These are the feelings you are bound to experience from a trip to the largest sand island in the world.
Fraser Island is the product of a series of weather movements carrying sand out of the eastern rivers of Australia and back again towards the land over hundreds of years. The overlapping sand dune structure of the landmass dates back over 700,000 years. There is nothing quite like it. Rainforests, lakes, creeks and all kinds of wildlife have made 1,840 square kilometres of sand their home. The fact that the foundations of the island are purely sand means that the geography of the World Heritage site changes year on year.
For anyone visiting the east coast of Australia, a trip to Fraser Island is necessary. Not only is it one of those places that is so geographically original and complex that it needs to be experienced first hand, but the way in which tourists tend to travel around Fraser these days is unforgettable itself…. Enter the 4WD.
There are a variety of ways to tour around the island: on a jacked-up tour bus, with a guide in a 4WD, on a self-drive tag-along tour, or you can choose to go it solo in your own vehicle. Be warned, driving on Fraser Island is not to be taken lightly. There are only two 500m roads on the entire island that can be done in 2WD. Even plenty of 4WD vehicles cannot handle the terrain without the right tyres. If it is your first time on Fraser, I would recommend going with a self-drive tag-along tour, so you get to have all the fun of taking the wheel across the sand, but can rely on a guide to lead the way and help you out if you find yourself in trouble. There is no doubt that driving like a badass through the forest, along the beach and through the creeks, is also better enjoyed with a big group of people who can enjoy the thrill with you!
I was lucky enough to tour the island with a great group of people from all over the world. We drove sweet candy pink vehicles and roared across the beach grinning from ear to ear. Driving across the island on the seriously bumpy tracks was like being on a rollercoaster in parts, producing plenty of moments when everyone in the car was laughing hysterically as we bounced all over the place and adrenalin kicked in. The weather was glorious and life was good. We spent 2 days and 1 night on Fraser, exploring and bonding. Some of the major highlights were as follows:
While you can choose to travel from Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay on the mainland, there’s only one means of getting onto the island and that’s on a ferry. We travelled from Hervey Bay across the most breathtakingly still stretch of ocean. It was like the introduction to the movie. We knew we were about to arrive somewhere special as we glided across the glass-like water spotting dolphins in the distance.
75 Mile Beach
If the aspect of Fraser you’re most looking forward to is the driving, you will love this incredible beach, otherwise known as the island’s national highway. 75 Mile Beach, stretching the majority of the east coast, is one of the main roads on the island, as well as being the airstrip, and it also serves as the fishermen’s nirvana. The waves roar on one side of you as you race across the sand at up to 80kmph splashing through the fresh water creeks that run out to join the ocean. The sand continues further than the eye can see, and the vibrant blue ocean teases despite being the home to deadly jelly fish, sharks and whales. Needless to say, you cannot swim in the ocean on the east side of Fraser island, and you need to look out for high-speed vehicles and landing planes on the beach if you are thinking of sunbathing, but it’s an unforgettable experience.
Some way up the east coast you will come across Eli Creek. This is the largest freshwater creek on the island, capable of dispensing some four million litres of crystal clear water into the ocean every single hour. On a hot day you will not be able to avoid a crowd at the creek but it’s still well worth a visit. Jump into the icy water, take a drink and float down the stream back to the beach. Look out for big spiders in the trees as you go!
SS Maheno Shipwreck
Another key tourist attraction on the island, the shipwreck of the ocean liner SS Maheno is a difficult one to miss (mainly as you can’t really avoid driving past it right in the middle of 75 Mile Beach). Fraser has claimed a number of ships in it’s time, but the Maheno is the most famous due to it’s position and prominence. Originally the property of New Zealand, Maheno was sold to Japan in 1935 and on the journey, a cyclone resulted in her ending up beached on the coast. Over the last eighty years, the wreck has decayed significantly, but the result is a strikingly eerie structure that adds to Fraser’s magic and mystery.
If you’re bored of the tourists, get up early, venture onto the deserted 75 Mile Beach and experience Fraser in all her silent glory as the sun rises over the ocean.
This was hand’s down my favourite place that I visited on the island. Another surreal product of nature, Lake Mackenzie is a freshwater lake with water so pure and clear that it is an unfit environment for most species. The result is a 150-hectare bath with cyan waters lapping onto bright white silica sand. It’s simply stunning. We visited on a hot day and the lake was a lovely mild temperature, perfect for floating around without a care in the world.
The final aspect of Fraser Island that makes it a noteworthy area of the Queensland coast, is the vast expanse of wildlife that resides there. You know the idea that everything in Australia can kill you? Well, Fraser Island is no exception to the rule…in fact, it has the perfect eco-system for some of Australia’s deadliest creatures. From sharks and jellies in the ocean, to snakes, spiders, huge monitor lizards and the infamous dingoes, Fraser island is a thrilling place to be! That being said, you are not going to run into all these creatures and the likelihood of your being attacked by anything is very slim if you are sensible. Nevertheless, our group saw snakes, monitors, spiders and a beautiful dingo in the short time that we were on the island.
The dingoes on Fraser are famous. They are the top order predators on the island, crucial for maintaining a balanced eco-system. Unfortunately, their population is in rapid decline due to expanding tourism and it is now estimated that there may only be between 100 and 200 dingoes left on Fraser. The mortality rate is coming from vehicle strikes and from visitors interfering with the creatures, leading to attacks and then the dingo in question being shot by the authorities. Dingoes are fascinating animals – wildly beautiful and yet extremely powerful. When walking on the island it is best to walk around in pairs so that you are not alone if you come into contact with one, and if you see one while you are in your vehicle, you must remain inside.
If you can afford it, take a short, $80 plane ride over the island and witness the awesome landscape from the butterfly lake, to the sand dunes, to the whales in the ocean. This is undoubtedly the best perspective of the unique landmass.
There are heaps of different tour companies that run on Fraser Island. A lot of them have ‘dingo’ in their name so don’t be fooled into thinking they’re all the same company. The prices range quite considerably, so if you’re on a budget you can still get over there and explore in style. If you are over 21 with an international driving license, you simply have to give driving a go!
I found the perfect tour with Fraser Dingoes, booked via the discount website bookme.com.au to ensure the best deal! It was a 2-day, 1-night self-drive tour in awesome pink land cruisers. There were 30 on the tour across 4 vehicles, with 3 drivers in each and just one guide in the lead vehicle. It was a bit more of DIY tour than many of the others – our food was bought in advance by the company but each vehicle chipped in to cook each meal. Our evening on the island was spent in low-key accommodation just off the beach in a place called ‘Happy Valley’ and it lived up to the name. With no internet or phone signal, we were grateful for being forced to chat, drink, eat, dance and bond – how it should be! Great tour guide, great people, and great vehicles! What more could you want?