Hiking Australia’s Fraser Island
Valley of the Giants
After leaving Lake McKenzie, the trail heads east for 11.9km, passing through some of the island’s most spectacular open forests and rainforests to Lake Wabby, the deepest lake on Fraser Island at 12m. But a massive sandblow rising from its eastern shore is slowly encroaching on the lake, and within a hundred years will have swallowed it completely. Scrambling up the steep dune is hard work, but the views over the lake and the island are worth the climb.
The longest section of the trail -- 16.2km -- enters the cool, shady forests of the central high dunes. The track follows a blackbutt-forested ridge before descending into a series of corridors between the dunes, where dappled light filters through towering stands of brush box and satinays. Poetically named the Valley of the Giants, this area contains some of the largest trees on Fraser Island. Some are more than 1,200 years old, with trunks more than 4m across. Dwarfed by these giants it is easy to understand Fraser’s appeal to the early logging industry.
Leaving the domain of the forest giants, follow an old tramline for 13.1km to another perched lake, Lake Garawongera. The walk, which passes by the remains of early logging camps, becomes increasingly easier as you follow old forestry trails through open forest and heath land.
The final leg to the eastern beachside village of Happy Valley is a 6.6km (mostly downhill) stroll through open forest and sand dunes. If your sleeping bag has lost its appeal, various accommodation choices from holiday homes to hostel dorms can provide a bed. Sailfish on Fraser has large and comfortable self-contained two-bedroom apartments while Fraser Island Retreat has basic beds and amenities in simple timber cabins.
The Great Walk is best experienced during the drier months from June to September. This is also a prime time to spot migrating humpback whales breaching the waters off the east coast beaches.
The trail has a number of campsites, but camping permits need to be booked in advance. Dingo prints are often found around tents, and bolder animals can be seen on the beach. These feral dogs -- descendents from the Southeast Asian wolf -- climb trees and communicate with wolflike howls. Due to the island’s isolation, Fraser’s dingoes are the most genetically pure strain in Australia, and although small and scrawny, the animals (especially in packs) have been known to attack children and adults. Some campsites are protected with dingo-proof fences, but hikers should be careful. It is illegal to feed the dingoes, or any wildlife, on Fraser Island.