The land down under is known to be a paradise for all things adventure! From the red sands of the outback to the vibrant oceans of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia has its all. Of the many mind-blowing tours on offer, one has become the favourite amongst backpackers and casual explorers alike, Fraser Island.
Floating just off the Eastern Coast, Fraser Island is a nature-defying natural wonder. Being the largest sand island in the world, one would expect a barren desert landscape. Though alas, the World Heritage site boasts a diverse array of breathtaking landmarks of freshwater lakes, lush rainforests and an abundance of native flora and fauna.
This is an adventure like no other, and one destination that deserves a place on your Australian itinerary. So in that case, let me show you everything you need to know about visiting Fraser Island!
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Table of Contents
A Brief History of Fraser Island
Though the island may be a relatively new discovery for tourists, this island has played an important role in the life of the indigenous Butchulla people for millennia! It’s for that reason that in recent years locals have shown respect for the island’s history and culture by calling it by its traditional name, K’gari, which translates as “paradise”.
The island really is a true mystery of nature! What was once believed to be infertile barren lands off the coast of Queensland has since burst into life with thick mangrove forests, abundant animal life and subtropical rainforests throughout.
Where Is Fraser Island?
Fraser Island is about 350km north of Brisbane and 15km off the coast of Hervey Bay and Maryborough.
It covers an area of 166,038 hectares in total, which is even bigger than the country of Iceland! As such, you’ll need to give yourself plenty of time to explore and appreciate this fascinating island!
How to Get to Fraser Island
Being a remote sand island in the middle of the Pacific, there aren’t heaps of options on how to get there.
Going there directly is possible, but expensive and inconvenient. For the most part, if you want to get to Fraser Island, you’ll have to go via Hervey Bay.
Getting to Hervey Bay
The sleepy little coastal town is as close as you can get to the island and is used as a jumping-off point to get there. Its also used as a central hub to explore more of the surrounding coast and also visit the nearby Rainbow Beach.
Due to the popularity of Fraser Island, Hervey Bay it’s pretty well connected for a small town. There are a few options on how to get there.
Getting to Hervey Bay by Flight
For people on a time limit, flying into Hervey Bay is by far the quickest option, but not exactly the cheapest!
The Hervey Bay airport is connected to only two cities in Australia;Brisbaneand Sydney. Flights are run by Jetstar and Qantas.
Cheapest tickets available for one-way tickets booked 6 weeks in advance
Getting to Hervey Bay by Train
Hervey Bay is linked to a few cities along the east coast along the Queensland Rail line. Sadly, Australia’s rail system isn’t interconnected, meaning if you’d like to train from outside the state of Queensland i.e. Sydney or Melbourne, then you’ll have to transfer.
Also, Hervey Bay doesn’t have its own station. Instead, passengers will need to transfer onto a bus at Maryborough WestStation to get the rest of the way to Hervey Bay.
Once you’re at Hervey Bay, or even if you’re not, there are still one or two ways you can cross the narrow straight and get onto the island!
Getting to Fraser Island by Car
Hold on, how are you supposed to get to an island in the middle of the ocean by car?! Well fortunately for you, that’s the most common way of getting there!
Vehicle barges depart from two destinations along the coastline and drop visitors directly on the shorelines of Fraser Island. Barges leave from:
Inskip Point – These barges generally run from 6 am to 5.30 pm for about a 10-minute journey. Passengers are dropped off at Hook Point on the southern tip of the island. No bookings are required and tickets cost AUD$130 for returns.
River Heads – Passengers are dropped off at Kingfisher Bay and Wanggoolba Creek. The journey takes between 30 to 50 minutes. Bookings are required and cost AUD$190 for returns.
The price of the ticket will also depend on the number of passengers you have and whether or not you’re travelling during peak seasons.
Any vehicles visiting the island must have vehicle access permits (VAPs) which must be displayed at all times. These can be bought online here or can also be purchased over the counter.
Getting to Fraser Island by Flight
This is a flight like no other! Rather than landing in a conventional airport, you’ll be landing directly on the beach itself! Air Fraser Island is a local tourist charter service which operates out of Hervey Bay.
