One of the most iconic destinations along Australia’s East Coast must be Fraser Island. The World’s largest Sand Island is a popular attraction amongst tourists and locals alike. Although the island is made entirely from sand it still stretches over 120km in length and boasts the only home to the remaining pure-breed dingoes. As well as native animals, this national heritage listed Island also hosts several ecosystems. You can expect to see impressive sand dunes, subtropical rainforests and various lakes just to name a few of the natural masterpieces on offer. Whether you plan on visiting Fraser Island as a day trip or as a holiday you will not run out of things to do.
To access the island, you can either catch a ferry from Rainbow Beach; where you will arrive at Hook Point on the South end of the Island, or Hervey Bay to Wanggoolba Creek. The main issue with travelling to a sand island is the mode of transport – you cannot drive on sand without a 4 Wheel Drive.
Luckily, there are plenty of companies based in Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay which provide 4×4 rentals for the persons who wish to explore the island for themselves. Alternatively, there are heaps of tour companies that operate 365 days of the year, if you don’t feel comfortable driving on sand one of these tours would be your best bet. A popular style of tour amongst backpackers is the ‘tag-along-tour’ – this allows you to drive 4×4’s around the island in a convoy where a tour guide drives in the lead. This gives people the chance to experience sand driving without being completely clueless about navigating this complex terrain. Can’t drive? No worries, you have the fun job of sitting back, taking in the scenery and most importantly picking the music.
There is also a choice of 4×4 buses which allow you to travel around the island from the comfort of a passenger seat. If driving isn’t for you then there is the option to fly to the Island, or simply book a scenic flight and view the island from the skies. If you’re into hiking the ferries do accommodate foot passengers but it’s a long way to walk on sand.
Once you’re on Fraser Island you’re spoilt for choice on accommodation for your stay. There are resort style rooms on either side of the island with a small number of shops, restaurants and even a bar! Alternatively, you can pitch a tent right on the beach and wake up to the sound of the ocean.
What to See
Once you’ve arrived you need to have an idea of the best locations to see, so here’s a breakdown of my favourite stops around the island. When planning your trip, and looking at maps of the Island please take into consideration that travelling on sand takes a lot longer than on roads and high tides will affect your beach driving.
Probably the most famous, picturesque lake on the Island, Lake McKenzie is a very popular spot for tourists and locals alike. With easy access and parking facilities just a short walk away there is no excuse for missing this one out. Fraser Island hosts half of the World’s perched lakes and Lake McKenzie is arguably the nicest of them all.
This crystal-clear lake combined with perfect white sand makes you feel like you’re stepping into paradise. Go swimming, relax in the sun or bring a ball along. The locals even bring their paddleboards to enjoy the calm waters. To get an idea of just how clear and pure this water is, the aboriginals used to use it as their source of drinking water and would never use it for swimming. Wear minimal sun cream when swimming here to preserve this beautiful stop.
Swimming in the ocean around Fraser Island is not advised as the beaches are unpatrolled and the rips are strong and unpredictable. Luckily, on the Eastern side of the island, there is an area of rock pools called the Champagne Pools. Here you can swim in the ocean without the dangers that would normally be presented. Named due to the waves crashing against and over the rocks, creating a bubbly affect these rock pools provide a fun playground for people of all ages. Paddle in the smaller rock pools or get engulfed by the waves as they smash over the rocks. Aboriginals used these pools as a fishing trap, they would patiently wait for a wave to carry fish into the calm water where they would become easy pickings for the aboriginal tribesmen to spear or net them out. Be cautious around the rocks as they are slippery and sharp, waves can be stronger than they look and knock you over.
This fresh water creek meets up with the ocean on the Eastern side of the island. A boardwalk has been built which allows you to walk amongst the rainforest and dip into the creek further inland. From here the water flows down to the beach, bring a floaty and gently bob along with this natural lazy river. At the end of the creek, there is a small pool of fresh water where you can paddle or lay down, keeping cool while enjoying a cold beer. Next to the creek is a large flat plain of sand where you can play any number of games before going back into the stream to cool down.
75 Mile Beach
The Eastern side of the Island is where the real beach driving adventure begins. With 75 miles of beach highway, you can drive most of the length of the island while abiding all the rules you already know from mainland driving. Experience endless beach views and blue ocean as far as the eye can see while cruising along this unique highway. During whale season keep a keen eye on the horizon for your chance to spot a humpback whale during migration.
A must do stop on the 75-mile beach highway is Indian Head. This headland stands 80m above sea level and provides 360 views of the island, so make sure you bring your camera for this one! The raised platform provides the perfect opportunity to spot sea life in the clear water below – often small sharks, stingrays and whales can be spotted from this vantage point. The walk up to the headland requires some walking over uneven rocks and footpaths so make sure you’re comfortable with walking on such terrain.
Learn a bit about Fraser Island’s history of logging by venturing through Central Station. This sub-tropical rainforest is home to some incredible trees and plants which used to be cut down and sent to the mainland for things such as sail masts. With a 1.8km boardwalk through the rainforest, you can stroll through, following the course of the creek and take in the sounds and sights that surround you.
Central Station was also where the family of the loggers made their homes, with one of the original buildings and telephone wires still intact with information boards telling you about the logging industry. This rainforest also holds relevance to the aboriginal women who used the creek as a sacred birthing area.
Lake Wabby is a barrage lake, differing from Lake Mckenzie. This type of lake originates as a creek leading to the ocean, but as the sand is blown in from the ocean it finds a weakness in the dunes and stops the water’s course, acting as a dam. The only way to reach Lake Wabby is via a 2.5km bushwalk, on a hot day this can be tough but rewarding when you arrive at the refreshing green lake.
Just before you get there you will reach a large sand blow known as Hammersley Sand Blow. This vast stretch of sand makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into a desert. Just a short walk across the dunes brings you to Lake Wabby. This lake is one of the deepest on the Island and home to an array of fish species and turtles. Unlike Lake McKenzie, the water is a deep green colour and visibility is limited. Don’t be put off by the ‘dirty’ colour it’s perfectly safe to swim in. The greeny brown look stems from the tea trees that surround the lake that stain it this colour. The fun comes from the steep sand dune that meets the lake, where people enjoy running down and diving into the water.
What Makes Fraser Island Unique
If you haven’t been impressed by everything listed above, then there are still a few unique qualities to Fraser Island. I mentioned before that this Island is home to the last remaining pure-bred dingoes and this is no joke. As their numbers on land as well as on the island are depleting it’s well worth hoping to spot one on the island while they are still around to see. Chose to stay on Fraser Island for at least one night as the star-lit sky is breath-taking. Being so far away from the mainland and having minimal light pollution provides perfect conditions for stargazing and you will not be disappointed that you stayed awake to see them. Alternatively, if you’re more of a morning person then the sunrise, best seen from the Eastern side is well worth waking up for, just remember your camera and sunglasses.
If you are planning on renting a 4×4 for yourself, please make sure you get the correct permits to camp and drive on the island. Also, more importantly, stay dingo safe!