This is Rainbow Beach. A small coastal town nestled between Fraser Island, Great Sandy National Park and the vast Pacific Ocean on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. The town boasts a population of just over 1,200 people but is a popular tourist destination. Rainbow Beach sits in the Wide Bay-Burnett area of Queensland, just east of Gympie and a few hundred kilometers north of Brisbane. It draws crowds throughout the year both as an attraction in its own right but also as a gateway to Fraser Island.
The town gets its name from the rainbow-coloured sand dunes that surround it. The sand gets its colour from the rich mineral deposits buried beneath it; mostly rutile, ilmenite, zircon and monazite. The township itself is wrapped in a rustic charm where time seems to stand still and the only thing really present is the sun, sand and surf. The single main street is the central attraction and weaves a path right down to the ocean.
Rainbow beach doesn’t just give off the mellow vibes of a sleepy surf-side town baking in the sun, but it also offers travellers an amazing variety of outdoor attractions to explore and enjoy. From the majesty of massive dunes from which it derives its name to the allure of a subtropical rainforest not far away, Rainbow beach is an unspoilt gem just waiting to be discovered.
Nearby is the Double Island Point Lighthouse, which is an active lighthouse located at the summit of Double Island Point, a coastal headland nestled inside the Great Sandy National Park, 70 kms north of Noosa. Then, if you fancy a long walk with picturesque ocean views, you might want to try the Cooloola Great Walk, a 102 kilometer coastal bushwalking route within the Great Sandy National Park. The walk, which was opened in 2010, runs from Noosa North Shore, through Cooloola and down to Rainbow Beach.
Then there’s the Carlo Sandblow, a gigantic mass of sand covering fifteen hectares and overlooking the towering coloured sand dunes of Rainbow Beach and the coastline which takes in Double Island Point and Inskip Peninsula. Visitors can take the short nature walk from Caloola Drive and then take in the sunset over Tin Can Bay and the Great Sandy Strait.
And once you’ve had your fill of the mainland you can always hop across by barge to Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island stretching over 122 kilometers in length and spreading across 22 kilometers at its widest point. All of this and more await travellers to this little slice of heaven on earth. Some of Queensland’s best kept secrets which offer not only a perfect getaway from the hectic pace of city life but also a chance to take in the sparkling blue green waters of the mighty Pacific Ocean.
Join us as we journey to the sunshine state and take in the sights and sounds of Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island on this week’s episode of The Incredible Journey.
One of the first things you will want to do when you come down to Rainbow Beach is to kick off your shoes and sink your toes into the warm sand. Then maybe go out into the water for a dip. The sand is pristine, the water clear blue and the rainbow sand dunes seem to stretch on forever. It’s no wonder that Rainbow Beach attracts so many tourists. It is small, rustic and has the laid-back vibe of a lazy beach village complete with the customary surf club and local fish and chip shop.
But that’s not all there is to the allure of Rainbow Beach. The coastal area surrounding the town is alive with sights and sounds to dazzle the curious visitor or serious adventurer. For example, if you’re up for a little drive on the beach you can hire a 4-wheel drive and do some serious dune driving. On the other hand, if you prefer a lazy stroll along the beach you can do that too. The area boasts a vast array of walking tracks. But perhaps one of the most iconic stops in the area is the Double Island Point Lighthouse.
Double Island Point was named in May 1770 by Captain James Cook during his exploratory voyage along the east coast of Australia on board the Endeavour. Cook named the island because of its unique natural features. He commented that while the island itself was fairly symmetrical and equal in height the point was made up of such varying heights that it looked like two small islands lying under the land. It was this that led him to christen it Double Island Point.
The lighthouse on the point is in the Cooloola Recreation Area of the Great Sandy National Park. Getting to the lighthouse involves a 2.2km return walk which is also accessible by high clearance 4-wheel drives or even trail bikes. Though short, the walk is fairly steep, but totally worth the effort. The lighthouse offers 360-degree views of Fraser Island, Rainbow Beach and even Noosa on a clear day. If you’re lucky you might even catch a glimpse of a whole array of sea creatures. Dolphins, marine turtles, humpback whales and manta rays all frolic in the waters off the headland.
The lighthouse is still active and located on the southern end of Wide Bay. The location was surveyed for a lighthouse as early as 1864 but the structure was only constructed in 1884 by W.P. Clark, an architect and builder. The tower rises 8metres from the base to the lantern and is conical in shape. It’s constructed with an internal timber face and clad with galvanized steel plates about 2 millimeters thick which have been painted white.
