Driving 70mph down a road is pretty straightforward. Tires to the asphalt, staying in lane, coming off at your slip road or ramp depending on where you are in the world. Everything is as straightforward as a nod to fellow driver.
Unless of course the fellow driver is a beached jellyfish, the ramp is a cove and the asphalt is 75 miles of sand dunes with a far as the eye can see watery central reservation.
Fraser island is one of the world’s gems, let a lone Australia’s and sits in the Top 10 of my life experiences.
Fraser Island is one of the usual spots for people going up or down the east coast of Australia. Along with Byron Bay, Airlie Beach and The Great Barrier Reef to name a few. It’s also a Unesco World Heritage site along with Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House and Uluru (Ayer’s Rock).
Going through one of the many agents on Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach, you can get over to Fraser Island by Ferry. If you’re a driver and want to do it the most fun way, then get a 4×4 and drive yourself else you can organise a tour guide to take you. Recommended for families and new drivers. I recommend being a strong driver as it can be tough.
Where to stay?
There is one more decision you have to make and will likely be made on whether you are travelling as a family or as a backpacker. Where to stay?
At that impressionable time my life, I was a backpacker. With no issue of sleeping rough or in a tent, nothing could phase me. So I went with a tent, as provided by the agent. Along with my group of 5 others, we were to adventure and sleep among the stars. All very romantic but more of that later.
The other option is to stay in the resorts or guesthouses. We met lots of people that were staying there and had good things to say about each. I can’t comment on the accommodation personally however I’m sure they are great. Find a list of the places to stay at the bottom of the page.
Once your set and sorted, you’re on your way. The ferry is quick and in pretty much no time you on the Island.
The first part of the journey, there is no messing around. The deep rainforest meets you head on and the trek through the very well trodden path (in the 4×4) will test your driving and clutch control off the bat.
A note on the 4×4’s –
These aren’t the general yummy mummy 4×4’s or chic alloy wheeled number you might be used to. These are machines. Made to do exactly what you will be doing. Climbing up and down uneven rough terrain with suspension, engine and tyres to take over almost anything in your way. They are not built to be comfy (although they are pretty good), they are not fuel efficient and they are certainly not quiet. In my experience however, they are awesome vessels upon which to embark this journey.
Straight into the thick of the forest with every other 4×4 off the ferry, single file marching through the mud. But there is nothing to worry about, as at times, the track has seen so many sets of tyres, you can drive them without actually using the steering wheel. Though I did get a punch from one of my new friends for trying it!
Before reaching the beach, there is a chance to explore some of the rainforest along the track and explore the pools and single track built amongst the trees. We found some awesome nature and truly eerie (scary) pools.
Given Fraser Island is an island completely made of sand, it is impressive to witness the dense vegetation and raw nature that has managed to call the island it’s home and grow so majestically.
On the beach
Eventually you get to the beach or the “freeway”. The east coast of the island is virtually a straight-line, a 75 mile straight of beach. Actually, this beach forms part of the Bruce Highway, one of the main highways up the east coast and still has the laws of the road govern it! Police will enforce safe driving.
When finally getting on the beach, the driver and group have a very difficult choice to make.
1. Stop and stare at the glorious Pacific Sea or
2. Push the throttle and power onto the “highway” letting the salty sea breeze fill the carriage, leaving bellowing clouds of sand in your wake
Unsurprisingly, most people go for option 2.
As the most experienced driver (and strangely the youngest) I did most of the driving. Gladly I should add. If you enjoy driving there is absolutely nothing like it. There is a different type of adrenaline having the deep blue see tickle your tires as you drive.
I the days we spent exploring Fraser Island we came across many other groups doing the same thing. One agency in particular had no problems making it’s mark on the landscape by providing its customers with bright pink vehicles. We walked along the beach and into the rainforest at certain “key” points and set up camp in some interesting areas. I would suggest find camp in a relatively popular area.
Camp a good distance from the beach. The sea comes in at night, we heard several cases of people being flooded in the middle of the night and their 4×4’s being damaged by the waves! When we saw these area’s it was clear to see they pitched for the views of the sea and underestimated our friend the moon. There are campsites close to the sea but they have been specifically marked on maps. Only use these.
Also given the nature, expect night time to yields many new creepy crawly friends. Pitch early and tight. 2 of our party left their tent slightly open and ended up sleeping in the 4×4.
Some sites to see
The Maheno Shipwreck
After a night of partying I needed a run so did so North up the beach and asked my team to pick up when they got started. Near the end of an invigorating stretch of the legs willed on by the waves of the ocean, much like a beachball under the force of longshore drift, I stopped at a site of a historic shipwreck. When my friends joined, naturally we took pictures.
The Maheno has an interesting history, as a luxury cruise liner it was bought and sold by several companies then used as a hospital ship in WW1. During a cyclone while being towed up to Japan to be melted down, the ship broke away from it’s master and ran a shore. Why was an ex-luxury liner being towed you ask? The brass rudder had to be sold to pay for the cost of the towing! Also the Maheno’s crew apparently refused to leave the wreck for fear of the “cannibalistic” aboriginals and perished aboard (maybe).
Regardless of it’s unfortunate end, it is a formidably eerie scene to stumbleupon. Salt eaten and now “part of the island” (literally – 2 stories of the the vessel are beneath the sand) it is a highly recommended albeit difficult to avoid, place to visit.
Here is a picture of what it looked like when it first hit shore! (courtesy of Wikipedia)
Just in time for lunch, we found Eli Creek. It was a busy place so we stopped and had our well packed sandwiches. It was a beautiful place with a winding flow of clear shallow water from further a shore to the sea. We threw my American Football around for awhile and then trekked up the creek to find structures bridging the water. There were lots of families chilling out and playing with kids. As it was a shallow pool with the sea as a backdrop, it was a safe place for children to play.
