Updated: Apr 9, 2019
For those exploring the east coast of Australia, Fraser Island is without a doubt, a top destination for backpackers, tourists, and locals alike. It is in fact the largest sand island in the world and is full of long uninterrupted white beaches, sand cliffs that reflect the colors of the Sahara desert, natural rock pools and turquoise freshwater lakes. It has rightly earned its place on the World Heritage List and is the only place in the world that lush rain forest can grow on sand.
Fraser Island, named 'K'gari' (meaning paradise),was home to the Butchulla people who lived on the island for over 5,500 years. Aboriginals gained their knowledge of the Island environment over thousands of years prior to being discovered by the Europeans on Captain James Cook's voyage. In 1836, Eliza Fraser, a survivor of the wrecked ship Sitrling Castle, took shelter on the island which was later named after her in remembrance of the shipwreck.
It was not until the 1930's that the tourist potential of Fraser Island was recognized. The tourism industry grew and in 1992 the Island was considered a state forest thus making it a national park void of any mining or deliberate destruction.
HOW TO GET THERE
There is only one main way to get to Fraser Island and that is by taking a ferry across the Great Sandy Strait. You can board the ferry either from Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach. Hervey Bay is a quaint little town that is actually famous for whale watching! If you're there during the right season, reserve a few days for yourself in this small town so that you can get the chance to see a few humpback whales breaching in the bay.
The River Heads Ferry Terminal is located just twenty minutes south of Hervey Bay and is a quick 50 minute ride to Kingfisher Bay Resort. If the weather is permitting and you can handle fast winds, try to get a spot on the upper deck and sit outside. The views of the blue hues and towering dunes that greet you at Fraser Island are spectacular and you won't want to miss it. The ferry departs every three hours. If you've booked through a tour group, they've most likely booked your ferry tickets for you, however, if you're planning on going solo and bringing along your car then booking your ticket well in advance is highly recommended.
There are many ways to explore this beautiful island and depending on the level in which you would like to be catered to, the tours can be quite different so it's best to do a little research beforehand to see which tour can be best for you.
There is also the option of hiring a 4x4 and exploring the place yourself although there are a few more precautions involved. One of the most important include making sure to keep track of high tide because having your car get dragged out to sea...is very much a thing. If you do go solo, there are a few camping grounds that are Dingo-free as well as a few nice hotels and resorts by the jetty that you can stay at. Renting a 4x4 can be expensive and navigating your way around the island's soft sand tracks can be incredibly difficult, so if it is your first time visiting the island..renting a car is not recommended.
We didn't have much of an opportunity to compare and contrast each tour as we should have done, but you'll find that each tour group goes to the same destinations. Most tours will also include all meals, National Park fees, accommodation, hotel pick up and all transportation including ferry tickets.
We booked our Fraser Island Experience with the Cool Dingo Tour Group. There were many benefits that came along with Cool Dingo. The food, including buffet breakfasts, picnic styled lunches, afternoon coffee, snacks and buffet dinners were fantastic. It's not exactly what you would consider "fine dining", but when comparing it to the meal plans of other tours on the island, it may as well be a five star meal. The Dingo Bar has special discounts for all Cool Dingo tour members and the common room area has outside picnic tables, a pool table, ping pong tables, and a dance floor.
Everyone on our tour was within the same age group and we got stuck with some pretty awesome people. The tour sticks to a relatively strict schedule and you get from one place to another via bus. As we had been road-tripping in our compact car and at our own leisure for two months at that point, the idea of spending most of our time on a coach bus sounded miserable. Our advice would be to book a tour that allows you to travel in a 4×4 instead of a bus so that you are likely to have more control over the time you spend in each prime spot.
Other top tour groups include
-Sunset safaris Fraser Island-
-Fraser Explorer Tours-
-Drop Bear Adventures-
-Unique Fraser Island-
The iconic jewel of the island, Lake MacKenzie, is a large lake spanning 150 hectares with crystal blue waters and sand as white as the Maldives. The water is fed only by fresh rain water that accumulates on the tree bed that sits 100 meters above sea level.
As the island is made up entirely of sand, the sand acts as a filter providing clarity to the water and is one of the cleanest lakes we've ever had the privilege of swimming in! Imagine a crystal clear lake.....dirt free! On your way up the narrow sand paths you'll find a nice little picnic spot with long tables which would be a perfect place to stop for lunch!
