Escaping to Fraser Island
Step into a place abound with untouched beauty, white sandy beaches and towering rainforests. As the world's largest sand island, and a World Heritage listed gem, Fraser Island is a special place of adventure and retreat. Catch a glimpse as the guys from Wild Weekend explore Fraser's East Coast.
Your next adventure: Fraser Island
Where in the world? Queensland, Australia
Activity: Swimming, Hiking, 4WD
Difficulty: Fraser Island has a number of easy walks ranging from 800m to 21km. The 4WD roads are fairly well used, but be wary of creek crossings because even though the water looks shallow, the sand can be loose. You'll also want to keep an eye on tides – avoid driving on the beach at high tide.
Wrap up: Towering rainforests, pristine beaches and a wealth of animal life makes Fraser Island a popular place of retreat and adventure. You'll need to hire a 4WD or hitch a ride with a tour to make your way around the island.
Wild Weekend Suggested Itinerary
Day 1: Drive to Rainbow beach (stay overnight if you plan on arriving late).
Day 2: Hire a 4WD at Rainbow Beach and take the barge from Inskip Point to Hook Point. Drive through the centre of Fraser Island to reach Lake McKenzie for afternoon swimming and snorkelling. Leave Lake McKenzie to access the beach road and drive 10km North of Eurong to set up camp behind the dunes at the beach.
Day 3: Leave camp for an early morning swim at Lake McKenzie. Drive through the inland rainforest to Lake Wabby and hike the sand dunes. Head back to the beach and drive North towards Indian Head, stopping at Maheno Wreck, Eli Creek and Red Canyon.(If you have an extra day you might like to camp overnight and explore Indian Head, Champagne Pools and The Cathedrals the next day before driving south again).
Day 4: Pack up camp and take return barge to mainland from Hook Point.
Fraser Island has vehicle and pedestrian ferries at Hervey Bay, River Heads and Rainbow Beach. We drove from Brisbane in the evening and stayed the night at Rainbow Bay, picking up a 4WD while we were there. In the morning it was just a 10 minute drive to Inskip Point to catch the ferry and begin our adventure.
Places to stay
Rainbow BayRainbow Bay has a range of accommodation available for travellers and is a good stop over point if you're a weary traveller.
Eurong BeachAs a popular destination, Fraser Island has a range resorts and camping areas along the East and West coast. We chose to camp behind the dunes on Eurong beach during our stay because it's close to the main sights on the east coast and centre of the island.
Exploring the Eastern sites
You could easily spend a week exploring the sights, creatures and experiences the world's largest sand island has to offer. Although the west coast beckoned, we only had 3 days so we decided to focus on the east coast.
Starting the adventure at Pile Valley and Lake McKenzie
I can see why Lake McKenzie is raved about. As soon as we saw the Lake, we were immediately taken aback by the pristine, crystal clear water and white sands. There's a moment of awe in that first instant, then you feel immediately drawn to it. Naturally, we headed straight in for a dip. Lake McKenzie is perched 100 metres above sea level, so no streams or saltwater flow into it – it's all rainwater. If you're a bit wary of what lurks beneath, you can swim at ease because the acidity levels of the water mean McKenzie doesn't support much life. We took our snorkel anyway and managed to spot a couple of schools of small fish in the crystal water.
Curious campsite visitors
After exploring Lake McKenzie, we drove 10km north along the beach drive to set up camp at Eurong. We found a nice spot behind the dunes, and as soon as we started getting settled there was a jolt of surprise as we realised we were being watched. Some curious dingoes ventured out, eyeing us off and hoping for some of our food. The isolation of Fraser Island means they are the purest breed of dingo in Australia and noticeably smaller than the mainland species. In the end they didn't give us any trouble - soon after they arrived we got our fire started and they got frightened and ran away. Dingoes live in most areas on the island, so before you start your adventure read the dingo guidelines for your trip to ensure both your safety and theirs.
Exploring an island oasis and shipwreck
Driving through the inland rainforest, we made our way to
Lake Wabby, the deepest lake on Fraser Island. Surrounded by forest on one side and a steep sloping dune on the other, the green lake resembles an oasis. If you've got the time you can walk the Lake Wabby lookout circuit (7.2km return) or choose from one of the shorter walks if you trying to fit in a lot of activities (like we were).
Driving along 75 Mile Beach to Maheno Shipwreck, we came across quite a few creeks. The most notable of these was Eli, the largest freshwater creek on the eastern side of the island. There are a couple of boardwalks and routes you can take to explore Eli and find a nice spot to swim along the way.
As we made our way further up the beach, a monumental shape came into focus. Partly submerged by water and sand, Maheno Shipwreck is an arresting sight to see. Now a rustic skeleton, the 100-year-old shipwreck has a rich history dating back to 1904 when it was built as a trans-Atlantic ocean liner before being converted to a hospital ship in WW1. It became part of Fraser Island's coastline in 1935 when it broke free in cyclonic conditions while being transported to Japan for scrap metal.
Keep an eye out for…
- Wallabies: Keep an eye out in the early morning and late afternoon for wallabies having a feed.
- Whales: Although we were a few months too early, we hear that whales breach just off the beach between July and October.
- Red Canyon: In certain parts of Fraser Island the sand has been stained where minerals like hematite are present. Towering over the beach, Red Canyon is a spectacular site – a complex array of tones and hues that have built up over thousands of years.
- Indian Head: Take in panoramic views of Fraser's east coast and keep an eye out for sharks, rays, turtles and dolphins.
Tips and hints from Wild Weekend
- If you want to enjoy the peace and quiet at Lake McKenzie take a dry bag and swim across to the beach on the other side. It can get pretty busy so you'll be glad to have this little trick up your sleeve (either that or get your walking legs on and make your way around the Lake…it's a long way though).
- Keep your electronic gear in a dry bag: the sand is really fine and can easily get into small cracks.
- If the weather allows, leave the rain cover off your tent so you can sleep under the stars and see the Milky Way.
- Be wary of the tides: at high tide you can't drive on the beach.
- Take your own wood because you won't be able to take any from the National Park.
- Take or hire a 4WD.
- Know when sunset is so you can set up your camp before it gets dark.
What we packed
When you're exploring Fraser, you'll be glad to have comfortable clothing that can be worn multiple times while maintaining a fresh scent. We took Berghaus Explorer Eco shorts, long sleeve shirt and trousers for comfortable wear and sun protection.
When you're exploring the coast you need a comfy pair of sandals that won't hold you back. Our KEEN Kanyon Sandals were comfy and perfect for the conditions – they didn't rub when sand got into them and they dried quickly.
We were comfortable in a long sleeve shirt during the day, but at night we needed a warmer jacket to sit outside and walk on the beach. We packed a Pacer Repel Softshell Jacket which provided good wind protection and water resistance when rain rolled in on our second night of camping.
If you're camping, a source of light like the Black Diamond Storm Headlamp will make life a lot easier.
We took a SUUNTO Ambit 3 Peak Black to keep track of sunset and sunrise so we would have enough time to fit in our activities and set up camp before it got dark. You can also use it for navigation, temperature, and activity tracking, as well as keeping track of calls and messages on the move.
Take a tent that gives you the opportunity to camp under the stars! We still had ample protection when we left the rain covers off our Marmot tents to gaze up at the Milky Way.
Not sure what to pack? Use the Mountain Designs camping checklist as a guide for your adventure.