We wanted to see Fraser Island whilst were in Queensland, and who wouldn’t? The Island is awesome. It’s the World’s largest sand island, without bitumen roads.
There’s a couple of ways to see the Island; you can go across on a ‘tag along’ tour, where you and fifteen others pile into three 4×4’s and take it turns to drive. There’s one tour guide in the front 4×4 and the rest are just like you. Has it’s advantages, but you’re crammed in a 4×4 with a group of people you don’t know and it’s hot and room is limited.
Not for us. We just spent three nights on a Catamaran touring the Whitsundays, which was epic, but we were stuck with 26 other people and found some of them a little annoying. We wanted some time to explore on our own.
We hired our own 4×4 which came with some camping equipment, included the barge fee and the cost of a camping permit for the island.
We used Fraser Dingo 4WD Hire – we’ll complete another post about what we think of the company and the value for money they did or didn’t provide. You’ll have to read that post to see what we thought.
We arrived at the 4×4 rental centre just after 0800. It’s on a small industrial estate near Hervey Bay Airport. We signed the paperwork and watched a DVD about how to drive on sand, what to do if you get stuck and when and where to drive. This took about forty five minutes all in all.
The owner showed us around the 4×4, a Jeep Cherokee, called Little Miss Sunshine, and pointed out a few things, like how to change from 2WD to 4WD.
We left the office with an hour to spare to get to the Barge at River Heads. We stopped at a supermarket and picked up a drink and an ice cream. It’s already in the mid twenties. We stocked up on food the night before, to take to the Island with us. We were camping overnight and had a small camping stove.
We drove the 3km to the barge terminal, which took no time at all, the barge doesn’t leave for another hour. We swapped our voucher in for a return ticket at the office. We were first in line for the barge, actually, we were the line.
We got a spot on a bench at the water’s edge. Lois sunbathed and I read a book out loud so she could hear.
There’s a sign at the barge terminal that tells you what to do if you get attacked by a Dingo… I read it twice.
Basically, a fox clearly mated with a stray dog at some point and the Dingo is the result.
The barge arrived from Fraser with a small amount of traffic on board and as soon as they disembarked, we were on.
Being first in line meant first on the barge. What I didn’t realise until this point, was that everyone had to reverse on. So there we are, in a 4×4 we’d known for barely an hour, never driven one before, and I’m first to reverse down a ramp, onto a barge, in front of about thirty other people.
I managed it without breaking a sweat, of course.
We left the 4×4 on the vehicle deck and took a seat up top. We grabbed a cup of tea and a sausage roll special for $6. The sausage roll was so good, I bought another!
The crossing took around thirty minutes or so, during which I continued to read the book out loud to Lois.
We docked at Fraser Island and everyone rushed back to their vehicles in order to get off. Despite sitting reading a book for thirty minutes, I now realised that I needed the loo, so Lois kept watch over the progress of the disembarkment. Being first on meant being last off.
I ran out of the toilet with about two vehicles to go before it was my turn. Breezed it.
There’s a short dirt track that leads to the sand roads. You could immediately tell who had been to the Island before and who hadn’t, or who was stupid and who wasn’t. There were cautious drivers keeping to the left at about 20mph, then there were the big 4x4s with people who didn’t give a damn, overtaking the steady stream of orderly 4x4s.
We were right at the back, but I was more than happy with that, as I could watch what everyone else was doing and either copy them if it looked right or not if they got stuck!
There was a small crossover vehicle at the front of the queue, full of 60 somethings. I lost count how many times it got proper stuck in the sand. People were digging the sand out from around the wheels, pushing it, putting the footwell mats under the wheels and at one point, towing it out. The majority of the tracks are only wide enough for one vehicle, so if someone’s stuck, everyone’s stuck. We took the opportunity to eat chocolate biscuits and take selfies.
I hate to think what damage the owner did to that vehicle.
The trick is to keep moving, the sand is really dry and really deep. As soon as you stop, the weight of the vehicle buries the wheels in the sand. Getting out again isn’t impossible, but it is a challenge.
It took us a lot longer than we anticipated to get to Central Station, because of the traffic jams! We parked Litte Miss Sunshine in the shade under a tree and headed off for Basin Lake.
Our plan for the two days was set by the hire company, as the tide times dictated when we could drive on the beach, Fraser Island’s Highway..
The walk took about 50 minutes, on a small track through a wooded area. We were spooked by noises in the trees, probably worrying that we were being stalked by Dingos!
When we got there, we had the whole place to ourselves:
We got to the ‘campsite’ at Central Station at around 1730. It was literally just a load of cleared spaces in the woods with a small toilet block. When I say toilet block, I mean a portaloo with wood around it.
We had paid for our camping equipment with the hire, but we had no light…We had to get everything done before sunset. This included cooking and eating dinner and getting the tent up.
The sun was well and truly set by 1900. Pitch black, everywhere. Time for bed then. It had been a tiring day..
Within an hour, we’d realised that the fly nets were just that. To keep flies out. We we inundated with mosquitos and small biting bugs.
We did what we could to stop the bugs getting through and tried to sleep.
At about 0100, Lois gasped, which woke me up. Something or someone was outside. Was it a person? Was it a small animal? Was it a Dingo!? We had no idea. We lay as still and as quiet as we could and eventually, after about thirty minutes, the noise stopped and it went away.
We had to be up early in order to get everything in on our plan of action, so we were more than happy to fold the tent up at about 0700 and chuck everything in the boot of LMS.
I counted 17 bites on my right arm alone. They itched like mad. Thankfully, we had some cream to stop the itching, which we applied about twelve times an hour!
Today we drove on the beach! Scary and fun at the same time! Just before we got to Australia, a 4×4 overturned on the beach, kiling an occupant. Driving on sand is like no other form of driving. It’s like dry snow.
Oh and then there were the planes to watch out for…
Not only is the road, it’s also the airport and runway…
We made our way up the beach for about forty minutes and parked up, on the beach, and walked to Lake Wabby. Surrounded by huge sand dunes and again, all to ourselves!
From here we planned on going to the shipwreck, but it was rammed full of people, so we continued past it to The Pinnacles:
Then we drove back down the beach to the Shipwreck of SS Maheno, which ran a ground in 1935 whilst on it’s way to Japan for scrap. The ship has a great history, even serving as a hospital ship in WW1 in Europe.
The shipwreck is pretty iconic to Fraser Island:
And that was it. Our time on Fraser Island was done. The 4×4 had to be back that night and we had to clean it out and wash it.
It was a busy and expensive few days, but we had made sacrifices elsewhere in order to go. We loved it and would recommend it to anyone!
Then Lois wanted to drive back to the ferry…