In 1923 the light was upgraded to a kerosene fuelled light and the lens was upgraded in 1925. Then in 1933 the light underwent a major overhaul when it was converted to electricity. This significantly increased its luminosity. Further upgrades took place over the years and the voltage of the light was increased and finally converted to solar power as early as 1991. Then in 1992 the Double Island Light became automatic.
The history of the Double Island Point Lighthouse dates back to the first few decades after the colony of Queensland was formed. In 1864 two committees were appointed to look into the issue of coastal lighthouses. One of the sites identified as being suitable was Double Island Point but it was nearly twenty years before the Queensland government acted on the recommendation. Around 1883 the Portmaster of Queensland, Commander George Poynter Heath visited the island.
When he got there, he realised that the original location for the lighthouse, which was halfway up the point, was not suitable because the light would not be visible to the north. After careful consideration he then suggested that the lighthouse be constructed on the summit of the point.
By June 1883 tenders were called in for the construction of the lighthouse and the contract was awarded to W.P. Clark. Now Clark had already constructed Queensland’s first lighthouse at Bustard Head in 1868 near the town called 1770. The lighthouse and the keeper cottages were completed in 1884. The lighthouse here at Double Point Island was the eighteenth to be constructed in Queensland. The original lamp had an oil wick and was fitted out with fixed revolving panels. A cluster of three keeper cottages were constructed alongside the lighthouse as well as a schoolhouse, which was also built on the point and remained active until 1922.
Lighthouse keepers put in a hard night’s work, working four-hour shifts throughout the night, tending the light between dusk and dawn. During the day the keepers kept busy with routine maintenance of the light and supply of the station. When the station was converted to electric light in 1933, the keepers’ workload diminished. Then the staff was reduced to two keepers who tended the light from 6pm to 6am in six-hour shifts. But it was still hard work and lighthouse keeping was not for the faint of heart. Upon the lighthouse keeper’s shoulders rested the immense responsibility of keeping the light burning clear and bright through the long dark nights, so that ships would be warned to stay away from the rocky headland.
Currently the light, which is fully automated, is powered by solar electric panels which run a 1 million candlepower lantern with six rotating panels. The light emits a white flash of light every 7.5 seconds which is visible to passing ships up to 26 nautical miles away, which is about 48 kilometers out at sea.
Not far from the lighthouse, extending from Double Island Point down to Noosa North Shore is Teewah Beach. The beach is a famous gateway to both Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island and is a haven for 4-wheel drive enthusiasts. But this is not the only thing that attracts tourists to the beach. It’s also famous for its shipwrecks. Among them is the Cherry Venture, a 1600 ton Singaporean cargo ship which ran aground here on the 6 July 1973.
The ship was originally named the Scania and was built in Gothenburg Sweden in 1945. She passed hands several times, finally ending up in Singapore where she was renamed the Cherry Venture. On the 5 July 1973 the ship was travelling from Auckland to Brisbane when it ran into a terrible storm. The captain and crew struggled to battle winds that raged at 120 kilometers an hour and waves that were 12 meters high.
The ship was on her final voyage at the time, destined for the scrap yards of Taiwan after delivering cargo that she would pick up in Singapore. Unfortunately, she ran aground at Teewah Beach and remained there despite numerous attempts to salvage her. Over time the ship became a tourist attraction, but as it started to rust and decay [it] became more of a death trap than anything else. Fearing for the safety of over-eager tourists who clambered over her rusted and jagged frame, the Queensland government removed the wreck in 2007.
But while the Cherry Venture is by far the most famous shipwreck to grace the sands at Teewah Beach it is by no means the only one. Over the years there have been a number of wrecks along this stretch of coastline, and two of those are worth mentioning.
The first of those was an 84-ton wooden ship named the Leisha which began to take in water while she was in transit between Maryborough and Brisbane, on the 7 December 1954. The small vessel had been purchased only three months before to move cargo between Innisfail and Cairns.
The failure in her planking which led to the leak in her hull forced her to run aground about thirteen kilometers south of Double Island Point. Though a salvage operation was attempted the Leisha did not sail again. The ship could not be removed and still lies buried under several meters of sand. But her memory remains in the form of a four wheel drive track, the Leisha Track, which vehicles use to travel along the isthmus of Double Island Point.
Nearly thirty years before the Leisha ran aground, in 1926, another ship, the Dorrigo suffered a similar fate. The vessel left Brisbane on the 1st of April carrying 600 tons of cargo headed for North Queensland ports.
The ship was caught in rough seas off Double Island Point and the captain ordered the crew to abandon ship. Caught in the biting squalls and towering breakers of the Pacific Ocean, twenty-two men lost their lives at sea. Only the captain and his son escaped with their lives, picked up by a passing ship, the Moruya. Later a Court of Marine Inquiry was convened to look into the incident and found that the ship’s master had committed serious errors of judgment.
