January 2012: Fraser Island Queensland

This Trip saw us head to the beautiful Fraser Island in Queensland for our third time. This Story was run in the January 2014 Issue of 4WD touring Australia. 

When the thought of visiting a tropical island is contemplated, many think of heading to some far flung hotel resort surrounded by turquoise blue waters, butter yellow sand and lush green rainforest.  But for those who have a passion for 4WD, Fraser Island is often the first thing that comes to mind. Being the largest sand island in the world and covering an area of 163,000 hectares it’s not hard to understand why this place offers so much adventure.

While this was our third trip back to the island, there was no less eagerness or anticipation for what lay ahead. There are several barges that travel to the island with the one departing Inskip Point being the most popular.  For those with trailers this makes a good option with its easy run along the beach (with the slightly added fun of the entry and exit on the barge). 

These barges are the life blood of the Island transporting not only 4WD’s and bus loads of tourists, but all manner of goods, food and supplies. Don’t be surprised when you are charged more than double for a case of beer or when the price of fuel is more than that last good bottle of red you drank 

For something different we decided to base ourselves in the middle of the Island at Central Station so the barge leaving River Heads was the start to our journey. The barge exit at Kingfisher Bay is a walk in the park compared to Inskip Point as you drive straight on to a sealed road that is part of the Kingfisher Bay Resort. However it doesn’t take long for the fun to begin.

The track that travels west to east over the island starts just outside the resort. Once you get catapulted over the first dune pitted with potholes and timber slats to prevent you getting bogged, you then make a run along the track that slices itself through the banksia and low forest.  The track is made even more fun as there are very few places to either pass an oncoming vehicle or turn around (especially a challenge with a trailer behind you).  Then there is the possibility of meeting an oncoming tourist 4WD bus who will drive over you before having to back up to allow you to pass.

Recent fires that had passed over the track made the already fine soft sand take on the consistency of black talcum powder.  Despite some strong right foot, the island grasped at the car and trailer and before we knew it we were going nowhere fast.  Now we have all heard of the stories of German tourists who are running tyres at 50psi, the new Mercedes 4WD with no recovery gear or the first timer who misjudged the tides and ended up with a free car wash.  While we all laugh at these mistakes (that I am sure none of us would dare dream of), you have not truly visited Fraser Island unless you can say you have buried your fourby down to its axels, had the joy of digging the soft white crystal sands away from your tyres or unravelled the snatch strap to pull your mate from the clutches of the island.  With this in mind, we got the maxtrax into action to get us on our way to Central Station to set up camp for the week..

Central Station was once the centre of the forestry industry when there was logging on the Island, but it is now a unique place to camp and explore the adjacent rainforest.  The satinay and brush box forest here contains ancient trees growing in nothing more than sand and decaying leaf matter.

Having set up camp we wasted no time heading out to explore. There are many parts of Fraser Island, particularly in the north and eastern sides, where you can get away from the crowds and truly feel like you are a castaway on a remote island. 

One place where you are unlikely to experience this isolation is Eli Creek.  On a typical day the creek bank is lined with 4WDs with men casually standing around, beer in hand, comparing tyre pressures or debating the value of LED vs HID lights. There is music drifting over the umbrellas, marques and deck chairs that surround the vehicles, competing with the laughter of children as they float down the creek. It’s a feeling of a permanent Australia Day Party.  Having taken the walk upstream on the well-constructed board walk and gracefully floated down towards the beach you can see why this place is so popular. 

Another popular destination is the fresh water wonder of Lake Mackenzie, perched in a sand dune high above sea level. While it is one of the most visited parts of the island we were fortunate enough to miraculously have it to ourselves on a picture postcard perfect day where the beautiful blue waters lapped at the white sands.  There are another 39 perched lakes to explore including the crystal green Lake Birrabeen, Lake Waby (that is slowly being consumed by a vast sandblow) or the tea stained Lake Boomanjin, which at 200 hectares is the world’s largest perched lake. In total, there are over 100 fresh water lakes and streams to discover.

The most popular run is the western side from Euron up to Waddy Point, and for those with more time a further run up to the light house at Sandy Cape. The beach in parts can be as smooth as a highway.  But don’t let that fool you as a washout can have you with four wheels pointing to the sky quicker than you know it. It is also important to be aware of the tides, as a miss-timed run can leave you with a wet and very dead vehicle.

If you are lucky enough to go early in the morning, after the tide has washed away all traces of the 4WD tracks, you can dream of being the only explorer who has this whole island to themselves. 

For us, we were happy to explore the rusting, urchin encrusted bones of the ill-fated ship, the S.S Maheno which has been slowly dissolving back into the ocean.  As I sat and kept a watch out in the ocean with the hope of glimpsing one of the many humback whales that pass along the shore, I began to ponder if the crew thought they were to be forever marooned on this sandy slice of paradise.

While there were no sighting of humpbacks, you are sure to see a Canis lupus, better known as the dingo, considered one of the purest strains left in Australia. These sandy coloured Asian wolves sit in the shadows waiting to ransack any unsuspecting camper the minute they leave their site unattended. While there is news of the dingos becoming more aggressive and less afraid of humans, I sometimes wonder what to think when it is us who is privileged enough to be visiting their home.

Our week was coming to an end just as our senses were getting use to the dazzling colours. While Fraser is a very popular destination, you may just be lucky enough to find yourself looking out to the turquoise blue waters of Lake Makenzie, or exploring the columns of butter yellow sands of the Cathedrals, or trekking through the lush green rainforest of the Pile Valley, and for a fleeting moment thinking you are marooned on Fraser.  Who needs a hotel resort when you have all of this.