Fraser Island opens to cruise ships

Fraser Island started accepting mid-sized cruise ships this month. Photo / Supplied
Fraser Island started accepting mid-sized cruise ships this month. Photo / Supplied

Fraser Island has opened its shores to cruise ships as part of a new partnership between tourism operators on the UNESCO World Heritage-listed destination and a major cruise line.

Fraser Island this month started welcoming mid-sized cruise ships as part of what local authorities say is a major tourism coup.

P&O Cruise ship Pacific Aria navigated its way through the Great Sandy Strait to drop anchor off Kingfisher Bay, on the island's west, for the first time on April 3.

The cruise line has been interested in Fraser Island for some time, but P&O had to wait until two smaller ships joined its fleet before it could start sailing there.

The mid-sized Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden can only sail into Fraser Island's waters during high tide, after which, passengers are transferred to Kingfisher Bay Resort to spend a day exploring the island.

A second cruise to Fraser Island is planned for December, with five trips scheduled for 2017.

The cruise calls are expected to inject more than $1 million into the local economy, P&O say.

The region's tourism office hopes the cruises will increase the area's profile among people from outside Queensland and attract more domestic visitors.

"We haven't been able to tap into this market before," Tas Webber from Fraser Coast Opportunities told AAP.

"Getting that reach and getting that market awareness is really vital for us." The local tourism office is also buoyed by statistics which show about 80 per cent of cruise passengers revisit the areas that they sailed to within two years.

Fraser Island was awarded World Heritage status in 1992 in recognition of the unique environments found on the world's largest sand island.

Stretching 120 kilometres, the island's landscape ranges from pristine white-sand beaches to clear freshwater creeks hidden inside dense sub-tropical rainforest.

Interspersed throughout the island's middle are sandy tracks that can only be navigated by four-wheel drives.

Former deputy prime minister and outgoing Nationals leader Warren Truss, whose seat of Wide Bay takes in the Fraser Coast, thinks P&O's arrival on Fraser Island is a major win for the area.

"This puts Fraser Coast and Fraser Island firmly on the global cruising map," he told reporters shortly after the first of the Pacific Aria's 1500 passengers started arriving on the island.

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