16 UNMISSABLE THINGS TO DO ON FRASER ISLAND, AUSTRALIA
16 UNMISSABLE THINGS TO DO ON FRASER ISLAND, AUSTRALIA
During our time in Australia, there was one place which was recommended to us over and over again – Fraser Island. Located just off the coast from Queensland, it is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also the largest sand island on earth. There were so many things to do on Fraser Island that it very quickly became a highlight of our Australia trip too. From whale watching to the whitest sand we’ve ever seen and shipwrecks to stargazing, in just three days we made memories to last a lifetime and thanks to this guide you can too.
Perhaps we were destined to love Fraser Island as it is named after a fellow Scot, Eliza Fraser. She was shipwrecked there in 1836 and after her epic story of survival the island was named in her honour.
Although you will note during your visit, it is referred to as K’gari (pronounced “gurri”). K’gari is the name given by the Butchulla people and means “paradise.” We were told a beautiful story of the spirit princess K’gari who is believed to have helped create the island and found it so beautiful she chose to stay forever.
Whether you’re visiting Fraser to find out what all the fuss is about, or you want to tick some natural wonders off your bucket list, these are the unmissable things to do on Fraser Island as well as a few helpful hints to make your trip as memorable as possible.
HOW TO GET TO FRASER ISLAND
Getting to Fraser Island is remarkably easy. You could take a Fraser Island tour from Rainbow Beach or from Hervey Bay to Fraser Island. We were working our way down the east coast of Australia, so for us, we opted to travel from Hervey Bay.
From Hervey Bay to Fraser Island you will need to catch a ferry. As we were on a Fraser Island bus tour with Cool Dingo, our ferry transfers were included as a package. If you are not on a package, you can find the ferry information quite easily online.
You can also opt for a self-drive tour which is only possible in a 4×4 and requires a permit as well as confidence and driving experience in abundance. You could also opt for a 4×4 tour as part of a convoy or group however this usually involves rotating drivers. We were not too keen on putting our safety in another backpacker’s hands.
Driving on Fraser Island is a unique experience with dunes, a beach highway and potholes the size of bathtubs to contend with. Not the sort of conditions you want to trust a hungover 18-year-old on a gap year who’s only car has been a Fiat 500 to drive you through.
As mentioned above, we opted for a Fraser Island bus tour. It meant there was no stress in battling the potholes, we felt safe, and we wouldn’t get lost. Doing a Fraser Island bus tour also meant we had continuous commentary so learned far more than we would arguing over the driving and directions.
FRASER ISLAND ACCOMMODATION
If your Fraser Island Day trip turns into a full weekend, there are a few options for Fraser Island Accommodation.
Kingfisher Bay Resort – An Honest Review
As we were doing a Fraser Island bus tour, our accommodation at Kingfisher Bay Resort was included as part of the package. We stayed in the backpacker accommodation which had dorms and private rooms, but we were able to use the resort’s facilities such as the bar and pools.
It is unfortunate that Kingfisher Bay resort has the monopoly of Fraser Island accommodation as it is claimed to be an eco-resort and we were shocked at how bad their attitude to ecotourism was. Meghan Markle & Prince Harry had stayed the previous month, and the resort had milked this media as well as claim their eco-values were congratulated by Meghan & Harry which we found hard to believe. There were no recycling facilities, and all drinks were served in plastic cups as well as with straws.
Then during our Fraser Island bus tour our food & coffees were served in single-use plastic and at no point during our stay did we see a single recycling bin. The cherry on top was us paying an expensive fee for a private room instead of dorm accommodation (which we didn’t mind) only for the resort to book two different people on two different occasions into our room, giving them access to all our belongings. On an island referred to as Paradise with such emphasis on their “Eco” resort values, we felt this was very much greenwashed and would avoid staying here.
The Cool Dingo Tour was great, and our tour guide was fantastic as it meant we were able to see all of the Fraser Island sights which we recommend below. However, we do feel that the tour is let down by the Kingfisher Resort accommodation. If you have further questions regarding this tour, then please contact us directly.
Fraser Island Camping
We loved our time camping in Australia, and we wished we could have camped on Fraser Island. Avoid filling the pockets of greenwashing hotel owners and instead, fall asleep to the waves crashing and wake up to sunrise on the shore by opting for camping on Fraser Island. It should be noted that most 4×4 tours include camping at sites set up by the tour companies. If you are doing a self-drive, then choosing the best place to camp on Fraser Island is difficult with so many incredible options, not to mention very affordable campgrounds. There are over 45 Fraser Island camping areas, with booking available up to 6 months advance.
For ease, these Fraser Island camping grounds are close to the main attractions:
- Waddy Point campground – around half an hour from Indian Head.
- Central Station campground – the closest campground to Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island.
