Fraser Island

Sunday, Nov 28, 1999 at 01:00

ExplorOz - David & Michelle

We've always wanted to go to Fraser Island and this was our first visit. Once you actually get there you realise you'll have to make another trip to get to see it all - it is so big.

Half the excitement of a trip to Fraser Island is getting there. There are 3 vehicle barges that operate to Fraser and I'm not sure but there might also be others for passengers only. The barges are all owned by the same person which means you can book a return ticket with one ferry and get off the island at another point. We came from Hervey Bay and left from River Heads on the Fraser Venture. Costs are: $65 per driver plus $5 per additional person, plus $30 per 4WD plus $4 per foot of trailer = $132 (return).

We took the 3.30pm ferry from River Heads to Wanggoolba Creek and drove across to the eastern beach at Eurong in less than an hour. We found a beach camp site about 9km north of Eurong and used it as a base to explore the island for a week. Had we not had the trailer we would have preferred to move around more setting up camps at different locations.

If fishing is high on your agenda we would recommended camping further north up the eastern beach towards Eli Creek to enable easier access to other good fishing sports such as the Maheno, Moon Point, Orchid Beach and Sandy Cape. I enjoyed a daily dip in Eli Creek and it's a great place for kids and those not keen on ocean swimming. We didn't even attempt to swim in the ocean, the rips are very strong. In fact I don't think anyone really swims out there.

If you don't mind being trapped in by the high tide Waddy Point is also a convenient location to setup camp as you can go inland and west to Wathumba Creek, walk around the headland south to Champagne Pools or north up to Sandy Cape. Waddy Point is a designated camping area.

Then you need your permits

Island permits costs $30 per vehicle and is valid for a month. Then there's accommodation of which there are lots of options.

Camping

If you are camping at designated NP sites such as at any of the inland lakes, Central Station you will need to have proof that you've paid your camping fees ($3.50 per person per day). These sites are equipped with numerous facilities. You can purchase your camping permits at the shop just before you get to River Heads and also your island permit.

Beach Camping

Camping along the eastern beach is very popular with those who like to rough it. Camping permits are still required but you are less likely to be found. However, over the 6 days we were there we saw ranger vehicles drive up the beach at least twice a day so you never know. At certain times of year it is so busy that even along this 125km long stretch of beach you will find it hard to get a decent spot. All beach camping sites are set back just beyond the main dune ridge that skirts the high tide mark. These sites are usually quite tricky to drive into particularly with a trailer (we know). The sand is very soft and often deep. At high tide some sites are virtually locked in. We also found all areas of the eastern beach were infested with large stinging march flies that were so bad they drove us mad. I'm not sure if they are present all year round or how to avoid them.

Resorts

You'll be blown away by the size and prosperity of the resorts on Fraser. The 2 largest and palatial resorts are Kingfisher Bay and Eurong Beach Resort. Happy Valley, Cathedral Beach and Dilli offer a less fancy but still comfortable style of accommodation.

Dingoes

We didn't see one dingo at our beach camp but admittedly we always kept our rubbish locked in the car and disposed of it daily and we didn't put up a tent. It is a fact that dingoes will literally eat through a tent to get at food. Campers are advised to leave tents empty during the day and in fact to tie back the flys to show the dingoes that there's nothing in your tent. We saw plenty of dingoes trotting along the beach, drinking from the fresh water creeks that flow to the ocean but none approached while we were at our camp. Inland it is a different story. Due to the higher numbers of people and therefore food, dingo numbers are much higher around the designated camps, particularly Central Station. They certainly aren't dangerous and there's no need to be scared of them. By thinking about your rubbish and not enticing them to make contact will ensure that you don't have any problems. There's heaps of information about the dingoes mating, birthing and weaning seasons available and a good booklet in the island permit pack.

Driving Conditions

Driving in the afternoon of a rising tide is generally more difficult than in the morning as the frequent traffic (tour buses included) chop up the sand making deep grooves. The beach is so busy it is unsuitable for sunbaking and is infact termed "a road". Road rules apply such as "keep left" and use of your indicator is mandatory. Police often patrol for speeding and DUI. Speeds limits of 80km/hr on the beach and 35km on inland tracks apply although in many places and in certain conditions this is still too fast. Numerous fresh water creeks run out to the ocean and each day the path made by the rush of water across the beach varies, which has caused many unwary drivers to come to grief.

Accidents are common on Fraser Island and range from roll overs caused by hitting bumps too fast on the beach to head on collisions on the narrow inland tracks.

This is not easy sand driving and if you intend to go, make sure you have enough sand driving experience to know that it's all a matter of tyre pressures, correct revs and being mindful of the tide.

