As a kid I spent most holidays camped on Fraser Island, long before it officially became known as K’gari. While dads fished and mums stayed cool in the creek, we roamed the beach, seeking pipis, crabs and whatever kind of trouble we could find on our empty stretch of sand. One year a friend and I decided to go the other way and explore the hills above our campsite.
Like most of the island, thick coastal heath covered the dunes that rose sharply from the beach. We were soon crawling along dingo trails, roughly two feet high. When we finally emerged after an hour or two, sandy and scratched, we stood at the base of an untouched sand blow that stretched out forever.
When you drive along the beach on the eastern side of the island, it’s hard to see much beyond the dunes. When you venture inland it’s on single lane tracks through towering rainforest that barely permits light let alone anything in the way of views.
Now sat on a light plane as it banked away from the ocean and over the island, I remembered our baby Burke and Wills adventure as I took in the million square miles of bushland that blankets the island. The island’s hundred-odd lakes, most of them inaccessible to the public, and thick rainforest filled the cabin’s tiny windows. It all looked remarkably green a year and a half on from the bush fires that swept through the island courtesy of an uncontrolled campfire.
Air Fraser Island runs these scenic flights, we well as transfers to the mainland. You’ll see their landing strips on the beach marked by witches hats and warning signs set up near popular spots like Eurong and the crumbling wreck of the Maheno. We found them near Eli Creek, where we’d parked up for the day. We chatted with one of the pilots as he waited for the plane to return. A few minutes later we were bouncing down the hard sand before pulling up and banking out over the water for a view of that treacherous coastline, all rips and gutters.
From a few hundred metres above the island it was hard to even tell there’d been a bush fire. The green undergrowth outshone the charred tree trunks. The pilot named the lakes that we’d never get to visit as well as those we knew well. It was a typically windy day and the light plane bounced heavily during each turn. A few minutes later I was back from second exploration of the island’s interior, fewer scratches and far more enlightened about what lay behind the hills.