An adventure along the east coast of Australia is a recipe for exciting experiences, epic landscapes and unbridled fun! Fraser Island, located off the eastern coast of Queensland is about 120km long, with a constant population of about 200 people and is an absolute must on any Australian road trip.
My journey began with a plan to spend four weeks in a camper van traveling up from Brisbane to Cairns. What started out as a crew of four, turned into a group of ten as we made fast friends with six other travellers, with a total of four cars between us. We would end up continuing the trip up to Cairns together, but Fraser Island was the first stop on our east coast itinerary.
We experienced Australian wildlife, saw beautiful landscapes and made unforgettable memories. Three brits, a swede, an aussie, a dutch, two germans, an argentinian and myself, a little island girl from the Seychelles. The most unlikely group of friends from every corner of the world, now with so many stories to tell.
Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Fraser Island
- Getting to Fraser & finding a 4×4
- Camping permits & campsites
- When to visit Fraser & Weather
- Watch out for dingos!
- Four day Itinerary: Things to see on Fraser
Getting to Fraser Island & Getting a 4×4
The majority of the roads on Fraser Island are bumpy dirt roads or long stretches of beach. Therefore, in order to make the trip you will either need to rent a 4×4 vehicle if you don’t already have your own, or look for someone who has one and is planning a trip across.
It was impossible for us to take our camper van, so we did a little search on an Aussie facebook backpacker page (a great way to meet new people) and that’s how we were able to find a group who had three 4x4s and a tent with plenty of room for us to hop in.
I’d definitely recommend having your own wheels rather than taking a tour to the island, because not only can it be cheaper but it gives you the freedom to set your own timetable and to explore at your leisure.
To get to Fraser we took the early morning ferry from Inskip Point near Rainbow Beach to Hook Point in the south of Fraser Island. This ride took about 10 minutes but you could also take the ferry from River Heads in Hervey Bay which takes between 30 to 50 minutes. You simply drive right onto the ferry, the staff check your ticket and you drive right off on the other side.
If you’ve never driven a 4×4 before, the maps of Fraser have roads that are demarcated with levels of difficulty. Don’t forget to remove the pressure in your tires (?) so you don’t get bogged, but if you do, it’s all part of the adventure, and you’re sure to find help come along soon!
Finally, be sure to be aware of the movement of the tides. When the tide is at its highest, some areas of the beach are blocked off, so you’ll want to plan your journey so that you’re driving along the beach as the tide is going down.
Camping Permits & Campsites
There’s a few things you need to keep in mind about camping on Fraser. First, you’ll need to obtain a vehicle permit, which allows your car to be on the island, and a camping permit to allow you to spend the night. The vehicle permit is $45 per car and the camping permit is $5.75 per person per night.
We bought all our tickets, including the ferry which cost $120 return, in Rainbow Beach the day before we went across. You can also book all of these online. We spent the night at Inscip point (also a paid campsite) and parked our van there for the duration of our stay on Fraser.
If you’re spending the night on Fraser, you can either camp on one of the open beaches (except where it says ‘no camping’) or in a designated enclosed campsite. The designated sights have facilities such as toilets and paid showers, as well as slots for parking and camping and the whole area is surrounded by a dingo deterrent fence. If you’re on the beach you obviously have nothing but the wide open landscape. You simply find a nice quiet spot, roll in and park.
Campfires aren’t allowed on the island because of the dingos (see below). You’re also advised to throw rubbish away carefully and in designated bins to prevent animals from getting at them and not to leave food out for the same reason. Other than that: Happy Camping!
When to visit Fraser & Weather on the island
The summer months in Australia are between December to February and winter is from June to August.
We visited at the beginning of August, so the weather was going into spring for the duration of our trip. We were very lucky to have mostly beautiful weather our whole time on Fraser. On the afternoon of our third night and for the whole night after we experienced very heavy rains but even the rain on the beach in Fraser has something special about it.
That being said, with the rain, the dingos came out to play so, for that night, although we had wanted to stay on a campsite on the beach, we decided to stay in a fenced campsite at Dundaburra. However, the next day we had such clear skies and stunning weather that it almost made all the rain worth it.
The temperatures were in their mid twenties during the day and it did get a bit cool in the evenings but otherwise this was a perfect time to visit!
Watch out for the indigenous feral dog, the dingos!
Fraser Island is home to the largest population of dingos in Australia. These feral dogs are protected but you aren’t allowed to feed them and should be wary if they approach you or your campground.
You’re advised not to leave food out, not to try and pet them and to alert the rangers if you see a large pack of them in a busy area. They’re also the main reason you’re not allowed to have campfires on the island.
We had a few of them come near our campsite several times, but we were sure to stay in the cars until they went away. Other times when they did walk past us and we didn’t have anywhere to go, all we had to do was stay calm and they’d just walk by. But they have been known to attack people, so be dingo wary!
