4 DAY FRASER ISLAND GETAWAY
Fraser Island is known to the traditional Butchulla owners as K’gari (pronounced ‘gurry’) which also means ‘paradise’. It’s a fitting name for the world’s largest sand island, sculpted by wind and surf, and dotted with beautiful freshwater lakes, wild wetlands and ancient rainforests.
The Queensland island’s natural beauty is easily explored over a weekend, but stretch it out to four days to discover the vast array of wildlife that roam freely on land and in the offshore seas.
DAY 1: GETTING TO FRASER ISLAND
The Cathedrals, Fraser Island, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland
Fraser Island is located about 300 kilometres north of Brisbane. The nearest airport is at Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast, considered the gateway to Fraser Island. Hervey Bay is 20 minutes north of River Heads, where car and passenger ferries depart for the island or if you're driving from Brisbane, car and passenger ferries depart from Inskip Point in Rainbow Beach.
Driving is half the fun on Fraser Island, so for this road trip, you’ll need a 4WD to tackle the island’s bumpy roads and ‘roller-coaster’ sand dunes. This means you will need to purchase a vehicle permit which can be purchased online.
Once on the island, spend your first afternoon lapping 75 Mile Beach – a vast, sandy highway complete with speed limits. Keep an eye on the time; the beach disappears completely at high tide. Along the route, stop at the spectacular multicoloured sand cliffs known as The Cathedrals (or Pinnacles) south of Indian Head, and the famous Maheno shipwreck just north of Happy Valley.
Stay: Kingfisher Bay Resort is a low-rise eco-resort hidden in the trees on the island’s west coast. Complimenting its many amenities, it has an extensive program of guided walks, talks, tours, and dolphin and whale-watch cruises. Book well in advance and use the resort as your base for your four days of exploring. If you’re not driving, Kingfisher Bay Resort also offers packages that mean you don’t have to miss out. The aptly named Beauty Spots tour visits all of Fraser Island’s iconic sites in custom-designed, air-conditioned four-wheel-drive coaches.
For those a looking to get a little more in touch with nature, there are 45 campsites scattered throughout that island that vary in amenity levels, but offer incredible views that immerse campers with nature. Camping permits can be found on the Queensland Department of Environment and Sciences website.
Alternatively, there is also a handful of hotels and guesthouses on the east coast (centred in Eurong and Happy Valley).
DAY 2: ELI CREEK TO LAKE MCKENZIE VIA WANGGOOLBA CREEK AND CENTRAL STATION
Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland
Travel Time - 3 Hours
Spend the morning under the shade of spiky pandanus palms and melaleucas with flaking bark at Eli Creek, floating (be sure to bring your own inflatable tube) peacefully down the knee-deep water until you emerge onto 75 Mile Beach, where 4WDs and sunbathers are equally spread.
Stop for lunch at Satinay Bar & Bistro at Fraser Island Retreat before heading to ethereal Wanggoolba Creek, which is a mere trickle compared to Eli. The water is so clear it’s almost invisible over the soft sandy bottom, and the tall trees and ancient king ferns with leaves up to five metres (16 feet) across completely block out the sun. Walk the 700-metre (0.5-mile) boardwalk circuit for the full effect before heading back to nearby Central Station.
Contrary to its name, here you’ll find a forest of silica-rich satinay trees, whose fungus-covered trunks stretch many metres around and up to 50 metres (164 feet) into the air. It’s these massive trees that first attracted loggers to the area. Central Station was home to over 200 people at its peak (logging ceased in the 1990s), but today the deeply rutted sand roads once used by forestry trucks carry tourists rather than trees.
The last stop is Lake McKenzie, one of the most visited natural wonders in Australia, and rightly so. It’s so absurdly picturesque that it almost doesn’t seem real; blindingly white sand crunches underfoot and slopes down to inviting turquoise shallows perfect for an afternoon dip.
DAY 3: SPOTTING THE WILDLIFE
Great Sandy Strait, Fraser Island, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland
Join a whale-watching cruise departing from Kingfisher Bay Resort this morning, heading out to the Great Sandy Strait to spot humpback whales on their migration up or down Australia’s east coast (between July and November). If you’re lucky, you might even experience a mugging – a term used to describe the behaviour of curious whales that approach a boat and swim around it, close enough for you to make out the individual grooves and barnacles on a whale’s head, spot a giant examining eye or whale-white belly.
This afternoon, walk the 90-minute Beerillbee Trail, part of the Fraser Island Great Walk, which runs along the ridge of an enormous sand dune above Kingfisher Bay Resort. Alternatively, book the Bushtucker Talk & Taste at the resort’s Seabelle Restaurant to nibble on the island’s native ingredients, like pepper berries and paperbark-smoked barramundi. Or simply take it easy with sundowners and an antipasto platter at the resort’s Sunset Bar.
DAY 4: RAINBOW GORGE AND 75 MILE BEACH
75 Mile Beach, Fraser Island, Queensland © Tourism and Events Queensland
Travel Time - 4 Hours Round Trip
An early start is advised for the 1.9 km return Kirrar Sandblow walk from Eastern beach. Here, the early morning light casts a kaleidoscope of colours over the swirling layers of ochre red, yellow and brown ‘sandscapes’ at Rainbow Gorge, a striking example of the natural ‘coloured sands’ sculptures found on Fraser Island that have been formed over thousands of years by iron-rich minerals and weathering.
Stay on the eastern side of the island this afternoon for some angling action on 75 Mile Beach, where The Maheno – once a well-known trans-Tasman ocean liner – washed ashore during a cyclone in 1935. Surf gutters along the beach provide all-season angling, with ample whiting and bream in the warmer months and swallowtail all year round. If you’re into lure or fly fishing, head to Platypus Bay for crystal-clear, sheltered waters teeming with golden trevally, longtail tuna and juvenile black marlin (you’ll need an extra day to make it to Platypus Bay, which is in the far north of the island).
Stop in at one of the island’s many picnic areas on the way back to cook your catch, then stargaze the night away – soaking in every last ounce of serenity – before it’s time to head back to the mainland.