Cooking Up Some Fraser Fun With That Lovable Larrikin, Al McLeod

JULY 2013: He's a talented Chef; he's a much-loved TV Presenter; he's a columnist for Brisbane News; he's a proud 'new Australian' and he's a real larrikin.  We invited the wonderful Alastair McLeod to blog about his time with us on the world's largest sand island... but to make things interesting, he brought his beautiful mother, radio presenter Candy Devine, brother, partner and our mate, Betto, along for the ride...

Size doesn't matter on Fraser Island
I was imaging what I wanted a stay to look like on Fraser Island it would look like Eurong Beach Resort. On a recent trip - my first - to Fraser, I found myself adjusted to the pace of island life the moment I got to Eurong. Checked in by a wonderful young lady from Dublin who told me her also Irish partner was one of the chefs, I knew we were in good hands. If the truth be known, with so much to see and explore on the island, you may not spend much time at the resort other than a pre-dinner tipple and breakfast and dinner if you choose not to self-cater. However, if you want to laze around the resort there is plenty to distract. There are two pools, great BBQ areas, tennis courts and a restaurant that does magnificently robust meals after a long day on the tracks – it must be that Irish chef!

What I found so very special was Eurong’s location. The clue is in the name as the resort is quite literally on the beach which transforms as the light and tides change throughout day and into evening.

One morning at dawn we went down to the water and drew out a volleyball court in the sand with our toes. We had an imaginary net on the imaginary highway that is the 75 Mile Beach and had the place to ourselves. You could look in either direction to the curvature of the earth and it was just us. After we huffed and puffed for a wee while, we did attract a bit of attention. With the sun still low in the sky a few curious dingos peeked out of the scrub and watched us toss our ball over our imagined net. It was fascinating to see these animals in their natural setting. Seemingly unimpressed with our ball skills, the mum and her pups skulked back into the scrub.

About twenty minutes north of Eurong is the famous Eli Creek that attracts many visitors. Follow the wooden walkway a short way and plunge up to your chest into the creek. After rainfall it becomes a fast-moving, crystal-clear waterway that carries you downstream from whence you came. It is a place of extraordinary pristine beauty the likes of which I have not seen anywhere on earth.  

Reeling them in... Al and the camera-shy Betto do their thing
Back at Eurong for a beer, we get a lesson into unloading the car of the kilos of sand it had taken on board from our travails. There’s quite a trick to it but with the guidance of the Island’s fishing guru, Andrew 'Betto' Betteridge, the car looked brand new. It should have done, the car in fact was only one day old and had spent more of its life on sand than it had on bitumen.

Now let me tell you about this fellow Andrew. He is a one of a kind and worth seeking out on your trip to Fraser. He has spent years working on his beloved island. He took us one morning to a few of his favourite fishing spots. As we headed up the beach, it was with fascination we watched him slow down, jump from his ute, dash to an innocuous spot of sand, dig for a moment and reveal a pipi. Try as I might I couldn’t see what he could see.

"He was like an aquatic Crocodile Dundee."

Andrew shares his sweet spot with the Irish crew
With our bait firmly lodged on our hooks we tossed our lines in gullies around the wreckage of The SS Maheno. Andrew could have cast his bait onto a sixpence which looked much easier to do than it was in reality. Yet, for all our efforts I was the only one to catch a fish. A teeny Fraser Coast Whiting that was promptly returned to the ocean. Later that night Andrew brought a few kilos of Moreton Bay Bugs and prawns while we drank and talked about the ones that got away.

I have never been on a 4WD/fishing style of holiday but I am an irrevocable convert. 75 Mile Beach is my kind of beach and Eurong my kind of resort: great facilities, warm friendly service, knowledgeable and passionate people who have extraordinary pride in the island they are custodians of. With a little luck of the Irish, people like Andrew and such profound natural beauty you will have an amazing island adventure in this gem of a place.

You'll find the lovely Al on Facebook or Twitter... and if you're at Eurong, pop into the XXXX Beach Bar and have a beer with Betto.

Kingfisher Bay Resort: May Fishing Wrap Up From The Jetty Hut

MAY 2013 : Last month we saw a host of quality fish including Golden Trevally, Whiting, Mackerel, Barramundi, Bream and Flathead landed by eager anglers from our jetty here at Kingfisher Bay Resort.  Many of these fish were caught using rods hired from the Jetty Hut and some were even pulled in by first-time fishers who had just learnt the basics of baiting and casting in our fishing clinics.

The Jetty Hut is a top spot to catch a sunset
As we move towards the winter months, vast schools of Winter Whiting will be moving into the Great Sandy Strait – the body of water that separates Fraser Island from Hervey Bay on the mainland. When fishing for Whiting, I recommend Prawns or Squid from the Jetty Hut (using Squid will let you catch more fish before re-baiting). The deeper water at the end of our jetty is a great spot to target these sporty fish and, if you’re lucky enough to get one on the line, you’ll have loads of fun reeling it in.

If you land a keeper why not take it to The Sand Bar (after you’ve cleaned it), where the chefs will be more than happy to cook it up for you and serve it with some hot chips!

But, we humans aren’t the only ones that find Whiting delicious. A whole host of larger fish prey on Whiting and this makes them great to use as bait. This month there was no shortage of baitfish around the Jetty and towards the end of this month, we saw plenty of large Bream and Mackerel being reeled in on live Whiting, Herring and Pike. If you’re an eager fisherman like me then you’ll know there really is no substitute for live bait and the best option is to grab a bait jig from the Jetty Hut and catch your own.

