Fraser Island is one of those places everyone says you have to visit while in Australia. It’s not only known for being the largest sand island at 120 kilometers long, but also for the packs of roaming wild dingos. Among the rough, sand terrain are beautiful lakes, fresh water creeks, a 100 year old ship wreck, and abundant, beautiful vegetation, all of which I discovered on my two-day trip through Fraser.
I signed up for the Nomads tour through a travel agency in Byron Bay, but wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The tour is organized as a self-drive tour where a trained guide drives the first vehicle, while the other two vehicles are driven by tourists, and everyone gets a turn to drive (as long as you’re over 21 with a license). Driving a manual 4WD with the wheel and shifter on the right side of the car along the beach sounded like a fun experience, so I decided to go for it.
A group of 24 of us picked up our vehicles and took the ferry across the rough open water to the island. Right away it was apparent that our group had the lemon vehicle of the bunch. With only two side doors and eight seats, it was a bit hard to maneuver around inside, but we eventually got the hang of it. The broken horn, radio, and windshield wipers made for some laughs but also some tense moments during heavy rainfalls! The first leg of the trip was spent racing through the wet sand at about 90km/hr toward the Maheno Ship Wreck. A couple of times along the way our guide pulled us over to tell us to drive faster! Once we made it to the shipwreck, we hung out there for a while taking photos of the incredible sight, and then went off to wade through the freshwater at Eli Creek. The warm water was so clear you could see right through to the bottom and is so clean and fresh that it’s used as drinking water.
“You’re out, you’re in!” Our not-so-bashful guide pulled our car over and told the driver to get out and chose someone else to take the wheel!
The next stop was Lake Wabby, which is surrounded by sand and will be gone in about 50 years as the sand dunes move in and take it over. It was incredible to walk past vast amounts of sand to a freshwater lake that’s backed by a rainforest. The water was a bit cold, but completely worth it to go in. After that stop we headed back to the hostel/hotel for some drinks and dinner. There was another tour option that included camping, but I opted for the hostel because I really do like the ability to take showers
We woke up the next day to a torrential downpour. The islanders said it hadn’t rained for about six months, and now we were getting a ton of heavy rainfall in two days. I figured we would probably just be heading back early, but nope, the plan was to head inland!
About 20 minutes into the inland drive, we got bogged, which is the Australian way of saying we were stuck, and stuck deep in the sand. The guide had to take the wheel and plow us out of there. Eventually our driver got the hang of it and we were keeping a pretty good pace. As we were driving along, we saw our guide’s car almost roll over on a steep muddy hill with deep tracks just ahead of us. Luckily he recovered the vehicle and made it over the hill. It was our turn next. Needless to say, I was a bit worried since our new driver had to to do the same thing, but incredibly, Maxy, the 22 year old German driver, made it over the hill without any problems and so did the car behind us. Sweet relief!
After a long drive, we made it to Lake Mckenzie, which was an absolutely stunning sight. I’ve never seen a lake with such bright blue crystal clear water. We spent some time enjoying the beauty and swimming around, but had to cut it short since we were already a bit behind. Little did we know the roughest part of the track laid ahead of us.
As we drove along the bumpy tracks, I gazed in awe at the towering tropical rainforest that surrounded us and the cliffs beside the road that dropped down hundreds of feet. We slowed down quite a bit, and then eventually stopped. The road we needed to go down had a sign warning that it was in rough shape, but our guide was determined to get us down that path. I assume the alternative would have added hours to our trip and we probably would have risked losing daylight. After attempting to get the vehicles through the mud a few times and getting bogged again, the guide found a huge bus to tow the vehicles through.
Since it was mostly buses and trucks that were heading down that road, the tracks in the road were incredibly deep. I would guess about 2 feet deep or so. The only way to make it through was to drive on the ridges of the road and hope that you don’t slip into one of the tracks, which would inevitably mean rolling the car. At one point along the nerve-racking drive we slid and almost tipped over. Our driver stopped while we were on a steep angle, and we encouraged him to keep going and that he could do it. I’m sure he was nervous too, but he went for it and we got through the rough parts with no rollovers!
By 3:00 p.m. we still hadn’t eaten lunch yet due to how time-consuming it was to make it through the muddy tracks, and we had to keep going before the tide came in, so we floored it along the wet sand towards the ferry. As we neared the pickup point, waves started crashing in front of us and the area of land to drive on got narrower and narrower. Eventually we came to a stop – we had reached our destination! It was (fairly) smooth sailing across the open water back to main land, where we finally got to fill our bellies with some food!
“Drive safe, but fast! Fast! But safe…” Yep, that was me as we bolted down the beach sometimes swerving into the waves. Couldn’t help myself!
As I mentioned above, I took this tour through Nomads, but I would recommend using a different tour group if possible. The package included two nights accommodation at their Noosa hostel, which was pretty affordable, but the hostel was less than appealing. Also, if you’re planning on traveling north, it’s closer to leave from Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay than from Noosa.
During this adventure I was pretty nervous along the rough roads, but looking back on it now I would recommend it to anyone. The pure beauty of such a secluded, wild island is enough to make me want to return to the rugged and wonderful Fraser Island again.
Have you already been to Fraser Island? If so, what was your experience like? If you haven’t been yet, do you think you’ll make it a priority when you go to the big beautiful country of Australia?