- Maheno Campground – a mere 5-minute walk to the Fraser Island shipwreck.
THINGS TO DO ON FRASER ISLAND
1. Swim In Lake McKenzie
It’s no secret Australia has incredible beaches; however, we did not expect the whitest sand we’d ever seen to be by a lake, not the sea. Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island is one of the most popular Fraser Island attractions so definitely get there early to avoid the crowds.
What makes Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island so unique is that the sand is 98% silica which means it is not only mind-blowingly white, but it also reflects sunlight so doesn’t get hot. The fine sand also helps filter the rainwater giving Lake McKenzie it’s world-famous azure colour.
It is perfectly safe to swim in Lake McKenzie and can guarantee to be a highlight on any Fraser Island day trip. We swam for hours here, and a family even asked us to babysit their inflatable duck. Naturally, we obliged for a ridiculous photo or two.
2. Paddle Board On Lake Birrabeen
It’s probably unfair to compare the Fraser Island lakes, but Lake Birrabeen to us was like the quieter, prettier sister to Lake McKenzie. Perhaps because it was far less busy, perhaps because we genuinely think it is more beautiful. It was also the first time either of us had attempted to paddle board, and we cannot recommend it enough. Paddleboarding on Lake Birrabeen is one of the most unforgettable things to do on Fraser Island.
3. Basin Lake
Another favourite of the Fraser Island Lakes is Basin Lake, although it’s more of a hidden gem as many people have only visited Lake McKenzie which is nearby. We were shown fascinating bright purple crabs from this lake as well as told about the many bird species which call Basin Lake home. Although we were told it is safe to swim in basin lake, due to the dark colour we didn’t chance a swim due to fear of what lies beneath but it was a pleasant walk none the less.
4. Visit The Dunes At Lake Wabby
You can maybe already tell Fraser Island lakes are reason enough to visit however we’ve saved our favourite until last – Lake Wabby. From over 40 Fraser Island lakes, Lake Wabby wins the award for deepest. It’s not as picturesque compared to the previous three, but it is still an unmissable thing to do on Fraser Island for one reason – the walk there. The walk to Lake Wabby isn’t the easiest (it takes around 40 minutes), but you will head over some of the most incredible dunes which were one of our favourite Fraser Island attractions.
It is the perfect place to take those “stranded in the desert” photos before you arrive at the lake for a refreshing swim. We will warn though, compared to the other Fraser Island lakes there was plenty of wee fish in Lake Wabby who liked a nibble or two. The lake also provides an entertaining echo, which we spent far longer than we’d like to admit testing out.
5. Admire Wanggoolba Creek & Surrounding Rainforest
Fraser Island is not all sand and sea; there is some incredible rainforest to explore which shouldn’t be missed from your Fraser Island day trip. If you start at Central Station which is an old forestry camp you can take a boardwalk through the surrounding rainforest and past the incredibly clear Wanggoolba Creek. Wanggoolba Creek is considered a sacred place for Butchulla women, and we found our visit incredibly peaceful and relaxing. The rainforest walk continues through impressive flora and fauna (including a tree which could fit eight people around) and is one of the most fascinating Fraser Island attractions.
6. Drive On The 75 Mile Beach
If there is one unmissable thing to do on Fraser Island, it’s drive on the beach. Not only because it’s one of the most epic drives we’ve ever done, but literally, you can’t miss it – you need to drive on the beach to get to all the main Fraser Island attractions. The 75-mile beach is Fraser Island’s highway, where speed limits on the beach are a crazy 80 km/h. With dunes on one side and waves lapping at the other, it is an experience like no other.
As mentioned, driving on Fraser Island is only suitable for 4WD. Always check tide times when driving on Fraser Island otherwise you may find yourself stuck in soft sand or worse – swept away by the tide.
7. Take A Flight Over Fraser Island
What’s cooler than using a beach as a highway? Using it as a runway. Air Fraser run small planes from the 75-mile beach offering the best views of Fraser Island. Lauren is a tad terrified of small planes, but after refusing to go on a seaplane in Fiji and a helicopter in Vegas, she agreed in Fraser. The main reason being the pilot told us there were only two places in the entire world where the beach was used as a runway, so thinking this was a unique YOLO moment we paid to take the 20-minute flight.
It turns out, that second runway in the world is in Barra. In Scotland. Not so once in a lifetime now. However, for a 20-minute flight that showcased the dunes, rainforest, lakes and even stingrays from above it was one of the best things to do on Fraser Island. Better yet, it meant we didn’t have to get the bus home and only cost AU$80.00 each.
8. Dance In The Champagne Pools
Do not be fooled by the title, there are no flutes or Moet to be found in the Champagne Pools on Fraser Island. The Champagne Pools earn their name from the sea bubbles that pour in over the rock pools. Due to sharks and jellyfish being incredibly common on Fraser Island it is not safe to swim on the beaches. However, the Champagne Pools offer one of the few safe places to swim in saltwater on the island.
It is one of the most popular Fraser Island attractions, as it feels like you are in a natural jacuzzi (with around 20 other people). Lauren had to literally be dragged away from here, she would’ve jumped into those bubbling waves all day so do not miss this experience from your Fraser Island day trip.
Although it’s incredibly obvious, do not stand on the actual rocks to get hit by the waves, instead sit or stand in the pools. We saw so many scrapes and cuts from idiots who wanted to be swept away for some reason. Don’t make a trip to the hospital one of the things to do on Fraser Island.
9. Visit The Fraser Island Shipwreck – SS Maheno
During our time driving the Great Ocean Road, we were mesmerised by the stories from the shipwreck coast. However, SS Maheno was the first shipwreck we had actually seen not just heard the folk tales of.
The Fraser Island shipwreck was originally an ocean liner which travelled between Australia and New Zealand, however in WW1, it was turned into a hospital in Europe. During it’s return to Australia, a cyclone struck forcing it to the shores of Fraser Island where you can now see it today.
Despite it being incredibly impressive, not to mention mesmerising to watch the waves flow in and out of Maheno, only a third of the original ship is visible. The rest has been absorbed by sand and sea, which makes this Fraser Island shipwreck even more fascinating to photograph.
10. Chill At Eli Creek, A Natural Lazy River
We had so much fun at Eli Creek and did not stop laughing from the minute we arrived. Eli Creek is one of the most fun things to do on Fraser Island because it is a natural lazy river. Bring an inflatable ring and easily spend hours drifting along the crystal clear water.
It was also at Eli Creek where we saw our first Dingo (more on those later) and witnessed it steal someone’s flip flop, so while you’re catching a few rays on Eli Creek make sure your belongings are kept safe.
11. Whale Watch
Fraser Island whale watching is incredibly popular during the Winter months. Over 17,000 whales migrate each year from Antarctica to bask in Australia’s warmer waters, so the siting of humpback whales is almost guaranteed, especially from Indian Head.
12. Admire The Pinnacles
It’s not often we get excited by cliffs, but the Pinnacles are colourful sand cliffs and another one of the most popular Fraser Island attractions. The multicoloured cliff faces are striking to look at and photograph so shouldn’t be missed from your Fraser Island itinerary.
13. Wildlife Spot At Indian Head
At the North end of 75-mile beach is an unmissable headland known as Indian Head. The short yet steep climb will reward you with some of the best views on Fraser Island. Stopping here is an unmissable thing to do on Fraser Island to spot dolphins, rays, sharks and one of the best spots for Fraser Island whale watching.
During our visit, we joked with our guide that we’d yet to see a shark in Australia and bang on queue one jumped right out the water and flipped. We immediately thought it was a dolphin due to the fancy aerobics, but our guide explained it was definitely a shark and also the rarity of them jumping in this way. It was an incredible thing to witness and one of our favourite memories from Fraser.
14. Spot A Dingo
Now for one of the most fascinating things to do on Fraser Island – spot a dingo. We heard so many rumours about dingo’s before our visit and each visitor to Fraser should read up on dingo safety due to their unpredictable nature. We accidentally walked into the path of one at Eli Creek as we were deep in conversation and suddenly we were face to face with one, but backed off slowly as advised and didn’t feel threatened in any way.
The sad thing is, many tourist taunt dingo’s on Fraser Island while attempting a photo and unfortunately, this can end with the frightened dingo attacking. When a dingo attacks, the island wardens have to put the dog down which is incredibly unfair as the majority of the blame should be on humans. Read the advice before your visit, follow the advice during your visit and be a responsible traveller by enjoying these fascinating animals from afar.
15. Go Stargazing
Being an island, it is understandable there is no light pollution which means one of the best things to do on Fraser Island is admire the insane stars. During our time camping in Australia, the best stars we saw were on Fraser Island, so watch a tutorial or two on astrophotography if you have time before your visit so you can hopefully catch a photo or two (unlike us).
16. Watch The Sunset
Although we were disappointed with our Fraser Island accommodation, the best place to watch the sunset is on the beach at the front of Kingfisher Bay Resort. The sunsets on Fraser Island were incredible, and the jetty at Kingfisher is the perfect place to end your day which is still accessible to visitors not just those staying at the resort.
Although there are so many Fraser Island attractions, we hope we have given you enough inspiration to explore K’Gari for yourself and add to this list. Whether you swim in the Fraser Island Lakes, spot a dingo on the beach or fly over the dunes, we can guarantee your Fraser Island day trip will be a highlight from your time in Australia.
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