The company will not only drop visitors off on the island, but also offers scenic flights across the island (at an extra cost of course).
Rather than having a “one flight fits all” approach, the flight is customizable depending on your requests! Basic flights start from AUD$75 per person (minimum numbers apply). If you would like to include a tour then it will be about AUD$150 per person.
Flights also depart from Sunshine Coast Airport as part of an all-around tour of the island from the air and a few hours on the ground for AUD$550 per person.
Getting to Fraser Island by Boat
One of the most luxurious and indeed one of the more traditional ways of arriving at the island (much like Captain Cook centuries ago) is by boat! Whether you ball out on chartering your own boat or do so as part of a tour, it’s certainly one of the most beautiful ways of getting there!
Boats leave from across the eastern coast from as far south as Sydney or Noosa. Scores of boats anchor down offshore before chucking to the island aboard inflatable rafts.
Though it may be one of the most beautiful options, it’s also one of the more expensive, and by far the most time-consuming!
How to Get Around Fraser Island
Forget any hopes of having public transport on the island, this is as primitive as it gets! There’s only one way of getting around the island, by driving. Even then you have to seriously consider the type of car you’re taking.
Fraser Island’s sand tracks are rough and only suitable for high clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicles with a low range capacity. A simple 4WD hatchback won’t do. Plenty of cars have gotten stuck in the soft sand and have to be left behind!
As for the roads themselves, there aren’t any. Yet weirdly, the island still has an official highway! The beaches surrounding the island act as the main route of transportation with enormous caravans of vehicles making their way around. To get deeper into the island, you’ll rely on rough dirt tracks that give your spine a good breaking!
Things to See on Fraser Island
Once you’re on the island, there are plenty of spots to explore, all of which revolve around the spectacular natural landscapes and formations of this magnificent island!
Lake McKenzie (Boorangoora)
Much the pinnacle example of this island’s beauty, Lake McKenzie looks like it belongs along the shores of Barbados or the crystal-clear waters of Florida.
Nestled among the surrounding rainforest, the turquoise water infused with natural tea tree oil brushes up against the pure white silica sands to create a pristine postcard image! This Oasis perfectly illustrates why the Butchulla people considered this place paradise.
Remember your days as a kid floating down a lazy river in a waterpark? Well, Fraser Island has an all-natural one just for you!
On the eastern beach of the island lies Eli Creek, a river which pumps around 4 million litres of clear natural water towards the ocean. This serene waterway carves through thick jungle, and has become a favoured spot for inner tube-armed tourists to float along in peaceful serenity.
A well-built boardwalk leads deeper into the forest and closer to the source of the water. From here tourists can step into the refreshing waters and begin their slow-paced journey towards the ocean.
One of the few manmade landmarks on the island was very much unintentional! Placed right at the end of Seventy-Five Mile beach are the remnants of the SS Maheno.
This dilapidated Japanese vessel was sadly beached on the island in 1935 when a cyclone brought it to shore. Now, its stands as a humble reminder of nature’s force and the sense of solitude that comes with the island.
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Living island life doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice luxury! Towards the northern end of the island, the champagne pools are a perfect respite from the island’s heat and the perfect chance to bathe in the ocean’s waters.
Formed by volcanic rocks, these saltwater baths are regularly battered by the unrelenting Pacific waves, creating endless frothy bubbles across the surface of the water, hence the name.
It’s also one of the liveliest rock pools you’ll ever visit, with vibrant ocean life bustling beneath its surface!
75 Mile Beach
Marking the eastern perimeter of Fraser Island, this multifunctional 75-mile stretch of beach acts as the transportation hub for the entire island. Not only is it a national piece of highway, but also the island’s airstrip!
Many of the island’s biggest highlights are also scattered along this beach, including the Maheno Shipwreck, Eli Creek, Indian Head and Champagne Pools. It’s also an ideal spot to see some of the life that stalks the island’s shorelines, including sharks and stingrays!
The spiritual title of this natural wonder matches its majesty. The Cathedrals are a stunning range of coloured sand cliffs located along 75 Mile Beach. Created by the torrential forces of nature brought in from the Pacific, they are yet another beautiful creation of this island’s nature.