What to do

We went to Fraser for a number of reasons which made our stay confusing. I wanted to swim, sunbake and walk. David wanted to fish - everything else was secondary. Serious fishermen already know all about Fraser Island so I wont make out I know much but essentially the major fishing season is during the winter months of June - August during the tailor run. The tailor congregate around the artificial reef of the Maheno wreck near Eli Creek and far up the northern top of the island at Sandy Cape.

During spring (November) while we were visiting there was no fish at all to talk of. We caught a few dart off the east beach and a few whiting at Moon Point on the west beach. Flathead were also going off over there.

If you go to Fraser for bush walking you'll find lots of variety from short 1km walks to overnight hikes. There are quite a number of these linking the major inland lakes if you're keen.

Popular walks

Lake Wabby 1hr 40mins (return). Walk to the lake from the beach.
Lake Wabby lookout (on the Central Lakes Tourist Drive) about 20mins return
Rainbow Gorge 1 hr return
Champagne Pools
Wanggoolba Creek (40mins) from Central Station
Short walks to view each of the following lakes: Lake McKenzie, Lake Birrabeen, Lake Benaroon, Lake Boomanjin

Popular areas of interest

Champagne Pools for their safe and delightful swimming holes (time your trip with the tide - access from Indian Head north can be treacherous 2 hrs either side of high tide).
The Pinnacles - coloured sandstone peaks with aboriginal significance
Eli Creek - my absolute favourite place on Fraser. Cool fresh water flows to the ocean down a narrow channel. Take a short walk up the creek and let the current take you all the way back to the beach.

Lake Wabby - the walking track from the beach can be done as a circuit taking the sandblow down and the ridge track back. Looks like the Sahara Desert and you can swim in the lake.
Central Station - major information centre with displays, picnic areas, and walks. The Wanggoolba Creek walk is sensational.

Inland Lakes

The Southern Lakes Tourist Drive takes about 2 hours, 29km and takes you to Lake Boomanjin, Lake Benaroon, Lake Birrabeen, Lake Jennings and to Central Station. Lake Birrabeen is lovely with a white sandy beach and inviting water but the other lakes were not so inviting for swimming.

The Central Lakes Tourist Drive takes about 2 hrs, 28.5km and starts or ends at Central Station (beautiful), Pile Valley (beautiful), Lake McKenzie (beautiful but very busy), Lake Wabby lookout and then out to the eastern beach.

Lake Garawongera Tourist Drive takes 1 hr, 19km and leaves from Happy Valley to the lake, through Poyungan Valley and back to the eastern beach. (we did part of this drive on the way to the west coast but did not visit the lake).

Western Beach

When you purchase your island permit you receive a bunch of information brochures and maps but the west side isn't given a big rap. It is described as mangrove swamp full of sandflies and dangerous soft sand. But David met some fishos on the eastern beach collecting pipis one day and somehow I was convinced we should take a look.

We drove up the east beach from our camp to Happy Valley and headed along the inland track through the beautiful Yidney Scrub (sensational rainforest). The trip west took a full hour and was sometimes slow going, particularly when confronted with 4 tourist buses and 6 4WDs on the single lane track who'd just come off the barge at Moon Point.

We only had a map with symbols on it to go by and it seemed that the fishing spot was where Moon Creek ran out to the ocean. The Hema 1:130 000 Fraser Island map seemed to show that we should take the 4.5km track out to the Creek rather than continue on to the Moon Point barge pickup point.

In fact after going out there and trying the different spots we found the best thing is to continue along Moon Point road all the way to the beach and to not take the creek turnoff. On a low tide you can drive southwest along the beach to the inlet (2km) for the best fishing, best sunbaking and best swimming area on the whole of Fraser Island (in our opinion).

The other drive out to Moon Creek is also worth doing and fishing from the creek is good on a high tide. The 4.5km track is almost overgrown and was so narrow we stopped to remove our aerials before they were snapped off by a branch. The track took us all the way to a beautiful clear creek that flows out to the ocean. The sand everywhere is pearly white, thousands of tiny bright blue soldier crabs were scurrying across the sand and there was no one else around to ruin it.

The nicest thing about this side is that there are no 4WDs rushing up and down the beach. Finally you will have some peace.

We left Fraser on the Rainbow Venture which operates on the southern tip at Hook Point. Make sure you don't travel down the beach anywhere near 2 -3 hours before the high tide. We had to turn around and take the the inland track because the tide had come so far up we would've had to dive through the waves. Amazingly though, we saw other people do it (in hired vehicles of course).

There is no need to book this trip as the ferry runs on demand. Some of the best fishing happens right at this spot and on the other side at Inskip Point.

If you loved Fraser Island then make sure you do a run down Rainbow Beach too. See our write up from last year in our East Coast section.

For us it was back to Sydney via MovieWorld, Lamington NP and historic Morpeth. Keep an eye out for our next update when we leave Sydney on Boxing Day bound for Perth once and for all.
David (DM) & Michelle (MM)
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Always working not enough travelling!
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