Imagine a wellness retreat that offers it all – glowing skin, soft hair, a meditation-calmed mind – and doesn’t cost you a cent.
Every now and then, we come across a place in the world so perfect, we wish you could bottle it. And, heaven knows, plenty of day spas have tried to capture a bit of natural magic: menus of clays and muds and alkalised water applied to a strange mix of rainforest birds and Enya.
Sure, imitation is the highest form of flattery and all that, but Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island sits quietly its own perfection, knowing it’s the real deal – and now you know it, too.
See, the world’s biggest sand island here off Queensland’s coast has a number of quirks, but the most fascinating – and wonderful – of them lies in its “perched” lakes. McKenzie is known as its most beautiful, and most pure.
This perched lake is, simply speaking, a collection of rainwater sitting in a crater atop the sand dunes of Fraser Island. A slow collection of organic matter has plugged up the bottom of the lake enough to keep the water from filtering back through to the ocean, so it’s like the biggest rainwater tank you’ve ever seen, 100m above sea level.
The ridiculously fine, white sand gives the whole place a gentle glow, and the position of the place means an afternoon swim is in cool, blessed shade at the end of a hot Queensland day.[related_articles]40293,9928[/related_articles]
So, how to use Mama Nature’s day spa? Here’s a quick guide:
The sand at Lake McKenzie is almost pure silica and is so fine that the stuff at the shoreline really does resemble a stupidly expensive white day spa mudpack – except it’s everywhere.
Do a controlled test, just for fun, and rub that delicious cool mud all over just one arm, then wash it off and compare the silky smoothness to your other arm. Be amazed, then go nuts exfoliating with as much mud as you like.
It’s a popular local activity, so you won’t look as crazy as you feel.
As you wade in, you can enjoy the bizarre experience of neither seeing nor feeling the water until you’re getting up to knee deep; it really is that clear and that warm (in the shallows, anyway). As the bottom drops away, though, the temperature of the water gets very crisp, very quickly.
The books say it’s 5m at its deepest, but locals say it can get as deep as nine. There’s 150 hectares of rainwater here and it is very, very drinkable, at an estimated pH of about 4.5, inhibiting algae growth to keep the lake startling in its clarity and presenting a physical challenge – drinking and swimming at the same time – that is surprisingly hard to accomplish.
Once your body is in a state of advanced relaxation, you are ready to head over to the Island’s centre of mindfulness: Pile Valley.
Since the wild winds of the Ice Age amassed it, Fraser Island has impossibly gathered flora and fauna that cheerfully ignores the notion that life this rich should not be alive and thriving on nothing but sand. The green-tinged light filtering through into the fern-carpeted, moss-walled rainforest here in the Valley just begs for a little meditation as you walk the mindbogglingly beautiful 1.8-kilometre trail.
Sit at the base of one of the giant hardwood Satinay and give thanks to Mother Nature – no Enya soundtrack necessary.
(Lead image: Darren Jew / Tourism and Events Queensland)[qantas_widget code=MCY]Check out Qantas flights to the Sunshine Coast.[/qantas_widget]
Jac Taylor is a travel writer, photographer and TV producer featured on Fairfax, BBC, Tourism Australia, Ninemsn, Marie Claire and Channels Nine and Seven. She has hung off speeding steam engines, won a mud-wrestling trophy (and a full-size barrel of peanuts) in Las Vegas, helped rear baby elephants in the Lao jungle, and survived cholera in India. All for you, dear reader.