48 hours on Fraser Island
Turning 25 is a milestone, though not something celebrated by most. But when it’s the largest sand island celebrating 25 years of World Heritage listing, the good people of the Fraser Coast step back, take bow and marvel in the beauty they’ve preserved.
Affectionately known as K’gari (paradise) by the Butchulla people, Fraser Island is 123kms of natural beauty, rich in history and adventure. Home to breathtaking beauty spots like rainforests, sand blows, freshwater lakes and a pristine beach spanning 75 miles.
So, read on, load the 4WD and crank up the holiday vibes, ‘cause with 48 hours on this remote hybrid island, you may leave footprints in the sand, but Fraser will leave memories stamped on your heart.
Consider these hot tips before you set off:
- If you’re self-driving, purchase your vehicle permit online or over the phone with QPWS
- Check out the lay of the land here, or pre-purchase a Fraser Island topographic map
- Pack an esky in your 4WD with water, snacks and pre-made lunch for day 1
- You’ll want to keep a hat, towel and swimwear with you at all times (there are many tempting swimming holes)
- Insect repellent and sunscreen will keep your skin free of bites and burn
9AM: FULL STEAM AHEAD
Your chariot awaits at the River Heads Ferry Terminal, located 20 minutes south of Hervey Bay. A quick 50-minute ferry ride across the Great Sandy Strait is met with the sight of blue hues and towering dunes, as you pull up to the jetty at Kingfisher Bay Resort.
Tip: The ferry departs from River Heads at 6:45am, 9am, 12:30pm, 3:30pm and 6:45pm daily. Pre-booking your passenger and vehicle ferry tickets is recommended.
10AM: PARADISE FOUND
Ah *exhales* the serenity. Welcome to an eco-wonderland!
Drop off your bags at the resort – save poolside cocktails for later – and voyage south-east along the inland track to the island’s most acclaimed natural wonder, Lake McKenzie.
Tip: If sand-driving isn’t your forte, day trips are available from Kingfisher Bay Resort with Cool Dingo or Fraser Explorer Tours.
It’s a bumpy journey navigating the sand trails, but well worth the bone-jangle when you step foot on white silica sand skirting blue ombre water.
Spanning 150 hectares, this freshwater perched lake sits 100 metres above sea level and is fed only by rainwater, with the pure sand acting as a filter, providing clarity to the water.
It’s an ideal spot for a snack-stop if you’re peckish, with beauty that’s hard to tear your eyes from, but eat only within the designated areas and be sure to take all rubbish with you.
1PM: WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Whip out your bucket list – it’s time to tick off Central Station. An old logging community in the 1920s, now grandiose trees beam up to the heavens while the encircling rainforest is cool and quaint.
Follow the narrow foot track around Wanggoolba Creek – blink and you’ll miss the crystal-clear water – that ends in the rainforest which houses a 1000-year-old satinay tree as wide as three bulls standing side by side.
Close by is a desert-like sandscape that was formed over time by wind gusting across the island. The Hammerstone Sandblow may not be the Sahara, but this huge sand dune makes you feel like a colourful speck in a mound of hundreds and thousands.
The neighbouring Lake Wabby was formed through a build-up of sand that dammed around an existing creek, creating the island’s only barrage lake, throwing off an emerald gleam in its fresh water.
Kick your heart rate up a notch with a short hike up to the lookout – the view is awe-inspiring.
PM: MAXO RELAXO
On an island in the sun… Is this real life? Or, have you stepped into a 2001 Weezer video clip?
By now, your feet are up poolside, asking is it Happy Hour yet? Once the light begins to fade, take a five-minute stroll to the Sunset Bar at the jetty – aka the best spot to witness the sunset. Purple and yellow bursts are mellowed by white clouds, making for a stunning sundown *iPhones at the ready*.
Introduce your taste buds to regional flavours and native bush tucker with dinner at Seabelle Restaurant. The menu is inspired by the Butchulla people and uses local produce like fresh seafood, crocodile, emu and kangaroo, as well as native berries, nuts and leaves.
7AM: UP AND AT ‘EM
The best thing about a buffet is that once you’ve cleaned your plate, it’s gone by the time you’re back with the next round.
So, feel good and stock up at the poolside Maheno Restaurant for breakfast. You’ll need your stamina today to conquer the ‘Big 5’ on Fraser Island’s eastern side.
Head off around 8am for another bumpy journey to 75 Mile Beach, a sweet strip of golden sand where the rainforest meets the sea.
This beach is one of Queensland’s sand highways, with a maximum speed limit of 80km per hour, and less in camping zones. Despite its name, you can only put your pedal to the medal for 55 miles (88kms), though the highway also doubles as an air strip for scenic flights or transfers to Hervey Bay with Air Fraser.
Start your second day of adventure by motoring north to the wreck of S.S. Maheno, an old ocean liner-cum-World War I hospital ship, which was later sold to an Osaka shipbreaker.
It was from here in 1935 that its towline was detached in a severe cyclone, washing it away to be later found beached on Fraser Island. The rusted wreck is marvellous with much of the ship’s skeleton still intact.
Continue north along the beach stopping to admire The Pinnacles coloured sands, with vast dunes in an array of natural tones of yellow, brown and red varieties.
Shake a bottle of bubbly and what happens? It fizzles and pops, much like the glimmering water of Champagne Pools, which bursts blue and bubbles with the oceans’ ebbs and flows.
Your first glimpse of this rock pool is cast from an overhanging boardwalk, where stairs cascade down to the rocky shores.
A short five-minute stroll from the car park reveals an aqua paradise, where water froths and spills over the rock wall and light waves swish past beach-goers. Who needs an indoor float centre when you can wash away your cares, feet up and flat backed in a natural ocean pool?
The headland south of this is Indian Head, the most eastern point of the island. Named by Captain Cook when he sailed past on May 19, 1770, you can climb to the top of the cliff from the southern side beach, providing jaw-dropping 360-degree views of ocean and rainforest.
It’s also the perfect perch for spotting wildlife like manta rays, turtles and dolphins.
12PM: DONUT DISTURB
Nestled between the Maheno Wreck and Happy Valley is Eli Creek, filled with cool crystal-clear water and so serene you’ll struggle to bid adieu when you make a stop here on your journey back south.
The largest creek on the eastern beach, this idyllic swimming hole pours around four million litres of fresh water into the ocean every hour.
Stroll along the surrounding boardwalk through mangroves and banksia and pop out at the creek’s entry point where you can drift with the current back down to the beach. Tip: Make the most of this experience on a blow-up doughnut or lilo.
Unfurl the towel, spread out the picnic lunch and kick back on the banks, watching the ocean’s waves roll like the passing 4WD’s along the beach.
PM: BLISSED OUT
Back at the resort, the island is your oyster! Do with your free time as you please. We recommend hiring a stand-up paddle board and admiring the sunset over the Great Sandy Strait or taking a beach walk down to the old McKenzie’s jetty (around 5km round trip).
It’s back to basics with relaxed dining and drool-worthy burgers and pizza at The Sand Bar for dinner.
Got time for a little more ocean action before departing this sand wonderland? Take a guided canoe paddle from the Kingfisher Bay beach and through the mangroves of Dundonga Creek, casting an eye out for passing rays and turtles in the blue-hued shallows.
When the time has come for the ferry to tear away from the jetty and return to the mainland, aim to keep that state of nirvana intact.
Remember, this is not goodbye, it’s just see you soon!