Long before “regenerative travel” was a buzz phrase, Kingfisher Bay Resort was introducing sustainable tourism to one of Australia’s most idyllic destinations, K’gari (Fraser Island).
Decades on, the world’s largest sand island is an iconic attraction for domestic and international travellers who are drawn to the rugged rainforest, freshwater lakes and vast stretches of beach. As the multi-award winning Queensland resort marks its 30th birthday, we take a look at its role in helping shape the island we all love.
By elevating the Kingfisher Bay Resort structures, the buildings shift with the island’s ubiquitous sand and allow animals to (except dingos) to be able to go about their business unimpeded.
How it all started
It might be hard to imagine K’gari (Fraser Island) being anything other than a place for meaningful connection with nature, but a stroll around Central Station (a former forestry camp and now family campsite) reveals scars of the once-thriving logging industry, which began in the 1860s. Loggers were after valuable kauri pines and, according to the Queensland Department of Environment and Science, “logging expanded to become the region’s major industry for more than a century”. The mining of minerals and sand followed in the mid-1900s. Sandmining was stopped in 1976, thanks to the efforts of conservationists, and logging ceased in 1991. The following year K’gari was listed as a World Heritage Area and Kingfisher Bay Resort welcomed its first guests. This was the beginning of a brighter, greener future for the island, and the resort led the way.
The complex was built with environmental conservation for a greener future for the island.
Designed to integrate with the unique landscape, Kingfisher Bay Resort was built to strict environmental guidelines. This involved elevating the main buildings so they would shift with the natural sand movements, continuing to allow wildlife to go about their business unobstructed. The resort was also designed to take advantage of the Fraser Coast’s mild weather for cooling and warming, and therefore relies on little electricity. Extensive revegetation of native plants took place during the build, continuing afterwards, while current resort programs help put the island’s World Heritage-listed wilderness top of mind for visitors.
Resort-organised excursions include the popular K’gari Explorer Tours (previously Fraser Explorer Tours), which are single and multi-day guided 4WD tours to famous attractions, including the rusting Maheno shipwreck and the alluring Boorangoora (Lake McKenzie). For kids aged five to 12 years there’s the great Junior Eco Rangers program, which offers interactive activities such as campfire stories, scavenger hunts and bushwalking.
Expert guides take guests to explore all the natural environments of K’gari (Fraser Island) including the rainforest at Pile Valley.
Given its green credentials, it’s no surprise Kingfisher Bay Resort opened its doors the same year the island received its UNESCO World Heritage listing, in 1992. To mark 30 years of operation, the resort has unveiled a new island-inspired logo featuring a fern and a forest green hue, reflecting the rich nature-based travel experiences you can enjoy. K’gari Beach Resort (previously Eurong) and K’gari Explorer Tours have also been rebranded in a move that embraces the language of the local Butchulla Aboriginal people, bringing the businesses in line with the renaming of the island in 2021.
As K’gari’s largest tourism operator, the recently renovated Kingfisher Bay Resort has played a vital role in shaping its future. Through experiences such as the full-day Beauty Spots Tour guests can enjoy a resort stay while experiencing the most popular island locations. This makes a visit to the resort more than a stop-and-flop holiday, with travellers returning home with a better appreciation of K’gari and its remarkable natural values.
Enjoy family time in the pool or get out into nature to experience all K’gari has to offer.
Adding to Kingfisher Bay Resort’s eco credentials is the new environmental hub, K’gari World Heritage Discovery Centre. Located within the resort, the centre is a place to learn about the island’s rainforests, lakes and wildlife, and discover why it was awarded its UNESCO status. The centre is open daily and entry is free.
As for the resort’s sustainable practices, there are reusable toiletries, as well as recycling (the resort even has its own recycling truck), composting and a water filtration plant, plus paperless booking systems and the move toward using more apps.
The beach in front of Kingfisher Bay Resort is as healthy today as it was 30 years ago, before the resort was built.
Taking its commitment to K’gari and the environment seriously, Kingfisher Bay Resort was one of the first tourism operators to receive Advanced Ecotourism Certification and Green Travel Leader status from Ecotourism Australia. The resort was also the first in Australia to employ a director of environmental management.
Enhancing island tourism
What all this means for the average traveller is a holistic K’gari experience that goes beyond fine dining and 4WDing along famous 75 Mile Beach (although you can have those, too). A team of resort rangers connect visitors to the land via daily guided eco walks, talks and immersive activities. These experiences include a one-hour canoe paddle that will teach you about the importance of the mangroves, and the Bushtucker Talk & Taste experience, where you’ll learn how to incorporate native berries, leaves and nuts into modern cooking.
An environmentally friendly Segway adventure along the resort’s western beach offers a great alternative to seeing the island by 4WD, while budding biologists will love searching for nocturnal wildlife on a night spotlighting tour. Between them, the rangers have backgrounds in animal ecology, marine science and Indigenous studies, so you really couldn’t be in better hands.
One of the natural wonders of K’gari (Fraser Island), Lake McKenzie.
As for the future, Kingfisher Bay Resort continues to think big. The resort is moving toward renewable energy use, with plans for a solar farm to offset emissions. Sister property K’gari Beach Resort, on the island’s east coast, already runs solar on the main accommodation building, contributing to a reduction in diesel usage. It’s these green initiatives that Queensland – and the Australian tourism industry as a whole – needs, and it’s refreshing to see it done so well at one of our favourite places to holiday.
Learn more and book your holiday at kingfisherbay.com.