The largest sand island in the world

Fraser Island lies just off the east coast of Australia. Stretching over 120 km along the southern coast of Queensland, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. It is a place of exceptional beauty, with long uninterrupted white beaches flanked by strikingly coloured sand cliffs, majestic tall rainforests and numerous freshwater lakes of crystal-clear waters. The massive sand deposits that make up the island are a continuous record of climatic and sea level changes over the past 700,000 years.

The largest sand island in the World
Continent: Oceania
Country: Australia
Category: Natural
Criterion: (VII)(VIII) (IX)
Date of Inscription: 1992

Fraser Island

Fraser Island features complex dune systems that are still evolving, and an array of dune lakes that is exceptional in its number, diversity and age. The highest dunes on the island reach up to 260 m above sea level. 40 perched dune lakes can be found on the island. These lakes are formed when organic matter, such as leaves, bark and dead plants, gradually builds up and harden in depressions created by the wind.

The island also has several barrage lakes, formed when moving sand dunes block a watercourse, and 'window' lakes, formed when a depression exposes part of the regional water table. A surprising variety of vegetation types grow on the island, ranging from coastal heath to subtropical rainforests. It is the only place in the world where tall rainforests, up to 50 m high, are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of over 200 m.

The Largest Sand Fraser Island
Sand Dune Fraser Island

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Birds are the most abundant form of animal life on the island with over 230 species being recorded. It is a particularly important site for migratory wading birds which use the area as a resting place during their long flights between southern Australia and their breeding grounds in Siberia. A species of particular interest is the endangered ground parrot, which is found in the wallum heath lands.

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Few mammal species are present on the island. The most common are bats, particularly flying foxes. The dingo population on the island is regarded as the most pure strain of dingoes remaining in eastern Australia.

The lakes on Fraser Island are poor habitats for fish and other aquatic species because of the purity, acidity and low nutrient levels of the water. Some frog species are adapted to survive in this difficult environment. Appropriately called 'acid frogs', they tolerate the acidic condition characteristic of the Fraser Island lakes and swamps.

The earliest date for the occupation of Fraser Island is currently 1,500-2,000 years. Visible remains of Aboriginal settlement include middens, canoe and gunyah trees, and a few other markings such as scars where bees' nests have been removed. The Badtjala and Kabi Kabi groups of Aboriginal people have cultural and other traditional affiliations with the area. European contact, initiated by Matthew Flinders in 1802, was sporadic and limited to explorers, escaped convicts and shipwreck survivors.

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