Family Holiday Memories – Fraser Island

Folks, it’s time to stretch my memory back far further than it goes again to bring you not only photos but memories of an old family holiday. Once again we go back to I would guess the late 1980s and the destination? Well, it’s a sandy island off the Queensland Coast known as Fraser Island. Fraser Island is around 250 kilometres from Brisbane, and is reached by ferry from Airlie Beach on the mainland. You drive to a place called River Heads and take a ferry to Fraser Island. You need a four-wheeled drive on the island too as there are no sealed roads, and a lot of the driving is done on the beaches. Fraser Island is pretty much a place just for tourism I guess – the local inhabitants number less than 200 and it’s a heritage protected place.

And to get there from Melbourne can take a little while, especially as family holidays (bar the one 1986 to Europe) shunned planes and had us taking the car – yes, the ol’ Range Rover. Which was in for a bit of a battering on this particular trip.

I’m not sure just how long the trip was, but it must have been over two weeks. I think it was a September trip as many of our trips were, better weather than June/July for the mid-year break. And it wasn’t just a trip to Fraser Island we embarked upon, we stopped I think at the Gold Coast for a couple of nights, and on the way back I think we visited one of my school friend’s family farm in Walgett (we did this a couple of times) so I can’t see how it would have been done in less than three weeks.

Because this is Australia, and the distance from Melbourne to Fraser Island is over 1900 kilometres by road. Google cheerfully suggests that it could be done in 23 hours, which seems insane to me. There’s two ways really of getting to Queensland, one being via the coast and the Pacific Highway. In the last 30 years significant upgrades have been made on this road, which was known in the day for its high incidence of fatalities. So we preferred the inland route which took us through Parkes and Dubbo and then swung across towards the coast in Northern New South Wales.

This meant a number of stops, and days of driving too (yay!). And again, kudos to our parents for doing this because frankly, I don’t think I would and I don’t have kids! And we were early teenagers at the time, so such a fun time in life! I don’t remember if it was this trip, but on most trips we would leave of an evening heading north. This was usually a Friday after Dad got home from work, and we would have the car ready to go and we would hit the road, after dark.

Which makes sense to me, you leave after the traffic in Melbourne has died down and so it’s much easier to drive through and out the other side of the city. Although back then we didn’t have the roads we have today, the tollways and Ring Roads which in theory make things much easier. But on the flipside, we have so much more traffic today. Usually our goal would be to get out of Victoria, which would be around 3.5 to 4 hours of driving, heading for either Albury or Wagga Wagga. Albury is right on the state border with New South Wales, and so closer than the very cooly titled ‘Wagga Wagga’. But Wagga would mean you were slightly more advanced when you woke to Motel breakfast through the hole in the wall and a long drive ahead of you for the next day.

Through the middle of New South Wales we went, I would guess stopping at Dubbo. Dubbo has a famous zoo there, although I don’t have any memories of actually visiting so I don’t think we did. However, a town on the way to Dubbo is Parkes, which has the famous radio-telescope which was the subject of the film ‘The Dish’. This large dish was critical to communications during the moon landing in 1969.

I can’t remember exactly where the next stop would have been, but I am guessing it was Armidale in northern New South Wales. Then to the Gold Coast and at some point a stop at the Big Pineapple. Australia has a love of ‘big things’, including the Big Pineapple, the Big Banana, the Giant Prawn and many more. So this was a critical spot!

Anyways, fast forward, we stopped at the Gold Coast and we went to Sea World. And then on to Fraser Island! Via River Heads. I think we stayed the night at River Heads and then went on to Fraser Island the next day. And what is most memorable about Fraser Island actually is that we took the ferry to the island, and our resort was on the far side of the island, so we decided to take the inland track. The other option was the beach. Shortly into our journey, the was a water crossing. A river I think, although I recall it not having much in the way of flow. It was quite deep, and Dad went for a walk in it to decide what was the best way to cross. Back in the car, and in we went in the Range Rover, and before we knew it ‘CRUNCH!’

Well, it turns out the car had hit a rock or log – I think rock, underwater. It had ruptured the diff on the car, which I think was now leaking oil! It was a major problem and we ended on a ferry back to River Heads. We stayed overnight, they needed a few days to repair the Range Rover, and luckily the insurance covered us for a replacement car! And we were off by the afternoon in a Suzuki Jeep! This time we took the beach route to the resort, which was the right way to go.

Fraser Island was hot and fun. I don’t remember too much other than that. I know there was a shipwreck on the beach which we explored and Dad photographed. It’s a beautiful, sandy island. Oh and I remember there were a lot of dingoes! It’s actually not that visited a place, and so it’s special in that way. There are limited accommodation options, but camping is very popular across the island, a number of campsites. There are a few resorts there today though, and I can tell you we stayed at a place called the ‘Orchid Beach Resort’. Although I don’t really remember the place! And in fact the place has since been demolished!

We had a major disaster, and it provided a strong memory, but strangely not a very negative one. Because I remember this as one of the best family holidays we ever had! How about you? Do you remember a disaster on a family holiday? And how was the impact, ultimately? Thanks for reading today, May the Journey Never End!

5 thoughts on “Family Holiday Memories – Fraser Island

  1. What great memories of a family toad trip Andy. I’ve not been to Fraser Island but one year we picked up a car at Brisbane airport then drove up the coast and spent three nights on Hamilton Island in the Whitsundays before continuing up to Port Douglas.

  2. Nice holiday memories. I congratulate your parents for embarking on such adventures with young children, it can indeed go wrong. But it confirms where your taste for adventure comes from.

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