Hot tip: Please use the specially-designed TAngler bins at the end of the jetty to dispose of your old tangled fishing line, bait bags and hooks. It’s great for the environment. 

As autumn fades we will see an increase in the amount of Whiting and Tailor in and around Fraser Island so, if you’re staying with us, wake up early, grab a bit to eat and head on down to the Jetty Hut where you’ll find all you need to catch yourself a fresh fish meal.

MAY 2013: Kingfisher Bay’s TOP Fish Hunters of the Month
19.5.13 – Campbell Kahl, Hervey Bay

* 50cm Spanish mackerel (Scomberomorus commerson)

Caught using live Herring 

* Location – Kingfisher Bay Resort Jetty
* Though this particular fish was undersize and was thrown back, the Spanish Mackerel can grow up to 2 1/2metres long and weigh in excess of 40kg.

* This species is generally found offshore around coastal reefs and are often targeted by recreational anglers as they put up a good fight.

Check out our Instagram page for this shot and more.

5.5.13 – ‘Captain’ Jack Woollard

* 68cm Dusky Flathead (Platycephalus fuscus)
* Caught using live Herring

* Location – Kingfisher Bay Resort Jetty
* The Dusky Flathead varies in colour from a dark greenish/brown to a pale fawn/brown with a blotchy appearance. Look for a dark blotch on the tail for easy identification (see right).

* The legal size for this species is 40cm (min) and 75cm (max).

3.5.13 – Ben Priddle

* 90cm Golden Trevally (Gnathanodon speciosus)
* Caught using live Herring
* Location – Kingfisher Bay Resort Jetty

* GTs are large predatory fish is commonly found in inshore waters around reefs and sandy substrates just like those in the Great Sandy Strait.

* Easily distinguished by its lips and unique colouration, the Golden Trevally can grow up to 120cm.
* Ben did well to land this 90cm, 10kg Golden Trevally and deserves his spot as one of our TOP fish hunters. 

Until next time folks, may the beer be cold and the fish biting,
Ranger Grant.

Gentle Giants Of The Deep

QUEENSLAND: Yesterday, the first humpback whales of the 2013 Queensland whale watching season were spotted swimming north past Stradbroke Island towards their breeding grounds in the warm waters of the tropical north. The lifecycle of the Southern Humpback Whale brings them into Hervey Bay's Great Sandy Strait every August to October to socialise and to give their newborns time to grow stronger in the calm, protected waters before beginning the long journey south to Antarctica.   

Getting up close to one of the most majestic and powerful creatures on this planet is like touching the fabric of life itself, as writer Jessica Jane Sammut discovered last season on a family holiday to Fraser Island.

*When we say get up close... we mean it...
 When you talk about the ‘great outdoors’ of Australia, there are so many incredible things to list – the red terrain, the incomparable beaches, the aqua marine ocean, the rainforest, the indigenous dreamtime trails; I could go on forever. But one glorious wonder sticks out more than all the rest for me. The humpback whale (Megatera novaengliae).

The most mesmerising of mammals, the humpback whale (measuring as an adult between 12 and 16 metres) is truly an object of majestic fascination for me. Typically migrating up to 25,000 kilometres each year to breed and give birth, the East Coast of Australia is lucky enough to play its role in this path, allowing those who wish to, to get a glimpse of these gentle giants in their own natural habitat. Some people travel around the world to gain such a sight.  We have it right on our doorstep. Lucky? You betcha.

So, it was with absolute glee that last year my family and I booked a holiday to Fraser Island, staying at the Kingfisher Bay Resort, knowing that they offered the only whale watching tour that I had heard of which 100 per cent guaranteed sightings of humpback whales. Excited, much!

Humpback whales are the star attraction on Hervey Bay’s event calendar as they visit like clockwork every season, taking time out of their epic migration to rest near Fraser. The calm waters of the Great Sandy Strait – on the lee of Fraser Island – provide natural protection as these surface-active whales socialise with their young before setting off on the long journey back to Antarctica.

When it comes to whales who is watching whom?
I had heard that in relaxation mode, they could put on a bit of show – tail-slapping, breaching, pectoral slapping, spy-hopping – but I have to admit, all I was really hoping for was to catch a look at even a fin, just so I knew they were close.

So on the third day into our holiday, I boarded the Quick Cat II, camera around my neck, swirling butterflies of nervous anticipation buzzing at my core. Would we see something? How much would we see? Having never gotten up close and personal with a whale before, to say I was looking forward to it would have been an understatement. And boy, I wasn’t disappointed!

Arriving in the deeper water after an hour or so, the captain of the boat confirmed that we were in an area that had been noted that morning as having whales resting, and so we waited. Engine off, eyes abound. The mood on the boat was electric as we all searched the horizon for the object of our affection that morning. And it was not long before our search was over.  For straight ahead, we saw a whale rise her tail and smash it back down into the ocean as if waving hello.

*A truly awe inspiring experience on the water
It was magnificent.

It was spine tingling.

It was breath taking.

We were here and they were just there – like something out of a movie. I knew right then I was logging a memory that I would never forget.  And so it continued – a show that would rival anything I had seen on television. Two whales rising out of the water and disappearing, two babies blasting foam through their blowholes, fins splashing, tails rising and falling, and the ultimate sight – two breaches. I was utterly spell bound. It was the most wonderful example of nature I had ever seen and I truly believe those whales were trying to communicate with us.  They knew we were there and they were happy to let us see what they could do.

