4 days exploring Fraser Island
Wild, untamed beaches, soaring dinosaur forests, giant dunes, striking freshwater lakes and bountiful wildlife make this UNESCO-listed island feel utterly otherworldly.
By Paige Richardson
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 plethora of wildlife that roam freely on land and in the offshore seas.
Day 1: Getting to Fraser Island
Fraser Island is located about 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Brisbane. The nearest airport is at Hervey Bay on the Fraser Coast, considered the gateway to Fraser Island. You'll find direct flights from both Sydney or Brisbane. Hervey Bay is 20 minutes north of River Heads, where car and passenger ferries depart for the island (as well as from Inskip Point in Rainbow Beach, two hours further south).
Driving is half the fun on Fraser Island, so for this itinerary, you’ll need a 4WD to tackle the island’s bumpy roads and ‘roller-coaster’ sand dunes. You can hire a high-clearance vehicle in Hervey Bay. Most rental companies will help you organise any necessary vehicle permits and ferry crossings, too. Stop in at the Hervey Bay Visitor Information Centre to orient yourself for the adventure ahead.Show more
Day 2: Eli Creek to Lake McKenzie via Wanggoolba Creek and Central Station
- Drive time: about 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.Show more
Day 3: Spotting the wildlife
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 pepperberries 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
- Drive time: about 4 hours return
An early start is advised for the 1.9-kilometre (1.2-mile) 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 catch the ferry back to the mainland tomorrow.