Featured UNESCO World Heritage Site of March: Fraser Island, Australia

While it is cold and dreary here in Chicago, we like to daydream about sandy beaches, unobstructed views, warm water and even warmer weather. Fraser Island, located off the coast of Queensland, offers all of those dream-worthy and picturesque qualities. Accessible by ferry or plane, the island is a 5-6 hour drive (or a short 45-minute flight) from Brisbane and the Gold Coast, with numerous hotel options on the island. It is a perfect way to begin or end any trip to Queensland and the West Coast of Australia.

At approximately 710 square miles, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. It is known for its desirable beaches, colored sand cliffs, beautiful sand dunes and lakes, inland remnants of an ancient rainforest, eucalyptus woodlands, mangrove forests and sizeable dingo population. Popular activities on the island include beach activities, fishing, hiking and camping. Visitors enjoy the pristine environment and abundant wildlife, part of the reason it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By the way, what is a UNESCO World Heritage Site? UNESCO stands for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This group has a UNESCO World Heritage Committee which is tasked with maintaining a list of destinations and places that are culturally or physically significant. The organization also keeps a list of at-risk sites which are sites whose conditions are starting to threaten the basis of why the site was included on the list in the first place. The purpose is to keep the local community informed so that they can take preventative action. The mission of UNESCO as a whole is to assist in ending world poverty, create peace, and use science, culture, information, and communication to establish an intercultural dialogue.

Despite a small annual population of less than 200, Fraser Island has inhabited by humans for more than 5,000 years. Fraser Island was chosen to be a UNESCO site due in part to its rich history, biodiversity, and the ongoing geological processes taking place above and below sea level.

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