It’s been twenty-eight long years since I sailed the great sandy straight alongside Fraser Island, Queensland. The plan was to cruise past the island, destination Moreton Bay- but the outgoing tide of the sandy straight had other ideas. We were marooned for two days waiting for the tide to turn.
It was a stroke of luck as we got to paddle onto the pristine Fraser island-traditional name K’gari. The island evokes a sense of peace and you are immersed in nature the moment you set foot on the sand- I vowed to return one day.
Back then the island was going through a whole array of changes from the ceasing of timber cutting to a heritage listing to the islands first major resort Kingfisher Bay being built; there was a swag of chatter about. Fast forward to 2019 and Kingfisher Bay Resort is celebrating 27 years with renovations afoot. One might expect the resort to be tired and lacking in character but to the contrary the resort is tastefully built into the land and naturally beautiful.
First impression when you hop off the ferry from the mainland (River Heads) onto the character filled long pier is one of beauty and a seemingly light footprint. The resort is hardly visible from the pier and is tucked behind the rejuvenated foreshore (every plant removed for the build was carefully replanted on the island) We stay in the King Bay view room and experience the Island Day Spa which only uses organic, Australian made products.
Natural timbers and eco-breezeways form part of the original design, the architects clearly had sustainability and the environment at the forefront of the build. As the largest sand Island in the world it was heritage listed in 1992 and the indigenous land title was awarded back to the Butchulla people in 2014.
We got to experience the unique bush tucker, walks and taste tours the resort has on offer. We’re greeted by charismatic Ranger Tess, who leads the walk, which turns into a bush tucker tasting well into the evening. Tess has grown up on the main land of Hervey Bay and recalls her childhood holidays spent on K’gari where she dreamt of becoming a park ranger.
The island has a rich and diverse eco-system and is home to a variety of flora and fauna, from renowned dingo tales, to the taylor fishing season to the indigenous plants that find their way on the award winning Seabelle menu at Kingfisher Bay.
We learn about native ingredients such as Pepper Berry, Lemon Myrtle, finger lime and Wattle seed, we try a fusion of flavours with crocodile, emu and kangaroo chargrilled by the local chefs. There are a mix of cultures on the island from indigenous rangers to chefs from the Himalayas- authentic tastes are threaded through the menu.
It really is island to plate, we try the degustation menu feeling rather chuffed that we walked the talk and get to taste the taste. Think lemon myrtle and aniseed pickled crocodile and the winner dish, paperbark wrapped barramundi with macadamia and lemon aspen salsa topped of with a dessert pleaser mango and coconut Panna Cotta.
There is an array of nature-based activities on the island and we opt for the Hervey Bay Whale Watching cruise, locally owned and operated. The tour offers swimming with the whales (dictated by the whales) if they are keen they let the boat know and small groups are allowed to swim with these magnificent mammals. If they are not keen they simply swim on past- the activity is driven by conservation and preservation of the whales is considered at all times.
A must do is the Fraser Explorer 4WD day tour ‘beauty spots’ across the sandy track thought the centre of the island to 70 mile beach. We drive along the beach to the pinnacles (colorful rock formations) and check out the SS Maheno shipwreck that adorns the waters edge.
Take a scenic flight across the island with the friendly folk at Air Fraser, for $80 and approximately 20 minutes it’s the best way to see untouched parts of the island like the Butterfly Lakes- well worth the rustic beach take-off and landing.
K’gari is one of Australia’s unique treasures with a diverse history that has been preserved throughout the years. The indigenous storytelling is there to uncover and the natural vegetation is being rejuvenated for future generations.
The hard work of the National Trust and Parks along with the good folk at Kingfisher Bay Resort is the key to sustainability of this pristine environment. Their commitment, passion and drive to keep K’gari special is apparent the moment you arrive- I vow to go back again!
Images: Supplied by Kylie Mitchell-Smith