Fraser Island is a must-do for travellers. It is such an adventure, it is wild, beautiful, rich of landscapes and fauna. However, it is the kind of trip you need to prepare. First of all because there are some conditions to be adhered to on the island (permits, 4WD, etc), but also because there is not much there and it can be pretty dangerous to arrive in the wild without the necessary equipment. You could easily go from an amazing time to the worse holiday ever. You will find in this article all the necessary information to prepare your trip as well as some ideas to make up your itinerary once on the island.
When to go to Fraser Island?
Fraser Island has a subtropical climate. The island therefore enjoys fairly constant temperatures all year round, softened by its proximity to the sea. These vary from 23 to 30 °C in summer (September to April) and from 14 to 25 °C in winter (from May to August).
If you come in summer, you will be able to enjoy most of the island’s many water points. In the middle of the summer, the average temperature is 29 °C during the day and 22 °C at night. What delights heat lovers. However, you will have to deal with mosquitoes that are sometimes insistent and the risks of rain is relatively high.
Winter also brings its share of advantages. The temperatures are always pleasant: on average 18 °C during the day. So keep your shorts and thongs, but swap your t-shirt for a sweater. Also, expect cold nights. Good news, winter is also whale season! From July to November, you are likely to see humpback whales from the island or via an excursion.
How much time to do you need to explore Fraser Island?
The duration of your stay will all depend on your expectations. However, seeing the most famous places on the island means a lot of driving. We would recommend at least 2 nights on the island and 3 days exploring to make the best of your stay. Take your time, enjoy each place you go to and the feeling of wildness you will experience. Saying that everybody is travelling differently and some people enjoy seeing a lot, very fast. In that case you can totally go for only 2 days (some people even do it in one day). It loses a bit of its charm and will be pretty exhausting but it is doable.
Fraser Island – Travel options
Tours & Activities
If you don’t have a vehicle or if your vehicle isn’t appropriate for Fraser Island you might want to book a tour. There are many departing from Rainbow Beach, Hervey Bay and Noosa. Prices vary depending on how long you are going to Fraser Island for, on what you are choosing to see, on the city of departure, etc. It is pretty cool if you are travelling alone and want to have a bit of party time on Fraser.
Fraser Island Tours & Activities
Book your tour to Fraser Island. Find the perfect Tour or Activity and discover what makes Fraser Island a UNESCO World Heritage icon.
With your own vehicle
Those with a good 4 × 4 may consider traveling to Fraser Island on their own. However, you must plan your stay very precisely according to the tides, take note of the important telephone numbers in case of problems and equip yourself in case you find yourself stuck in sand.
The tourist offices at Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay collect photos of the accidents that took place on Fraser Island. It’s pretty scary. You can also buy your ferry tickets and the various permits required there.
Visiting the island with your own vehicle is, therefore, an activity reserved for the more adventurous, but remains entirely feasible. You will enjoy total freedom and live an unforgettable experience away from tourist groups.
Renting a 4WD
When you don’t own a vehicle or at least not a 4WD, you might want to rent one from a specialised agency. As for tours, prices vary depending on the length of your stay, on the type of 4WD you are renting, etc. Prices are around $180/pp/day.
Finding a lift
A good option to explore Fraser Island could be to find a lift. There are many people looking for travel mates when they go to Fraser Island. It is indeed a bit pricey to go with your own 4WD or to rent one and it can be convenient to have a car full and share the costs. This option can be great to meet people without having to go on a tour with its “touristy’ side.
Travel by taxi
Another option for visiting the island is to take the taxi. Yes, there is a taxi company on Fraser Island called “Fraser Service”! This option will be interesting if you plan to do little trips on the island. Try to group all of your activities on a day and in the same area to limit your trips to a minimum. If you are considering this option, make sure you make your bookings a few weeks in advance to ensure the availability of the taxi company.
How to get to Fraser Island?
You can get to the Fraser Coast:
- By road: The Fraser Coast is situated 3 hours away from Brisbane along the Bruce Highway.
- By air: You can get a flight directly to Hervey Bay. Indeed, Virgin Australia operates direct jet services from Sydney or Brisbane to the Fraser Coast (Hervey Bay Airport).
- By bus: You can get a bus from Cairns, Brisbane or the Sunshine Coast to the Fraser Coast. They operate daily.
- By rail: Queensland Rail operates regular services from Brisbane, Rockhampton and Cairns to Maryborough West.
