A lot of us Melbournians love to escape to the warmth during our winter months. Contrary to what some people may think, it does get pretty cold in Melbourne during winter, and it also gets wet! So Queensland, a short two-hour flight away is a great place to escape to during our winter. Over the recent Queen’s birthday long weekend, we decided to fly to the Fraser Coast and visit Fraser Island, followed by a visit to Lady Elliot Island for some snorkelling.
It was Simon’s first time on the island but my second time. The last time I was on Fraser Island was over fifteen years ago. I spent two nights on the island as part of a Contiki tour of the east coast of Australia.
I don’t suppose much has changed on the island since then, but I definitely have changed a lot! I’m now too old to even qualify for a Contiki tour! Back then, my time on the island was divided between exploring the island by day and partying at the Dingo Bar by night. I had fond memories of the island and had always wanted to go back. For starters, enjoying the island without a hangover was a good enough reason to return.
Why visit Fraser Island?
Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island. It is one hundred and twenty-three kilometres in length and twenty-two kilometres at its widest point. This World Heritage-listed island has blue freshwater lakes that are perfect to swim in, giant sand dunes, lush rainforests, mangroves, and an amazing seventy-five-mile long beach highway.
Fraser Island also has a rich Aboriginal heritage and the Butchulla people (the traditional owners of the island) call it K’Gari which means “paradise”. It’s not a surprise that they gave it such a name because it truly is paradise.
Where is Fraser Island?
Fraser Island is located fifteen kilometres off the coast of Hervey Bay, approximately two hundred and fifty kilometres North of Brisbane, Queensland’s capital city.
How to get to Fraser Island?
There are two main access points to Fraser Island. You can reach it from the south via Rainbow Beach (Inskip Point) and from the west side via Hervey Bay (River Heads). Ferries depart a few times a day from both locations. If you are bringing your own vehicle, bear in mind that all vehicles need to be 4WD to drive around the island.
If you prefer not to drive your own 4WD (something that is wise if you have not had any 4WD experience before) don’t despair. You can take an organised tour instead. They leave daily from the Kingfisher Bay Resort and will take you to visit the major attractions on the island. Having never driven a 4WD before, we decided to let the experts deal with the driving while we enjoyed the sights. It was indeed a very good idea as not only was it very bumpy but I’m pretty sure we would have found ourselves lost!
What to do on Fraser Island?
Lake MacKenzie is the most photographed lake and the most visited attraction on Fraser Island. It is just breathtaking and you simply can’t visit Fraser island without seeing this lake. Perched on a sand dune, a hundred metres above sea level, the lake has pure silica white sand and crystal clear blue water. It is fed only by rainwater, with the sand acting as a filter to give the water its clarity. The sand is so powdery soft that it’s great for exfoliating your skin and cleaning your jewellery. Make sure you try it out.
It was a bumpy ride to get across the island to the town of Eurong from where we accessed the 75-mile beach, but it was worth it! Driving up and down 75-mile beach on the eastern side was amazing, It is mile after mile of unspoiled white sand, together with beautiful views of the ocean.
My favourite part about driving along the beach was seeing the reflection of the clouds onto the puddles of water on the sand. As nice as the beach is, it’s not safe for swimming due to the dangerous currents and the many sharks in the area! The beach is considered an official highway, so you will see police cars patrolling it, making sure that people respect the speed limit. This stretch of beach is also where you will find the Maheno wreck, Eli Creek and the Pinnacles.
Eli Creek is the largest freshwater creek on the eastern side of the island. It pours up to four million litres of clear, fresh water into the ocean every hour. You can walk to the end of the scenic boardwalk, climb down into the creek and let yourself float down it or swim back towards the sea.
The Maheno was originally built in Scotland. It was originally used as a luxury ocean liner and was travelling between New Zealand and Australia when it washed up on the shore of Fraser Island in 1936 during a cyclone. It is now another popular attraction on Fraser Island.
Just north of the Maheno Shipwreck, you will find a small section of colourful sandy cliffs. The coloured sand (yellow, red, orange and brown) was formed from thousands of years of erosion.
