This morning after breakfast, we headed on the bus all the way to the Champagne Pools at the top of the island. To get there, the ride was quite bumpy and a few people were getting car sick. Thankfully, the ride was over and we were able to enjoy the beautiful water of the ocean crashing into the coast causing champagne like bubbles everywhere. We spent a while there taking pictures of the beautiful area surrounding us, marveling at the colored sands, and masses of sand in the distance. We then headed back down the ‘Sand Highway’ which runs along the coast of the eastern side. We must have been clearning 90km because we flew past the other cars on the ‘highway’ — even though it’s just a beach. He was racing to beat the tide and make sure we were able to get back down to the bottom of the island before high tide.
Along our way, we passed a little prop jet that was offering flights to see the island from above…so guess who went on board! Me and 5 others got off the bus and headed for this tiny plane that took off from the beach. I’ve never been in a plane that small, and it was incredible to feel how light we were in the air. Looking down at the trees, beaches, ocean really was spectacular. We circled around the lakes we had previously visited, and more lakes to come. After just 15 minutes, we touched back down and met the bus back to head for the amazing shipwreck of Maheno.
Once at the site, it was quite amazing to hear the details of this one ‘titanic like’ ship that was going to be one of the best passenger ships of its time.
Built in 1905 as a luxury passenger steam ship, the 400-foot vessel was one of the gems of the merchant marine.
She held the Sydney to Wellington speed record, and would power through the waves at a ripping 16 knots.
After 9 years of panache and service to the upper crust from both sides of the Tasman, she was refitted and was enlisted in the Navy as a hospital ship for service in the First World War.
The amount of human tragedy she would have seen is those war-torn years is staggering.
Some 25,000 sick, wounded and dying soldiers were valiantly transported and cared for as she traversed the English Channel over the five years of her military service.
After the war, she was returned to her former glory as a luxury liner, and made six New Zealand to England voyages. But the advent of internal combustion engines, ironically improved by the war, lead to her demise as newer, faster and cleaner vessels took to the high seas, leaving the Maheno in their wake.
Out dated, and out classed, she was decommissioned in 1935, and sold to a Japanese firm for scrap.
It was on that final voyage that things went wrong, and she found her way to Fraser Island, as local ranger Allan Dyball explains.
“En route to Japan, in cyclonic conditions her tow rope broke and she came to grief on the eastern beach of Fraser Island. That was back in 1935,” said Ranger Dyball.
The rustic colors made for some great photography. After the shipwreck, we headed for Indian head, a lookout over the amazing sealife playground. Fraser Island is known for it’s variety of sealife, and whales often play in these waters as they migrate back South. Mainly they bump into the island from the irregular currents (Global warming at its finest!) that cause a funnel like motion that sends them closer and a little off their normal direction, but they find it a fun detour in the warm waters of Hervey Bay.
We had lunch and then headed for the top of Indian Head to take a lookout of what was playing below. From the lookout we saw whales, sharks feeding, fish, sea turtles, stingrays, dolphins, and clear blue water. Whales went to and fro and played for all the onlookers. It was quite an amazing and moving sight to behold.
After Indian head, we headed for Eli Creek, one of the outflows of freshwater to th ocean. Here you can hop in the water (COLD) and flow out to the end where a small ‘creek like’ beach was.
We then headed back from our exciting day to the pools, hot tubs, and dinner at the lodge. The bar there decided to do Karaoke, and one couple did ‘YMCA’. From the audience, some girl, apparently a dancer, had memorized or at least come up with an entire routine to the song, which was comically hilarious to watch. Not missing a beat, she completed the entire song filled with hands, hips, legs, and pointed toe at all the right spots to make the Karaoke night quite enjoyable.