SETTLING into his seat on the Fraser Island Barge as we prepare to depart the Queensland island’s white sand shores, my sun-kissed, barefoot young son, Ziggy, turns to me and smiles.
“I’m so happy,” he loudly declares to the whole ferry. “That was the best holiday I have ever had.”
This was quite the endorsement from a little guy who is not one to, ahem, mince his words however after four days spent on the world’s largest sand island, around 250km from Brisbane, it’s evident why Fraser was named K’gari, meaning paradise, by its original owners, the Butchulla people.
Thrown into the world spotlight when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle visited this World Heritage-listed wilderness – where ancient rainforest grows out of only sand and 40 of the island’s 100 freshwater lakes are perched in the tops of golden dunes high above sea level – last month, Fraser’s natural beauty is simply staggering.
We arrive on a midday ferry from the River Heads Mainland Ferry Terminal, 20 minutes south of Hervey Bay, and are greeted by aquamarine waters and a large sea turtle swimming alongside the iconic Kingfisher Bay Jetty.
An affable ranger welcomes us and transports us to Kingfisher Bay Resort, an award-winning eco-resort and an idyllic place to return to after a day’s salty, sandy adventures.
Fraser is known for its fishing, camping and hardcore 4WDing however for those who want to enjoy the rugged landscape as well as comfortable resort-style lodgings, swimming pools, a day spa, several dining options – one with a tropical-style pool - Kingfisher is ideal.
We settle into our self-contained two-bedroom villa listening to the sweet songs provided by the native birdlife before strolling down to the beach for a dip.
Later, the boys happily chase crabs while we take in the perfect sunset with a cheeky happy hour cocktail at the Sunset Bar on the beach where a curious wild dingo seems to enjoy the relaxed island vibes as much as we do.
The following day, after breakfast at Maheno restaurant, we head over to the resort’s general store to join other guests on the Full Day 4WD Beauty Spots Tour, with Fraser Explorer Tours.
I am apprehensive about this for two reasons. One, I have two active, young boys and the tour goes for eight hours. Secondly, I am more the self-guided type rather than a tour person when I travel.
However, the Beauty Spots tour turned out to be one of the highlights of our stay - the kids included - and was both fun and informative thanks to our knowledgeable and good-natured guide and Fraser Island photographer, Peter Meyer.
After piling into our 4WD bus, we take in the Stonetool Sandblow from a lookout surrounded by towering Scribbly Gums before driving along the 120km 75 Mile Beach, the island’s sand highway on the eastern side of the island.
The tranquil oasis, Eli Creek, which pumps more than four million litres of fresh water into the ocean every hour, lived up to expectations and the boys squealed with delight as they floated down the fast-flowing, crystal clear creek in tubes surrounded by banksia and pandanus.
We opted to take a scenic flight with Air Fraser Island [$80 per person] off the beach, admiring Butterfly Creek, the towering rainforests and the myriad of freshwater lakes below us.
After visiting the Maheno shipwreck, coloured sands of The Pinnacles and the magical Central Station – a former logging station and home to the Satinay/Fraser Island turpentine trees – we ended the day with a dip in the utterly breathtaking Lake McKenzie.
The rest of our holiday was spent swimming, enjoying the pools and soaking up the natural beauty of the 166,000-hectare island; the slow pace providing us with the perfect opportunity to switch off from the fast-paced digital world and reconnect with each other.
Kingfisher’s Junior Eco Ranger program was a highlight for the boys and we welcomed the opportunity for them to learn about the island’s rich history, and importance of protecting this beautiful, natural wonder while toasting marshmallows around a campfire with Ranger Jamon.
Like Ziggy, the soul-stirring magic and rugged beauty of Fraser Island won my heart and will stay with me for a long time to come.
Amy Mills was a guest of Kingfisher Bay Resort.