Fraser Island is the world’s largest island made of sand and is located in between the Pacific Ocean and Hervey Bay. Its length is around 120 km and the width up to 15 km. While at the beaches the sand is visible everywhere, the center of the island is covered with dense forest, numerous natural pools, and also sand dunes. Driving on Fraser Island requires a special 4WD car as almost all the roads are on sand.
Driving the 4WD on Fraser Island
After taking the barge at 6:45 from River Heads near Hervey Bay to Fraser Island, we arrived with our rented Land Rover 4WD at Kingfisher Bay on Fraser Island. The first kilometer on the island was nicely paved road, but then the paved road abruptly ends and a road with deep sand follows. Time to enable the 4WD on our car in order to not get stuck in the sand.
Driving on Inland Routes
To get to the Eastern side of the island where the nice pacific beach is located, we had to drive first for more than 20 km on inland routes. All those routes are unpaved, and all of them are very difficult to drive, as there is sometimes deep sand where the vehicle might get stuck, other times there are big roots from trees in the middle of the road, and sometimes there was traffic coming from the opposite side which made crossing difficult. And the island is by no means flat! It basically goes either up or down, flat it is only at the beaches. But it was very beautiful to drive through the dense forest and overlook some nice lagoons along the way. It took us around 1.5 hours to make the first crossing to the Pacific Ocean. The speed limit on these roads was 30 km/h, however most of the time we were going at less than 20 km/h due to the difficult conditions. Ilinca was very happy once we arrived at the beach on the Pacific Ocean because as a passenger, these road conditions are way less fun than for the driver.
Driving along Fraser Island’s Eastern Beach
The route along the beach is completely different. Fraser Island basically has a wide, beautiful beach along the whole 120 km of the east coast with no obstacles apart from the saltwater that comes in with the waves and some small inland freshwater streams that flow across the beach into the ocean. There is not really a classic road, but the whole beach is open for driving (and even some small planes land there). At some parts the beach was at least 50m wide, so driving there was lots of fun.
Driving on the beach was much more comfortable as the sand was very flat. Speed limits here are 80 km/h, which is ok on the harder parts of the sand. But beware when driving into some deeper sand with high speed. It is very difficult to keep control of your vehicle and it’s best to spot those deep sand stretches way ahead and drive around them or reduce speed.
Nature on Fraser Island
Sandy Green Hills
What impressed me most about Fraser Island is that the island is by no means flat and the hills, which are obviously also only made out of sand, were very stable and covered by dense vegetation. If there had not been the inland roads which were basically sand tracks, one could easily forget about the sand underneath.
Crystal Clear Lagoons
By no means less impressive was swimming in the lagoons which can be found at various places inland. They are basically freshwater lakes that are filled by rain and some of them are very clear. On our second day on Fraser Island I went into no less than three lakes for a swim. In one of the lakes I could spot some freshwater turtles during a short free dive. And the advantage as compared to swimming in the ocean is that you are not full of saltwater when going out of the water.
The beaches on Fraser Island are equally beautiful as compared to the beaches we have seen previously on Australia’s east coast. The sand was clean and white, and the water was clear and very inviting for a swim. From the Indian Head lookout point, it was possible to see big marine turtles swimming below the surface, and also some dolphins paid us a visit. As common in Australia, swimming at the beaches is not recommended without giving any official reasons. I guess it is a liability problem, because locals go in there all the time and I am sure a swim there would have been safe for good swimmers.
Animal World on Fraser Island
The fauna on Fraser Island however is nothing too special. Yes, there were some marine animals visible, and we also saw some bigger lizards and one kangaroo jumping across the road, but those animals are all common on Australia’s east coast. The only animals less common are Dingoes. Dingoes are basically wild dogs and the marketing organizations of Fraser Island emphasize how special these animals are, especially on Fraser Island. But to me they were just stray dogs and not that special at all. That’s maybe why I did not even bother to stop the car and take a picture when a dingo was passing near the beach.
Sleeping in a Luxury Tent on Fraser Island
Ilinca and I had different expectations of the accommodation on Fraser Island. I would have liked to simply rent a small tent and camp near one of the camping locations directly at the beach. Ilinca preferred a room in a lodge or hotel. So in the end we found each other in the middle. We were sleeping in a not-so-small tent at Beachcamp Eco Resort, which was basically a hostel, but instead of having buildings, all their rooms consist of tents. Inside the tents, there is everything you expect. A king-size bed, bathroom and also a shower. Even electricity and a shared kitchen was available.
We both loved staying there for one night. Cooking our own food in the evening and then sleeping in a comfortable bed while listening to the waves from the beach was a very good way of relaxing after the bumpy rides with the car during the day.
Is Fraser Island Worth a Visit?
It was really beautiful on Fraser Island and somewhat also special, but because we have already seen lots of nice places on the east coast, I don’t know if it was really worth the price, because getting there was quite expensive. The rent of our 4WD car and the accommodation together cost more than USD 600 for two days, incl. getting there and returning to the mainland. To be fair, I have to mention that when joining a tour on a big tourist vehicle instead of renting our own car, we could have saved some money, but driving on Fraser Island is really fun, and Ilinca and I love travelling a bit more spontaneously than on a tour.
Next Stop: Cairns
After consulting with the weather forecast, we give Cairns a second chance after our disappointing visit two weeks ago when it was basically raining nonstop. We will first drive our car south to Brisbane, return it, and then fly north to Cairns to start our PADI Open Water diving courses and then visit the Great Barrier Reef.