On returning to the resort's etty at the end of the morning, I realised my face hurt. Hurt from smiling. I had not stopped since boarding the boat, the smiles graduating to beams of happiness as our whales came to play.

And it is still a memory which makes me smile, even as I write this. I have photos and I have video footage, but most of all, this experience is locked in my heart and head forever. And that is something I will cherish always. Like I say – the Lucky Country? It’s the best place on earth.

The Hervey Bay Humpback Whale Watch season runs annually from 1 August to 31 October and whale watch sightings are guaranteed.  Morning cruises leave daily from Kingfisher Bay Resort aboard the Quick Cat II and can be purchased from the resort or as part of an accommodation package.  If you're in awe of these gentle ocean giants and want to know more, why not follow us on our Facebook page; visit our dedicated website; or tag your photos with #kingfisherbay and #fraserisland on Instagram and share your own experiences?

About the author: Jessica Jane Sammut is an international freelance writer and editor who contributes to the likes of Australian Women’s Weekly, Marie Claire, Practical Parenting, The Sunday Mail, Yahoo!7, Cosmo Pregnancy and The Courier Mail, from her cottage in the palms.

*Photos courtesy of Hervey Bay Whale Watch - our whale watching partners.

Kingfisher Bay Resort: Fishing News From Fraser Island's Western Side

APRIL 2013: G’day and welcome to our very first monthly fishing wrap up from Fraser Island – we hope it’s the first of many. As regular visitors to Fraser  already know, the Jetty Hut is Kingfisher Bay Resort’s main marine hub for water sports and beach activities, and is a top place to grab some nibbles, a cold beverage and settle in to watch the sun set over the Great Sandy Strait each afternoon.

Great views and even better fishing from the Jetty Hut
Fraser Island itself is also a thriving hotspot for fishing activity along Australia’s east coast and fishing off the resort’s jetty and in the gutters on the eastern beach is a great experience for young and old alike. At Kingfisher Bay, we even run clinics for those that want to learn to fish and our regulars are always ready with a smile and a tip.

From my station at the Jetty Hut, I have a spectacular view across the Great Sandy Strait, past Big Woody and Little Woody Islands towards Hervey Bay.  Little Woody and its surrounding reefs were once popular fishing destinations but are now inside a designated green zone – or ‘no take’ fishing area unless you have a permit – so make sure where you cast your line if you’re out on the water. Inside this zone (between Little Woody and Fraser) lies a large artificial reef which is an excellent FAD (Fish Attracting Device) attracting many species such as Snapper, Parrotfish, Squid and Sweetlip.

Similarly, the mangrove banks and the sandy tidal flats on Sunset Beach at the resort are great locations for Mangrove Jack and Barramundi.  You may even land a nice Bream or Flathead when beach fishing around the mouth of the freshwater creeks.

Baitfish - Hardy Heads, Garfish and Herring - often school under our jetty and attract large pelagic fish such as Mackerel, Trevally, Bluefin Tuna, Queenfish, Coral Trout and Emperors. We’re also currently seeing quite a few Mackerel, Barramundi and Jewfish in the surrounding waters.

Coming into May, we will see the start of the winter Tailor run where fish can reach sizes up to 5kg! Gear up for and target Tailor with gang hooks and pilchards or metal lures (all of which can be purchased from the Jetty Hut) and start reeling those fish in.

APRIL 2013: Kingfisher Bay’s TOP Fish Hunters of the Month

29.4.13 – Jack Woollard

77cm Scaly Jewfish (Nibea squammosa)

Caught using live pike

Location – Kingfisher Bay Resort Jetty

The animal provides anglers with a good sport fish match on light gear and is commonly misidentified as the Silver or Black Jewfish.

Bag limits apply and this species has a minimum size limit of 45 cm.

18.4.13 – David B.

6ft Eastern Shovelnose Ray (Aptychotrema rostrata)

Location – Kingfisher Bay Resort Jetty

Easily recognized by its wedge-shaped disc and long triangular nose, it is commonly called a Shovelnose Shark.

David's 'catch of the day' was caught and released on the beach just beside the jetty.

NB: The picture used in this blog is not the actual fish caught.

13.4.13 – Pete S.

73cm Dusky Flathead (Platycephalus fuscus)

Caught using live bait

Location – Kingfisher Bay Resort Jetty

This large predatory fish is commonly found in estuaries and coastal bays along Australia’s East coast. Live bait works a treat but bait prawns from the Jetty Hut will do just as well.

These Flathead have a maximum legal size of 75 cm and a minimum of 40 cm.

Until next time, may the beer be cold and the fish biting, Ranger Grant.

Grant is an environmental student who loves fishing, kayaking, hiking and free diving when he gets the chance. He is also a passionate musician and is often found entertaining Jetty Hut guests on his acoustic guitar in the afternoons.

Base Yourself At Eurong

GUEST BLOG: If you love fishing, you'll be hooked by the team at FishMax, who dedicate their lives to ferreting out the top spots and catching the big fish... and best of all sharing them with others.  The boys visited Fraser during a spot of wild weather last year... and this is their story...