Take a Scenic flight
During our 4WD tour, we had the option to take a short detour for a fifteen-minute scenic flight with Air Fraser over the 75 miles beach. It was something we couldn’t say no to and it turned out to be the highlight of our day. We flew up and down the coast, and then inland over the many sand dunes and the rainforest. We even saw Butterfly Lake, a lake in the shape of a butterfly that isn’t accessible by foot. The flight cost AU$80 and was definitely worth the money.
Central Station and Pile Valley
Central station is located in the heart of the island, amongst the rainforest. It’s a great place to stop and experience the tranquil nature of the island. You will find a boardwalk there that follows the crystal clear Wanggoolba Creek. The water is so clear, that you can barely notice it. Tropical ferns, giant trees, native scrubs and various flora live in the area, along with many species of birds. It’s a lovely, peaceful walk and only about two kilometres long. The walk finishes at the Pile Valley. If you are on a tour, the bus will pick you up at Pile Valley. If not, you’ll need to turn around and return to Central Station.
At low tide, take a walk from Kingfisher Bay Resort to the McKenzie jetty. Turn left at the pier and walk south along the beach for about two kilometres. Before you reach the jetty, you will be distracted by the resident soldier crabs who take over the beach at low tide. There are thousands of them and it’s pretty funny to watch them scurrying around. You might even be lucky and spot a dingo. If not, see if you can spot their paw marks on the sand. The McKenzie jetty was built to accommodate the logging trade on the island. Nowadays only some old pylons are left which provide a great photo op at dusk or dawn.
Observe the native Dingos
The island is home to a lot of bird life and wildlife, including the wild dingos. Sadly there are a lot fewer dingos than there used to be, but you are still likely to see a couple, especially on the beaches and near Eli Creek. It’s great to see them in their natural environment and to observe them from a distance.
Remember that dingos are wild dogs, so be extremely careful. Do not approach them and definitely do not try and touch them. We do not want these beautiful animals to have to be euthanised because of human stupidity! Also, do not feed them, you may think that you are doing them a favour, but you‘re not. Feeding them is a serious offence and you’ll be fined if caught. It encourages a reliance on human interaction which can later lead to aggressive behaviour. If you want to photograph them, remember to bring a zoom for your camera.
Sunset at Kingfisher Pier
If you’re staying at the Kingfisher Bay Resort on the west coast, be sure to head down to the sunset bar for a drink or two as you watch the sunset. You can sit on one of the bean bags and sip your wine as you enjoy the end of the day. If you hang out long enough you may even see a dingo wander by!
Go whale watching (in Winter months only)
If you are visiting the island between July and November, be sure to go on a whale watching trip to see the impressive humpback whales. The Fraser Coast is a stopover point for the whales on their yearly migration from Antartica to the warmer waters up north, where the females give birth and then return with their young.
Recent studies have shown that approximately ten thousand whales visit the coast every year, with some staying for up to ten days to rest, play and socialise. This makes the Fraser coast one of the best places in the world to see these gentle giants in action.
Fraser Island – a beautiful oasis built on sand
Check out our video of our time on the island, including our 4WD day tour and our scenic flight over the island with Air Fraser.
Where to stay on Fraser Island?
Kingfisher Bay Resort
The Kingfisher Bay Resort is the largest resort on the island and the best place to stay. The resort is located right next to where the ferry from River Head drops you off. It has different types of accommodation, ranging from two and three bedroom villas for families, multi-share Wilderness Lodges and resort hotel rooms. It’s convenient, it has a pool, restaurants and bars. Plus, they can organise all sorts of activities on the island for you that don’t require a car.
Use the search box below to find your accommodation on Fraser Island:
Where to eat on Fraser Island?
The Seabelle is the most upmarket restaurant on the island and specialises in cooking with Australian bush foods. You can choose an Aussie inspired multi-course meal with matched wines or simply go a la carte. It’s not the cheapest option but it’s a great experience.
The Sand Bar
This is a more relaxed option. Their made-to-order pizzas are delicious. It’s a great place to go for a quick meal and a drink after a long day spent exploring the island.