Discover the benefits of an off-peak island getaway
The onset of winter seems the perfect time to head north to catch a bit of warmer weather but what do you do if the cold snap grips the northern coastal resorts as well? The good news is even a cool breeze or a drizzling day is not enough to dampen the holiday mood at Kingfisher Bay on Fraser Island.
First stop is the Kingfisher Bay Resort’s onsite spa for a massage, fragrant with the relaxing and recuperative scents of rose geranium and lavender. The Kingfisher Natural Therapy spa uses the environmentally-sensitive range of Waterlilly products in keeping with the island’s eco-friendly philosophy. But tempting as it is to linger longer, we didn’t really come here to stay indoors. It is Fraser Island after all – adventure playground and land of mystery. So what if there’s still some rain about, rain be damned, there’s four-wheel-driving to do.
For a small island only 123km in length, Fraser is crisscrossed with a surprising 150km of tracks – the popular way to see the best attractions the island has to offer. As it turned out, cool weather is perfect for taking a drive on the island. No heat radiating off the sand, no hot car to get back into after walking on scorching beach, and the damp tracks are a lot easier to drive on than dry sand. Half an hour out from Kingfisher Bay Resort and we reach Lake McKenzie, the incredibly crystal-clear fresh water haven fed solely by rain water. There are 100 more lakes like it on the island, but this one is the star.
A self-drive adventure allows the freedom of touring on a whim, the only restrictions are time and tides – we don’t want to get caught on the beach at high tide. Every so often the landscape changes, from dry and sandy close to the beach to rainforest so lush very little light gets through. A picnic lunch packed by the resort’s Maheno Restaurant is perfect to enjoy at a quiet spot near Central Station, a rainforest haven along the way.
Another perk of the off-season is rarely seeing another vehicle on the narrow sandy tracks. Back out on the beach, lazy dingoes and a few isolated fishermen are the only others we see before the Maheno shipwreck comes into view. The Maheno is one of an astounding 23 shipwrecks that met their fate on Fraser Island from 1850 to 1935, and the mighty 5323-tonne vessel had been through several transformations – as a luxury passenger ship, a hospital ship in WW1 then a freighter – before it landed at Fraser, where it lies as a rusted shell in the sand.
Fishing is popular around the wreck and on a joy flight over the beach we see why. The joy flights are run by the same family since 1974 and for a blissful 15 minutes we soar like a bird over the island in the GA8 Airvan, getting a better appreciation for just how dense and expansive the rainforest is, just how huge the sandblows can be and how many incredible lakes we would otherwise never have had time to see in one short visit. The aptly named Butterfly Lake is a little way inland and adds to the impressive list of natural wonders, while back towards the beach we see huge sharks lunching on fish schooling around the wreck.
By dusk we’ve worked up an appetite of our own just in time for Kingfisher Bay’s Bush Tucker Talk and Taste. A resident bushranger and Seabelle Restaurant’s chef had our small group enthralled with their knowledge of the range of Australian native produce which we all got to taste as we heard how it is incorporated into a five-star menu. Desert peach, finger limes and lemon myrtle, pan fried prawns with bush tomato chutney and other treats were
just tempters for what’s on Seabelle’s menu, from champagne spiked with rosella fruit, bunya nut and macadamia pesto and paperbark-wrapped Barramundi to aniseed myrtle ice cream.
For our own dinner we couldn’t resist the calamari and crocodile entrée, fresh Hervey Bay scallops and hand-made gnocchi with roasted pumpkin, pine nuts, feta and sage. Accompanied by a glass of wine, this winter getaway is a taste of perfection.