If you plunge into the creek further up, you can float on the water and the current will take you out (quite quickly) to the beach. The water is so clear it is really refreshing and beautiful.
At night we set up camp in a slightly risky spot but the amateur geologists among us deemed it safe. The rolling of the waves near us was awesome and the clarity of the stars and moon made for some midnight singalongs.
Another walk in the rainforest took us to this place. The first place we went swimming in a lake and it was teeming with fish. The beach itself is more of a dune that most people decided to slide, tumble roll or bounce down straight into the water! If you have the time, take a visit.
We found this sign quite funny especially as we saw it on the way out:
A friend of mine who had visited Fraser Island the week before showed me pictures of a spot that only the bravest folk dared venture too. Taking this as a challenge, I embarked the next day to match him. At the Northern tip of the Island there is a magnificent look out called Indian Head. You can see for miles in all directions. Requiring some steep walking, eventually you come to plateau overlooking the ocean. Below is shear drop onto some pretty jagged rocks. In the water it is a fairly common and easy to see small sharks and stingrays swimming close to the island. I’ve heard some say they have seen whales and dolphins, though I was unfortunate on this occasion.
Noticing where my friend had taken the pictures he showed me, I separated from my group and went on a little journey.
Caution – though an adrenaline filled experience of a young stubborn fool determined to prove himself and fight a fear of heights, I do not recommend this for the faint hearted. And if there are barriers up, do not attempt at all!
Looking out to the sea, there are several tall “stumps” that lay almost separate from the main island except for a thin ridge that can’t be seen from the viewpoint. Venturing to the left of the plateau, difficult to identify, there was a series of makeshift steps leading down and around. After about 10 metres, this path slants away from the cliff wall, with a tall wall to the right and about 3 feet of slanting path with some vegetation to hold onto. Carefully walking around the cliff I came to the ridge. Not quite yet in view of my compatriots, I could take it easy. Which I really needed to do. There is nothing either side, just a straight drop, 50-60ft onto jagged rocks one side and the shark infested sea the other. I should note that I was wearing high quality walking boots as are my footwear of choice when travelling.
Clambering over the rocks, doing my best to ignore the natures perilous offerings, I made it to the spot my friend did, right on the end of this jutting rock. My team and all the other families and visitors were pretty surprised and had they been closer, they would have perhaps seen the terror in my face, though strategically hidden by sunglasses and a hat.
Here is a picture taken by Aimno1 that I found through Google. It looks straight down at the rocks below to give you an idea of what I am talking about. That ledge on the left is where I was sitting!
The view however was indescribable. Surrounded by the cliffs, the mist from the crashing waves and the wind battering the cliff (and me). One of the girls in my party decided to call my phone like a mother and tell me off however so I quickly scampered back! One of the most wonderful things about travelling are the relationships made with those that usually become a fleeting yet intense bond. Having only known these people for a couple of days, the shared trust and responsibility for each other becomes tangible.
She did get this picture of me in the process though. And the warden put up a barrier straight after, as it turns out, my friend who had done it before also got a telling off as the path was in the process of being stabilised!
Even after hours of driving on the beach, nothing is certain and nothing should be taken for granted, is sand looks too soft, it usually is. Ignoring that advice, we ended up like this –
Even sand that is well trodden, and surrounded by hard surface, can be treturous if you drive too slow. This is what happened to us as we slowed to watch what we thought were dolphins. I recommend knowing where your shovel is!
Especially given this sign in the car – a bit harsh for a beach adventure:
One of the biggest attractions on the island is one we unfortunately left to our last day. We had heard great things about Lake Mckenzie and wanted to dedicate some time to it. We weren’t disappointed when we got there! An absolutely gorgeous tree surrounded lake with crystal clear waters and white sand. The sand is of the type found in this part of the world and makes up some of Australia’s famous white sand beaches like White Haven beach in the Whitsundays. The silica sand that is used to make high quality glass like the lens in Hubble Telescope is a naturally exfoliant and a few rolls in this white dust with leave your skin feeling baby smooth and even clean your jewellery with a little rubbing. Fascinating stuff.
I can’t recommend spending some time here enough. It is breathtaking and awe-inspiring ecosystem. Swimming pretty far out, the water is still crystal clear though for me when I can’t see the bottom for it’s depth, my nerves get the better of me and I turn back swiftly. We spent time playing “Horse” which led to my having to do star jumps in front of some unfortunate souls after I dropped the ball too many times.
These are wild dogs and despite their cute demeanour and seemingly tame nature, there are to be avoided. We were taught a sign and stance to take when confronted by a Dingo, here we are practising –
The Dingos are not violent, but due to years of heavy tourist contact, they have no qualms about coming very close to humans, this can pose several threats, one to health and another to safety as if they find food, they may lay claim to it and potentially put up a fight. Dingo’s should be avoided, they are not stray, they are wild. Admire their cuteness from a distance.
Fly on Fraser Island –
The main form of transport is 4×4 however for the more height tolerant among us, you can go on a small aircraft and see the island from the sky’ I never did this but I have an almost certain opinion that the experience would be nothing short of amazing.
The runway is right on the beach or 75 Mile Highway!
Nomad Fraser Island
(The company I used apparently shut down :-( they were called Smokey Joe’s, I’m sure any of the other options are still good)
Go to Fraser Island!
I hope you enjoyed the post and manage to get out to Fraser Island at some point. It will be a very cherished memory and a true adventure like no other on the planet. For any more info please ask.