Hervey Bay and Fraser Island, Qld

Staying at Hervey Bay was a special experience for me. When I was a child my family had camping holidays here in the 1960s. I have memories of going onto the rocks with an empty glass milk bottle and a knife, collecting oysters. Each time the bottle was full my brother and sisters and I would take it back to the tent where our dad would pretend to drink them and then carry on about them wriggling in his tummy. He loved oysters but it turned me off them all my life until this trip when I made myself try some fresh oysters and discovered how fabulous they are.

Our camp site at Pialba Caravan Park was right on the beach front, absolutely stunning. Not so great for swimming as it was shallow for about 500mtrs from the shore, sort of muddy sand. But stunning views and to sit and watch the water right next to our van was wonderful.

Our first priority was booking a tour to Fraser Island before the bad weather set in.  Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. There are lots of different types of Fraser Island tours, from day trips to 3 day adventures. We booked a day trip with ‘Fraser Experience’  on a 4WD bus seating 16, but ended up in a Toyota land cruiser as there were only 6 of us. It was a fantastic day, everyone got on really well and the tour guide, Murray was fantastic, he had such in depth knowledge about the flora and fauna of the island and the indigenous history as well as the more recent white man history. The barge to the island takes about 30 minutes and the cars all reverse on. We saw a pod of dophins playing on our way over.

Fraser Island – our first stop was at the Maheno ship wreck on 75 mile beach. A 5,000 ton steel hulled New Zealand ship launched in 1905. She was first used as a passanger liner going between NZ and Australia, then as a hospital ship during WW1, including going to ANZAC cove to take in casualities. After the war she resumed service as a passanger liner until 1935 when she was sold to a ship breaker and was being towed from Sydney to Japan when a cyclon hit and the tow rope broke. The Maheno had crew on board but no propellors and vanished for 3 days until spotted by an aircraft, beached on the coast of Fraser Island. The crew had set up camp on the beach, attemps to refloat her failed. During WW2 she was used for aerial bombing practice. She is 110 years old this year.

Fraser Island – we stopped further along the beach at the Pinnacles, and then drove to Eli Creek for a swim to cool off. We walked along the creek to the end of the board walk then floated down the creek to where it meets the beach. Its fresh water, varies from knee deep to waist deep, the flow is quite strong at 80 million litres per day, and the water is amazingly clear. It is fed by a natural aquafer (underground water table) a few kilometers inland.

Fraser Island – From there we travelled inland to Lake McKenzie for lunch. All the camp and eating areas on  Fraser Island are fenced off to stop dingos taking food. The enclosure had a few resident lace monitors. Lake McKenzie is a truely magical place, something you have to see to believe. It is one of 100 fresh water lakes on the island, it has an area of 150 hectares and is just over 5 metres deep. The beach sand of Lake McKenzie is nearly pure silica, its a dazzling white. At first the water looks clear around the edge, then beautiful light blue, then a very dark colour further in. But once you’re in the water, it is all clear, the colour is just the reflection from the sky and the bottom is pure white sand. The ph is quite acidic so there are very few life forms able to live in it, we saw a some tiny fish, that was all. Its important not to wear sun screen in the water as this is a pollutant.

Fraser Island – our last stop for the day was to Central Station, an information area with walking tracks. ‘Timber logging is said to have begun in 1860’s and remained on Fraser until 1991 when the island was nominated for World Heritage listing. The timber industry saw a tramline, jetty and sawmills built on the island. Cattle, bullocks and horses were also brought on to the island for commercial purposes. In the early 1900’s Central Station was built as the centre and headquarters for the islands logging. Up to 30 houses were built as well as a school for the loggers’ children.The main timber types being felled on Fraser were the Satinay (commonly known as Fraser Island Turpentine), Kauri Pine, Brush Box, Tallowood, Blackbutt and Cypress forest. The Satinay is a timber that is very resistant to marine borers, making it very popular for use in Jetty’s and general marine areas. You can even find timber from Fraser Island on jetties in the Suez Canal! It is only found growing on Fraser Island. Another interesting chapter in the history of Fraser Island is the use of the area for Commando training during World War 2. The ‘Z-Force Commando School’ saw up to 100 trainees on Fraser at a time with a hospital, canteen, post office and cinema built for those using it. They used the Maheno wreck for aerial bombing practice as well as the old timber jetty on the inside of Fraser Island near Kingfisher Bay Resort. The most famous of the missions undertaken by the Z-Force was a raid on a Singapore Harbour that sunk 40,000 tonnes of ships in one night by only 12 men.

We took one of the short walks along a creek. The water in the creek was so clear it was difficult to see, only the glistening of the sun made it visable.  And then we headed back to the barge and home. A fantastic experience, one we can highly recommend.

The day after our Fraser Island visit the weather closed in and it rained quite a bit for the remainder of our stay, but we managed to get out and about, and Tim installed a hat hook to deal with my growing number of hats.

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We drove to Rainbow Beach and Tin Can Bay, about 1 1/2 hours drive. The rain was too heavy to walk along Rainbow Beach and see the coloured sands, but we fed a wild dolphin at Tin Can Bay and learnt all about the pod that frequents the area. The feeding is strictly controlled and very educational and they cant guarantee any dolphins will come in to be fed, but one did and I couldn’t help but feel excited while waiting my turn to give him a fish. Check them out if your in the area www.barnaclesdolphins.com.au
On our drive we noticed signs warning of kangaroos and horses. Then we saw a group of about six wild horses, brumbies, beside the road near the edge of the pine forest.

‘Brumbies are widely distributed on grazing land, National Parks, State Forest and military ranges; the largest numbers are generally located in Cape York, the north-western part of the Queensland-NT border, Carnarvon National Park and an area south of Maryborough. The South East Queensland Brumby Association rescues horses from State Forests in the Gympie,Maryborough,Tin Can Bay, Rainbow Beach area. About 1000 horses are present in this region. Horses are often seen on or near roads posing a major threat to motorists and themselves’. Australian Brumby Alliance Inc, Dedicated to the recognition, management, preservation and welfare of Australian Wild Horses.

A great place for fresh seafood in Hervey Bay is the Boat Harbour Fisheries. Jetty Rd, Urangan. They are wholesalers, but for 3 weeks over Easter and 4 weeks over Christmas they sell direct to the public.  We bought a very yummy mud crab and some barramundi fillets. If they are not open, the next best place is Maddigan’s Seafood on the Esplanade in Torque. They also sell fish and chips.

Tim caught a few baby fish from the 2 km long Urangan pier. Originally built in 1917 it needed to extend that far out to reach the deep water channel and was used for transporting sugar cane, timber and a small amount of coal. The main train line branched off and extended to the end of the pier. The day we went fishing the wind was blowing so hard we were lucky not to get blown into the water.

It was good to dust the bikes off and cycle along the western leg of the Hervey Bay Esplanade  …’ Leave the car behind and walk, cycle or rollerblade along the beautiful Hervey Bay Esplanade. The 14km long shared pathway stretches from the Urangan Harbour at the eastern end of the city to Gatakers Bay in the west. There is also the option to extend the experience into a loop by continuing from The Esplanade to the Link Mobility Corridor.The Link Mobility Corridor extends 6.2km from the Hervey Bay Botanic Gardens in Elizabeth Street, Urangan and connects with the CBD in Pialba. This link follows the former rail line that once took goods to ships at the Urangan Pier’.

Today is Good Friday and we are heading to the only place that had a vacancy over Easter, Baffle Creek. Apparently a great place for catching fish and being eaten by mosquetoes. Oh well, all part of the adventure.
Have a safe and happy Easter. Helen and Tim