold dark London days and I immediately fell in love with the stunning atoll’s subtropical wilderness and deserted beaches, like honey to a bee. Lake McKenzie’s azure waters, Lake Wabby’s spectacular backdrop, rainforest teaming with incredible wildlife, the whitest sands I had ever seen, and the most unspoilt beaches I had found anywhere in the world – Fraser had it all. And don’t get me started on those sunsets, oh, those pink sunsets …
Such was my experience on this iconic sand island that it left an imprint on my mind which I have never been able to dampen, so when I came to find myself planning a holiday this year, over ten years after my first trip to the isle, my longing got the better of me and brochures of Fraser Island began to multiply within my vicinity.
My criteria for a relaxing break this time around? Not so much tent and trekking, which I thoroughly enjoyed during my first trip. No, this time I was looking for smart accommodation, a great pool, fantastic amenities, and help on hand if I was to need it. That’s right, I was looking for the perfect family break, suitable for one pre-schooler, one six-month-old baby and a hubby, to be precise.
So you can imagine my excitement when I discovered the Kingfisher Bay Resort, an idyllic haven nestled amidst the wild and natural rugged charm of Fraser, an eco-resort totally in-keeping with the island, offering rooms and self-catering apartments (we stayed in the latter so we could work around baby naps and feeds), ideal for the travelling family. Boasting four swimming pools, three restaurants, four bars, a café and a spa, not to mention child-minding for those who would quite like to escape for a romantic meal of an evening, the Kingfisher Bay Resort did not disappoint and neither did my memory of Fraser.
Voted the ‘World’s Best Beach’ by the Discovery Travel Channel, the island was all that I had remembered and to hear the squeals of delight from my four-year-old as he spied fish swimming in the clear waters when we pulled up to the jetty on our first day was worth the four hours of packing I had spent to get everyone out the door. And it couldn’t have been easier. With transfers to the island arranged for us via the Kingfisher Bay office on the mainland (at River Heads, Hervey Bay), the holiday off kicked-off in style with a chilled-out vibe from the get-go.
And what a time we had. Fishing in the ocean and creeks, swimming, snorkelling, sunbaking, dining, watching those oh-so-spectacular sunsets of amber and gold (with a cheese platter and glass of wine in hand at the jetty bar), not to mention four-wheel driving along the sandy tracks of the lush green rainforest that inhabits Fraser (there are no roads on the island) and spotting whales frolicking in the calm waters.
We had the time of our lives, and with it being our first family holiday as a new four, it warmed the very essence of my core as I watched the smiles radiate from each member of my little possy for the duration of our trip.
Easy hiring of the 4WD once there (next to the resort) in particular led to a fantastic day of exploring – discovering the beauty of the Great Sandy National Park, the stunning Lake McKenzie, the awe-inspiring 75-Mile Beach, Eli Creek, Lake Wabby, the Champagne Pools and the historic Maheno wreck. Had we not been running out of time, we were also planning to take a 15-minute joy flight over the island, apparently an incredible experience, and with no booking required it can be decided on a whim (just drive up to the pilots on 75-Mile Beach).
As for the whales, it was like they put on a show for us. Humpback whales take their holidays in Hervey Bay from August to October and during this time about 4,000 humpbacks move through the waters of Fraser Island’s West Coast. On the morning we ventured out, they performed as if on cue, allowing us to view them up close and personal, resting on the surface of the water and also in breech, a sight we won’t forget in a hurry. My son had eyes like saucers for the whole morning. Where else in the world can you go and be so close to nature? Again, we organised this through Kingfisher Bay, it was all too easy.
As I left Fraser at the end of the week, clutching my camera loaded full of images of happy times, I reflected on how kind this island had been to me – as a young single traveller camping under the stars, and also as a wife and mum of two with a few further needs. Fraser Island truly is a paradise, and it is little wonder the Butchulla people thought so too.
Jessica Jane Sammut is an international freelance writer and editor who contributes to the likes of Australian Women’s Weekly, Practical Parenting, the Sunday Mail, Cosmo Pregnancy, Yahoo!7 and the Courier Mail, from her cottage in the palms.