The eastern beach has plenty of top spots to fish
QUEENSLAND: Fishermen looking for  for Fraser Island beach fishing  accommodation options need look no further than the Eurong Beach Resort on 75 Mile Beach.  Based on the eastern side of Fraser Island, the resort  has easy access to the surf gutters just out the front, and a short drive to the productive gutters north of the of the Maheno wreck... so staying with the folks at the Eurong means you can get your lines in to the water faster and catch more fish!

Our four-man FishMax team recently based themselves at Eurong as part of a three-day trip to field test the latest Alvey Surf Reels and the new Ford Ranger Twin Cab Ute and all members agreed it was an ideal base for the Fraser Island surf fisherman, particularly given the atrocious weather conditions we encountered.

We chose to take the Barge from River Heads (20 min from Hervey Bay) to Wanggoolba Creek and it took less than an hour to cross the island. Even though we arrived on dark, the helpful resort staff ensured that we were checked in efficiently and that we had a booking for dinner at the resort restaurant. They also made sure we knew the hours for breakfast and offered to provide a packed breakfast to facilitate an early start the next day if required.

Eurong Beach - an oasis for fisher folk!
In fact we decided to fish the gutters in the early dawn, and after what turned out to be a couple of hours of un-productive and very wet fishing, the hot showers and full cooked breakfast back at the resort, meant that we could start the rest of the day warm and well fed.

Accommodation at Eurong is designed to suit all budgets and ranges from hotel units to two-bedroom apartments. The self-contained hotel units have double or twin beds and day beds, which make two single beds for children, but serious fishermen will probably prefer the self-contained, two-bedroom apartments which accommodate up to five people and have large living areas, decks, fully-equipped kitchens, bathrooms and balconies.

EDITOR'S HINT: Ask the team for a room on the lower floors so you don't have to lug your gear up the stairwells!

The rooms have plenty of space for fishermen and their gear, and while certainly not luxurious, they have everything the serious fisherman would want, including, perhaps most importantly, comfortable beds and heaps of hot water in the showers. The food was good solid fair, ideal for filling up the hungry fisho! The Beach Bar is a great place to catch up for a cold beer and a game of pool after a days fishing or when the weather is just too bad for night fishing as was the case for us.

While at the Fraser Island, we spoke to a number of other fishermen who regularly use the resort as their fishing base, and all agreed that it had everything the fishermen needed and given the dreadful weather conditions we encountered, it beat sleeping under canvas hands down! Next time you're fishing the Fraser Island ocean side beaches, you should certainly consider Eurong Beach Resort as your base.

To check out the Eurong Beach Resort specials available right now, email or call them on 1800 111 808 or follow us on our Facebook and Twitter sites.  You can read the original version of this blog and many more stories by the fabulous FishMax team - Australia's top Online Fishing mag!

Day Two On Tour With Jill From 'Battered Suitcases'

GUEST BLOG: No-nonsense blogger Jill tells it like it is and it's a great read!  In this post, we return back to her BATTERED SUITCASES blog to follow her adventures on her favourite Fraser Island day - that would be day 2 with the cool peeps from Cool Dingo Tours! Click here if you want to find out what happened on Day 1 with Jill.

My favorite day.  Day Two of our Fraser Island tour started off with a very filling breakfast and a bumpy ride across the island. The bus was nearly silent as everyone concentrated on not getting motion sickness. Despite the rough start, this day was my favorite of the two day tour.

After bouncing across the width of the island we emerged from the forest onto Seventy-Five Mile Beach. My stomach welcomed the long and flat stretch of sand that functions as a highway. Driving so close to the surf was also quite the thrill.

The first stop of the day was at the Maheno shipwreck. The ship was washed ashore in 1935 while on its way to Japan and has been resting on the sand ever since. Due to the condition of the wreck, visitors are not permitted to touch or climb on it. The chunk of metal just screams tetanus.

Champagne anyone?
Our next destination was The Champagne Pools, a definite highlight of the day. Water erosion created several pools in the rocks that fill with water as the waves roll in. The foaminess of the water makes it sparkle...hence the name "Champagne." The day was hot and everyone was eager for a refreshing swim. Due to strong currents and sharks, the pools are one of the only places you can swim in ocean water on the island.

I was a bit reluctant to leave the pools but of course there were more amazing places in store, like Indian Head. Indian Head required a bit of a hike but it was well worth the effort. From the headland you have an amazing view of the island and wildlife. We were able to spot sharks, rays, and turtles swimming in the waters below. Shark attacks are always in the back of your mind while on the beach in Australia... but actually seeing a shark's shadow is a bit unnerving. Thank goodness we were high above the water!

Eli Creek is a popular watering hole
Our last stop of the day was at Eli Creek. Eli Creek is another popular swimming spot but unlike The Champagne Pools, you're swimming in freshwater. Well, more like floating. All you have to do is walk upstream a few hundred meters along a platform, and then float yourself back down. Mike floated while I walked downstream beside him (the water was really cold!). It almost felt like a ride at Atlantis or Wild Wadi.

Unfortunately, our time at Eli Creek was stretched out much longer than expected due to an emergency elsewhere on the island. Another bus broke an axle and when the driver attempted to fix it the jack broke as well. The bus came down on the driver's hands and smashed his fingers. Naturally, as soon as the call came over the radio, our driver rushed off to help. The scary thing about being on Fraser Island is that medical attention is a good distance away. I think someone said a helicopter was coming to pick up the driver and take him to the hospital. We ended up loading as many people from that bus onto ours as possible so that they wouldn't be stranded on the island. Everyone was a really good sport but I'm sure it was a traumatic experience. (Note from Editor, the tour guide/driver is doing well - he was transported to the local hospital in good spirits).