The scene of the wreck is directly in front of what is now the Freshwater Camping and Picnic Grounds, where the Dorrigo still lies submerged in its watery grave beneath the waves of the Pacific Ocean.
Even with the breathtaking beauty and attractions surrounding Rainbow Beach and Double Island Point, perhaps the highlight and feature attraction of this area is Fraser Island, a sliver of land hovering just beside mainland Australia and only accessible by a barge or car ferry.
Fraser Island is a heritage listed island and is considered the largest sand island in the world. The Australian census bureau puts the population on the island at just 182. The island is separated from the mainland by the Great Sandy Strait, a strip of ocean 70 kilometers long tucked between Fraser Island and the Queensland coast.
The island covers 1,840 square kilometers and has a small cluster of scattered satellite islands. It is Queensland’s largest island and Australia’s sixth largest island. Fraser Island is populated with lush rainforests, fragrant eucalyptus woodlands and mangrove forests. Scattered across the interior of the island are wallum and peat swamps and a chain of freshwater inland lakes. Then at the water’s edge are great sand dunes and pretty coastal heaths.
The island is made up of sand that has accumulated over volcanic bedrock. Unlike other sand dunes, the dunes on Fraser Island are teeming with plant life mostly due to a naturally occurring species of fungi that thrives on the island, which releases nutrients that are conducive for plant growth. In addition to the abundant plant life, Fraser Island is also home to various species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians which include dingoes, foraging on the beach and the occasional saltwater crocodile lurking among the mangroves.
The island was first discovered by Captain James Cook when he sailed past the island in May 1770, during his exploration of the Australian coast. Though Cook did not name the island he named Indian Head, when he spotted a group of Aboriginal people congregating on the headland. Then in 1799 Matthew Flinders, the first man to circumnavigate the Australian mainland, passed by the island. In 1802 he landed at Sandy Cape, the northernmost point of the island while charting the topography of Hervey Bay.
The Badtjala people called the island K’gari and later for a short spell the island was known as Great Sandy Island, but then became known as Fraser Island because of stories of a shipwreck survivor named Eliza Fraser.
Eliza Fraser was the wife of James Fraser, captain of the Stirling Castle, a Scottish vessel which sailed from Greenock in Scotland bound for the colony of Sydney in 1831. In 1836, while on a voyage under the command of Captain Fraser, the Stirling Castle was wrecked on the Great Barrier Reef, near present day Rockhampton in Queensland.
The Stirling Castle was making a cargo run between Sydney and Singapore with 18 people on board. When the ship struck the reef, they were hundreds of kilometers north of K’gari, the original name given to Fraser Island. The passengers launched two lifeboats and set a course south. They landed on the beach on K’gari on the northern side of Waddy Point. There were 11 survivors on board and they split up into two groups. Most of the survivors died in the following weeks, most likely from starvation.
James and Eliza Fraser were part of the second group that decided to trek south. They foraged for berries and ate pandanus until they reached Hook Point, the southernmost tip of the island. James and Eliza were captured by the Badtjala people. James Frazer, who was in poor health, soon became weakened and incapacitated. He died about 8 days later and was buried on the island by the tribe.
Six weeks after landing on the island, Eliza was found by John Graham, an Irish convict who was part of the Moreton Bay penal colony. Graham understood the dialect of the Badtjala people and managed to successfully negotiate Eliza’s release and get back to Teewah Beach, where they met a small company of soldiers and convict volunteers who were awaiting their arrival.
Eliza was transferred from Double Island Point to the Moreton Bay penal colony and then found her way back to Sydney where she married Captain Alexander Greene and returned to England aboard his ship the Mediterranean Packet. Over the years Eliza Fraser turned into somewhat of an Australian icon. She was featured as a character in several works of fiction and a movie.
The island, which by this point had been christened twice, first by the Badtjala tribe, and then by the European settlers, was renamed Fraser Island in honour of Eliza Fraser and her experiences there.
Another major landmark and attraction on Fraser Island is the shipwreck of the SS Maheno. The ship was built in Scotland at the turn of the 20th century and was originally designed to be a luxury passenger ship designed for trans-Tasman crossing between Australia and New Zealand.
The ship later served as a hospital ship for wounded soldiers from Gallipoli during World War I. In 1935 the ship was being towed to a shipyard in Osaka, Japan to be taken apart, when she was caught up in a cyclone about 80 kilometers off the coast of Queensland. The towline snapped and on the 9 July the Maheno ran aground on the east coast of Fraser Island. A few years later, during World War II the wreck was used by the Royal Australian Air Force as a target for bombing practice and later as an explosives demolition target by the Fraser Island Commando school.
