Written by Leanne Esposito
People of the Fraser Coast can rightly boast loud and proud that they live in the midst of the most amazing and incomparable natural beauty.
Where else in the world could you claim that the world’s largest sand island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is a feature of your own backyard. Nowhere else in the world do magnificent rainforests grow in sand.
This unique landscape feature is striking and is home to a diverse and unique ecology. The island is some 1,840 square kilometres and houses half of the world’s perched freshwater lakes – which is a lot of fresh water in a small area.
Beautiful tall rainforests, crystal clear freshwater lakes, shifting sand-dunes and magical ocean views can be accessed via the 90klm Great Walk Track system maintained by Queensland National Parks and Wildlife.
So ditch the 4WD. Leave it at home. All you can see from driving are glimpses of the island’s striking features blurred through your vehicle’s windscreen as you rush on by. Let your feet do the walking, take a path less traversed and come let Fraser Island Hiking do the talking. Take your time, slow down and relax.
With overseas travel relegated to the dream of a past life there is more to explore in your backyard. As our collective eyes return to the natural treasures on our doorstep, that only the Australian environment can provide, it seems we are becoming self-aware.
There is a beauty and uniqueness to our homeland which we’ve always shared with international tourists who were ready to tick off our backyard from their bucket-list.
Right now, more than ever, our eyes are well and truly opened to the beauty of Fraser Island as Island hiking operators report record numbers of local tourists seeking out a quality immersive experience. Fraser Island Hiking owner Jane Needham confirms that the island is welcoming more Australians than she can recall.
“This is the busiest season they’ve had for a long time because a lot of Australians can’t go anywhere else,” Jane said.
With her husband Ashley Needham, a former Lamington National Park Ranger who has completed internships in the Tasmanian wilderness, they have provided an outstanding tourism service for a decade. For the past ten years, they have safely escorted thousands of tourists across to the island for 4WD and walking adventures.
Jane and Ashley, together with the team at Fraser Island Hiking, offer a range of walking tours to suit all types, tastes, levels of experience and comfort.
From a self-guided hiking experience for the independent adventurous type, to a pack-free supported, camping eco hike, and right up to the luxury fully inclusive signature ‘The Best of the Great Walk’ 4 day and 3 night fully guided walk, there is something for everyone.
Whichever level of hike you choose, you will find yourself trekking across the island exploring the magnificent landscape close up, enjoying the flourishing flora and diverse wildlife in its natural habitat.
From Dilli Village, the southern-most point of The Great Walk to The Valley of the Giants, where the 1000-year-old giant Satinay tree resides, beyond to the historical logging site, Petrie’s Camp in the north and across to Lake Garawongera, the Great Walk takes you to all the iconic spots.
Some highlights will see you enjoy the world famous Lake McKenzie as you swim in the sparking blue waters, experience the serenity of Basin Lake or meander along the pristine waters of Wanggoolba Creek where the ancient ferns are remnants of a past world. At night camp under the towering rainforest giants at the Central Station walkers camp then be wondered by the magic of Pile Valley and the giant Satinay trees.
Observe the enthralling view from the lookout of Hammerstone Sandblow, emerald Lake Wabby and the Eastern beach across to Lake Wabby and to Fraser Island’s famous 75 Mile Beach.
The Fraser Island Hiking team is passionate about providing access to the island’s rich beauty and at the same time they are committed to preserving the environment and reducing their ecological footprint.
“We proudly hold an Eco Certification from Eco Tourism Australia, which was one of our priorities when setting up this experience. We aim to create a sustainable walking experience while minimising the impact on the Island environment and its ecosystem,” Jane said.
First and foremost, safety is paramount. They run their hikes in supported groups and use GPS tracking. They encourage hikers to join them during the Queensland hiking season from March to October as the summer months pose serious fire risks which can result in track closures.
However, due to the permit they hold they can run a limited 2-day pack-free supported hike throughout the whole year, to give a glimpse of the Great Walk during the summer months. With full knowledge of the difficulties of getting around Fraser Island they provide a range of reliable 4WD vehicles which transfer walkers from the start to the end of tracks (depending on the hike) to ensure a seamless and stress free trip.
If you’ve ever wanted to discover and enjoy nature in its abundant glory then take the track less travelled, slow-down and walk The Fraser Island Great Walk.