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K’gari (Fraser Island), Great Sandy National Park
K’gari (Fraser Island), Great Sandy National Park

Fraser Island travel guide: what to see & do

Fraser Island is a giant sand castle.  Made by nature for us to enjoy. I have visited Fraser Island three times and counting.  And why go back when there are so many interesting places yet to see?

Why?

The island is entirely made of sand,  no rocks,  simply gold sand, with natural vegetation providing fertile ground for tree growth.  The Island has trees, lakes, water,  all part of the sand landscape of Fraser.

And then there are dingoes,  the wild dogs of Australia.  The dingo.  Endangered and often misunderstood the dingo is worthy of his/her own Island kingdom where s/he is the top predator.  I return to marvel that Australia has its own wild dog, a cousin of the wolf, a hunter and, most of all a pack animal where family is important. 

And did I mention yet, Fraser Island is drop dead glorious.  

Fraser Island has rainforests growing out of sand on a World Heritage-listed site and water that is an impossible sapphire blue and soft green.  Creeks flow over sandy bottoms to freshwater lakes. Fraser is the world’s largest sand island.  It is 123km and spans 166,000 hectares.

Dingoes,  the wild dogs of Australia.  The dingo. Endangered and often misunderstood the dingo is worthy of his/her own Island kingdom where s/he is the top predator

Highlights Fraser Island
  • Photograph lakes formed in sand dune depressions
  • Photograph evocative wrecks rusting gold, bronze and yellow in the sand
  • Try to photograph humpback whales as they pass Fraser Island
  • Put the camera down and chill out in the serenity that is Fraser Island
  • Photograph yourself driving the length of 75 mile beach
  • Photograph the dingo
  • Selfie photos galore 
  • Store your camera in your backpack while you swim and soak in the sea
A young dingo puppy
Hunting Australian Dingo

What to avoid on Fraser Island

  • Dingo feeding,  the wild dogs are wild and can hunt for themselves
  • Dingo play time,  the wild dogs are predators, think of wild cats and treat them with respect.  The dogs are carnivores, this means we are careful and follow the guidelines of the Fraser Island Rangers. Dingo guidelines and be dingo safe is advice to enable visitors to appreciate we are in dingo territory as a guest
  • The crowds especially when the day tour buses congregate around 75mile beach mid morning to mid afternoon.  Start your day on the inland route to avoid peak visitor crush around the wrecks
  • Self-drive vehicles not respecting the environment and/or deciding to challenge the tide for a photo moment

What to see and do

1
Shipwreck coast The sight of the natural sand dunes, shallow blue waters and rusting wreck is a study in contrasts. The coast has claimed twenty-three wrecks recorded between 1856 and 1935. The most well known shipwreck disasters in Fraser Island’s waters are now. Fraser Island’s notable wrecks include SS Maheno wrecked 1935, SS Seabelle wrecked 1857, SS Sterling Castle 1836, SS Panama 1864.
Photo by @risty_pics
Photo by @jimmy.barrett.photography
2
Fishing & Diving “The Great Sandy Strait - between Fraser Island and the mainland is a feeding ground and nursery for many fish species, and prawns. Fraser Island is sheltered from the prevailing winds and the picturesque fishing spots are calm, with conditions for beginner anglers through to experienced angling visitors. The world class fishing is not just limited to those with boats; the Hervey Bay foreshore accounts for reasonable catches of fish in season. And unlike the beach fishing mecca of Fraser Island's eastern coast, Hervey Bay has no surf to contend with, making the beach a prime fishing destination for families.”<br /> Check out the fishing hot spots and start planning your backyard holiday. I enjoyed an early morning start and simply fished from the esplanade. A local cafe offered to cook my catch for breakfast.
3
Humpback whale migration Best time to view whales is between the months of July to November.
4
Walks From multiple day treks to short walks. Fraser Island, as a world heritage site is under the auspices of the Queensland Government. Parks and Forests. Rangers are on duty 24/7.
Getting there

Barge and Ferry timetables.  Once you have decided on the length of your stay as well as the type of tour you will take (guided or self-guided) check out the ferry timetable to arrange your vehicle transportation.  NOTE  Fraser Island does not have petrol stations or mechanics (garages).

Photo by @leumasednoc
Photo by @igers.fraserisland
Getting around

Due to the terrain and World Heritage classification,  there are no sealed roads,  the surface is packed sand,  the only vehicles allowed on Fraser Island are 4WD.  Preparation is important. As all Fraser Island tracks are sand tracks, they are suitable for Four Wheel Drive vehicles only.  You can hire 4WD vehicles and the tips and tricks will minimise getting stuck in the sand.  Consult with the guidelines over guided 4WD versus self-guided vehicle use.

TIP  A permit is required to drive a 4WD on Fraser Island. Permits may be obtained from River Head Barge landing, at Kingfisher Bay Resort reception and at Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service offices including Brisbane, Hervey Bay, Maryborough, Bundaberg and Rainbow Beach.

Accomodation

There is a range of Fraser Island accommodation from luxury 5 star resort at Kingfisher Bay, to campsites and cottages or holiday homes that cater for large groups.

Visit Fraser Island tourist information states “Fraser Island accommodation is nearly always only accessible by 4WD vehicle. Only Kingfisher Bay Resort is accessible by ferry from River Heads. Fraser Island accommodation is connected by non-sealed sand tracks only.