Interestingly, the Maori word, Maheno means ‘island’ – and the wreck now lies along the shore of Frazer Island on 75 Mile Beach, rusted and browned in the sun, with more than three storeys of its structure sunk into the sand near the fast flowing Eli Creek.
The raw beauty and appeal of the Fraser Coast is breathtaking. Wide sandy beaches, stretching endlessly in every direction, clear azure skies that reach down to meet a blue green ocean – it seems so pristine and unspoiled, a paradise waiting to be experienced and explored.
But this paradise can also teach us some valuable spiritual lessons. Lessons that can give us deeper insights into how to live lives that are both fulfilling and successful regardless of the storms that life might toss our way.
The first lesson can be gleaned from the constant, unfailing light of the Double Island Point lighthouse. Without that light countless ships would lose their way as they sailed across the dark waters of the Pacific Ocean, and end up wrecked and battered off the coast of the Australian mainland. In John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life” and again in Psalms 119:105 the Bible says, “your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
The Bible points us to Jesus, the only true and unfailing beacon of hope in this dark world. The only one who can guide us safely to shore, protecting us from the rocky reefs that threaten to wreck us and destroy our lives. Jesus is also the divine lighthouse keeper and from the lighthouse of his word, he shines the bright beams of his love and truth. As sailors on the windswept sea of life we may safely look to the Bible and find a map that will help us navigate our ways safely into the harbour.
But it’s not only the Double Island Point lighthouse that has a lesson to teach us. Fraser Island has a lesson tucked into the sand for us as well. Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. Now sand can be beautiful, but it doesn’t provide a steady foundation to build anything on. Speaking about the kind of relationship we need to have with God’s Word, Jesus told a parable in Matthew 7:24-26. There Jesus says “therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock” (verse 24).
The man who built his house on the rock was able to withstand the storms and floods that life threw at him. When everything around him seemed to be shifting and changing, the rock beneath his feet was a strong foundation and held firm, and kept him from sinking into the churning waters around him.
Then Jesus contrasts this wise man with a man who was not so wise. In Matthew 7:26 Jesus says, “But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” (verse 26). When the rains came down and the floods swept across the plains turning the sand into a quagmire of quicksand, the foolish man and everything he owned was sucked down into its murky depths.
Sand is not the best foundation to build on. It can shift and change beneath your feet, bury you as it shapeshifts and morphs. Foundations are important. A good house needs a solid foundation in order to keep it standing through the most severe weather conditions.
Our lives are a lot like a house. The foundation is the most important part. And Jesus tells us that the right foundation, the best foundation we can have is his word, the Bible. Not just to listen to it and then wander away but to really hear it and be willing to follow its guidelines and principles.
But too often in life, like the foolish man in the story, we focus on building the walls and the roof, we fixate on shiny fittings and expensive floors and feature walls and paint and lighting and even good furniture. We focus on the peripherals, the non-essentials. And then one day, when our health fails us, or the economy fails us, or we lose our job, or, like something out of the twilight zone, a global pandemic sweeps across the world, we find that the sand beneath our feet is shifting and cracks begin to appear. Our walls collapse on us, our expensive floors split open and our pretty furniture and fittings are swallowed whole. We find that because we didn’t take the time to set down a solid foundation, the storms and challenges of life have come along and swept away everything else.
Luckily for us it’s never too late to rebuild. God’s word doesn’t have an expiry date attached. Jesus’ offer to be the rock beneath our feet is still good, we only need to take advantage of it and cash it in.
The truth is, only the Bible can keep your world from dipping and swaying when the earth beneath you shifts. Only the Bible can provide the solid foundation we need to deal with the challenges of life. Only the Bible can lead you to a safe harbour when you seem to be surrounded by jagged reefs that threaten to tear into the hull of your life.
Only the Bible can offer you hope in despair; eternity in the face of transience and peace in the face of turmoil. When everything else is shifting, Jesus is a rock that will stand firm. It’s not too late to be like the wise man and build your house on the Rock. That’s where you’ll find true inner-peace and happiness.
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If you have enjoyed our journey to Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island, the world’s largest sand island, and our reflections on establishing the best foundation for our lives, then be sure to join us again next week when we will share another of life’s journeys together. Until then, let’s pray and ask the God of the Bible to bless us and guide our lives.
Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for your Word, the Bible, whose guidelines and principles provide a solid foundation for our lives. Lord, we all want the inner-peace and happiness that the Gospel Message, the Good News of Jesus, can bring. Lord, please bless us and guide our lives, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.