Hervey Bay: that hipster guy at the party. He's quiet and reserved, because he's used to people using him just to get close to his all-star brother Fraser. But, if you take the time to get to know him, he can be pretty darn cool himself.
Hervey Bay is the closest town to the "brother" I'm referring to here, Fraser Island. This Island is a place so extraordinary you wouldn't believe it was real. You've never seen sand like the sand here (speaking of it's the largest sand island in the world). You've never seen vegetation as impressive as the rain forests here (speaking of it's the only place in the world where the flora grows in the sand). Like I said, Fraser Island seems fictional, even when you're there. It's like watching the TV show LOST; you ask yourself, is this real? Is this purgatory? Was that a polar bear?
If you haven't seen LOST I'm sorry for wasting your time with that anecdote, but let's be honest, I'm not really the one to blame here for you not having watched this epic series.
The only way to explore the island is by a 4 wheel drive, so I took part in a "tag-along" tour with Fraser Dingo Tours. A tour guide navigated the lead car from destination to destination on the island while every one took turns driving the three other cars that followed him. Each stopping point along the tour is a unique site of Fraser Island where you can hop out of the Jeep to explore, swim, take pictures, etc.
There's a couple different companies you can choose to book your tour with. Nomads, Cool Dingo, and Drop Bear Adventures, to name a few. I give two thumbs up and a green light to Fraser Dingo though, because they're environmentally conscious, super informative about aboriginal history, and most importantly, if you have the tendency to lose track of time and your group like me, the Jeeps they use are hot pink.
Fraser is populated by roughly 194 humans and just as many, if not more, dingoes. The Island is the only place you'll find pure blooded dingoes in the whole world, because dogs are not allowed on the island (which prevents cross breeding). Actually, people often call dingoes "Australian dogs," but our tour guide was sure to remind us often that they are not dogs, they are their own distinct species. They can be very aggressive, especially if threatened. I didn't see any dingoes eating babies or anything, but I definitely agree it's best to leave them be and just admire them from afar.
So what else will you see on Fraser Island? That's a question best answered by pictures:
In order of appearance:
Lake McKenzie: One of one hundred fresh water lakes on Fraser Island! You feel like a brand new person after a swim because of the tea tree oil found in the water.
Maheno Shipwreck: A cyclone determined the unfortunate fate of this ship that turned up on the island in 1935. It's more than three stories deep, but only a small portion of the top is visible.
The Pinnacles of The Butchulla People: Sand cliffs that showcase the variety of colored sand that the island is home to.
Indian Head: The most easterly point of the island, where Aboriginals used to throw dead bodies off of. This seems harsh, but when they tried burying the bodies of the late members of their society in the sand, dingoes always dug them up and ate them. Apparently they preferred their corpses to be eaten by sharks rather than by dingoes. You say "tomato," I say, "I don't really have a preference because I'm dead."
Champagne Pools: Natural spas formed by volcanic rocks. Waves that crash over the top leave foamy water, hence the champagne! I saw an octopus here, no big deal.
Eucalyptus Woodlands: They're as magical as they sound. Look closely at the picture of the creek. Water looks a lil murky right? Wrong! The water is so clear that you can see the bottom, that color you're seeing is the color of the sand!
Okay, I realize that I prefaced this whole thing by talking about how Hervey Bay gets overshadowed by Fraser Island, and then proceeded to gush about just my time in Fraser Island, so I will make up for that now by telling you why I also loved Hervey Bay.
It is paradise here. The atmosphere is so calm and easy going that you really start to understand why people say "no worries" so often in this country. The water is safe and sheltered (and free of stingers), so it's perfect for swimming, wind surfing, fishing, or whatever else you like to do in the water. The hostel I stayed at rented out bikes for free, so I spent an entire day riding along the scenic esplanade trail, stopping along the way many times. At each stop along the trail you'll see a sign saying what to check out in that specific area. The Urangan Pier was my favorite pit stop, I walked all the way to the end of the half mile long wharf and hung out for a couple hours, spotting whales, dolphins, and quite possibly the most obese seagull in history (refer to picture). There's also tons of picnic areas, cafes, and shops along the esplanade, which ends when you get to the gorgeous marina.
Hostel Info: The Friendly Hostel - 5 out of 5 suns! I picked this hostel because it was the cheapest, but the value was sky high. It's set up like an actual house, you walk right into the kitchen and then through the living room to get to a cozy little bedroom. They're also the only place I saw in town that rented out bikes for free!
Favorite person(s) I met along the way: Vincenzo and Talita, a sweet couple on my Fraser Island tour that I became close with. We got to talking at dinner one night.
Vincenzo, from Canino, a small village in Italy, told me all about his life. He used to be a chain-smoking, meat-eating workaholic who's last priority was his health. He said he was constantly on the phone doing business and his work-life balance was non existent.
His love for Talita, a kind-hearted Brazilian beauty, helped to open his eyes to the characteristics in himself that he didn't like, things that constantly smoking and overworking made him blind to. Together, they entered a new lifestyle, one of travel, positivity, and vegetarianism.
He spoke passionately and gesticulated (as Italians often do) about his determined transition from a man he wasn't super proud of to what he is today. He went from smoking a carton of cigarettes a day (not just a pack, but a carton of cigarettes daily) to zero. Cold turkey, no joke! Speaking of turkey, he gave that up too. He said going vegetarian made him feel one thousand times healthier, and he's lost a ton of weight to prove it.
His impetus for doing an east coast trip was actually research, he's opening up a travel agency in Italy and wanted to see which tours along the coast were best. Interacting with him and Talita and witnessing their passion for life and each other was inspiring in so many different ways. Vincenzo is a reminder that if you don't like the life you're leading, you're only one decision away from a new one. We may not all be able to drop our bad habits like he dropped smoking in a day, but we can surely take every day we are given to work towards the version of ourselves that we are most proud of.
Fun fact(?): Our tour guide told us that at one point the sand on Fraser Island was more valuable than gold. Sounds interesting, but I took everything he told us with a grain of salt (or should I say 'sand'), because he also told me he used to hang out with Ian Thorpe, was somehow related to the Royal Family, and once saved a kid from a dingo by wrestling it into submission. Entertaining guy? Yes. Full of dingo poop? Probably.