Over the Christmas break I had two days spare towards the end of my holiday and I was itching to do something spontaneous and fun. Driving from Bryon Bay to Lennox Head with my friend Steve in his four wheel drive…Fraser Island popped into my head. Suddenly I was filled with child like excitement because I realised that seeing Fraser Island might actually be possible. You see, you can only get to Fraser Island by 4WD.
Fraser Island has been on my bucket list forever and I never thought I would see it. Mid conversation, I blurted out “Do you want to go to Fraser Island?” He paused and looked at me with confusion and asked “When?” I said “umm, how about New Year’s Day?” With a big cheesy grin he said “Lets do it!”. Next step was a stop for lunch to work out how we were going to plan this quickly and cheaply. Let me show you how you can spend 2 days at Fraser Island on the cheap!
The planning stage
We rang a few different ferry companies with no luck as they were fully booked. They couldn’t fit us on the ferry to cross over to Fraser Island on the day and times that we needed. Being Christmas it was very busy. Lastly we rang Manta Ray Fraser Island Barge who told us exactly what we wanted to hear. They operate from 6am to 5:15pm daily, 7 days a week with no bookings required.
The trip to Fraser Island from Inskip Point Rainbow Beach takes about 10 minutes. Other companies can take up to an hour to cross and cost a lot more. Manta Ray charges $120 return for a 4WD with passengers.
The reason it is so quick is because you are crossing from Rainbow Beach. This takes you to the bottom Eastern side of Fraser Island. Whereas, all the other companies cross from Hervey Bay to Kingfisher Island resort which is about halfway up on the Western side of Fraser Island.
The great thing about crossing from Rainbow Bay is that it’s only a 3 hour drive from Brisbane. From Brisbane to Hervey Bay is a 4 hour drive.
A little bit about Fraser Island
World Heritage listed Fraser Island, off Australia’s eastern Queensland coast, is the largest sand island in the world, stretching over 123km. It’s a camping and ecotourism destination, with beaches and swimming sites at Lake McKenzie, Lake Wabby and other freshwater pools. It is also the only place in the world where tall rainforests are found growing on sand dunes at elevations of over 200 metres.
Fraser Island’s World Heritage listing ranks it with Australia’s Uluru, Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef. Fraser Island is a precious part of Australia’s natural and cultural heritage, it is protected for all to appreciate and enjoy.
Road Tripping Time
Steve picked me up at 6am News Year’s morning. We packed the car full of food, tents, our camera gear and hit the road. It was a nice drive that early in the day and not much traffic on the road as most people were probably still asleep or nursing New Year’s Eve hangovers.
We stopped at the Manta Ray Barge & Permit Office to collect our ticket for the barge. You can also pay for the ticket on board the barge. Before we left we also had to get a camping permit and a vehicle permit which we got online so that we could camp for one night and drive on the beach. Camping was $6.55 per person for one night and the Vehicle Access Permit was $51.60 which covers you for one month.
Next stop was Inskip Point, Rainbow Beach where we stopped to let the tyres down before getting onto the barge. We didn’t have to wait at all for the barge and it literally took 10 minutes before we were on Fraser Island driving up the beach. It was a gorgeous Summer’s day and an awesome feeling of freedom.
4 wheel driving on Fraser Island
Driving along the Eastern side of Fraser Island to Eurong Beach is so easy. The only thing you need to worry about is the tide. Make sure you check the tides before you go. We got onto the beach an hour before low tide and had plenty of space to drive on nice flat smooth sand. It took about 30 minutes to drive from the barge to Eurong Beach.
Once we arrived at Eurong Beach we had a quick toilet break and then headed straight to Lake McKenzie. The track to Lake McKenzie is full on 4WD territory. It is deep, soft sand and extremely bumpy. You can only go about 10-20kms an hour. It took about 45 minutes from Eurong Beach to Lake McKenzie. Holy crap was it worth it. What an amazingly beautiful freshwater lake!
Lake McKenzie is a perched lake which means it contains only rainwater, no ground water and not fed by streams and does not flow to the ocean. The sand and organic matter at the bottom of the lake form an impervious layer which prevents the rainwater from draining away.
It is made of pure white Silica which not only looks clean and beautiful but is super soft to walk on. The sand acts as a filter giving the water it’s clarity.
I was blown away when I walked down through the bush to the stunning views of a deep blue lake that turns perfectly aqua around the edge. We found a patch of pure white sand and set up the umbrella and beach towels and got straight into the water.
