Currently some friends (Kevin, Claire & Matt) from the UK are traveling along the East coast of Australia initially in a camper van and now a Land Cruiser. This is slightly different for them as they’re used to running a camp site back in the UK with yurts and Tipis. Anyway, Kevin wanted to check out Fraser Island and it was on our ‘to go’ list so we started looking to see if it was possible. Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand Island, it’s a World Heritage-listed protected area and most of the Island is National Park. It has coloured sands, lakes of various sizes and characteristics, miles of white sandy beaches, huge sand blows and rainforest growing through the sand, the only place in the World where this happens and wetland areas, all supporting species which are unique to the Island. You can read more about it here.
Several emails and phone calls later we were booked on the ferry, and had the necessary permits for driving on the Island and camping too. While my Steve worked the last few days of his holiday last week, I packed up the car, the trailer, arranged putting George in kennels etc. Saturday morning we double checked everything and made the drive 3 ish hours North and met up with our fellow campers.
I drew this map to show our journey
We had all heard many stories of Fraser and we thought well it’s either been over exaggerated, not scary, dangerous or complicated as it sounds. Or it might be as scary, dangerous and complicated and maybe worse, it was hard to tell. There are 3 options for seeing Fraser, 1. tag-a-long tours which are several 4WD following a guide driver, 2. bus tours or 3. self drives. Options 1 & 2 didn’t appeal to us so we took the freer but potentially more difficult option. However we are rough outdoorsy types and not scared of breaking a nail or getting our hair out of place so we thought we’d be open minded and go for it.
We left main land at River Heads and landed at Wanggoolba Creek on the West side, of the Island at 4.30pm. Camp was to be a drive to Central, funnily in the center of the Island. On the map it says 4WD track so off we went. After two minutes we saw Dingoes which the island is famous for as it has the purest breed on the Island. Some folks passing us on the road were shouting and pointing weirdly, it was as if they had never seen a Dingo before, odd we thought as they carried on to the ferry (later we realised they weren’t quite as common as they used to be).
After 5 minutes things started getting rather bumpy and soft. The Island is the largest sand Island in the world and driving around is only possible with 4 wheel drive, luckily we had our Jeep so we were all good (I thought).
After 15 minutes we were stuck. Super deep sand was swallowing up our wheels and after trying to dig the Jeep out we got a tow out from Kevin with Steve’s snatch strap. Luckily it worked a treat and we were going again, for a few minutes. We did the same thing again and it worked again, phew, this was going to take a while! Kevin got stuck once but managed to rock out of it and I think about 45 minutes later we arrived at Central. We set up camp, ate green Thai curry, drank fizz to celebrate and went to bed.
The next day we had a bit of a dilemma over breakfast. The trailer was too much for the Jeep, we did not expect this, we wish someone had told us before we left that it would almost impossible to pull it, it was a bit of a disappointment, and even though we had a ‘high clearance vehicle’ it wasn’t high enough. Luckily we weren’t there alone, so Kevin towed the trailer and we decided to head North to Lake McKenzie, one of the most publicized attractions of Fraser.
It was 9km of thick sand but without the trailer we were flying along and so was Kevin so all was good. We arrived 7.30am and no one was there, no buses of tourists we had it all to our selves. It was not as blue as the brochures made out, however it was very clear and we all thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing dip to wash away the sand and the grime.
From there we continued West, then South, then East all the way to the coast of the Island, through deep rainforest, this was the most remote place I had ever been I decided. We stopped for coffee and croissants at the little place called Eurong with has basic supplies, toilets and some holiday accommodation.
Before we headed for the beach drive North to the next camp I decided to check the back of the trailer as Kevin mentioned he hoped our eggs weren’t broken with the trailer being pulled along. Well I’m glad I checked but the more I looked I wish I hadn’t. I found a whole meal in there. Mushrooms, curry sauce, pesto, tomatoes, smashed glass, it was all mushed together and had been splattered all over our camping stuff. Somehow we managed to clean it up quite quickly but it was smelly, the heat of the day was setting in and the flies were buzzing. I will never forget that sight and that smell, so there we learned some lessons which I can now share with you.
1. Try not to pack glass jars, use plastic as much as possible. I hate the over use of plastic but it is definitely worth using when going off road driving.
2. Take your eggs out of the egg box and use a plastic one from the camp shop, don’t put them at the bottom of the cooler, put at the top and fill up the cooler so there isn’t bouncing space
3. Use plastic milk containers not cardboard ones, when the ice melts it makes the cartons wet and they fall apart, yuk
4. Use ice not freezer packs as you can top up ice and keeps stuff cooler anyway
5. Put food stuff in your car
6. Use strong food containers with lids, not cheap ones from Woolies.
It’s funny I never usually take pesto or vegetables or glass when camping, not sure why I did this time but it was daft!