A spectrum of red, brown, yellow and orange sands blend in together to create a unique spectacle.
Considered a significant cultural site by the Butchulla people, Lake Wabby is the deepest in all of Fraser Island. As impressive as that may be, it’s nowhere near its greatest feature. The lake acts as a beautiful oasis wedged between the thick foliage of the monstrous rainforest on one side and a large barren desert on the other.
Sadly, this extraordinary site won’t withstand the test of time, as the dunes are slowly consuming it. Though before then, you can still take advantage of the lake’s helpful little residents! The waters are filled with tiny little fish that gently nibble away at your dead skin, kinda like a free exfoliate!
A remnant of the old logging industry on Fraser Island, the Central Station has now been returned to the nature that surrounds it. The former forestry camp has a boardwalk that winds through the lush rainforest that surrounds Wanggoolba Creek which holds some of the world’s largest ferns.
Though it may not be as popular a spot as others on the list, it certainly is amongst one of the best! At high tide, the pristine creek system transforms into a large saltwater lake that gathers turtles and rays! As the ocean recedes, the white beaches and striking turquoise waters leave behind an image many compare to the Maldives!
Up along the coast, the mangrove forests provide a protective lining and a unique boost to the ecosystem by protecting the island from erosion, as well as providing a vital habitat for the many fish, crabs and birdlife.
Tukkee Wurroo (Indian Head)
Despite its less than politically correct name (which was actually given by Captain Cook himself!), Indian Head is one of the most iconic natural landmarks on Fraser Island. Marking the point at which the island breaks away from its straight-line beach to a north-western direction, it’s one of the island’s most significant natural landmarks
The cliff face is one of the best places to observe the surrounding coasts and observe 75 Mile Beach and the gorgeous Waddy Point. Though be aware, certain areas along the cliff edge are restricted… though that doesn’t stop many…
Though the murky, nuclear waste site-looking lake may be the last place you’d want to take a dip, it’s actually one of the healthiest places you could do it! Stained brown by tannins leached from the surrounding vegetation, the result is a very mineral-rich lake bottom that does wonders as a skin treatment.
It’s very common to see hordes of tourists lining up to rub the filthy muck on their skin to come out looking 10 years younger!
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Yet another water wonderland, the Awinya Creek becomes a maze of waterways carving their way through remote and inaccessible areas of the island. It’s a favoured spot amongst tourists to kayak and spot an array of fish and bird life that make the home in the area.
One of the most jaw-dropping spots across the island, Bowarrady Creek boasts a small freshwater swimming hole that opens up to a meandering creek system. The contrasting colours of the surrounding foliage, and the pasty colours of the sand banks and coffee rocks (consisting of compressed sand and vegetation) all surround the turquoise waters of the ocean.
Another spot considered sacred by the Butchulla people, Moon Point was once used as a site to give birth to the tribespeople! This little coastal marvel is a favoured spot amongst locals and among one of the best spots for boat tours and campers alike.
Much like Lake Boomanjin, Lake Allom is a victim of the same post-apocalyptic look. Though it’s just as safe to swim in, many prefer to spot some of the adorable little freshwater turtles that skitter through the water!
Tours Available on Fraser Island
Like any good destination in Australia, Fraser Island has plenty of tours to make the most out of this fabulous haven. They cover all basis, from rugged survivor-man style camping to luxury boat tours.
Fraser Island Tours
Many companies offer a variety of tours ranging from a full week of excursions to just a day or two. During that time, experienced tour guides take you between different hotspots across the island, and with certain tours, you’ll even be driving yourself!
During this time, you’ll have the opportunity to stay in one of the few guesthouses on the island, or better yet, camp out in the wilderness, the way Fraser Island should be experienced!
Day tours start from AUD$195 to 3-day tours starting from AUD$433.
Fraser Island Great Walk
There’s no better way to make the most of this beautiful isle than with the Fraser Island Great Walk. The entire tour covers about 90km and can take around 6 to 8 days to complete! During that time, visitors take a true adventure into the thick undergrove of the island to see some of its greatest and most beautiful spots.
