Queensland: Change of pace

By Rob McFarland

Enjoy adventure surrounded by tropical beauty.

The incomparable colour of Lake McKenzie is a drawcard. Photo / Tourism Queensland
The incomparable colour of Lake McKenzie is a drawcard. Photo / Tourism Queensland

This isn't quite the James Bond moment I'd imagined. If Daniel Craig had jet skied from Hervey Bay to Fraser Island, he'd have worn a white tuxedo and been accompanied by a stunning brunette. I, on the other hand, am wearing swimming goggles and am clinging on to my brother.

When we met Larry from Aquavue Watersports at 6am, the sea was mirror flat and the sun was just poking over the horizon. Now we're in the middle of the Great Sandy Strait between the mainland and Fraser Island, the wind has picked up and it's seriously choppy.

Until I donned my swimming goggles, this meant a rather uncomfortable ride while being relentlessly splashed in the face. Now I'm suitably attired, it's some of the most fun I've ever had sitting down.

I'm on Queensland's Fraser Coast for an action-packed long weekend with my brother. The aim is to experience as much adrenaline and adventure as we can cram into three days.

Yesterday, we kicked it all off with a stand-up paddle-boarding lesson from Enzo, owner of Enzo's On The Beach.

After wading into the warm water of the bay, we paddled over clusters of coral looking for fish and other marine life. I was just thinking how well we were doing when I realised we'd been paddling downwind. It turns out that paddling into the wind is another matter.

Lie-down paddle-boarding doesn't have the same glamorous following as its stand-up sibling, but I can recommend it if you ever have to get back to shore in a strong headwind.

Next up was wakeboarding at Susan River Homestead, a 30-minute drive from Hervey Bay. I'd never tried it before but owner Paul "Call me Cookey" Cooke reassured me that he'd "never had someone not get up yet".

Kitted out with helmet and lifejacket, I lay in the water with the board out in front and let the cable pull me along. And blow me if Cookey wasn't right - I was up first time. Making the turn at the end of the course to come back took a little longer to master.

It ends up taking us two hours to jet ski to Fraser Island where we stumble straight into the welcoming embrace of the Kingfisher Bay Resort.

This low-rise eco-friendly property has won numerous ecotourism awards for its seamless integration with the natural habitat. Boasting four pools, three restaurants and a nightclub, it provides the full resort experience without ever feeling like a resort.

After a sensational dinner in Seabelle, Kingfisher's award-winning restaurant, followed by a sound night's sleep, we were ready to explore the world's largest sand island. Several excellent guided tours are available, but there's nothing quite like jumping in a 4WD and doing it yourself.

All day we bound along winding sandy tracks, weave through lush, towering rainforest, swim in crystal-clear lakes and speed along the hard sand of Fraser's wild eastern beach.

Ideally, you'd want to spend at least two days here but even in a day we managed to see the rusted wreck of the Maheno, take in the panoramic views from Indian Head and marvel at the incomparable colour of Lake McKenzie.

It's a privilege to be able to explore this World Heritage-listed island, and careering around it in a 4WD seems a fitting finale to our action-packed weekend.

There are still plenty of adrenalin-charged activities we didn't get to try - microlighting, skydiving and kite surfing to name a few, so we'll just have to come back. And while my chances of persuading a stunning brunette to accompany me are slim, I can at least pack a white tuxedo.

FRASER ISLAND'S TOP 5

Flight Centre's Kathryn Trewin has experienced Fraser Island and shares her top five must-do's:

1. The best time to visit is between May and November, when humpback whales are migrating. Stand at Indian Head and watch the whales playing only a few hundred metres away - a phenomenal experience.

2. The island is bigger than you might think. Make sure you stay for at least one night so you have time to experience everything.

3. Stop on the main beach at Eli Creek - walk up the path and swim back down in the creek. It's only about a metre deep and lovely on a hot day.

4. Keep an eye out for dingoes - they are elusive these days, but they are there.

5. Do an organised trip with a local tour company - you will see so much more and learn all of the stories that you miss when travelling on your own. For more information on Fraser Island, contact Kathryn Trewin at Flight Centre on 0800 427 555.

Shayla Sailing Cruises

For those looking for a more leisurely way to enjoy Fraser Island's coast, Shayla is a stunning 10m catamaran that operates from Kingfisher Bay Resort.

During our 3½-hour cruise we sailed past some of the other islands that dot the bay. As we approached Duck Island, skipper Brett pointed out ospreys, herons and two rare Beach Stone-curlews. He also regularly sees dolphins and humpback whales during their annual migration.

After a swim and some morning tea, Brett unfurled a boom net from the back of the boat and we all jumped in and hung on as we were dragged through the bath-warm water. There were only four of us onboard but Brett reckons he's had 15 on it in the past.

He added that numerous people have emerged from the net wearing less than when they got in. Thankfully, I'd secured my shorts with a double knot.

TRAVELLERS' TIPS

Getting there: Virgin Australia flies from Auckland to Hervey Bay via Sydney.

Where to stay: Ramada Hervey Bay or Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island.

What to do: Take a jet ski tour with Aquavue Cafe Watersports. Go paddleboarding and kite surfing with Enzo's On The Beach. Try your hand at wakeboarding at Homestead Wakepark.

Rob McFarland was a guest of Kingfisher Bay Resort and Tourism Queensland.

- Herald on Sunday

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