Explore the world's largest sand island.
By Lee Atkinson
Fraser Island is one of the world's most unusual islands. Not only is it the largest sand island in the world – 123 kilometres (76 miles) long and 22 kilometres (14 miles) wide – but it's the only place on Earth where tall rainforests grow on sand dunes at elevations of more than 200 metres (656 feet). It also has half the world's perched lakes – lakes formed when depressions in dunes fill permanently with rainwater.
Home to the most pure strain of dingoes remaining in eastern Australia, and one of the best places to see baby humpback whales and their mothers, Fraser Island also has superb scenery, with massive shifting sand blows, sensational swimming spots and thrilling 4WD tracks. A World Heritage-listed wilderness with lots of resort-style comforts, Fraser is the perfect place to go wild.
How to get there
Fraser Island is about 300 kilometres (186 miles) north of Brisbane and 15 kilometres (9 miles) off the coast of Hervey Bay and Maryborough. Virgin Australia and QantasLink operate direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to the Fraser Coast. You can then hop aboard the ferry for the 50 minute trip across to Fraser Island. For 4WD access to Fraser Island, take a barge at Inskip Point on the northern end of Rainbow Beach (1 hour 40 minutes south of Hervey Bay) or from River Heads (20 minutes south of Hervey Bay).
- Explore the rainforest and swim in a rainwater lake
- Wave to a whale on a whale watching cruise
- Drive the length of famous 75 Mile Beach
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Top things to do on Fraser Island
Get wet and go wild
There are so many different ways to get wet on Fraser Island. No visit to the island is complete without a long leisurely float in the beautiful blue waters of Lake McKenzie, a perched lake fed only by rainwater, encircled by pure white sand. Lake Wabby, at the edge of the Hammerstone Sand Blow, is the deepest lake on the island and when the sun shines it's hard to resist plunging into its cool, emerald depths. Eli Creek is a clear freshwater creek – you can walk along its boardwalk then float with the current all the way to the beach. Champagne Pools, where the surf crashes over a series of rock walls into a calm but bubbly rock pool below the headland on the northern tip of the island, is another top spot to cool off. See them all on a self-guided 4WD adventure, or join a Beauty Spots Tour, which also includes the rainforest.
Step out on the Fraser Island Great Walk
The Fraser Island Great Walk is a 90 kilometre (56 mile) track that winds between Dilli Village and Happy Valley, passing most of the island’s notable sites, such as Lake McKenzie, Wanggoolba Creek, Lake Wabby and the towering rainforest trees in the Valley of the Giants. To do the whole thing takes about six days – make sure to book campsites along the way – but if that sounds a bit too energetic there are plenty of short walks you can do for a half day or as an overnight adventure.
Drive the beach
All roads on Fraser Island, which are made of soft sand, are 4WD only. A number of tours are available, or you can hire your own set of wheels on the island or in Hervey Bay. If you haven't driven on sand before, the friendly folk at Aussie Trax 4WD Hire at Kingfisher Village will give you a quick lesson before you set out. Most people head straight to the vast sandy highway otherwise known as 75 Mile Beach on the eastern side of the island, but also worth doing is the inland Central Lakes scenic drive (allow about two hours), highlights of which include Pile Valley’s impressive stand of tall, straight satinay trees, Lake McKenzie, and Lake Wabby lookout for a view of Lake Wabby and Stonetool Sand Blow.
Shine a light on the local wildlife
Wild nightlife takes on a whole new meaning on Fraser Island, where many of the natives come out to play once the sun goes down. Join a ranger on a guided night-time walk, shining a spotlight on the trees and into the bushes to see sugar gliders leaping through the treetops, rare frogs at the lake edges and other wild animals as they rustle through the scrub. At just AUD$5 it’s a bargain-priced night's entertainment.
Camp on the beach or stay in style at Kingfisher Bay Resort
Fraser Island has accommodation to suit every budget. There are eight campgrounds – you can hire camping equipment when you hire your 4WD – and if you really want to get back to nature you can camp behind the dunes on Eastern or Western Beach. Kingfisher Bay Resort has a four-star hotel, self-contained villas and beach houses. If you're backpacking, accommodation is all part of the deal when you join a Cool Dingo Tour.
Get mugged by a whale
Ever wondered where whales go on their holidays? Each year thousands of whales migrate from the cold Antarctic waters to the warmer tropical seas along Australia's east coast to give birth, and on the way back many stop to rest in the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay before returning south. Between August and late October this is one of the best places in the country to see humpbacks with their calves as sightings are almost guaranteed. If you’re really lucky you might even be on a boat that gets “mugged” by the whales when they come right in close. Half day whale watch cruises cost AUD$120 and operate August 1 to October 31.