Fraser Island was always part of the trip that I was really looking forward to. Partly because of its reputation as a beautiful spot, and great camping/4WDing destination, and partly because our friends were coming to do it with us. Russell, Lesley, Byron, George and Scout had joined us a few days earlier on the Gold Coast and we went to Dreamworld together. Then we had a day apart and the plan was to meet in Rainbow Beach before getting on the barge across to the island.
I’m calling this Day 0 because we really only managed to get to our campsite and didn’t do much else on the island.
Our friends were delayed a little because Lesley had been sick, which gave us some extra time to enjoy Harry’s Hut, but it meant that by the time we had filled up with fuel and water in Rainbow Beach and got to the barge it was getting late in the afternoon.
Anyway, we managed to let the tyres down (to about 18/20PSI) and get safely on to the barge without making it onto the infamous Facebook page, I Got Bogged at Inskip Point. Actually I can see why people do get bogged before they even make it to the barge; that spot and getting off the barge were the softest sand we found that day.
Once off the barge and safely on Fraser Island we headed up the main beach towards Eurong. It was very late afternoon by now and the drive up the beach gave us many of the iconic Fraser Island sights: a dingo strolling along the beach just near the water, fishermen in the surf in the late afternoon sun.
We found Eurong, a surprisingly large town, and headed inland to Central Station, our campsite for the first three nights. The inland track provided a welcome change from the beach although it was much slower going.
The campsite itself is set in lovely rainforest and is very large, but well spread out and it wasn’t very busy so it was quite peaceful (well, we imagine it would have been before we arrived). It was a lovely spot to camp with drinking water, toilets and hot showers all available. There are separately designated sites for tents and camper trailers with the tent sites set up higher than the road so that you can’t drive a car or trailer onto them. The camper trailer site was a little tight for us with Mali and two tents, but it all worked out well.
We decided a day with less driving would be good for everyone today so settled on walking from our campsite to Lake Mackenzie. To facilitate that, Russell and I drove to Lake Mackenzie and then ran back to camp along the walking track. We all then headed off back towards the cars.
It was about a 7km walk through nice forest. It was a lovely walk although probably not exciting or spectacular enough to keep the kids interested all the way. It is part of the Fraser Island Great Walk which is a 90km walk winding its way up the island.
The first attraction along the way was Wanggoolba Creek which is just out of the Central Station campsite. It’s a beautiful, crystal clear creek with a sandy bottom.
Then we found a Tarzan swing which the kids enjoyed.
We stopped for a snack at Basin Lake, which was a nice perched lake just off the main track, although not as spectacular as Lake Mackenzie. That should have been lunchtime but we had left the lunch in the cars, planning to be much earlier and to have lunch at the end.
We made it to Lake Mackenzie and quickly ate a very late lunch inside the dingo fences they have set up – you’re not allowed any food outside the fences. Then we headed down to the lake and the kids had a swim. Izzy went right in, and a fair way out, while the other kids (and adults) just paddled up to our knees.
The lake itself is spectacular with a very fine, white sand beach and some lovely trees growing along the beach.
Our main goal for Day 2 was the Kirrar Sandblow further north along the main beach. We drove up along the beach, which was again fairly easy going and found the sandblow (after driving past it on the first attempt). You have to be careful of the tide times driving along the beach. Most of the main eastern beach, at least down the southern end, seems to be passable even at high tide. We managed to time our visit to the Kirrar Sandblow just before high tide so we parked high on the beach and went for our walk while hide tide passed.
It was a short walk (1.9km according to the map) in and out of the sandblow, and well worth it. The kids all really enjoyed this one.
Rainbow Gorge is supposed to be in the same area, although we were never sure exactly where or what the gorge was. There was however, a very impressive number of different coloured sands in a very small area.
The sandblow itself is very impressive. It’s a large, parabolic shaped dune caused by a breach in the vegetation along the beach so that sand blows off the beach inland through the gap in the trees to create basically a big sand pit. The dune was massive and the kids loved climbing and running down it.
We had lunch back at the cars on the beach only to have our isolation interrupted by two planes landing on the beach just in front of us to be met by two buses. The passengers seemed to swap between the planes and buses, which was presumably one of the tours you can do. There is significantly more tourist infrastructure here than I expected. There seemed to be more buses than cars going up and down the beach and planes and helicopters are almost constantly overhead. There’s also a number of resorts on the island and even quite a few holiday rental houses.
After eating lunch and watching the planes we started the drive back to camp. However, we drove back on the inland tracks, including the Valley of the Giants circuit drive which goes through old forest with some impressively large trees. It was a lovely drive although clearly not one of Fraser Island’s main attractions – we didn’t see any other cars which was a change from the beach.
Outside of the circuit it is amazing how many different types of forest we drove through, from tall rain forest to dry forests of banksia and grass trees (which would look quite at home back in Victoria).
The inland tracks make for much slower driving – there is a speed limit of 30km/h, although you can often drive faster than that. They’re not at all difficult and we didn’t come across any soft sand but they are reasonably narrow and do tend to have lots of holes and ditches across them to slow us down.
Today was the day to move onto our next campsite so we packed up and headed off as soon as we could.
We drove back out to Eurong, stopped for morning tea and a few supplies and then headed off up the beach. It was surprising how different the beach was. It was noticeably softer than the day before and not just because we were towing our trailers. High tide was coming in at about 1.00pm so we stopped in at Happy Valley, another small town on the way up the beach and had lunch in the cafe there.
There was then some frisbee and kite flying on the beach while Russell visited the ambulance station to have his ankle looked at, after spraining it badly setting up his camper, and we were off again.
The sand kept getting softer and by the time we got to the Maheno wreck I had decided to let a bit more air out of the tyres. The wreck is impressive and we had read about the ship’s history in the cafe at lunch. It was a hospital ship at Gallipoli in WWI and then reconfigured to be a passenger liner between Australia and New Zealand before finally being sold to a company in Japan. It was while it was being towed to Japan that it broke free from the tow lines in a storm and wrecked on the beach. Nobody thought it was economical to salvage the ship, so it’s still there and was even used as target practice by the air force during WWII. It seems to be a major attraction so there were heaps of tourists and it was hard to get photos without any other people!
After the Maheno there were more and more sections of soft sand and it was quite tough going but we Liam and Mali were both great and we had no problems. The tide was still reasonably high though so there were a couple of spots where good timing between waves was needed to get around some rocks and one deepish creek crossing.
We got to Waddy Point campsite in the late afternoon and it’s another lovely campsite. It’s very different to Central Station, much more open with larger sites. Again some are designated camper trailer spots and some are tent spots the difference being that the tent sites are protected by fences and bollards so you can’t drive onto them.