Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Continuing on the beach highway, Fraser Island

After a much longer stop at the Maheno wreck than we had initially planned we got back in the car and continued along the beach.  We followed another 4wd for a while but he was further down the beach than we were as he was obviously happy driving through the water – we preferred where possible to drive on the harder sand without the pools of water.  It wasn't always possible and in areas there were channels with running water from the sand dunes leading down which we had to cross.

There were three places I wanted to check out but we would definitely do those on our return.  Next stop was Indian Head.  Here again had to leave the beach because of the sea around the rocks and drive up the sand dunes.  Here parking was at a premium as the area was quite small and from here there is a walk to Champagne Pools. 

On the way down the board walk we eyed a rock wallaby – the first we had seen.  The view from the board walk looking back towards Indian Head was beautiful and we doubted it was ever possible to drive around the point but we were uncertain.  Soon after we had parked two or three of the 4wd tour buses had arrived so there was a constant trek of people heading down the board walk towards the Champagne Pools.  Because there is the possibility of crocodiles in the water around Fraser Island (I have no idea of how often but there are sign posts warning of the possibility) Champagne Pools are said to be the only “safe” place on Fraser Island to be able to swim in the sea.  The pools are natural bubbling rock pools – we didn’t go swimming but others did.

We decided that we would follow the track heading north and make out way to Orchid Beach for lunch.  This would be the furthest north we would go (the access along the beach does continue on to Ocean Lake but no further) and from Orchid Beach there is also a road across to the west side of the island and although there is no beach driving there is beachside camping and walking access to Sandy Cape Lighthouse near the top of the island.  Time did not allow us to venture further, and the thought of walking to the lighthouse didn’t do it either! 

We followed the track down on to the beach – it was great to leave the tour buses behind.  In the distance we could see some people fishing and a couple of vehicles did pass us as they drive either up or down the beach.  From our lunch spot on the beach we had Waddy Point to our left and Orchid Beach on our right.

There is quite a settlement at Orchid Beach with holiday homes, general store etc and is obviously a popular holiday spot.  However after a short stop we started heading back down the track, past the Champagne Pools and Indian Head on to the beach.  You soon realise that it is time to start on the trip back as the buses have left and there weren’t too many other cars around.  Remember the recommendation is two hours either side of low tide and we still had nearly 80 kilometres to drive back down the beach.

We didn’t waste any time as we wanted to stop off at two or three places on our way back down the beach.  The first was Red Canyon which could have had us thinking that we were back in Western Australia.  The diversity of this island is amazing.  Unfortunately the photos did not do these cliffs justice – the various colours were just amazing and these cliffs were beside the beach.

Our next stop was at Dundubara which is one of the National Park camping areas on the island.  Our first intention had been to stay here one night and then move to Central Station camping area on the second night of our stay.  I was keen to just check out the camping area as we passed.  There is a track leading up from the beach.  Both National Park camping areas (and certainly the resort where we are staying) have dingo fences around the boundaries and there is a special cattle grate to cross.  These grates have the usual metal bars but in addition they have electric wires running across the metal bars.  Certainly would keep any animal on the outside!  I didn’t take any photos of the actual camping area (my mistake now) but we were impressed with the large grassy sites and the facilities on offer.  Well worth booking, especially if rain is not forecast.  There were a few campers set up and the cleaner was there busily cleaning the facilities.  We would have been happy to have camped there.

Next stop was Cathedral Beach.  This is a privately run camping ground.  There is a general store which was really well stocked and we asked if we could walk through which the attendant said was fine.  We had met a couple on the barge crossing over and they were staying in one of the safari tents – this is a tent that is set up and has a queen-size bed with linen available for hire, chairs etc.  Pretty impressive really.  In addition there were camping sites and cabins.  The worse feature was that this camping ground, being privately owned, did not have dingo fencing and the lady said that at night it was necessary to walk with a stick to protect from wandering dingo.  I wouldn’t be too happy making the trek to the toilets in the dark if I had to carry a stick for protection.  However, dingo fencing was about to be built so this problem will soon be rectified.

Our last stop for the day was at The Pinnacles – again the diversity of this island is amazing.  These cliffs are just so beautiful and you will have to excuse all the photos but they are worth seeing and I wasn’t sure which ones to leave out.  This area is just so different to everything else on the island and yet is just up the beach from where the Maheno was wrecked and close to the two camp sites.  The colours were great.

With time now racing on it was really necessary to finish the drive down the beach and get off the sand.  It had commenced to rain lightly and the sea water was getting really high up the beach.  There are a number of 4wd vehicles swamped with water every year and we were determined that we were not going to be one of them.

It was great to see the Eurong signage and pull off the beach.  As it was raining quite consistently we returned to our room – we were so pleased that we had taken the option of staying at Eurong rather than tenting.  Fortunately the rain had held off most of the day and we had been able to visit many of the scenic spots along the eastern side of the island. 

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