Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world
Imagine a beautiful white beach that stretches out for over seventy five miles. This fantastic feature makes Fraser Island one of the most beautiful places to go in Australia. The island is very popular with tourists and locals, but here tourism is done right. Australia takes very good care of the fragile eco system in this wonderful place by closely watching the needs of the island itself. Resorts and hotels aren’t welcomed here and so it’s Mother Nature that rules this isle. Luckily, because this unspoilt nature is just what makes this place so special.
The elongated sandbank is occupied by plants that seem to come from a Jurassic Park movie (surprise, surprise… Parts of the film were filmed here too!), but also beautiful lagoons and freshwater lakes have formed here over the years. One thing is certain: during your visit to Fraser Island, all of your senses will feast!
Because the isle is kept so natural, there are very few roads. That means that ‘normal’ cars can’t drive around here and that you’ll need a four-wheel drive vehicle to explore this untouched gem.
Prepare for a bumpy ride along the only rainforest in the world that grows on sand. Speed along the seemingly infinite highway that is paved with powdery silica sand. Around these gorgeous beaches you’ll also find a few fantastic freshwater lakes that make even the paradise islands of the Philippines have a run for their money. Oh yeah, and maybe you’ll see a few dingos too!
Off-roading with a 4WD from Fraser Dingo
Are you planning a visit to Fraser Island? Then you first have to travel to Hervey Bay. From Brisbane it takes about three to four hours one way. Rental cars from Brisbane are inexpensive and once you have arrived, you can park it for free in front of the Fraser Dingo office (there is also a guarded parking lot, but that does cost you money).
You can also take the long-distance bus from Brisbane or even travel by train. If you have too much money, you can of course also take the plane to Hervey Bay.
If you choose to explore Fraser Island together with Fraser Dingo, then you have two options: either you rent a 4WD (= “four-wheel drive) and you plan the trip to the island yourself, or you join one of their popular tagalong tours.
I did the latter myself, because it seemed a bit more fun to share this experience with other adventurous travelers. Another advantage of the tagalong is of course that everything is arranged for you. You get to see all the beautiful places while you’re accompanied by a guide, meals are being prepared for you and the accommodation is of course also included.
You can opt for a two or three-day tour. Logically you get to see a bit more of the island with the latter option.
What can you expect from a tour on Fraser Island?
Before you start your two (or three day) adventure, you’ll be sufficiently prepared for your off-roading adventure. You’ll see an instruction video in which you are explained in detail how to move around with a car on the sand. Fortunately! Because driving on sand really is quite different from what you’re used to.
Shortly after this briefing you’ll get to board the (pink!) off-road vehicles and get to know your new travel buddies. In one car there is place for about seven people. After every ride you can decide with your group who will be the next driver.
The ferry from Harvey Bay to Fraser Island takes about half an hour.
Driving the car through the jungle is quite exciting, because the path leading to your accommodation (and some of the sights) is very bumpy. Do you however prefer a faster drive? Then wait until you reach the beach. Along the seventy-five mile stretch of sand you’ll be able to go flat out! The underground here is much more stable and the views aren’t so bad either!
Relax, everything is being taken care of!
During your tagalong tour, your guide will show you some of the most beautiful spots on Fraser Island. He or she will always drive as the first car and will intervene if any problems should happen. Every time you arrive at a point of interest on the island, the guide gives you some more information which will make your visit a lot more interesting.
Personally, I also really liked that you get a lot of time to discover the island. In no place where we stopped, I found the visit too short. There is always more than enough time to take pictures, to get to know your team better and also to relax under the sun of Fraser Island.
In the afternoon, evening and morning, the same guide will also prepare some food for you together with a few volunteers. Usually you have a choice of different dishes and there are always a lot of vegetables to choose from! In our group there were a couple of vegetarians (and people with an allergy) and they too got to satisfy their bellies.
During the tagalong tour you’ll sleep in a kind of dorm. You can choose to sleep in a shared room (up to four persons), or to take a private room at a small additional cost. Whatever you choose: you’ll only sleep in that room, because most of your time will probably be spent on the patio (or on the beach) with your new friends.
Is it difficult to drive on sand?
No. It really isn’t! I have to admit that I was a little nervous at first because I had never driven on sand before, but in retrospect that was really unnecessary.
The surface is sometimes a bit less stable, but it never got really scary.
During the safety briefing you’ll get plenty of tips and troubleshoots in case something goes wrong. Use your wits and then everything should be alright!
Things to do on Fraser Island
Pristine beaches, fantastic jungles and abundant wildlife. Mother Nature really shows off on this island! These are the most beautiful things to do on Fraser Island:
The imposing rainforest
When you arrive on Fraser Island, you immediately are surrounded by rainforests. The prehistoric trees and plants that grow on the sandy surface are fantastically beautiful. Ferns with leaves as big as a human, tree trunks of four, five meters in diameter and all kinds of strange plants that once used to live together with dinosaurs cross your path here.
Walk under the bushy forest and be amazed by the beauty of this area. The clear water that flows under and past the prehistoric trees and plants guides you along this beautiful nature reserve and if you look closely you may even see some interesting animals living in these forests.
Imagine a tropical water theme park, but then completely natural! Along the vast sandy beach of Fraser Island lies a fast-flowing freshwater lake that gently pushes you from the rainforest back to the beach. Through a wooden walkway you can walk to the start of this whitewater course. The water is quite cool, but after spending some time in the hot sun on Fraser Island you’ll surely appreciate that!