Seventy-Five Mile Bach
As you drive off the ferry at Inskip Point on Fraser, you land right on Seventy-Five Mile beach, which is exactly what the name suggests. This gigantic stretch of beach is where many of Fraser’s main attractions are found, like the Maheno Shipwreck, the Champagne pools and Indian Head.
It’s such an exciting feeling to witness the backdrop of the white sandy beach against the wide open ocean on one side and the lush coastal vegetation on the other side as it zooms by your window. (Side note: please resist the urge to hang out the windows! The beaches on Fraser have the same rules as any other road and are patrolled by rangers and the police. It’s a large fine for breaking the law)
It’s also not recommended to swim in the ocean along Seventy-Five Mile beach because of very strong currents. But you’ll see plenty of fishermen trying their luck and if you’re the lucky ones then you might spot a majestic humpback whale breach out in the distance.
Lake McKenzie, Lake Birrabeen & Lake Boomanjin
Our first day on Fraser was spent touring 4 of the main lakes of which there are 40 in total on the island. Lake McKenzie was the most popular, and you can definitely see why, with sand as white as snow and water so blue it almost looks dyed. There were lots of tour groups coming in to take a swim so it got a bit crowded. Lake Birrabeen is much smaller and less crowded but just as beautiful as McKenzie, so this is where I’d probably recommend you visit for a quieter time.
We also visited Lake Boomanjin which was unique in that it is a tea tree lake and so the water was painted a dark orangey red hue.
Australian Wildlife: Snakes, possums & Kookaburras
We were so lucky on one of our very first drives in the forest to come across one of Australia’s legendary beasties! A big ol’ snake! Sticking out right by the side of the road, this beauty caught our eyes immediately and we just knew that if this was how our trip was getting started, we were in for a fantastic time.
While camping in the forest we also had a possum come up to us to investigate and one morning we even had a sly kookaburra sweep down and steal a piece of bread right out of my friend Mel’s hand!
SS Maheno Shipwreck
Although our second day got cut a bit short because of some issues we had with the cars in the morning, in the afternoon we continued on our drive along Seventy-Five Mile Beach until we came across the Maheno Shipwreck.
In its past life, the wreck was a 1904 ocean liner that had been used as a hospital ship in WW1 and later for travel between Australia and New Zealand. In 1935, it was on its way to be smelted in Japan when it hit a cyclone and ended up washed on the shores of Fraser Island.
Our first stop on our third day on Fraser was the famous Champagne Pools. This natural salt water swimming pool is known because the waves that comes crashing over the volcanic rocks create the illusion of bubbles coming out of a freshly popped bottle of bubbly!
The water was a bit cold this time of year but the movement of the water made you almost forget about the temperature (almost!). There were also plenty of adorable fish swimming around our feet which added to the magical experience.
Whalewatching at Indian Head
We then made our way to the volcanic headland at Indian Head which is also the most easterly point on the island. The view of the beaches on either side were stunning and as we sat by the edge of the cliff, we were able to spot baby sharks, a turtle and got to watch some magnificent humpback whales hunting and playing in the distance.
Fortunately, by the next morning the rains had passed and we were able to set off. After a warm shower in the camspite we started making out way back down south along Seventy-Five Mile beach, passing by Eli Creek along the way.
Eli Creek is the island’s largest creek, which pours up to four millions of crystal clear fresh water in the sea every hour. It’s a popular swimming spot to cool off on a hot day. We didn’t spend too long there because of all the tour groups milling around.
Our experience with the campsites
On our first night on the island, we stayed at one of the main campsites at Central Station. There was plenty of space to park our cars and pitch up our tent, with access to a picnic table where we could place our gas cookers to cook dinner. The facilities were also very close by and we had the dingo deterrent fence so didn’t have to keep a lookout.
We had the best evening, listening to music and drinking cheap wine. That night I had my first ever experience of sleeping in a tent in the jungle, and let me tell you, I slept like a log!
We decided to spend our second night camping on the beach and although it was a bit cooler because we were out in the open, the view of the beach was stunning and the sound of the waves was music to the ears. We found a perfect spot with no-one around us.
That evening, as we were cooking dinner, we had our first experience with a dingo! Because we didn’t have much light, one strolled right into the middle of our camp. The only reason we spotted him was because someone happened to turn around at the right time, but we made enough noise and commotion that we frightened it away.
The best thing I found about camping on Fraser was how little light pollution there was, so every night we got to watch the stars and observe the Milky Way flow like a river in the heavens. We got to watch the sunsets and sunrise every day and would step outside to the sounds of nature and sand between our toes.
And with that, came the end of our three night, four day visit to beautiful Fraser Island. By 4pm on the fourth day we were on the ferry back to the mainland, very sun kissed, in need of a nice cheesy pizza but with a new group of epic friends and memories of an island we could definitely come back to. Until next time Fraser!
Sit back, grab some Oreos, and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer us next!
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