Best time to visit

Off season as it can be very busy in peak period.

Peak season December to February (summer holidays Australia and New Zealand)

TIP Fraser Island is a popular destination for Australians.  They know a good thing when they find it.  Bookings in the peak season May – November, especially around the school holidays are booked several months in advance.

Lying off the coast of Hervey Bay and just south of the last of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral cays, Fraser is the world’s largest sand island and stretches for 123km and spans 166,000 hectares.

Permits and Camping

You need an access permit and camping permits for Fraser Island before your arrival. If you’re passing through Rainbow Beach there’s a ranger’s office there. It’s forbidden to forage for firewood or to bring it. Use another method of heating your camp oven.

Crystal clear water of Wanggoolba Creek
Lake Boomanjin
Fraser Island inland routes

Queensland Government Fraser Island park guidelines.

I recommend you travel with an experienced guide who is used to sand driving.  Getting bogged is not a good start to your sand adventure.  And you are so busy trying not to get thoroughly stuck in the sand that you don’t enjoy the journey.

Fraser Island inland is creeks, lakes and pools of water among native bush. Eli Creek and Wanggoolba Creek boardwalks keep visitors off the vegetation and limit erosion.

Lakes are ‘perched lakes’. These bodies of water sit above sea level on lake bottoms that have been made leak-proof by layers of decayed vegetation. Fraser Island has the largest perched lakes in the world.  It is extraordinary being near or swimming in a lake that is a product of nature’s life cycle alone. 

Getting around inland routes.  The drives colour coded and marked on island maps available on the ferry.

Lake Garawongera Tourist Drive – This is a popular one-hour drive through  tall forest that was logged in the past. There are many stumps with wood cutters’ plank grooves cut in them. Rainforest patches are survived the logging era. The Lake is deep and pristine, flanked by reed beds and melaleucas.

Central Lakes Tourist Drive – this two-hour drive takes in Lake Wabby – the lake that’s gradually being invaded by a sand ‘blow’ and the favoured swimming lake, Lake McKenzie.  The drive threads through forest in the Pile Valley to Central Station, where the  visitors’ centre is located. . The Wanggoolba Creek boardwalk is an essential short walk, then you rejoin the track which takes you to Eurong beach.  Effectively this is a day trip due to the photo moments and the temptation to swim at Lake McKenize. 

Different shades of blue at Lake McKenzie
Photo by @travelers.univers

The Northern Forests Tourist Drive –  is a 36km drive including rainforest sections of  Yidney Scrub Kauri satinay and strangler fig trees and the Boomerang Lakes.  Stop and observe the Knifeblade sand blow.  Make sure you exit the northern side of the track as it is close to the  Pinnacles coloured sands and the  SS‘Maheono wreck.

The Southern Lakes Tourist Drive – This drive passes lakes, accommodation areas visitor information centre before exiting onto the beach at Dilli Village.

The Beach Drive – This track is 75 Mile Beach.  Driving conditions are influenced by the tide.  It is recommended it is driven at low tide on the exposed hard tidal sand. 

You really want to drive and give your inner outback / roadie soul a go.  Here is some advice from the experts.

Photo by @stawroncs
Photo by @rainbowbeach4x4hire

TiPS for difficult driving.  The Queensland Government road tips are worth going over.  Let’s make the journey easy. 

Queensland Government road guidelines

Driving in sandy conditions

Driving on sand is very different to driving on a sealed road surface. Sand over the road can make your vehicle lose traction when driving. You should avoid sharp turns, drive slowly and keep up your momentum to avoid spinning your wheels.

Sand locations such as beaches are not suitable for vehicles other than 4WDs. When driving a 4WD on sand, make sure you:

  • engage 4WD locking hubs and use low gears
  • deflate your tyre pressure for better traction—carry an air pump and re-inflate when you drive on hard surfaces
  • bring a jack and shovel in case you get stuck or need to change a tyre
  • pack your vehicle correctly with the heaviest items stored low—don’t over-pack your roof racks as this can make the vehicle overturn
  • Be a follower, nothing wrong with watching the vehicle in front of you to see what obstacles they face such as a sudden dip in the road or surging incoming tide
  • make sure you have a first-aid kit and call 000 in an emergency.
  • Chat to the locals about the day’s road conditions, this applies anywhere you are going
  • The drier the weather and for a longer period of time the softer the sand, rain is great leveler as it compacts the sand making it firmer to drive on

Beach driving

You can drive 4WDs on many beaches and inland tracks throughout Queensland—first check if you need a vehicle permit. There are also extra restrictions for driving a 4WD on Fraser Island.

Normal road rules apply with beach traffic being 2-way—so remember to keep left, obey the signed speed, wear your seatbelt and never sit outside the moving vehicle.

Photo by @twobudgetbackpackers
Photo by @igers.fraserisland

When driving on the beach:

  • travel at low tide or within 2 hours either side of the low tide
  • avoid salt water—stay on the harder sand between the waterline and the high tide mark to get the firmest driving surface
  • avoid rocks, pools, and washouts
  • watch out for pedestrians, wildlife, other vehicles and landing aircraft.

The journey is worth it

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