Fraser Island's dingoes are the most purebred in Australia
At this point we also spotted a dingo! Everyone had their eyes wide open looking for one both days. Fraser Island dingoes are the last remaining pure dingoes in Australia (dogs are not permitted on the island to keep it that way).

It was definitely exciting to see one, but I'm glad it was from the safety of the bus. Plenty of precautions are taken on the island to keep people safe, but visitors have been bitten before. Ouch!

Later in the evening we returned to the resort for another swim and some dinner. We hopped back on the ferry and returned to the mainland fully satisfied!  So, would I recommend a tour? Yep! (Another note from the Ed - check out our previous blog post for all of Jill's reasons to join us on tour).

So where to from here?  Jill's off exploring the Whitsundays and beyond - if you want to follow her Australian east coast adventures, check out her blog - Battered Suitcases.  Content has been reproduced with the author's permission.  Cool Dingo fans are always welcome on Twitter... and you can even bag yourself a tour discount if you friend us on Facebook.

How To Experience Fraser Island

GUEST POST: Meet Jill. She's a twenty-something primary school teacher and eager blogger who has previously lived in the Middle East and is currently exploring Australia. Jill stumbled across Cool Dingo Tours when she was exploring Australia's east coast - and whilst she didn't indulge her fondness for novelty snacks, she managed to have a fab time on the world's largest sand island.  Here's an excerpt from her BATTERED SUITCASES blog...
There's 75 Miles of gorgeous beach highway to explore
Choosing how to explore Fraser Island was a bit overwhelming for me. Everyone has an opinion on how to visit the famous island, and I didn't want to make the wrong choice.

It was a tough decision, but in the end we decided to just cross our fingers and climb aboard the Cool Dingo bus. I'm glad we did. Here's why:

First, if you've never poured over a guidebook or travel forum trying to figure it all out, you should know that there are essentially three ways to experience Fraser Island.*

1. A guided tour - ride along in a 4WD bus with a tour guide
2. Self drive tag along tour - follow along behind a lead car in a long caravan
3. Independent self drive - make your own itinerary and drive yourself around

Despite being more DIY style travelers, Mike and I did the guided tour and had an amazing time. Of course as everyone knows there are drawbacks to a guided tour: it's expensive, you're on a set schedule, your companions might be annoying, etc. But there are advantages too!

The wreck of the SS Maheno is a popular spot!
1. You'll learn something! 
As I said in my first post about Fraser Island, I learned a lot. I learned so much (and forgot so much) that I struggled writing about the experience. I couldn't figure out how to fit in all the factual information with a retelling of the events. There are so many cool stories and facts that I left out (Like the guy who came from the American South to log Fraser Island in the 1800s and got really excited to see native people. He was thinking free labor, right? Wrong! The natives didn't enjoy being forced into slavery so they stabbed him to death with spears instead. Makes you chuckle, doesn't it?)

During one of our lunch stops we met up with a self drive tag along tour. Some of the people on the tag along tour complained that they were learning nothing about the fascinating Fraser Island and had no idea what they had or hadn't seen. In fact. most of the guys in the group were already drunk (1pm) and dancing on top of the trucks. That's cool if you're only on the island to party, but why not learn at least a tiny bit about the incredibly unique ecosystem while you're there? And of course if you're leading yourself around the island you'll need a really good book and a lot of patience.

2. You (probably) won't get stuck! 
Driving on Fraser Island is tricky. Depending on the weather the sand can be very, very soft. This means you really need to know what you're doing or you're going to get stuck. Because there is basically one route to each destination on the island, if you get stuck you'll be holding up others, and possibly getting them stuck as well.

Our bus had to stop several times to help people on self drives out of messes. We even had to tow one truck out of a bad situation. Of course, getting stuck for some people is just part of the adventure. However, you'll be really irritating the experienced guides and drivers. Not to mention, you'll be covered head to toe in sand from trying to get your truck to budge. I felt very grateful to have an experienced driver driving us around the island.

Blending in to the natural environmnet
3. You'll sleep in comfort!
If you're on a tag along tour or doing a self drive, chances are you'll be camping overnight (on uncomfortable mats, we were told). Now, I love camping...but we had been doing it a lot. Having camped night after night, the prospect of sleeping in a real bed was just too appealing. Our tour included a night at a resort in dorm accommodation that we fully enjoyed. Plus, we didn't need to worry about dingos or disrupting the ecosystem with our urine (seriously, that's a problem).

You wouldn't want to pee on the Pinnacles of Coloured Sands, would you?

4. You're free to enjoy yourself!
Since Mike and I were basically doing a self drive tour of the east coast, it felt really nice to let someone else do the driving, navigating, and guiding. Two whole days where we didn't have to read from a guidebook, fiddle with the GPS, stop for gas, or wonder if we took the correct turn. It was a welcome break.

So there you go. Four reasons why taking a guided tour was the right choice for me (and Mike).  Have you been to Fraser Island? Which option did you chose and why?
xo, jill

PS This is not a sponsored post for Cool Dingo, in case you were wondering. I just really enjoyed our tour and would recommend this style of exploring Fraser.
*I'm sure there's more but these three options are what you're most likely to encounter while doing research.

