I had been looking forward to today, our day trip over the western side of the island. I had heard it was beautiful and wasn’t disappointed.
We headed down the beach slightly to Wooralie Road and then followed it inland, stopping first at the lookout over Knifeblade Sandblow. There’s a 500m walk to the lookout and the sandblow is very impressive although it’s difficult to get a really good view (they need to trim the trees!).
Lake Allom was the next stop and we had seen it mentioned a number of times as a place to see turtles. Sure enough, you just sit on the steps which lead into the water and gently splash the water with your hands and the turtles swim in to see what is happening. The kids thought that was great.
From Lake Allom, Wooralie Road was a nice drive, first through rainforest and after an abrupt change through much lower and open scrubland.
Then we hit the beach and it was beautiful white sand and turquoise water. It felt much more like a stereotypical tropical paradise than the eastern side of the island.
We drove along the beach for a while and found our second shipwreck on the island – this time a yacht that looks like it washed up on the shore much more recently than the Maheno.
We had a very enjoyable lunch on the beach followed by a swim and play on the beach and then headed back in the cars. There are a number of campsites along the western beach and they would be spectacular spots to camp for a few days. Originally we had planned to camp there but then realised they don’t have dingo fences so wouldn’t be suitable for us. Next time!
We drove back via Awinya Road. None of the 4WDing has been at all difficult but this road was probably the most fun with a reasonable creek crossing at the beginning and then a few soft sandy and some rough sections of track.
Overall, we all had a great day. The drive was beautiful and lots of fun and the western beach was just spectacular.
After such a great day yesterday we decided another drive was on the card for Day 9, back over to the west coast, but this time further south. We drove down the beach to Happy Valley and then along the Happy Valley Road to the ruins of Bellert’s Hut – a hut that the linesman that maintained the telegraph line to the lighthouse used to live in.
The ruins themselves weren’t particularly interesting but the coastline there was nice and very different to further north where we had visited the day before. On this part of the coast there was no beach at all but tidal mudflats and mangroves, and swarms of soldier crabs which intrigued the kids.
We stopped at Boomerang Lakes for lunch and a short walk on the way back then joined the Moon Point Road and headed back through Happy Valley.
The last part of the drive took us through incredible rainforest which, again, was unlike anything else we had seen anywhere on the island. There was one incredible fig tree which must have grown by wrapping itself around another tree but the other tree had died to leave the fig standing by itself in an amazing column.
The driving today was very nice and good fun. We definitely found some of the lesser used tracks on the island with a few more difficult sections than the other tracks we have been on and some parts of the tracks were quite narrow and overgrown.
Our last day on Fraser Island and both families had long days of driving ahead so we packed up quickly and headed straight back down the beach to the barge across to the mainland at Inskip Point. Before we knew it we were back on bitumen roads, which was a little strange after 10 days of sand, and joining the queue of 4WDs at the car wash in Rainbow Beach.
We all loved our time on Fraser Island and are very grateful that Russell, Lesley, Byron, George and Scout could come up and share it with us. We had a great time traveling with them. Here are a few thoughts looking back over the last 10 days that might be useful for anybody else planning a trip to Fraser Island.
Things to see and do
The biggest thing that struck us was the diversity on the island. It seems that the scenery and vegetation changed every 10 minutes of driving, from bare dunes to scrub dominated by banksias to tall, dark rainforest with prehistoric looking ferns. The famous spots (Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek, the Maheno) were all very nice but I enjoyed just driving through the forests the most – see Days 8 and 9 above.
The eastern beach is basically a highway and there are a lot of cars and 4WDs going up and down it. However, the traffic really starts to spread out north of the Maheno and most people don’t seem to make their way inland much at all, other than to visit Lake McKenzie. I was often amazed at how busy it was on the beach and how quiet it suddenly got as soon as we headed inland.
There are heaps of campsites on the island run by National Parks, and a few commercial campsites. We stayed at Central Station (3 nights), Waddy Point (4 nights) and Dundubara (3 nights), which are the only National Park sites enclosed by dingo fences. There are fairly strongly worded warnings everywhere to only use the campsites with dingo fences if you have kids.
The three campsites were all very nice with impressive facilities – toilets, coin operated hot showers and washing up areas with sinks etc for doing your dishes. Central Station was different to the other two in that it was quite enclosed within dense forest with small sites. The other two were both closer to beach with more open, spacious sites.
Dundubara was probably the best located of the three sites we went to. If you’re only going to stay in one spot, I’d suggest Dundubara. You can get everywhere within a day from there, although it would be a long day to drive up to Sandy Cape and see the lighthouse, and probably a long day down to the southern lakes, including Lake Mackenzie. It would be quite doable though and a couple of long days would be a fair trade off for not having to pack up and move camps.
The other campsites are all spread along the beaches. Some of them would be very nice and I would be very happy to spend a few days camped on the western beach in particular, although without dingo fences that would be a risk with kids. Those campsites don’t have any facilities.
I was surprised at how much infrastructure there is on the island. We were never far from a shop with fuel and basic groceries. Having said that diesel and unleaded were both about 60c/L more expensive than on the mainland so taking two jerry cans of diesel saved us $24. We used 160L in 10 days and drove 722km (that’s about 22L/100km) so we didn’t need to buy any fuel on the island, but it was there.
There are two barges than can get you to the island. We took the Manta Ray Barge which runs from Inskip Point just north of Rainbow Beach and drops you off on the beach at the very south of the island. The other barge goes from near Hervey Bay to Kingfisher Bay on the western side of the island.
We chose the Manta Ray because it was significantly cheaper than the other one (it was $190 return, for car and trailer). We have friends who told us someone recommended the Kingfisher Bay barge because they were towing a camper trailer. They would have been fine on the Manta Ray and there were a number of people, including us, with trailers. Having said that the sand is quite soft on the beach at both ends so you have to make sure you let your tyres down before getting to the barge.
Finally, it’s obviously impossible to avoid getting saltwater on your car and trailer when driving on the beach so there’s a car wash in Rainbow Beach that I’m sure turns a very tidy profit charging you $15 for an underbody car wash. Basically you drive onto a large grate and a whole series of jets sprays water and soap (and apparently some sort of rust protection) on the underside of your car/trailer. It’s not cheap but certainly much more convenient than trying to crawl under your car with a hose.
It was the western side where that dingo took our saucepan……. but that was long before there were any dingo fences anywhere.