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Why Was K'gari Called Fraser Island?

Updated Wed 14 Jun 2023

Wondering why K'gari was called Fraser Island? You're not alone! Many travelers today are confused about the changing names of the world's largest sand island. The truth is, the island's name has always been K'gari, according to the Traditional Owners of the land. European colonists are responsible for the renaming to "Fraser Island", and only recently has the name been reverted back to its traditional ways. Let's unpack this frequently asked question about K'gari!

girl walking down river

Brief History Of K'gari (Fraser Island)

K'gari, previously known as Fraser Island is located off the east coast of Australia in the Wide Bay–Burnett region. The island's traditional name, K'gari, means paradise in the native tongue of the Butchella People who inhabited the island for thousands of years. 

If you visit K'gari today, you can see many important cultural sites that represent the history and culture of the Butchella People. Only in the late 1700s-1800s, when European settlers started to land in Australia, was the island rediscovered by colonists and renamed. 

Butchella People sign

But when did K’gari get the name “Fraser Island?”

K’gari’s traditional owners, the Butchulla people, inhabited the sacred island for over 5,000 years before early settlers to Australia came upon the paradise known as Fraser Island today. While Captain James Cook was likely the first settler to set eyes on the island as he sailed past in 1770, Matthew Flinders is said to be the first European explorer to land on the island in 1802. 

K’gari was known as the “Great Sandy Island” for a brief period, but the name “Fraser Island” wouldn’t be coined until 1836 when a group of 11 shipwreck survivors would make their way to the island. Eliza Fraser was one of the party and it is said the island was then renamed “Fraser Island” for the shipwrecked woman.

K'gari Coastline

Renaming Fraser Island to "K'gari"

After being called Fraser Island for many years, the World Heritage Committee officially renamed the island K'gari in 2021 out of respect for the Butchella People. Fraser Island is a name that draws attention to Australia's dark colonial past, and locals are slowly starting to show respect for the land's Traditional Owners.

In August 2022, The Queensland Department of Resources opened up the movement for an official name change. After experiencing overwhelming support, the island has officially been named "K'gari" as of June 2023. It's a massive win for the Traditional Owners of the land, and the name change highlights the importance of respecting, acknowledging, and celebrating K'gari's indigenous culture. K'gari, pronounced "Gurri", is now the official and rightful name for Fraser Island!

Lake McKenzie

Visiting K'gari

K'gari (Fraser Island) became a major tourist hub for travelers on Australia's east coast during the later half of the 1900s and the early 2000s. Nowadays, it is a must-see for backpackers and travelers in Australia!

In addition to its rich Aboriginal history and culture, K'gari is a fascinating natural wonder. It is the largest sand island in the world, with golden sand dunes that date back to ancient times. The island is also home to pristine freshwater lakes, towering rainforests, unique and thriving wildlife, and so much natural beauty!

There is a reason why so many travelers have K'gari on their Australian bucket lists! And with the tourism industry so advanced nowadays, there are many ways to visit this beautiful island that suit all types of budgets. You can hire a 4WD, book a guided tour, try a camping adventure, or go on a tag-along tour. There are so many incredible options!

Visit the beautiful K'gari yourself on one of these tours!

girls looking a giant tree

Do you have more questions about visiting K'gari? Call us at +61 7 4128 4479 or live chat with our travel experts online. They will help you plan the perfect trip!

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