It was a boiling hot 34 degree day and the water was refreshingly cool. I couldn’t beleive the clarity of the water and how clean and pure it felt. I floated around on my floatie, swam and explored underneath the water, lied on the sand in the sun, swam again and basically just soaked up this magical place for hours.
After swimming for hours we were starving and it was getting to late afternoon and we still had to drive back to Eurong Beach and find our camping spot so we had a quick picnic in the enclosed area at Lake McKenzie before heading off.
Note: food is not permitted near the Lake as there are dingoes present and they will try to steal it. There is a designated fenced off area for eating.
Time to set up camp
After leaving Lake McKenzie we drove through Central Station for a quick look which is a camping spot near Lake McKenzie, then headed back to Eurong Beach to find our camp site. We drove up the beach for a bit until we found a spot that looked good. We pulled in and set up camp just behind the dunes. It was about 5pm by this stage so we set up our tents and bedding for the night and made a quick dinner with the leftover food from lunch. After dinner we watched a movie on the laptop before hitting the hay.
Sleeping near the beach was really noisy when you aren’t used to it. It was nice to look up at the stars through the roof in my tent though. That was until it started raining in the middle of the night and I felt rain drops on my face. I quickly got up and closed the flap and hoped back into my sleeping back and got cosy and warm again. Listening to the rain on the tent was very soothing.
The next day…
The next morning we woke up to cloudy skies which helped cool down the temperature. We packed up our bedding and tents, brushed our teeth and drove back to Eurong Beach for some breakfast which was a chai latte and a croissant from the bakery. By the time we finished breakfast the skies had cleared again and the sun was burning bright.
The plan today was to check out the shipwreck, Eli Creek and possibly the Champagne pools if we had time. After breakfast we jumped back in the car and got back onto the flat smooth sand and headed North to the Shipwreck.
It’s about a 45 minute drive from Eurong Beach to the shipwreck. You actually drive passed Eli Creek on the way which was one of the things we wanted to see. We decided to go straight to the Shipwreck first though as the tide was on the way out.
SS Maheno Shipwreck
The SS Maheno is the most famous of Fraser Island’s shipwrecks. It plied a regular route between Sydney and Auckland before becoming a hospital ship in Europe during World War One. It was sold to Japan for scrap metal in 1935. On its way being towed to Japan the chains snapped in a cyclonic storm off the Queensland coast. That’s when it ended up on the beach at Fraser Island.
It is very cool to explore the rusty hull of this gigantic ship and imagine what kind of life it had.
From the shipwreck we continued to the Champagne Pools which was a further 45 minutes drive along the beach. The tide was still a bit high in some places and we had to go inland in some areas to avoid the car getting stuck in deep water. This just made the adventure more fun. The champagne pools are located passed Indian Head.
Once we arrived at the carpark it was a 5 minute walk along the board walk to the top of the cliff that overlooks the champagne pools. They are a collection of recreational pools formed by volcanic rocks. This is also the only place on Fraser where saltwater swimming is allowed.
Swimming in the ocean on the Eastern side of Fraser Island is not recommended. The surf is very wild and the beaches are unpatrolled. The champagne pools make it a safe and fun place to swim on this side of Fraser Island.
After cooling off in the refreshing waters of the Champagne Pools on a 38 degree day it was time to head back down the beach to check out Eli Creek. I had no idea what this place was until we got there. I just knew it was a tourist destination.
Once we arrived we parked the car on the sand among 100 other cars. It seemed everyone had the same idea that day. There was no signs to mark Eli creek. We only knew where it was because of all the cars. If it wasn’t busy, the only way to know was from the creek that runs inland to the beach.
We figured that we would walk up the creek that everyone was swimming and playing in and see what we could find. We found a boardwalk on the left side of the creek and followed that to the end. Luckily I took my floaty with me because you hop into the creek and let the current take you all the way back down. It was loads of fun and super relaxing. The water was very fresh and cool which was soothing my severe sunburn from the day before.
Time to head home….
After spending oodles of time swimming and floating down Eli Creek it was getting later in the afternoon and we had to get back to the barge before high tide came up the beach. It was a mad dash back down the beach and we only just made it in some parts. We lined up for the barge and only had to wait 5 minutes. 10 minutes later we were back on the mainland, pumped up the tyres again and headed back to Brissy.
It was such a fun two days exploring this magical place and I am so grateful I got the opportunity to do it. I will definitely be back many more times and can’t wait for the next adventure…
Check out the video!
Check out the video below of the entire adventure. It will you give a real sense of the place and the fun things you can do and see there. If you have been to Fraser Island already or if it’s somewhere that you are wanting to go let me know in the comments below. I am always interested to hear your thoughts! 🙂