We were doing quite alright being on the budget we had set for ourselves on this 2 month Australia Road Trip as we hit week five of travel. That is until we got to Queensland where there were three big attractions that I had my heart set on – Fraser Island, Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef. In a nutshell each of these attractions are $450-$700 per day for a family of four, two adults and 2 children – and this is not including accommodation and food! After extensive research and pouring through endless blog posts and websites, we ended up doing Fraser Island DIY with Noosa2Fraser 4WD Beach Hire and I write here why we think this was the best way to explore the island.
Some facts about Fraser Island first and why we wanted to go here!
It is the world’s largest sand island, measuring 120km by 15km, and is the only place where rainforest grows on sand. It is also home to the purest strain of dingo population in Australia! The aboriginal people call it K’Gari, which means paradise. There are no paved roads on Fraser Island, you only drive on sand and through bumpy and narrow unpaved road through the forest. As such you can only drive on a 4WD drive vehicle.
Below is a video of us arriving on the island. The first thing you need to know before arriving here is the time of the tides. The official recommendation is that you drive two hours before and after low tide. As such if high tide is at 1pm, you have to arrive on Fraser Island and have driven from the beach into the inner island by 11am. As you can see in this video, we just barely made it 🙂
We spent two days on Fraser Island staying at Beachcamp retreat in Eurong, just off the beach. This is the first time we did ‘glamping’ where we stayed in a tent which had four bunk beds, own bathroom with shower and a shared communal kitchen. We could not recommend this place enough! Even though it was pricey – $180 per night for the four of us – the ethos and atmosphere of the place was wonderful.
Top attractions that we enjoyed
This was our favourite spot on the whole island. Hard to believe this is a lake! I will use Shahaar’s writing to describe it 🙂
“we arrived at Lake McKenzie to find a scenic sight of a clear blue lake. With the sun shining down on it, it looked dazzling. The lake had two magnificent shades of blue. One a light turquoise that was crystal clear, the other shade a mysterious dark blue.”
Eli Creek is known as the largest freshwater creek in the island and is located along the 75 Mile Beach, a short distance to other famous spots on Fraser, like the Maheno Shipwreck. When we first got here, it looked really crowded as a convoy of jeeps packed with tourists were hanging around the creek. Very different from when we had been at Lake McKenzie where it was not crowded at all! We walked along the boardwalk and waded back through the creek while the kids boogie boarded their way back. We did this several times, lot of fun!
Driving on 75 Mile Beach
It was a unique experience driving on the beach, with no one else around, just the sea to one side and the forest on another. Most times we were on the only vehicle on the beach, other times few others crossed our paths. We were always hoping to see the wild dingo, but unfortunately we didn’t get to 🙁 Saw several species of birds though, atleast four birds of prey and several other wading birds. Ashique and Shahaar did go fishing on this beach as this has some of the best fishing in all of Australia. They enjoyed the experience even though they only caught one little tiddler and promptly released it back into the sea.
The Maheno is a great piece of Australian history, and is the most famous of the Fraser Island wrecks. It was driven ashore just north of Happy Valley during a cyclone in 1935. We got here just before sunset and the colours reflecting of the boat was beautiful to see. The kids desperately wanted to explore inside but this was not permitted. It was fun reading about the different uses of this wreck while it stood deteriorating in the salt water and sand for the last 80 years, including a wedding!
Driving through the different forests and doing the southern lakes circuit
Fraser Island has a unique ecosystem as it has a mixture of sub tropical rainforests right next to Eucalyptus woodlands, coastal heat and mangrove colonies! We drove through some of these unique forests on our way to the different lakes. Kids loved the bumpy ride driving through small creeks and narrow lanes.
We enjoyed the birds and lizards, even though didn’t get to capture good pictures of the birds we saw. There are 350 species of birds here, a paradise for birdwatchers like ourselves 🙂 We did have a very friendly sand monitor hanging out by our picnic table and another one at the campsite.
Few things on what we learnt, what worked for us and what we would recommend to anyone planning a trip to this magical place with crystal clear lakes, some of the best fishing in Australia and home to such a unique ecosystem.
Not cheap by any means!
Fixed costs involved are: Ferry Crossing $120 and National Park Permit: $46.65 (valid for a month)
Vehicle Hire Drive Yourself: Anywhere ranging $195-250 for a 4 person vehicle, some places had minimum two days hire.
Accommodation: Wide range and cheapest we found was $180 for a family of four but we had booked just two days before so it might get a bit cheaper.
I suppose if you are a single person, it can still be cheap as you can share the cost of the vehicle or if you go with a tour, you can do it for $150 minimum, but for a family of four, it can be very expensive. There are of course several tours that bring you here, lots of packages available that cater to families as well as young budget travelers. We found them all to be more expensive than if you did it yourself. Also we found it so much nicer to get to any of these spots without big crowds, plus the freedom to doing whichever we want rather than what is scheduled by the tour. This is the main reason we are loving travelling around Australia in our Britz Campervan – pure freedom and flexibility!
Get fuel, food, and drinking water from the mainland, much cheaper than on the island! We cooked all our meals at our ‘glamping’ site and had also brought snacks and drinks for the day trips.
Make sure you are aware of the tide times! It was also useful to talk to the locals such as the ferry operator and the place you are staying at, as there are various other factors such as the height of the tide and conditions of the road.
Go for at least minimum two, but preferably three days – so much to do and see here, truly a wild and unique island.
Watch out for the dingos, wish we had gotten to see one though..
We would highly recommend going with Noosa2Fraser 4WD Beach Drive. The owner Richard was very helpful, gave us lots of useful information and went over the details about driving the vehicle thoroughly. The vehicle itself was great and we all enjoyed this unique experience of ‘wild’ driving through beaches and forests 🙂
Disclaimer: We were given a media discount for our vehicle hire but as always, all opinions are 100% our own
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