Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort
Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort

Aussie island the world wants to visit right now

When the Duke and Duchess of Sussex drop by Fraser Island this week, they should be told to get out and walk.

The Queensland island is best known for the Insta-famous Lake McKenzie, historic Maheno shipwreck, beach highway and dingoes, but to get to know it, the royals' minders should factor in a visit to Central Station.
It was a stop I was surprised to find on my own island holiday itinerary (wasn't I supposed to be escaping the city?).

And being asked to get out and walk midway through a four-wheel-drive tour on an island known for its rugged terrain and dingo population might not sound ideal, but at the epicentre of Fraser Island's former logging industry - aka Central Station - it's exactly what you want to happen.

Heading out on foot is by far the best way to explore the rainforest along Wanggoolba Creek, according to our tour guide, Craig. In fact, it's his favourite place on the island. Coming from someone who's been leading tours on the island for more than a decade, his recommendation packs a punch.

"For me that walk epitomises everything that is Fraser Island. It's like the heart of the island," he told us.

Central Station rainforest walk, Fraser Island. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort
Central Station rainforest walk, Fraser Island. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort

Unlike Lake McKenzie, it doesn't instantly translate to Instagram gold (the towering satinay trees are too tall to do justice) but looking up from the ground, the view is as mesmerising.

Tourism is a relative newcomer as the island's main industry. Timber was the main event until 1991, when the island was World Heritage listed. Fraser Island satinay has an important place in world history, having been used to build the Suez Canal.

It's not just the rainforest walk that surprised me on Fraser Island. Here are 10 more things I learnt (Harry, Meghan, if you're reading, take note).

Craig at Central Station on the Beauty Spots tour.
Craig at Central Station on the Beauty Spots tour.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO ROUGH IT

Fraser Island is prime fishing, 4WD and camping territory - but that's not the only way to experience it. I've never caught a fish, had never driven a 4WD, and the only thing I'm worse at than putting up a tent is trying to fold it back up.

Luckily for people like me, Kingfisher Bay Resort exists - an eco-resort with everything you'd expect in an island holiday: gorgeous pool, three excellent restaurants, a day spa and cocktail happy hour.

Resort guests who'd rather not drive can join a day tour of the island's highlights (thanks Craig!) - also a great option to get your bearings before heading out on your own.

As novice four-wheel-drivers, it was reassuring to learn from Aussie Trax - the rental service based at Kingfisher Bay - that 85 per cent of customers have never driven a 4WD before, so they're used to helping out with all the basics.

Best of all, because they're based on the island (the only hire company that is), if you get stuck, they'll actually come and bail you out.

Fraser Island’s beaches are 4WD territory. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort
Fraser Island’s beaches are 4WD territory. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort

PACK THE KWELLS

Access to the island is by ferry, but it's not the water that makes me a little queasy, it's the unexpected rollercoaster ride as we first head out of the resort by road. Those first few kilometres are pretty bumpy so if you suffer from motion sickness, come prepared, and be assured - the road does get easier.

THERE'S SO MUCH SAND

On the world's largest sand island, 99 per cent of the 184,000ha area is sand, and not just any sand - 72 colours of it.

You can try your hand at identifying them all at The Pinnacles Coloured Sands.

Maheno shipwreck on 75 Mile Beach. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort
Maheno shipwreck on 75 Mile Beach. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort

THE ANIMALS AREN'T THE CUDDLY KIND

Other Aussie islands have cute koalas, kangaroos or quokkas. Fraser has dingoes, and safety signs and dingo fences to ensure you know it. They've been known to attack when they become too used to people (especially tourists feeding them) so these are definitely not the kind of animals you should pose with for a selfie.

But they're not the only wildlife around. Even before setting foot on the island we'd seen dolphins leaping alongside the ferry, and the beach carpeted with tiny, scurrying crabs as the ferry pulled in.

And that was well before the famous whale season (August-October), when humpbacks come out to play.

Dingos are just one of the extraordinary sights on 75 Mile Beach. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort
Dingos are just one of the extraordinary sights on 75 Mile Beach. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort

DON'T PACK THE PICNIC RUG

Beautiful beaches call for a picnic, right? Not at Fraser Island. As enticing as that white sand at Lake McKenzie looks, food is strictly for consumption in the dedicated dingo-safe picnic areas, not on the beach.

THE BEST SWIMMING'S NOT AT THE BEACH

The 75 Mile Beach is many things - a highway, an airstrip and a tourist attraction for starters - but safe for swimming isn't one of them. Vehicles can hurtle along the sand at 80km/h, so you wouldn't want to be laying out your towel there, and the currents are dangerous. Not to mention the sharks and jellyfish.

For the island's best swimming, head straight to Lake McKenzie, where the water is said to make you feel 10 years younger. Its Butchulla name, Boorangoora, means "waters of wisdom" - so it might even make you wiser, too.

Jetty Hut, Kingfisher Bay Resort. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort
Jetty Hut, Kingfisher Bay Resort. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort

THE SUNSET IS AMAZING

For any east-coaster, watching the sunset over the water is a novelty. Kingfisher Bay's sunsets are epic, so make sure you choose a ferry that gets you there in time. There's even a dedicated Sunset Bar on the jetty.

YOU CAN TAKE A FLIGHT LIKE NO OTHER

Taking off from the beach is a unique thrill and if you get a chance, a scenic flight with Air Fraser Island reveals some of the most spectacular of the 40 lakes on the island - including the curious "butterfly lake", which can only be viewed from the air.

Air Fraser flight over Fraser Island. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort
Air Fraser flight over Fraser Island. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort

TAKE YOUR RAINCOAT

Where there's rainforest, there's rain, and the island's interior rainfall can reach close to double the amount at mainland Hervey Bay.

Don't let it stop you getting out. On a ranger-led night walk around the resort, we were warned we wouldn't see much wildlife as it had been raining - but we still saw sugar gliders, rays and a rare barracuda swimming alongside the jetty.

IT WON'T STAY LIKE THIS FOR LONG

Until now, Fraser Island has been a bit of a locals' secret. Most visitors come from within a four-hour radius, with only a few venturing from elsewhere in Australia.

But word's getting out - and the royal visit will only up the ante.

It's not only the tourist profile that's set to change but the island itself. With dunes on the island known to move 1m a year, one of its most popular lakes, Lake Wabby, may disappear altogether in the next century. This is definitely a "go now" destination.

The writer was a guest of Kingfisher Bay Resort.

Kingfisher Bay Resort. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort
Kingfisher Bay Resort. Picture: Kingfisher Bay Resort

ESCAPE ROUTE

GETTING THERE

Qantas flies to Hervey Bay (Fraser Coast) Airport from Brisbane several times daily, while Virgin Australia flies direct from Sydney daily.

The Kingfisher Bay Ferry runs three return services daily from River Heads, 20 minutes from Hervey Bay. Adult fares $60 return, $30 for a child, vehicles extra.

STAYING THERE

Kingfisher Bay Resort has rooms from $169 and two-bedroom villas from $299 a night. The two-night Fraser Adventure package starts from $449 per person, and includes ferry transfers, breakfasts and the Beauty Spots tour.

TOURING THERE

The Beauty Spots Tour runs daily for Kingfisher Bay Resort guests (book in advance) and is priced from $200 for an adult, $130 for child.

Fraser Explorer Tours also runs day tours and two-day tours departing from Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach.

4WD rental from Aussie Trax starts from $210 for half a day.

Air Fraser Island's scenic flights start from $100.

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