Island Hopping – Fraser Island

Following on from Helen’s travels to Easter Island, Penny talks about an island a little closer to home.

Located just off the coast of Hervey Bay, Fraser Island is situated 350km north of Brisbane. It’s a mysterious and beautiful place.

fraser-islandSwimming in the freshwater lakes is a memory that stands out for me. With an abundance of fresh water on the island, there are dozens of pristine mirror lakes, which are perfect for swimming in and drinking from. Lake McKenzie in particular is spectacular – it has clear blue waters and white sandy shores, and is probably the purest form of water I have ever experienced. Eli Creek was another gorgeous swimming spot.

maheno-wreckMore than 50 shipwrecks are marooned along the Fraser Island coastline. The most famous shipwreck is the Maheno, a former trans-Tasman luxury liner and a WWI hospital shop.

There are plenty of walking tracks on the island, which can take you to high vantage points overlooking the sea and the Queensland coastline, or to dense pockets of rainforest where you hardly see the sky. My favourite walking adventure was heading up the island’s giant sand dune with my boogie board and surfing all the way down again!

Given it’s made entirely of it, sand is always something to contend with on Fraser. You drive on sand, you sleep on it,  you are always walking on it and getting it in your shoes. I remember friends getting bogged in the sand even before we had boarded the barge to head over to the island.

fraser island 4wdThe endless beaches are really sand highways with utes going up and down all day long. We only drove places during the day, as it was too scary at night with the high tides and pitch black skies.  While the utes get lots of space on the beach, the internal sandy roads are much narrower. Once we encountered a bus on a road in the rainforest that was not wide enough for two vehicles, and we had to sit there until the coach went past, scraping our vehicle and stripping off metres of paint.

The island has very little development, so it’s easy to imagine yourself as a member of one of the aboriginal tribes who lived there for more than 5000 years, seeing and encountering the same natural beauty of the island.

The Library has a load of travel books that are either on, or include sections on Fraser Island. Trip Advisor has lots of information regarding accommodation and 4WD hire.

Island Hopping – Easter Island

Each of us has our own “bucket list” of places we want to visit.  The top of Library manager Helen’s was Easter Island.  However, it is the  most remote inhabited island in the world, being over 3000km from Chile (the ‘closest’ mainland) so travelling there takes some planning.

Helen Easter Island statues2Helen says: I had wanted to visit for over twenty years to see the monolithic human carved moai for which the island is famous.  Strangely enough, my desire came from when I started working in a public library, from shelving a book on Easter Island.  I was intrigued by the images of the moai on the cover. The book was borrowed, and I marvelled at the statues, and from then wanted to see them in person. 

When Helen’s partner suggested travelling to South America for a holiday, the deal was if that was the destination, then Easter Island was on the list!

Our first stop in research was the travel section of the Library, borrowing a number of the books on South America to refine our trip.  One suggested catching a bus over the Andes Mountains to Santiago,  the best way to see the Andes up close – in the comfort of a modern two story bus.  This was added to our itinerary.  We also jumped on-line to get great suggestions on accommodation options and read reviews through Trip Advisor

Organising a flight to Easter Island from Santiago is easy, but the downside is the flight is 5 hours and requires an early morning start of 5am.  Despite this, it was truly worth the journey. The Island is inhabited by less than 6000 people and the main economy of the island is tourism.  There is one town Hanga Roa, which is close to the airport – walking distance even! 

???????????????????????????????There is great food to be had on Easter Island,  especially seafood.
In the mornings, you can see the fisherman selling the fish caught that day to the locals, along with locally grown vegetables, fruit and meat.  If your accommodation doesn’t enable you to cook, the restaurants in town are many and varied.  There are a few good patisseries which feature great cakes and doughnuts (filled with dulcha de leche), but they also specialise in empanadas.  These are very popular especially with the locals. 

The primary reason for visiting Easter Island is of course the famous Moai stautues around the island.  Helen explains to tour options: There are a couple of options, you can arrange a tour with local tour companies where you get a flavour for the history, or you can hire a car and visit any site at your own pace.  Bikes are available for hire – but word of warning, if this is your preference ensure the gears can change and you have a basic puncture repair kit as you don’t want to be stuck a long way from the town with walking as your only solution.

Helen Easter Island statuesThe statues themselves are truly a marvel.   The best site to visit for the statues on the whole island is Rano Raraku, where they were carved from the side of the volcano.  At first the site appears as if the statues were left where they had fallen over, or still in the process of being created.  The closer you get the side of the volcano you can see outlines of a variety of statues which were in the process of being created.  Just ensure you have good walking shoes!

It definitely sounds like Easter Island is a great place to visit. If this has sparked interest for you, start your research on Easter Island today!