Too much fun for just one day... stay tuned as we publish the second installment of Jill's adventures on World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.  Like what you've read? You can catch more of Jill's awesome Aussie adventures on her blog - Battered Suitcases - which is where we discovered her story.  Content has been reproduced with the author's permission.  Or why not visit our Facebook and Twitter pages and say g'day!

Fraser Island's Wild Side

GUEST BLOG: In this digital age, TRAVELDUDES is just one of a number of travel websites that allow travellers to become travel writers - share trips and their personal travel diaries with the world. Here's a fab piece on Fraser Island that we stumbled across recently, by a traveller named Melvin, and wanted to share in this forum.

As we arrived at Fraser Island from the River Heads terminal on the Kingfisher Bay Ferry I was struck by the difference between it and other islands we’d visited on this trip.  The noticeable difference was the wild aspect!  It was as if nature had the last say and the humans were merely visitors, and I loved this rawness.

Kingfisher Bay Resort's famous Jetty Hut
The Kingfisher Bay Resort was a five minute walk from the jetty, although we hopped on the complimentary shuttle. The resort complimented its natural surroundings. Everything from the sweeping waves of the roof, to the eco interior settings, and sounds of nature played out from the hotel’s sound-system, reflected its position within the natural habitat.

Our rooms were modest, but comfortable. Admirably, throughout the *four-star resort there were educational signs reminding us, that it was an eco resort and that commodities such as electricity and water were luxuries not to be abused.  We had a beautiful balcony view overlooking the rainforest vegetation which raced to the shoreline. And we could watch the ferry coming and going bringing in excited holidaymakers and taking reluctant ones away.

That evening we boarded a sunset cruise, the Freedom III luxury yacht. Having already enjoyed so many water-based tours and cruises I wasn’t expecting anything different from this trip. What I got was a totally different and unique interpretation of a sunset cruise, and one I highly recommend.

Yes, it had the standard complimentary glass of bubbly or beer, but it was the experience in general which set it apart. Firstly, the Skipper was very knowledgeable and provided a fascinating running commentary. I learnt that Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and is home to the largest number of wild and pure dingoes in the world – pure meaning not interbred with other dogs. I was delighted when we saw one walking along the beach! Actually, dingoes aren’t dogs, but Asian Wolves, which howl not bark, but are often referred to as dogs.

Next, we cruised past Maheno, a former luxury cruise liner, now a shipwreck. It was washed up on the (eastern) beach here in 1935 while on route to Japan, where it was due to be broken up. A large portion of the ship is underwater and it's believed it will only be visible for another 15 years before being completely immersed.

The sun sets over the Great Sandy Strait
Fraser Island and this cruise gave me the best sunset view I have ever witnessed, and I found myself quite choked. A picture-postcard view was made even more spectacular, when just as the sun went down, a fishing boat sailed directly past the sun which glowed in the distance. Its silhouette against the burning yellows and oranges of the sunset was truly magnificent.

The next day we were up and out by 7.50am as we had enrolled in a Beauty Spots Tour. Our driver-come-tour guide, Bryan, was a lovely elderly gentleman who knew so much about the island. He was so passionate with his talks, that it seemed like it was the first time he had delivered them. However, Bryan told me he had been doing the tours for years.

I was fascinated by the island, due to its outstanding natural beauty and because it was so different to what I had seen before. For starters, Fraser Island’s long coastal beach is a designated highway, and 4x4s speed up and down the beach, twisting and turning with the waves. Apparently, there is only one other designated highway on a beach in the world. Secondly, the roads in and around the island were, how can I put it, 'interesting', and by 'interesting' I mean dirt tracks.

The journey around was somewhat rough and I was relieved that I hadn’t had too much for breakfast that day! The children on the coach loved it, but my fragile stomach viewed it less favourably. Please don’t let this put you off, Bryan tells me the roads are so bad at the moment, because there’s been no rain to soften them, just my luck. Although I admit to feeling silently pleased that the heavens hadn’t opened up, no one books a trip to Australia and hopes there’s grey skies and rain.

We stopped off throughout the day at various points, including the old Logging Central Station, which was used years ago as the central point for the island’s huge logging industry. Thankfully when the island was given UNESCO World Heritage status, the logging ended, but not without leaving the scars and painful reminders of its presence.

Thousands of ancient trees had been cut down and their stumps are everywhere. It’s such a shame, but as Bryan tells me, in some ways the logging was a blessing in disguise. For it was the logging that led to the UNESCO status, thus protecting it forever more. Even the roads, he tells me, will never be revamped because it’s a kind of deterrent used to prevent too much traffic and too many people on the island. Clever.

Lake McKenzie - simply stunning!
Before we headed for home we stopped off at one of the most magnificence lakes I’ve ever seen – Lake McKenzie.  ^The water and sand is so beautifully clean and pure that it’s considered to be ‘nature’s spa’ and I enjoyed having a mud-pack, eco style.

The next day it was time to check out, but not before we spent a few hours relaxing in the pool, soaking up the sun and generally chilling out at the Kingfisher Bay Resort.

Due to our jam-packed schedule, our time on the island went so quickly, but I’m glad we had time to just unwind for a few hours within the resort. It really is a place to just take stock of the surroundings.

Having breakfast out on the balcony overlooking the resort’s outdoor pool, which was filled with laughing children and families, I really did feel at-home. And it's a place I’d come to in the future, perhaps when I have children, whenever that maybe.