Once on the Fraser Coast, there are two ways to get to the island:
- From Rainbow Beach: Manta ray barges – Inskip Point to Hook Point, operating from 6am til 5.30pm, 10 minutes travel time, no bookings required. Price: $120/car return
- From Hervey Bay: Frazer Island barges – River Heads to Kingfisher Bay and Wanggoolba Creek, 30 to 50 minutes travel time, bookings required. Prices: $175/vehicle – $200 during peak season
You might go to Fraser Island from Rainbow beach and arrive late in the afternoon. There isn’t a real point crossing because you will arrive at night on the island. At Inskip Point, right where the ferry is departing from, there are heaps of camping spots ($6.55/night/pp). It is just stunning and you will camp right on the beach.
Download Fraser Island Map: www.npsr.qld.gov.au/parks/fraser/pdf/fraser-island-map.pdf
Before arriving on the island – Check the tide
It is difficult to plan a proper itinerary considering that your possibilities will depend on tides. It is something you really need to consider when going to Fraser Island because you need to plan your full trip around it. You don’t want to go up north and stay stuck there for hours because you didn’t realise the tide was coming in. There are a few difficult spots to go through on high tide. For instance, approximately half-way on 75-mile beach you will drive pass Eli Creek. It is the most critical part of the beach on high tide. The creek joins the sea and it gets really deep. Be extremely careful there and don’t try to cross or you might say goodbye to your 4WD.
Accommodation on Fraser Island
There are 45 camping areas options on Fraser Island. Each camping spot offers different facilities and amenities. They are situated all around the island. You will need to check a map and choose the spot the most adapted to your itinerary on Fraser Island.
Some camping areas are surrounded by a fence to be dingo safe. Which is recommended if you travel with kids for example and safer with food.
The price for a camping permit is $6,55/person/night.
If you are looking for the comfort of a hotel room with walls, you can find what you are looking for on the island.
There are also many Airbnb option on the Island. Make sure you book in advance as they book out quickly during peak travel times.
The best spots on Fraser Island
75 mile beach
75 mile beach is situated on the East coast of Fraser Island, you can drive all the way up North and look for whales jumping from the view on the side. You will drive up to Champagne pools, pass Maheno wreck, Eli Creek, etc. It is a very nice drive and always such a pleasure to drive on the beach! A unique and adventurous experience. However, avoid swimming, currents are extremely dangerous and it is full of sharks!
The wreck used to be a hospital ship used by the New Zealand Naval Forces during World War I, it was washed onto Fraser Island coast by a cyclone in 1935.
Situated up North, Champagne pools is a pretty cool spot. The surf breaks and craches onto a wall of rocks arriving into a rock pool. It makes natural bubbling water, feels like a spa! The water is clear and it is a nice place to have a picnic or to spend an afternoon of leisure. There are two possible routes to go there, by foot from Indian Head or by vehicle. To go there by 4WD you will need a high clearance one as it is very soft and the sand is deep. Don’t try it with a low clearance vehicle, you would not make it. You can walk there and enjoy the beautiful landscape. Allow a few hours.
Captain Cook gave it its name in 1770, when Fraser Island was first discovered. The name would come from the aboriginal people he saw, Native populations were all considered as Indians at the time. It is located at one end of 75 mile beach and supposedly the best point of view of the island. You can see whales (during the right season), dolphins, sharks, turtles, etc. from there. It is also the starting point for the walk up to Champagne Pools.
Lake McKenzie is a perched lake, which means it is only fed by rainwater whereas other lakes are usually fed by streams and flow to the ocean. The water is extremely clear and the sand extra thin. It is also slightly acid which limits the number of species living in the lake. Ideally, visitors should avoid wearing sunscreen, mosquito repellent, etc because it is polluting the extremely pure water. An absolutely beautiful and unique spot, it is perfect for a picnic (Be dingo safe, stay in the fenced area). There are also toilets facilities at the entry.
Driving up to the lake McKenzie is pretty rough. It isn’t far from the beach, only 25/30 kilometres. However, it is going to take you easily 3 hours return. You can only drive at 20 kilometres/hour as you are driving on a sandy and rocky track.
Eli Creek is a freshwater creek going from inland to the beach. You can walk on its side along the boardwalk, jump in and float to the beach on your way back. The water is so clear and the landscape so wild and beautiful, you won’t regret the stop! Be careful when you drive through at high tide, it can get pretty deep. Stop for a while and enjoy the area while the tide lowers. There are toilets facilities there. Bring a floatable ring or a boogie board for more fun!
