It’s the start of Spring and we’ve packed up the Defender, grabbed our bell tent, and headed North to where the sun is shining a little brighter. We’re travelling over the border into Queensland, the sunshine state. Departing from Sydney, out of peak hour, our first stop overnight is Coffs Harbour. Once just a small and sleepy seaside town, Coffs is a bustling small metropolis now, surrounded by stunning National Parks (Dorrigo NP is one of our favourites) and plenty of hipster cafes to choose your morning ‘coffee for the road’.
Up early the following morning, and on the road again, we set our sites towards Hervey Bay just a few hours north of Brisbane. Known mainly as whale watching paradise, and also for its great population of retirees, Hervey Bay is the gateway to Fraser Island.
We hadn’t honestly researched Fraser Island, and the logistics, a great deal prior to getting on our way. It’s a bit of ‘we like to be spotaneous’ and also yes not very organised, but we booked in a barge to depart the following morning from Mary River Heads (20 min south of Hervey Bay). We had a well equipped 4wd, with full recovery gear just in case, and loaded up on some fresh produce for the following mornings adventures over to Fraser.
There’s a few supermarkets in Hervey Bay, but beware they are not open late night. Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service permits are required for driving and camping on the island, so we also purchased these online the night before also. We’d advise all visitors to check the QPWS Conditions report pre-arrival and familiarise yourself with the tide times as you will need to keep off some sections of the beach for two hours either side of high tide.
With a full esky of fresh produce and our coffee for the road we head to Mary River Heads at 8:30am to get the first barge over to Fraser. Chatting with some of the other 4wd’ers on the barge we let our tyres down to about 19PSI. It’s best to research what PSI you should run your tyres at for soft sand on your own 4wd, but this PSI was comfortable and seemed to be a good fit for us. It’s important to note that standard road rules apply on Fraser. Most tracks are narrow and two-way so keep a look out for passing bays – you may have to reverse back to the nearest one like we did a few times. Also, speed limits are 35km per hour on inland roads and maximum 80km per hour on Seventy-Five Mile Beach.
Getting off the barge was a bit of a surprise, it wasn’t long until we were in the thick of Fraser Island, the world’slargest sand island, surrounded by lush and dense tropical rainforest. First stop was Eulong to familiarise ourselves with the east beach access, knowing that we wanted to find the perfect beach camp spot to base ourselves from for days of exploring. There are many camp zones along this very long stretch of beach so you are guaranteed to find a remote spot away from any crowds.
It was hot by this point so once we found the east beach access we drove towards Eli Creek for a beautiful fresh water swim and lunch overlooking the ocean. Driving a little further up 75 Mile Beach we then reached the Maheno Ship Wreck and enjoyed a quick explore of the nearby Pinnacles. Late afternoon came quicker than expected and after setting up our perfect little oasis, our own beach camp at Eli camp zone (east side of Fraser), we enjoyed sundowners as we were greeted by the full moon rising over the ocean.
It took a few days to really slow down and reset, rising with the sun and sleeping by the moon.There’s nothing that truly compares to reconnecting with nature.
Many people had told us that a trip to Fraser is not complete without a visit to Lake McKenzie, and boy were they right. We suggest heading there either early morning or late afternoon to avoid the day tour groups visiting Lake McKenzie. The pure white sand and blue hues of the freshwater lake are sure to impress. Stretching out on our own patch of silicone sand, we quite literally almost spent a full day here, breaking for some lunch and then returning again to bask in the glory of Lake McKenzie.
Camping out in our Londonderry 4m bell tent was the ultimate, it allowed us to set up a comfortable campsite to return to each night after a full day of 4wd’ing and exploring to kick back in style under a star lit sky! One of our highlights was opening the bell tent door as the sun rose whilst watching a whale and it’s calf breaching, truly magical.
Here are a few important things to note and helpful tips for planning your visit to Fraser Island:
- Campfires are prohibited on QPWS managed areas of Fraser Island, except where they provide fire rings at Dundubara and Waddy Point so make sure you bring your own gas burner for camp cooking
- Certain areas of the beach may be impassable with tides, ensure you check tides at all times
- Ocean swimming is not advised on Fraser Island for a few reasons; rips and sharks, beaches are unpatrolled, estuarine crocodiles have been sighted in the Great Sandy Strait, also angerous marine stingers such as Irukandji are prevalent during the Summer months
- Driving on all beaches is best on low tide, it’s a harder surface, making driving on sand easier
- Dingoes are curious and roam free all over the island, bring metal or very hard plastic food storage boxes with strong latches or flat straps to keep food secure and out of reach at all times
- Clean up your food and rubbish scraps immediately after use, the tiniest oversight could attract unwanted attention from dingoes, QPWS provide bulk bins for general waste and recycling in various points over the island for proper rubbish disposal, keep in mind feeding dingoes is an offence
- Remember sand tracks are really only suitable for high learance 4wd’s with low range capacity, make sure you have a suitable 4wd with recovery gear loaded and plenty of diesel (there is a feeling station at Eulong if need be)
- We’d recommend travelling to Fraser Island outside of school holiday periods, it is a popular island for good reason
- Pre book your return barge ticket, the barges are small so only reserving one way may not guarantee you a return when you need!
Article and photos by Charity Turner, MD at The Seek Society