australia

Driving on Beaches and Swimming in Lakes on Fraser Island

I think what surprised us the most about the largest sand island in the world was that it was our highlight of the Australian east coast.

We had heard plenty of other people say the same thing, but shook it off because surely it can’t be better than the Whitsundays? And we’ll definitely prefer Cairns, right? The thing is, all three have their merits and they are all also completely different – one is 4×4 driving on sand, one is sailing, and one is adventure and partying – but Fraser is the one that we had the most fun on by far!

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Speeding along 75 Mile Beach in a 4×4

I had booked our tours for Fraser and the Whitsundays as a “package” on bookme.com.au – normally a 2 day Fraser tour would be at least $300 and Whitsundays overnight tours started at the $400 mark. So getting both together for $434 was an absolute steal. (all prices AUD)

A lot of the Fraser tours depart from Rainbow Beach, which we’d heard awesome things about, but ours, Fraser Dingo, would depart from Hervey Bay further up the coast instead. However not wanting to miss Rainbow Beach, we decided to take a detour from the highway.

And it was a good decision. We didn’t spend a lot of time there – there is literally one street – but the beach itself is REALLY nice to walk along. There are loads of volcanic rocks that make the sand go all different shades of grey and black, and you have to look out for 4×4 cars speeding past!

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I hadn’t really understood what the whole ‘rainbow’ part was about – coloured sands? I couldn’t see it, apart from the black/grey, and some of the rocks were shades of orange, yellow and even almost pink. Really, it’s the sand that forms the banks lining the bay.

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It’s pretty even on a cloudy day!

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That said, I’m glad we didn’t plan to spend too much time here. There is virtually nothing in the town and there are plenty of beaches to explore in Australia – but this was probably actually one of my favourites!

And so it was off to Tiaro for the night, where we’d be camping and getting up horribly early to get to our tour. One bonus of Dingo tours is there is free parking on their site, so we didn’t have to worry about where to leave our van.

After a debrief on driving the vehicles, a trip to the shops for some booze, and a long wait for the ferry to the island, we finally arrived at close to 11am. It was time for the fun to start with a bumpy ride to the other side of the island! Through narrow “roads” (rough pathways) made of nothing but sand and lined by high sandbanks in a lot of places, our guide led the two other vehicles (we were in the manual which I’m betting was a lot more of an adventure than the automatic!) for miles until we reached the famous 75 Mile Beach. Which is where the fun REALLY started!

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You see, the beach is more of a road than anything else on the island. There is even an 80km/hour speed limit (yes, there are signs!) – it’s literally a sand highway!

We sped along the highway for miles until we reached our first stop – the SS Maheno shipwreck.

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Maheno struck the shore of Fraser Island in 1935 on its way back to its new owner’s home in Japan. The ship was in service for 30 years, starting out as a liner between New Zealand and Australia, and eventually was converted into a hospital ship for the Navy in World War 1. When she hit the shore in a cyclone, attempts were made to recover her, but the attempts failed and Maheno has been on the beach ever since.

My favourite fact about the ship is that the owners family decided to host a wedding on the shipwreck, and you can see photos in the shop in nearby Happy Valley! They are all lopsided on the wonky ship!

Our tour guide reckons that most of the ship will have disintegrated in the next five years as it has been recently disappearing fast, so try to make it to Fraser before that happens!

After a couple more stops along 75 Mile Beach, including a sudden stop because we spotted HUMPBACK WHALES dancing in the distance (unfortunately no pictures), we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing at Eli Creek.

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Eli Creek is like an alternative beach – instead of swimming in the sea, you are swimming opposite the sea in fresh water. It’s super pretty but also crowded on the beach part as I think most tours come here towards the end of the day. But it’s a great place to relax, and you can walk up to the end of the creek on the boardwalk and then either walk back through the water or float down to the beach with a rubber ring!

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We actually ended up walking along it twice because it was really nice!

Our accommodation for the night was dorm rooms in a nice little guesthouse which we had all to ourselves. We shared our dorm with two English girls we’d befriended so it didn’t even feel like we were sharing with strangers. I also expected there to be a party and I guess this is really down to your tour group, but our evening was really nice and chill with a few drinking games, lots of funny stories with the tour guide (he took a liking to one of the English girls), and a walk down to the beach to see if we could spot any dingoes (we didn’t).

Our second day would have a few stops, starting with a tea tree lake that looks brown but when you look at the water it’s actually clear. Our stop here was a little too long – there wasn’t much to see and because the weather wasn’t great in the morning, the water was freezing so not many of us went in! So instead, someone got out a frisbee and we played ultimate frisbee until it snapped in half.

I’ve actually found out that the tour should have gone to Lake Wabby instead, which looks amazing with sand dunes down to the lake! It’s just another reason to go back to Fraser, because there are a few more places that the 3 day tours visit that look great.

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Next up was Central Station, where you can read loads of information on the history of the island and details of the rainforest flora and fauna. There’s also a nice boardwalk through the forest, over a creek with water so clear that it doesn’t even look real. To be honest, it wasn’t that exciting so most of our group wandered down another path for so long that we only just got back to the cars in time to leave!

Today Ash & I were also sitting in the tour guide’s car which was pretty entertaining, and he took to singing extravagantly along to everything from System Of A Down to Nelly (including over the walkie to the other cars!). Particular highlight? Fuck Her Gently by Tenacious D!

We stopped for lunch in Eurong, one of the few inhabited places on the island and the closest thing to a “town”, before heading to the star attraction of Fraser for the rest of the afternoon: Lake McKenzie.

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To be honest, I was setting myself up to be disappointed by Lake McKenzie. I thought it would be overcrowded and overhyped, though I was glad the weather had cleared up since the morning. I needn’t have worried, because this place is beautiful!

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There was one other tour on the beach along with a few families dotted around, but for the most part we had the lake to ourselves! A few friends swam across to one of the sides, and reported back quite a while later that it was further than they realised.

The lake is unique in that it’s made up of pure silica instead of sand, which means it’s so soft. We had a really good afternoon here splashing around in the lake and sunbathing on the beach – a perfect end to what had been a really enjoyable tour!

And what made it even more perfect? The sunset as we sailed back to the mainland of Australia – complete with dolphins! (although none of my dolphin pictures showed the sunset as well as this one.)

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So really, apart from the fact I think we should have done Lake Wabby instead of the tea tree lake (and I’ve been googling to try to find the name of it and can’t find it ANYWHERE, which I think goes to show what’s more famous!), my only disappointment with Fraser Island was that we didn’t see any dingoes.

But I’m not sure how disappointed I really am when we had a surprise viewing of freaking WHALES!

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We did the Fraser Dingo 2-day tagalong tour but booked it on bookme as a package with our Whitsundays tour as it saved us hundreds of $$$. The tour has mixed reviews on TripAdvisor but I highly enjoyed it and our tour guide (“The Captain”) was excellent. I’ve heard nothing but good things about the other guide, too. You are not obligated to drive a vehicle, but if you do there is a $500 refundable deposit and you can choose to drive the manual or the automatic. The tour leaves from Hervey Bay NOT Rainbow Beach like most of the backpacker tours.

Please note if you decide to visit Fraser without a tour, you cannot access the island without a 4×4 vehicle and you run the risk of getting stuck which can be costly – for this reason, I always wanted to do a tour!

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