On our way back from a two week escape camping on Lady Musgrave Island, we couldn’t resist spending 48 hours driving around Fraser Island on the way back down. We were lucky enough to have a friend take us on a whirlwind tour and this is the itinerary they devised for us. A combination of the absolutely-can-not-miss sights like the Maheno wreck and Lake McKenzie combined with a few off the beaten track stops.
A note regarding self driving on Fraser Island: You must have a 4WD – some of the beach driving can be on very firm sand that some 2WD’s may have no issue with however you will come across many sections of very soft sand (often require letting down of tyres) or roads which 2WD’s just have no chance against due to the potholes. The first of the soft sand sections is getting on and off the car ferry to the island.
Day 1: Caught ferry to island at lunch time, saw the Maheno, set up camp.
We were a little slow off the mark in the morning and so arrived on the island at lunch time. We had come from Noosa and so rather than going the inland route we had travelled along the beach saving ourselves a bunch of kilometres and including a cute little river ferry on cables ($7 one way). This required a Cooloola Beach Access pass which we obtained combined with a Fraser Island Access pass for a price of $77.30. These can be obtained online here. While you’re there you may also need a camping pass – $6.15 per person per night. We chose camping zone 5 which is right near Eli Creek and the Maheno which I would definitely recommend – we found it a good central base to explore from.
We chose the ferry from Inskip point which cost $120 return for a car and all it’s passengers and were able to pay by credit card after being worried we may not have enough cash on us.
The rest of day one consisted of making our way up to our camping area and enjoying some time with the Maheno wreck, learning all about it from a sign nearby – a really fascinating history from luxury transport to hospital boat in WWI to unwanted pile of scrap metal stranded where it is now. It was quite a cloudy and windy day which made our viewing quite atmospheric – a contrast to the other days we saw it when you couldn’t imagine how it had ended up there.
Our campsite was just on the other side of some small sand dunes, sheltered from the wind with only a short walk to the beach (30 seconds?) and the Maheno was quite visible from the top of the sand dunes.
Day 2: Drove to the northern tip via Allom Lake and stopping for swims at Champagne Pools and Eli Creek on the way back.
After brekky, first stop of the day was Allom Lake. A little perched lake that we had nearly all to ourselves for the hour or so we spent there – the only other company was about 11 very cute little turtles that swam around the base of the stairs into the lake. As it was a bit early and the sun had yet to warm the day, we weren’t quite brave enough to go swimming however our friend assured us that it was a great place for a dip. I was quite content sitting on the steps watching the turtles peep up at us from the water.
A long(ish) drive followed all the way to the tip of the island. We climbed the sand dunes which were surprisingly lacking in footprints other than our own – clearly not many people had made the journey up – for the view of the ocean. This is the point that Indigenous Australian’s used to make their way on and off Fraser Island and you can see the trail of sand/shallow water/breaking waves extending out of the point from which they made their path.
By now both the air and ourselves was warming up so we were ready for a dip in Champagne Pools. We had heard these were quite underwhelming and barely worth a stop however the timing was right so we stopped – and I am extremely glad we did. These are natural pools of sand with surrounding rocks creating a barrier between you and the surf (very tumultuous surf which means beach swimming off Fraser Island is generally a no-no). The effect is waves crashing against the rocks washing foam into the pools – lots of bubbles hence the Champagne. I loved this effect, especially in an area whether there was a foam waterfall of sorts slowly making its way into one of the pools. I’m not sure if we just picked the right moment in terms of tide (around an hour after low tide) or if being prepared to be underwhelmed made it seem better but I loved this stop.
However now we were quite salty and needed a good freshwater rinse, so down the long beaches we drove (75 mile beach isn’t called 75 mile beach for nothing) and wound up at Eli Creek – just past our campsite. This is a lovely little fast moving freshwater creek that empties into the ocean. The premise was very simple – follow a boardwalk up the river then jump in and float on down (or, at least, try to float). As with all of Fraser Island – it was a gorgeous setting and a fun way to rinse off.
It was now mid-afternoon so we headed in to Happy Valley for a few drinks and some socialising before heading back to camp where we were lucky enough to spot a dingo or two!
Day 3: Lake McKenzie and Central station, leaving the island at lunchtime.
No visit to Fraser Island would be complete without a stop at Lake McKenzie and braving the fresh water was the first item on the day’s itinerary. This lake is so incredibly blue and inviting with gorgeous fine white sand surrounding it. It’s something you just have to see to believe, I could go on and on but I’ll let you discover it for yourself.
Next was a walking stop at Central station – following another freshwater creek up along a boardwalk and then a creek side track. Our friend told us there were eels, (harmless) snakes and sometimes frogs to be seen however all we saw were some very small, very well disguised, sandy coloured fish. We worked up a bit of a sweat doing this and in hindsight I would have probably saved the swim at Lake McKenzie for after this stop. However time was moving on and it was time to head off the island and make the journey back to Canberra back to reality til the next adventure.
Budget for 2 people: