I was here three years ago and was more than happy to head back to this incredible island! Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and is covered in lush rainforest, beautiful beaches and fresh-water lakes. It is such a unique place and can only be accessed by four-wheel drive, which means that it is not quite as busy as it could be (although there were certainly plenty of crowds here for the Summer holidays). We decided not to take our van across, as we had never tried it on sand before. So, we booked onto a three day tag-along tour with Dingos Hostel. The tag-along tour is a great idea, because everybody gets a chance to drive and you make lots of new friends along the way. Our group consisted of four vehicles, each with 8 passengers, as well as one lead driver, a friendly Australian named Jones-y, who had a great sense of humour, as well as a lot of local knowledge.
The lead car had a trailer attached, in which we put all our food and drinks for each day. Food was included in the tour, though we had to prepare everything ourselves. We camped each night on the island and had plenty of relaxation time, as well as adventure-seeking activities.
The day started at 7am with a free pancake breakfast, before we were treated to an extremely long briefing, in which we were split into our car groups, warned about how to deal with dingos (always carry a ‘dingo stick’ in case they approach you), and given tips on how to drive on sand and what to look out for. It was important to know all this information, though it took a little too long. We finally got away at 10 am.
We drove out to Inskip Point, before arriving at the ferry, which would take us all the way over to Fraser Island. There, we began a long and exhilarating drive along the beach. The wind flew through our hair and music played nostalgic tunes. We witnessed large groups of birds flying across the ocean and even a dingo trotting along the beach. After a quick lunch break, we ran up the sandy track in bare feet to a tea tree lake. The sand was excruciatingly hot and we regretted not wearing flip-flops. We screeched and sprinted as fast as we could, using the limited shade for breaks, before diving into the refreshing water, which was coloured brown, like tea!
Next stop, Lake McKenzie – a real highlight of the tour. This huge fresh-water lake in the middle of the forest is surrounded by white sands. The lake itself fades from aqua water through to a deep blue further out. We spent two hours enjoying this hidden paradise.
After this, we drove to Central Station, situated in the middle of the rainforest. We took a short walk along the spring-water creek, where the water was so clear you could see the white sand beneath it. Tall trees towered above the green, lush ferns and tropical plants.
It was now my turn to drive! I was a little nervous on the rough patches, but by the end, I was ready to rev the engine hard and there were no hiccups. Our previous driver had somehow broken the muffler on the exhaust, which was now roaring wherever we went, so that it was really hard to hear the revs – an unfortunate occurrence at the start of the trip, though our lead driver didn’t seem to worry about it at all, so neither did we! I had good variety on my drive, from really soft, sandy tracks, to bumpy forested road, river crossings and beach driving (which was a lot faster on the harder sand).
We eventually made our way into K-Gari Campground (K-Gari is the Aboriginal name for Fraser Island). The campsite is situated in the forest, a minute walk to the beach. Thankfully, it was surrounded by a dingo fence, so we didn’t have to worry too much, but we still made sure we put all our food away in the car so the other animals wouldn’t come hunting in our tent! All the tents were already set up, with sleeping mats underneath and a big pergoda area for cooking. We enjoyed feasting on stir-fry and having a few beers around the campfire. Later on, we took a walk down to the beach to see the thousands of stars and admire the phosphorescent plankton in the water. You would shake up the water a little and suddenly, it would sparkle like magic.
We fell asleep around midnight, but many of the other backpackers partied on at Winki’s Nightclub (named after one of the friendly dingos that used to hang around the campsite). We could hear the party animals well into the evening. One backpacker decided it would be a fantastic idea to blast loud music at 4am, even though he was the last person up. Thankfully, it didn’t last much longer than that. When I’m camping, I prefer earlier nights, as you often wake up when the sun rises. I’m not quite sure how some of the others managed the next day!
The day started with fried eggs on toast and a cup of tea! We then packed up and drove to the Champagne Pools. This is a beautiful swimming area right on the ocean, where the waves crash over the rocks to create lots of tiny bubbles, which look like champagne! I enjoyed a quick swim here, though in the morning, the rocks offered very little shade, so I was happy when we moved on, a few hours later.
The next destination was Indian Head. Here, we took a short walk up to the headland, which offered spectacular 360 degree views. We spotted a pod of dolphins and a number of sting rays in the water. You can also see whales here (during the right season) and sometimes even sharks. Despite the heat of the midday sun, it was well worth the hike.
During the next section of the drive, we finally got bogged in the sand! It was bound to happen at some stage, but our driver at the time did all at correct things, reversing back to harder sand, before hitting the accelerator hard and blasting back through the soft sand. We made it and all cheered in relief!
After lunch, we stopped by a couple of small aeroplanes, which were sitting on the beach. A pilot came to sell us some flights and, after being offered a very cheap price, we decided to go for it! Our aeroplane was a Gippsland Air Van and our pilot was Matt. He was a super friendly Australian man and gave us lots of information up in the air. We took off on the sandy runway and before you knew it, we were soaring over Fraser Island, with brilliant views over the beaches, the forest and all the lakes and rivers.
I was particularly impressed by the magnificent Butterfly Lake, which was shaped like a butterfly and whose wings merged from dark blue to green. I felt very privileged to be able to see this beautiful lake from the air. We also passed over the Giant Sandy Footprint and many other dunes. One of my favourite parts of the 15 minutes flight was landing. I have never landed on a sandy runway before, whilst simultaneously crossing a small river! It was highly worthwhile for $60 each and I would recommend it to anyone. The memories will last you a lifetime!
In the afternoon, we explored the Maheno Shipwreck, which had a surprising history. Not only was she used as an ocean liner between Australia and New Zealand (1905 – 1935), she was also a hospital ship during World War I. Unfortunately, she was washed onto the shores of Fraser Island in 1935 and has sat there ever since, rusting away under the ocean spray. It was interesting to look around, though you were not allowed to climb onto the wreck due to its fragility.
We later enjoyed a much needed swim in Eli Creek. This creek is spring water, so it was extremely cool and refreshing. At the top, we filled up all our drinking water, before floating down through the forest, enjoying the shade of all the trees and ferns. Back at the base, the tour groups were enjoying a big game of beach soccer (or football, for all those Europeans)!
The night was much the same back at the campsite, where we had a barbecue dinner, before partying on! That night, when we were sleeping in our tent, rather than loud music, we heard a huge argument break out between three backpackers. It was very close to a fight, though luckily the 35 year old English man decided to take advantage of his maturity and retreat to his tent before things got nasty. The others fumed off to their own campsite. I don’t understand how grown men in their thirties have not yet learnt how to solve arguments through their words, rather than their fists!
Our final morning was spent at Lake Garawongera, a large tea tree lake in the forest, where the water looks like tea! It was the perfect place to spend the morning, dipping in for an occasional swim before snoozing in shade of the trees. I enjoyed watching one of the groups do water flips, though was not in any shape to be flipped high into the air before belly-flopping into the lake!
After a simple lunch of all the left-overs we could find, we took the long drive back along the beach to the ferry. When we returned to the hostel, we helped give the cars a quick clean out, before collapsing in our van, exhausted but happy with the three-day adventure!