We arrived to Rainbow Beach, located on the Sunshine Coast of Australia’s ‘Sunshine State’ QLD to watch the spectacular sunrise over the sea. The streets of the small coastal town were calm and peaceful first thing in the morning – that is, until you reached the service station. Some 4WDs were squeaky clean, while others were coated in sand and salt; it wasn’t difficult to work out who was coming back from Fraser Island.
Although, if you were still somehow unsure, the vehicle occupant’s faces would be the next best clue. City folk departed with sun-kissed skin, heading back to reality unwillingly with tired smiles. Groups of excited foreigners were being directed onto tour buses. Blokes were letting down the pressure in their enormous mud tyres, ready to tackle the soft sand and rugged, endless adventures of Fraser Island.
At 7am, our Nissan Patrol was first off the barge, and our four days of island life bliss had begun. Four days might not sound like much, but you’ll soon realise that we fit a lot into our adventures.
An explorers paradise of spectacular beaches, fresh water creeks, fresh water lakes, stunning rainforest and sand dunes – Fraser Island is a heritage-listed island located along the southern coast of Queensland, Australia, approximately 200 kilometres north of Brisbane. The island is considered to be the largest sand island in the world at 1840 km². Its length is about 120 kilometres and its width is approximately 24 kilometres.
The sand island is covered with stunning plant life, due to the naturally occurring fungi present in the sand, which release nutrients in a form that can be absorbed by the plants. You’ll hear beautiful birds singing as you walk through the rainforest; see turtles swimming in the inland lakes and spot wild dingoes patrolling the islands silently, especially at dawn and dusk. There have even been rare sightings of saltwater crocodiles on the island.
I could waffle on about the 120kms of stunning white-sandy beaches that we explored back and forth, or the days we spent floating around in fresh water lakes and creeks, or the bumpy 4WD tracks we used inland to cross the island to discover hidden beauty… Instead, here is our ‘Best of Fraser Island’ list in photographs. We hope these images inspire you to get out there and explore this incredible place yourself. We shouldn’t have to tell you this – but, if you get the chance to visit Fraser Island, take it and you’ll be thankful for a very long time to come.
Fresh crystal-clear water surrounded by wild rainforest. Sprawl out on the white sandy beach under a tree and breathe in the silence. This spot gets really busy during the day. Get here early in the morning and have it all to yourself! We got here at 7am (don’t worry, it was still hot enough to swim) and there wasn’t another person in sight. The instant we walked onto the white sand, we fell completely in love with this place and felt overwhelmingly blessed to call Australia home.
Fraser Island has claimed many ships with twenty-three wrecks recorded in Fraser Island waters between 1856 and 1935, when the S.S. Maheno beached near The Pinnacles. The Maheno is the most famous of Fraser Island’s wrecks and has become a landmark attraction. Built in 1905, the SS Maheno was one of the first turbine-driven steamers. When they reached Queensland Waters, a cyclonic storm snapped the tow chain and the Maheno drifted helplessly onto Fraser Island’s ocean beach. The wreck is exposed differently during the day, depending on the ocean tides.
Driving The Beautiful 75 Mile Beach
75 Mile Beach runs along most of the east coast of Fraser Island. While it may not be the best place for swimming due to dangerous currents and plentiful Tiger sharks, it is extremely beautiful and has a number of excellent highlights such as Champagne Pools, Indian Head, the Maheno Wreck and Eli Creek. This unique stretch of beach is a National Highway as well as a landing strip for light aircraft. Driving along 75 Mile Beach is a must do.
Walk to Lake Wabby
We saw the sign for Lake Wabby while driving down 75 Mile Beach and jumped out in our swimmers ready for a swim in more of Fraser’s fresh water bliss. However, in our usual ‘let’s go right this instant’ excitement, we didn’t realise there was a bit of a walk ahead of us. The round trip walk from 75 Mile Beach is probably only 3 or 4 kms – BUT, be ready for rough rainforest tracks, plenty of soft sand and high sand dunes. On a hot day, the sand dunes will burn your feet so be sure to wear shoes and carry water with you as you’ll be dreaming of chugging down a jug of cold water by the end. Once you reach the lake, you will forget the walk that got you there. This stunning fresh water lake hides on the other side of a sand dune desert – what will look like a perfect mirage, is actually real-life.
Float Down Eli Creek
We swam in Eli Creek every day while on Fraser Island. I also enjoyed myself so much that I actually forgot to take many photos… so you’ll have to take our word on this instead. Eli Creek is a fast flowing, fresh water creek that flows through rainforest and winds its way across the beach to the ocean. There is an amazing boardwalk that you can walk along to see the creek in all it’s beauty which will take you to stairs that you can use to climb down into the creek. Float down the creek, surrounded by a mass of trees and green lush grasses onto the mouth of the creek. Bring a gazebo, some cold drinks and spend the day lounging around. Get here early to grab a good spot as like all beautiful places, Eli Creek gets busy later in the day.
Indian Head is a headland lookout along 75 Mile Beach that offers 360 degree views! Walk to the top, take in the views and spot a couple of turtles catching waves below (or larger, less playful sea creatures). The below pictures speak 1000 words.
Explore Central Station
If you have a reliable 4WD, put driving the inland tracks of Fraser Island on your bucket list. A maze of 4WD tracks ranging in bumpiness can be explored on the island. The most popular of which, is to Central Station. Central Station is a large dingo-fenced camping area in the centre of the island that is surrounded by dense rainforest. Walk along the boardwalk over the fresh water stream, have a picnic in the grassy park area or drive your 4WD around the area to enjoy the beautiful surrounds. We also camped in Central Station and highly recommend a night here to anyone visiting the island.
The West Coast
We decided to take some of the roads less travelled on Fraser Island to reach the west coast of the island. The island is only 20 odd kms wide but due to rough sandy / forest tracks, it will take you about an hour to reach the other side. There are only a few towns on the west coast of the island and it is practically silent compared to the east coast. Make sure to fill up your car with fuel while still on the east coast as you won’t see any fuel again for some time. The drive across the island was beautiful. You’ll travel through a range of vegetation and past a variety of lakes. We drove south along the west coast, enjoying the beaches and spotted a few wild dingoes searching for lunch. Depending on the weather and tides, you may find yourself meeting a couple of creek crossings.
How Do I Get To Fraser Island?
There are a number of tours operating that take tourists over to the island from the coast – simply type ‘Fraser Island QLD Tours’ into Google and you’ll be overwhelmed with options. However, if you wish to explore the island on your own, you will need a capable 4WD. We took our Nissan Patrol over to the island using the Manta Ray Barge at Rainbow Beach. If you want to take your own vehicle over to the island, here’s what you’ll need:
1. A ticket for the barge from the mainland over to the island (4WD $110 return from Inskip Point). You can either catch the barge from Inskip Point near Rainbow Beach (this is what we have done) or from River Heads south of Harvey Bay. You can book this online; we bought our ticket from the service station in Rainbow Beach 2 hours before catching the barge.
2. A vehicle Access Permit to be allowed to drive your vehicle on the beaches and through the Great Sandy National Park (one month or less = $45.10). You can book this online or give them a call using the details on this website.
3. A camping permit or other accommodation booking if you don’t wish to camp. We didn’t book any camping before we got to the island because we didn’t know where we would end up each day. Obviously in peak season it’s best to book ahead. There are a range of camping spots on the island which are clearly marked as you drive along the popular east coast beach. Some camping spots have no amenities, while others offer showers, toilets and fenced dingo-free zones.