As daunting (and expensive) as that may be, there are plenty of shorter trails available ranging from a few days to a couple of hours. Either way, plenty of ways to get a good old walkabout around the island!
Fraser Island is a haven for one of the most eloquent and beautiful animals on Earth, the largest of which are humpback whales!
Thousands pass by the island’s coastline each year during their annual migration; from their feeding grounds in the Antarctic to their breeding and nursing grounds in tropical north Queensland. Along that monumental route, there’s one spot where they stop to take a break; Hervey Bay.
Between the shores of the mainland and Fraser Island, brooding mothers and playful calves spend a rare opportunity to relax and enjoy the beauty of the coasts much as we would!
Fleet departs daily from Hervey Bay’s Great Sandy Straits Marina between July and October, giving visitors the opportunity to see these fascinating creatures up close!
Where to Stay on Fraser Island?
No matter what your budget or style is, Fraser Island has a bunch of accommodation options.
They range from luxury swimming pool-equipped resorts to basic guesthouses. Prices start from a basic AUD$60 with some in the AUD$300 range and requiring at least 2 nights to be booked.
Accommodation can be found by checking out websites such as Agoda or Booking.com.
If you’re truly going to explore island life, then there’s no better way to do it than living out in the open the way nature intended! There are a number of camping areas maintained around the area which are protected with dingo fences and have very basic amenities.
Permits are required to camp, and there’s a basic rate of $7 per person per night or $28 per family per night. For a more detailed guide on fees, check here!
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Let’s get things straight, as popular as this place may be for tourism, it’s still near wilderness and plenty of dangers come with it. From deadly animals to unforgiving terrain and a lack of emergency services, a degree of caution is needed, particularly if you’re going at it alone!
One amazing natural monument that has found a home on Fraser Island are the iconic dingoes. As adorable and puppy-like as they may seem, they’re still wild animals and should be treated as such.
This is not only for your protection but also for the dingoes themselves. If any of the rules are broken, i.e. they’re fed or if they come in contact with humans, then the dingoes must sadly be put down. So in that case, please follow the rules. Those include:
Never feed dingoes. This is actually a criminal offence.
Do not run, as running can trigger their animal instincts to run you down!
Camp in fenced areas when possible.
Never store food in tents.
Fire Prohibitions and Bans
Other than established firepits in official campsites, fires are completely prohibited and carry heavy fines. The immense wildfires of 2020 that burned for 2 WHOLE MONTHS, were caused by an illegal campfire that quickly went out of control. So for the sake of the island, the locals and the animals that live amongst them, just don’t do it.
Survive Your Drive
There are no roads on Fraser Island of any sort. The beach around its perimeter is the equivalent of the island’s highway, and very rough tracks lead to the different sites in the centre of the island.
Do not let the island’s popularity fool you, this is not an easy place to drive. Fraser Island’s beaches and sand tracks are rough and only suitable for high clearance 4WD vehicles with low range capacity. Cars sometimes have to be abandoned and people have even died in crashes before, so take it seriously. Some tips to consider:
Stick to the speed limit. 80km/hr on the beach and 30km/hr on inland tracks.
Do not drive along the foredunes (higher up the beach). This is prohibited because the softer sand is more unstable and can result in a crash!
Slow down when passing pedestrians, as they can’t hear vehicles over the sound of the ocean and wind.
Normal road rules apply e.g. speed limits, drunk driving and wearing seatbelts.
Deadly Animals of Fraser Island
Australia is known to be a haven of life-threatening animals, and Fraser Island is no different!
There have been confirmed sightings of saltwater crocodiles in the Mary River, the Great Sandy Strait and the western coast of Fraser Island, so that’s worth considering!
On top of that, the surrounding waters are heavily shark-infested, and have plenty of stingrays and killer jellyfish swimming amongst them too! Oh and let’s not forget the 18 species of snakes that live on the island, a third of which are venomous. So…happy camping…
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A Welsh university drop-out on a mission to travel the world for as little money as possible. My adventures have taken me through over 30 countries across Europe, Asia and Oceania, and the list keeps on growing! From classic backpacking to working and volunteering, I have found all sorts of ways to maintain a life on the road.