The Pinnacles are composed of coloured sand from iron compounds in the silica sand. They are made of numerous colours looking like a rainbow.
The lake is very similar to Lake McKenzie but not as touristic.You will find there the same clear water and white sand. It is much quieter so perfect if you prefer staying away from full buses of tourists.
Huge sand dune located behind the Dundubara camping ground. It is so big you will feel like being lost in the desert.
The wildlife on Fraser Island
The island’s wildlife is very diverse. You will find reptiles, birds, dolphins, whales, dingoes, etc. Crocodiles have been observed in the west as well as dangerous jellyfish for humans. Fraser Island is also known for its many sharks (great white shark, tiger shark, etc.). The island is a great place to watch whales during the migration season. You will see them jump off, sometimes very close to shore.
Be careful with the dingoes. Never feed them or approach them. They are wild animals and they can be dangerous. Such behaviour is also illegal and the fines are very high.
Visit the island in a 4×4
The only type of vehicle allowed on the island is a 4×4. You will prefer a sufficiently high and powerful model. Indeed, a small 4×4 will not be able to access all the places to see on the island. Fraser Island is a sandy island and people often get stuck in the sand. You absolutely want to be prepared for these situations.
Troubleshooting on the island is very expensive and can take hours. Wet sand is also very dangerous and getting stuck could mean saying goodbye to your SUV at rising tide. This is why you must remember to bring the necessary equipment such as a shovel, a spare tire, tools, etc.
Try not to drive in saltwater as it is very bad for your car. In addition, when you leave the island, it is best to rinse your vehicle with fresh water to prevent rust. You will find several specialised carwashes on the Fraser Coast.
Driving at low tide is highly recommended as driving becomes more complex and the chances of getting stuck in the sand are high during high tide. Avoid driving within 2 hours around high tide as some places will not be accessible.
Driving on the beach
Many people going to Fraser Island also drive the first time on the beach. It’s a great experience, but there are some basic rules to follow. The first thing to do is to lower the tire pressure. Then start slowly and don’t take any risks from the start. There are a huge number of small rivers going from land to sea. You don’t always see them but they can actually damage your car. It is much better to brake than to lose a wheel.
Driving permit for Fraser Island
You will need a permit to drive on the island, which costs $52.75 per vehicle. It must be displayed on your car windshield before boarding the ferry. You can get it online or at a tourist office counter on the Fraser Coast.
Petrol Stations on Fraser Island
There are 3 petrol stations on Fraser Island and they are very expensive. You really need to come to the island with a full tank, but also with cans if you can. Driving on the island consumes a lot and it is best to be prepared in case you get lost or find yourself too far from a petrol station.
If the ground permits, switch your vehicle to a 2WD to save fuel. The difference can be huge.
Fraser Island History
Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world. It has a length of 123km and it is 22km wide. It is situated 300 km away from Brisbane and 15 km off the coast of Hervey Bay or Maryborough. Fraser Island was originally occupied by the Butchulla people, aboriginal meaning “The sea people”. In Butchulla people’s language Fraser Island was called K’gari meaning “Paradise”. Aboriginal legends are numerous and beautiful about the creation of the island.
Fraser Island was discovered for the first time in 1770, by James Cook. However it is only in 1836 that Captain Fraser, his wife and his crew sailed onto a reef. Many died, among them Captain Fraser, after he got captured by “Natives” with his wife. The name Fraser Island would be coming from Eliza Fraser. After weeks spent with the “Natives” she got rescued and went back to England. She told her story to everyone and from those stories the name Fraser Island became notorious.
Considering archaeological evidence, there have been signs of aboriginal life from 5000 years back.
You will need to check the Fraser Island map to get all the information about toilet facilities and choose the spot the most adapted for you. Be aware that showers aren’t free and you will need $2 coins to use them. They also only last for 3 minutes.
The network coverage on the island is not very reliable, and many areas are not covered by any operator in Australia. You are warned.
- A lot of water it is getting really hot inland and get to the closest shop can take hours
- $2 coins if you want to have a shower
- 50cents and 20cents coins to use the public telephone (there is no service)
- Wood if you are going to use one of the fire pits (it is forbidden to pick up wood on the island)
- Some jerry cans of fuel, unless you want to pay $2.20/p/l on the island. You will need more than a full tank to get to all the spots to see on Fraser.
Updated on 22/03/2020 – Initially published on 28/02/17