Along the beach we saw lots of vehicles heading up or down. There was a gathering at Eli creek as the tide was fairly high and the stream quite deep, some drivers weren’t sure they could make it, but most didn’t hesitate, apart from maybe tasting the water to check it was fresh ad not salt, good idea as salt water can wreck your car.
We saw a huge sea eagle, hundreds of dead sea birds (washed up from a huge storm out to sea), the famous Maheno ship wreck, the Pinnacles, sea for miles and miles, scorching sand and sun. Planes flew over head, landed on the beach, tour buses unloaded it’s young people, the girls all wearing bikinis and dresses, the guys in the standard uniform of boardies and tees. It’s a crazy place, kind of mad max or Burning man Aussie style really.
We found camp at Dundubara and it was lovely, nice and accessible, nice facilities, what a day! While the boys went to catch fish, Claire took a shower and I carried on cleaning up the mess from earlier, I found more mess which was horrible, oh yes beer in bottles with screw top lids bouncing around does not stay in the bottle, it explodes!
7. Buy beer in cans or keep them in your car for less bouncing
After everyone and everything was clean I cooked a Vege Mexican dish with my crushed cans of kidney beans and tomatoes, I luckily managed to selvedge everything I needed except for the mushrooms.
View North from Indian Heads
From a hectic but eventful start we kicked back a bit on the next day, sight seeing up at Indian heads where we saw turtles, sharks (oh yes, slow moving through shoals of fish, amazing!) and lots of other fish swimming off the point, definitely not a point to go surfing on!
There is a shark in there
We fished but caught nothing, we watched drivers try and drive over the extremely deep sand dune pass to the northern beaches which looked stunning, we think the sand was too deep for us. We had salad for lunch, we tried to drive in land to see more turtles but we had to turn back, we kept getting stuck, damn & blast our little Jeep was too low to the ground, and we had no trailer this time either.
Deep sand dunes flow up the land and around the the East side 75 mile Beach
Things slowed down that day as we had seen tons , tomorrow we would see the bottom half of the Island on our way to get the ferry to Inskip point, just North of Rainbow Beach. We were looking forward to heading home just to drive on tarmac again. I’m not sure we felt rested from the holiday but it gave us some big memories of a truly unique place.
During the drive South to catch the ferry, we finally saw Dingoes, they were quite large and very dog like in their behavior but more fox like in appearance. An adult sat near the shore whilst we later noticed cubs playing near the dunes. It was great to see them in the wild actually doing what they please, it’s quite amazing that dogs were like that at one time before being domesticated.
As we arrived at the ferry port, a ferry had literally just arrived. 15 minutes later we were on land again, but not the hard black sort we were hoping for. There was more sand, deep sand, we didn’t quite make it and had to be pulled out again. We had had enough. Next time we decided forgot that sticky dirty camping malarkey, we’ll head somewhere more luxurious and lie back with cocktails in hand, we shall see!
On the way home we had a very good clean of the jeep & trailer, put air back in the tyres and set off all happy…. that was until warning lights kept appearing in the Jeeps dash. After a lot of stopping and checking we finally made it home, phew, I think we need a holiday! Thankfully, it is just a switch and the fault has disappeared now. Having read the website just now it does not recommend 4WD without high clearance so in hindsight we shouldn’t have taken our beloved Jeep, not sure how we missed reading that, fingers crossed all will be well.
Another stunning view from Indian Heads
It was an adventurous trip and we learned a lot.
It’s amazing how little you actually NEED, the top 10 essentials that you can’t go without are:
1. A good vehicle with 4WD and HIGH clearance, some are better than others, you can hire them for a price
2. Tow rope / snatch strap, D shackles, traction mats, a spade, tyre pressure gauge
3. Car fuel and drinking water, enough for the trip saves worry and money
4. EASY food, who cares if it’s basic, you’ll eat it anyway
5. Wet wipes, cleaning stuff, it gets dirty with fine dust around
6. Swimming kit, for any chance to go for a dip and wash off the grime
8. Bug spray, sun tan lotion, sun hats & sun glasses
9. Lights, torches etc, it’s very dark at night
10. Cash including $1 coins for the showers
Pack as light as possible with clothes, tents, sleep kit. We took a huge tent, chairs, a table, a toilet, all which we could have been fine without, especially for such a short trip and when the big sites (they’re not that big) have toilets, showers, tables, benches and BBQ’s.
So having now been to Fraser it’s not so scary, dangerous or complicated, IF you have the right kit and listen to ALL the advise from the NPRSR website. We loved the nature, the views, the swimming and the adventure but we did not love the worry about breaking down or breaking our Jeep.
That’s another place crossed off the list, what’s next?
Sand sand everywhere