Images in this blog are (c) to Kingfisher Bay Resort.  Click here to read this story in its original format or to contact the author.

*Note we have corrected a mistake by the author - the resort is four star.
^Incorrect information about Lake McKenzie's formation has been edited out.

6 Awesome Things About Fraser Island According to Simon's Jamjar...

GUEST BLOG: Fraser Island has mass appeal for a multitude of reasons. In this guest blog, Simon from Simon's Jamjar - A Scottish-based digital marketer who's currently on a five-month odyssey travelling the world - fills us in on his recent Cool Dingo Tour and the six things on Fraser Island that left an indelible impression on him. We hope you enjoy!
First things first. Fraser Island, located off the Queensland coast in Australia, is the largest sand island in the world.

"See that steep fall down to your left? And the steep hill to your right? That's because we're essentially driving on the side of a sand dune". This was the voice of Tony, our tour guide from Cool Dingo. He's one of my favourite tour guides ever, and not just because he likes a bevvy. Hopefully you'll see why by the end of this post.

The Cool Dingo MAN bus on 75-Mile Beach
We stepped off the ferry, and into a tough, rugged, German built, former military 4x4 machine. I'd heard Fraser Island was only possible to navigate by 4x4, but this beast was something else. "Ok guys, you're going to want to put your seat belts on for the whole journey, and I'm going to pester you to put them on after every stop. This island is damn bumpy, and I wouldn't want you hitting your heads on the roof and damaging my vehicle. Except you four. You can do what you want." We were only only minute into the trip and Tony (let's call him Mr. T) was laying down the law, targeting four young English girls sat on the back row. It brought a smirk to my face :).

With seat belts on (the girls decided it was best to join everyone else), we were underway. Two minutes later, we leave tarmac for sand, and Mr.T engages four-wheel drive in the German tank.

It's not called the world's largest sand island for nothing.
Awesome Thing Number 1 - Fraser Island is a 4x4 playground. All the tracks are sand only, and you can drive all the way up and down the beach. Some vehicles get stuck, then somebody else comes along with a tow rope and pulls them out. Such boyish fun.

Our first stop after bouncing around the tank was Lake McKenzie. Many people have said you enter the lake and come out 10 years younger.

Awesome Thing Number 2 - Lake McKenzie is a 'perched' lake, which means it is naturally formed by rainwater. Others have described it as having 'awe-inspiring beauty'. The water is crystal clear, and the sand is all silica. I liked Mr.T's description of the lake:

Lake McKenzie is simply stunning!
"Enjoy your swim guys, the pH level of the water is almost identical to that of the human body. So that means nothing grows in the water, so you won't get nibbled by fish, it also means you go into the water and come out feeling like you've had a shower and your hair has been shampoo'd". Sold. I swam for AGES.

Back in the tank, Mr. T told us that he'd grown up with an Aboriginal tribe, and that gave him license to tell some awesome stories (only after we'd put our seat belts on).

Awesome Thing Number 3 - Fraser Island has a significant Aboriginal heritage. The traditional owners of the island were the 'Butchulla' people. For various reasons however, Aboriginal numbers were down to 230 by 1880. But they continue to live on the island, and their stories are their history. Mr. T was only to happy to regale a story which had me in stitches.

Aborigines made use of various different types of plants and trees, for both medicinal use, and for making everyday items such as baskets, weapons and rafts. Many of the plants are poisonous though, so how did aboriginal tribes figure out which plant concoctions would be poisonous, and which ones wouldn't be?

"Trial and error", answered Mr. T. "Essentially they would feed them to grandma. Their history is stories. Once those stories are passed on to the next generation, grandmas job in the community is done. So they use her for testing toxic potions. Grandma would also be the first to be made to cross crocodile infested waters, to see if she actually made it across."

Poor old grandma!

Being a sand island means only certain plants and wildlife can survive on the island. But it turns out there are many important trees and plants on Fraser Island.

 Awesome Thing Number 4 - Nature. In 1925, the Satinay tree became the major timber logged on the island after it was found to be resistant to marine borer. This meant the wood was highly resistant to salt water, and thus became popular for use in marine conditions around the world. For instance, this timber from Fraser Island was used rebuild the London Docks after World War II.

Fraser's famous Satinay trees - just like a giant Cadbury Crunchie!
There are over 300 types of eucalyptus trees across Australia. The Aborigines would use eucalyptus trees for medicinal purposes - for example they would use the sap from the tree to numb their mouth if they had a toothache.

"Blackboys are also useful", started Mr. T, catching everyone's attention...many with mouths aghast at his comment. "Well, we can't call them blackboys any more because of political correctness, but grass trees (mouths finally close) are a useful plant too. They grow small fruit seeds. Aborigines would heat these fruit seeds up and they turn into a substance similar to plasticine. They would then use this to fix arrow heads and knives onto the end of wooden sticks to made weapons. Once the plasticine cools, it becomes rock solid. Perfect."


On the second day of the tour, we ploughed ahead to the beach. The tank was flying through the sand tracks, and occasionally met another vehicle coming the other way. Mr. T wasn't budging, to the slight annoyance of a few non-touring 4x4 drivers. "I love being bigger". No messing with Mr. T!

Awesome Thing Number 5 - The Maheno shipwreck. Half way down the 85km stretch of beach on the east side of the island, you will find The Maheno shipwreck. Currently 60% beneath the sand, Mr. T told us the history of the shipwreck.

