Fraser Island, Australia
Perched on the sunny Queensland coast 161 miles northeast of Brisbane, Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island and home to one of 2002's world's best beaches. But this World Heritage Site has more to offer than just sun and sand. It's an ecologist's dream, with 640 square miles of unspoiled natural paradise. Rain forests with 1,000-year-old trees sprout from the sand, Australia's second-largest collection of freshwater lakes dot the island and whales frolic in the sheltered waters just off the coast. The island is also teeming with life - 230 species of birds and 25 species of mammals, including wallabies, possums, flying foxes and Eastern Australia's purest breed of dingo, roam the island. Of course, for those more interested in sunbathing than exploring the ecosystem, there is a 75-mile stretch of beach that runs along the island's east coast. Above and beyond the abundance of soft sand, there are a host of water sports as well, from snorkeling to sailing, kayaking, fishing and more.
For nature-loving beach enthusiasts, there may be no better place in the world than Fraser Island. And remote and undeveloped as it is, it still manages to offer lodgings to suit almost any traveler - from the backpacking eco-tourist to the resort-seeker.
Sunstate and Flight West airlines offer daily flights to Hervey Bay. From there, charter flights and helicopter service offer travel to Fraser Island. Visitors can also reach Fraser Island via ferry. Once on the island, getting around is limited to four-wheel drive vehicles as there are no paved roads.
Fraser Island is on Queensland's Sunshine Coast, which tells you a bit about the weather. Average temperatures tell you more - the maximum temperature from December through March is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit; average low temperature from June through August hovers around 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Fraser Island is extremely remote and impossible to traverse without a four-wheel drive vehicle. Therefore, its lodging options are limited to one main resort, Kingfisher Bay - which offers everything from rustic to resort lodgings - plus Fraser Island Retreat and Eurong, and a multitude of campsites offered by the national park.
Just as lodging is rather limited, so too is dining. Because getting around isn't easy, most people tend to eat wherever they're staying - either at a resort or by cooking their own meals at their campsite. Either way, visitors will likely get a true taste of Australian cuisine - which has in recent years seen an upsurge in the use of native ingredients, including bush tomatoes, seeds, nuts, lemon myrtle, fungi, and even emu and kangaroo. Such ingredients are usually melded with more common ingredients for a uniquely Australian dining experience. Australia's coastal regions benefit from an abundance of seafood, which means marine life is likely to be a mainstay on Fraser Island menus - from rock lobsters, to prawns (shrimp), abalone, scallops, cod, perch and countless other varieties.
The 75-mile strip of beach on Fraser Island's east coast is also its main thoroughfare, which means driving is for four-wheel drive vehicles only and certain rules apply (such as the sensible warning from locals to avoid driving when high tide is approaching). However, one rule is the same throughout Australia - drivers stay to the left, even when on the beach and there's no handy yellow line to mark the middle of the road.
While You Are There
If visiting between August and October, don't miss the excellent opportunities for whale watching. The sheltered waters of Fraser Island are Australia's whale-watching capital, and magnificent humpbacks can be spotted on the island's western side.
To Fake That You've Been There
Casually mention that Fraser Island's Aboriginal name is "K'Gari," or paradise.