Don’t forget to bring your swim ring to this piece of paradise!
SS Maheno Shipwreck
In the early twentieth century, this luxury cruise ship was used to transport rich tourists between Australia and New Zealand. Sometimes this boat even went all the way to Canada!
During World War I this ship of more than one hundred and twenty meters long was used as a hospital to help wounded war heroes get back on their feet. Once the Great War came to an end, the SS Maheno was used for commercial activities again. In 1935, however, the life of this cruise ship came to an end because of all sorts of new technical innovations. While this mastodon was towed away to be demolished, the cord snapped because of a furious cyclone and the giant boat ended up stranded (with crew!) off the coast of Fraser Island.
Well … I gues there are worse places to end up! The crew survived this exciting story, but they failed to get the boat back into the sea. The valuables were thus removed from the vessel and the rusty skeleton is now a wonderful reminder of this amazing story.
You can see the rusty-brown carcass of this mastodon looming from afar. Feel free to take photos, but don’t get too close! On the one hand it is dangerous (a lot of rusty parts are treacherously sticking out above the beach), and on the other hand there are high fines when you climb the wreck.
Depending on the weather, the ship is more or less visible. The sand is washed over and away of the SS Maheno over and over again by the sea.
Near the wreck of the SS Maheno you’ll find yet another beautiful surprise of Mother Nature. The sandy cliffs of the ‘Couloured Sands’ consist of hundreds of shades of yellow, red and brown. Don’t hesitate to take a closer look at all that beauty, but personally I thought it was most beautiful when looked at from the beach.
This is one of my favorite things to do on Fraser Island.
To see Lake Wabby, you have to do quite a bit of climbing! The hike of about forty minutes takes you along tropical rainforests that have completely taken over the sand dunes around this lake. The higher you get, the more exhausting it becomes; but fortunately those efforts are rewarded! Once you arrive at the top, you get a formidable view of the snow-white dunes that stretch as far as your eyes can see. It almost seems like you’ve suddenly set foot in the Sahara!
As you run down the dunes, you feel like a giant in seven-mile boots. The gigantic leaps in the steep sand quickly widen your field of vision so that you get to see the emerald green lake Wabby.
Enjoy the views or cool off in the refreshing water. During your swim, it’s also possible that you get to know some of the locals who live in this lake. You can see turtles and a few big fish, but the most fun are the small fishies that are only too happy to take a nibble between your toes or from your skin. They give you a free spa experience while you can enjoy the remarkable views. Quite awesome! Don’t you think so too?
Lake McKenzie is one of the most popular things to do on Fraser Island. And that doesn’t really come as a surprise! It looks like this freshwater lake has been plucked away from some gorgeous Caribbean island.
The powdery and pearly white sand beaches perfectly match the transparent turquoise and blue waters. Surrounding this gigantic lake -you guessed it right!- you’ll find a densely populated jungle which makes this spot even more picture perfect.
Be sure to cover yourself in plenty of tiny sand grains at Lake McKenzie. It gives you an excellent scrub and your skin will shine like never before. If you rub the sand through your hair, it feels as if you just used a conditioner.
What a paradise this is!!!
75 Mile beach
Here you’ll not see any overcrowded beaches anytime soon! This beach is no less than 75 miles or 120 kilometers long. Perfect for relaxing, but even better for a bit of fast racing with your off-road vehicle. Awaken the Schumacher in yourself while admiring the beauty of this beach.
The sunset (or sunrise) on this beach is also fabulously beautiful. Just make sure you never swim in the sea. After all, it’s teeming with murderous animals! Sharks, poisonous fish but also very dangerous jellyfish. There are plenty of lakes where you can swim on Fraser Island, so don’t risk your life here!
The dingo is one of the world’s smartest animals. This intelligent creature looks a bit like a (cute) street dog when you see them, but watch out! They are anything but friendly if you come too close. This Australian coyote is regularly spotted on the beaches of Fraser Island while they’re looking for food.
Always follow the instructions of the signs on the island (‘Stay Dingo Safe!’) and don’t take any unnecessary risks. Never feed the animals either, because otherwise they become aggressive towards other tourists who won’t give them any food. If a park ranger then sees that a dingo comes too close to people, the animal is killed without mercy. Not fun!
A few more tips for your visit to Fraser Island, Australia
- NEVER swim in the sea! Off the coast of Fraser Island you can find the largest population of tiger sharks (and there are also white sharks and bull sharks) in the world. Often they already swim in knee-high water. There are more than enough (freshwater) lakes or streams where you can swim without being eaten. Yayks!
- Don’t forget to bring a sweater or a jacket. In the evening the island cools down quickly.
- If you want to explore Fraser Island on your own, I recommend buying all food and drinks in Hervey Bay already. There are supermarkets on Fraser Island, but everything will be (much) more expensive.
- Don’t leave your food lying around! Hungry dingos will become aggressive. These animals may seem cute, but they can be life-threatening.
- Always stick to the speed limits. It’s tempting to go full throttle every now and then, but do keep in mind that police are regularly patrolling these sandy grounds. Violators are fined without mercy.
- Be respectful for the (fragile) nature on this island. Follow the paths and don’t touch wildlife or plants.
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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.