A must-do photo opp on Fraser Island
"It was made in Dumbarton, Scotland, and was once of the fastest ships made around that period. It was built with a huge steam engine, and did 18 knots, more than most ships around that time. It was used as a medical ship in World War I, and was eventually sold to a Japanese company in 1935.

To save themselves some money, the Japanese decided to tow the ship from Australia to Japan, but ran into a cyclone, the tow rope broke, and it ended up being beached here, at Fraser Island.

The Australian Air Force used it as target practice for World War II....and hit it once, which says a lot about our Air Force. A special Aussie commando unit also use it to try out their new toys on, which always blows a few more holes in it, which is another reason its 60% under the sand. The rest will probably be devoured by the beach in the next 10 years."

By this point I was hanging on every word.  We carried on driving. Earlier in the say, Mr. T had mentioned that we could catch a flight to see the island from above, so I assumed there was some sort of flat grassy strip with a little orange wind sock further along the coast. How wrong I was.

Awesome Thing Number 6 - Fraser Island is only the second place in the world where you can catch a flight that takes off and lands on the beach. The main stretch of beach was also given speed restrictions a few years ago, which technically classifies it as a state highway. So in effect, this is the only place where a plane lands on a certified road.

Welcome to Fraser Island international airport.

'How many times are you going to take a flight from a beach?', I said to myself. Ten minutes later I was sat behind the pilot, with the iPhone camera video rolling.  Only in the air can you really understand the true size of the island. It is massive. To give a UK comparison, the length of the island is almost the same distance between Cambridge and Brighton, or Edinburgh to Aberdeen.

We had to time the landing well, as it was almost high tide with not much beach remaining!  We landed safely, and headed back to the tank. We made it to Indian Head, swan in the champagne pools, sprinted back along the beach at low tide, and before we knew it, we were having final beers in the infamous Dingo Bar.

I didn't really know what to expect from Fraser Island before I arrived. I just knew it was a 'must' if I was travelling down the East coast. Well, thanks to the soundbites and stories of Mr. T, I can say it is well worth a visit, and certainly a highlight of my Australia trip.

Click here to read Simon's original post or follow his Jamjar blogs and life observations (Blog and images were reproduced with the author's permission on 05/02/2013) and why not follow the adventures of our Cool Dingo friends on our Facebook page?  Like what you see? The albums on our website are REAL guests enjoying REAL adventures on the world's largest sand island!

From Parisian Catwalks To Fraser Island's Sand Tracks

It’s a long way from the catwalks of Paris to the sand tracks of Fraser Island, but that’s the seachange a 28-year-old French blogger has made to find her dream job in Australia.  

Annabelle Payet was one of thousands of young hopefuls who entered Tourism Australia’s Working Holiday Visa competition on Facebook earlier this year, in the hopes of winning a four-week working holiday to Australia and a two-week holiday travelling along Queensland’s east coast.  After much pomp and social media fanfare, the winner was announced, but was not able to take the prize so Annabelle - as the competition runner up - stepped up and found herself on a plane to Australia.

It's a long way from Paris to Fraser Island's sand tracks
“I had been planning to come to Australia and had been working as an Internal Audit Assistant to save money for the trip,” she said.  “It was really amazing to get the email and know I had won a plane fare to Australia and the job as a Resort Ranger.”

Kingfisher Bay Resort General Manager, Warwick Kahl, welcomed Annabelle into the resort fold and said he was thrilled to support initiatives like the Tourism Australia-initiated WHV competition – with partners Malaysian Airlines and Tourism Queensland – which he says was an integral part of the resort’s marketing strategy.

“We have been marketing ‘brand Fraser Island’ in France and other European countries for more than twenty years,” he said.  “But as competition for the international tourist dollar has increased - not only from other destinations in Australia, but also from other holiday destinations around the world – it’s become increasingly important to seize new channels and opportunities to gain market cut through.”

“Tourism Australia is a market leader when it comes to social media marketing and it was great to partner with them as their sole Queensland operator,” he said. “There is no doubt this promotion has had a positive impact on the Fraser Coast region and we’re pleased to report we’ve had a 17% increase in visitors from France to Fraser Island this year.”

Discovering all Fraser Island had to offer on her day's off!
Whilst Annabelle, who is originally from RĂ©union Island – France’s outermost territory, which sits east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean - admits it was a steep learning curve mastering the ropes as a Kingfisher Bay Ranger, she says she was surprised at the similarities between the flora and fauna on Fraser and her own island home.

“I’ve spent the past 10 years in Paris, but I really wanted a change – I wanted open spaces, fun and nature… and Fraser Island was exactly what I needed,” she said.  “When I arrived I couldn’t believe that some of the island’s trees and some of the flowers were exactly the same as on RĂ©union Island – so I'm not too homesick.”

And while she’s a long way from home and the sub-zero temperatures of Paris in December, Annabelle - who finished her ‘working holiday’ at the resort just days before December 25 - didn't enjoy a sub-tropical Christmas this year opting to head south for the festivities.

“I’m sad to leave Fraser, but I am headed for Tasmania,” she said. “I’d done a lot of research on blogs and in forums before I came and found that no one talks about Tassie - so I’m off to discover it, then Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road and the Red Centre… and then… who knows!”

You can follow Annabelle’s Australian adventures – past and present - on her blog site: