K’gari has so much to see and do it’s tough to know where to begin. Don’t worry though. Our list of essential spots has you covered for your first trip to the world’s biggest sand island.
K’gari is a sand island covered in dense patches of rainforest – in fact, it’s the only place in the world where tall rainforest grows in sand. The process that allows this to happen is impressive, but the outcome is even more amazing. In its deepest tracts, where cracks in the canopy send down shafts of light to ancient ferns and palms that litter the forest floor, giant brush boxes, kauri pines and satinay (which are only found in Great Sandy National Park) reach well over 50 metres into the air in search of sunlight.
If you’re after a solid dose of awe (and maybe a sore neck), head to The Valley of the Giants. The rainforest there is all-encompassing, and some of the giant satinays on show are well over 1000 years old – a fact which adds an extra twist to the sheer grandeur of the place. The loop drive is a short yet rewarding trip, and it’s closely matched by the similarly impressive Pile Valley. Meanwhile, Central Station and the nearby walk alongside Wanggoolba Creek’s glassy waters is an undisputed winner as well.
The northern forests region, which is generally strewn with paperbarks and banksia that thin as you climb to the highest points of the island, shows off K’gari’s size (as well as its impressive diversity) and is home to some good places to challenge your off-road skillset. If you’re interested, The Northern Forests scenic drive and Lake Garawongera scenic drive are both excellent.
LAKES & CREEKS
K’gari is home to an immense amount of freshwater, and it’s incredibly impressive water at that. The island boasts a unique kind of lake, called a perched lake, fed almost entirely by rainwater and holding almost no dissolved or suspended particles. This incredible level of purity is what gives the island’s most iconic lakes – Lake McKenzie (Boorangoora), Lake Birrabeen and more – the stunning colour that makes so many do a double-take. A visit to these lakes is highly recommended (take the Central Lakes scenic drive), though Birrabeen might be better if you’re looking to avoid the crowds.
As well as being home to half the world’s perched lakes, K’gari has a wealth of freshwater creeks that will certainly knock your thongs off. Awinya Creek, Wanggoolba Creek, and most famously Eli Creek, all pump out freshwater that’s unbelievably clear, and with good reason: the water in them often comes from an underground aquifer that can take over a century to filter to the surface (a fact that will make you appreciate a dip in them a whole lot more).
Thanks to its ‘no dog’ rules and its separation from the mainland, K’gari is home to Australia’s purest dingo population. The sight of Australia’s iconic outback canine strutting around on the beach or poking around the foredunes is always a welcome one, but it’s not the only wildlife encounter the island proffers. On the island’s northern interior is Lake Allom, home to a gang of turtles that break the surface around its edges at regular intervals. Offshore, dolphins, dugongs, humpback whales and rays can be spotted, while fishermen can go in search of whiting, bream, tailor, mackerel and more with solid chances of success.