Also known as the lazy river of Fraser Island, Eli Creek is famous for wading, tubing, or swimming through and pumps nearly 3.5 million liters of fresh water in the ocean every hour! Take a tube and head up stream so you can float your way to the ocean in water so clear that you only know it's there when you actually feel the water rush between your toes.
One of the main attractions of Fraser Island, the Maheno was the 1935 passenger steamer that evolved into a hospital ship during World War II. Eventually the ship was being towed to Japan for scrap metal before a storm forced it ashore and can now be seen on the shores of Fraser Island during low tide.
The Rain Forest
Navigating your way through the sandy roads and rocky pathways through the rain forest when you first arrive to the island is actually insane. Your tour guide will show you the many different kinds of vegetation that can actually grow on sand without a shortage of wildlife! You can drive through the sub tropical rain forest from Eurong Beach to Kingfisher Bay though fair warning, it's as bumpy as a Pink Jeep Tour in Arizona. If you have time, stop in for a picnic at Central Station and stroll the boardwalk next to Wanggoolba Creek which carries water through the tranquil rain forest.
Once the center of logging operations, Central Station marks the starting point of some of the island's most picturesque hikes. The boardwalk follows the fern fringed Creek through palms, vines and king ferns and from there you can follow the paths through forests of tall eucalyptus and satinay trees to the shores of the Basin Lake on the two hour circuit trail.
Seventy-Five Mile Beach
Stretching along the entire eastern side of the island, this seventy mile stretch of beach actually doubles as a highway-come-airport, and is used as a main road. Understanding how the tides work is incredibly important so you don’t get cut off by the ocean and trapped in a sand dune. Low tide provides flat and hard sand that's easy to drive on.
You can find the island's main attractions along this beach and with the ocean wild and pounding, its landscape constantly changes from the tides.
Just North of the Maheno shipwreck, you'll drive alongside The Pinnacles, a small section of colored sandy cliffs. To the naked eye, the Pinnacles look like massive cliffs composed of rock, but they're made entirely from sand. Take a short walk inland to get a closer look at these magnificent structures that are so colorful they look like sand art.
The rocky outcrop at the northern end of the main beach is a coastal headland that is the most easterly point of the island. Indian Head is one of the three sections of rock on Fraser Island and is great to climb and see the entire stretch of the 75 mile beach.
The area was named by Captain James Cook who spotted a group of Aboriginals standing on the heartland during his sea voyage. The cliff offers panoramic views of the beach and if you're lucky and the skies are clear, you can actually spot whale migrations, sharks, rays and turtles in the water and possibly some wild dingos along the shore.
One of the most popular swimming spots in Fraser, these natural rock formations protect small pools from the crashing waves of the ocean. The foam that arises from the salt water getting trapped has resulted in its very name, Champagne pools.
The view of the pools from the wooden walkways is beautiful and one should visit the natural swimming spot before all of the tour groups gather around the area.
Fraser's deepest lake is also a window lake and the only barrage lake on Fraser meaning the natural spring is blocked by a huge sand bank. Bordering its blue-green waters the towering Hammerstone Sandblow engulfs the lake by about a meter per year. It's about a 40 minute hike uphill to the lake but the refreshing dip at the end is well worth the journey.
The lake has some small fish that actually nibble on your feet giving your feet a natural exfoliation. The sand dunes that surround the lake are so vast you could mistake it for the Sahara Desert. Many people bring sand boards to the dunes and participate in whole day of sand boarding!
Sunset at KingFisher Bay
Head down to the rocks to view the beautiful sunset at KingFisher Bay and enjoy a few drinks at the Jetty Hut. Be careful to view at a distance though... we were just waddling our toes in the water off the dock when we saw a shark fin appear just a few feet away from us!
1. BRING BUG SPRAY - we cannot stress this enough
2. Keep a schedule of the tides at all times...your car will get swallowed whole by the ocean.
3. BYOB-the alcohol is incredibly expensive to buy on the island..almost 3x the price!
4. Do the three day tour over the two day tour- we had way more fun on our last day and got to go paddle boarding and explore hidden lakes with a much smaller group
5. Don't swim in the ocean. Aside from the strong current that will pull you out to sea and the fatal stings from deadly jellyfish...the water is infested with sharks that can reach you ankle deep.