Fraser Island

There was no ticket booth, ramp or any of the usual signs that this was the departure point for a ferry, just a long stretch of beach between the track and the sandy spit at Inskip Point. We weren’t sure we were in the right place but decided to check it out anyway. Steve dropped a gear and we made our way through the very soft sand, the truck shuddered, shook and painfully, slowly ploughed its way forward. He had already lowered the tyre pressure, engaged 4WD, locked a couple of diffs and switched the truck into manual drive but it was hard going. We looked at each other alarmed, if all the beach driving was going to be like this, it was going to be a long 4 days. We were heading for Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, just off the coast of Queensland. This World Heritage Site is famed for its white sandy beaches, crystal clear lakes, white sand blown dunes, pure bred dingoes and its lack of roads.
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We had been concerned that the truck would be too heavy or too tall to drive on the island. Most of the driving is along the eastern beach, with several rough tracks crisscrossing the 120km long and 15km wide island. We had a backup plan to hire a 4WD if we couldn’t take the truck but when we asked at the ferry office in the little nearby town, the lady said we that we should be fine. Surprisingly considering all the different types of terrain we’ve driven through, we’ve done very little beach driving. Fraser Island is considered by many as one of the great 4WD experience destinations. So although Steve would definitely be considered an experienced four wheel driver, beach driving was a new skill for him. The ferry docked after 20 minutes straight onto another pristine white sandy beach, we had arrived 2 hours before low tide so were thankfully straight onto the hard wet sand. The southern beach of the island can only be driven close to low tide, there is an inland track but we’d heard it might be a bit narrow for us. Our first obstacle came just a couple of kilometres down the beach, we saw how the other 4WDs had weaved through the partially submerged trees blocking the beach but there was no way we could fit through, so we just took the wet route through the surf. As we rounded a point the narrow southern beach widened to the beautifully wide 75 Mile beach. Although the sand near the surf and at the top of the beach was firm, the middle section was far softer. We had opted to camp on the eastern beaches for the whole time we were there. As it is a National Park, we had to prebook our sites. What was great though, was that you just had to book an area where you were planning on going, so we had our pick of any site within the designated area of 10km or so. There were absolutely no facilities for these camps just a track heading into the dunes off the beach. Some were too narrow for us but there were plenty of lovely spots especially in the north where we got almost perfect solitude.

 

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We awoke the next morning to stormy seas and dark clouds, checking the weather, we found out that ex-cyclone Winston had made its way to the Queensland coast. Far less powerful than it was when it caused so much damage in Fiji, they were still predicting some beach washouts and high swells. With that in mind we had an early start to do our driving before the tide got too high. We parked up off the beach in the sand dunes and walked a couple of kilometres along the beach to Eli Creek, we had to wade through the creek on the beach to reach the other side. We saw a couple of keen 4WD guys take their land cruisers through the deep water, it looked a bit more precarious at high tide with the big swell. DSC08725

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The dingoes on Fraser Island have some of the purest bloodlines, as they can interbreed with domestic dogs, those on the mainland are often mixed breeds. Those on Fraser are completely wild but their interactions with humans haven’t always been positive. People visiting have been feeding them for years and it has caused lots of problems. There were signs everywhere reminding people to be “Dingo-aware”. Dingoes have attacked people and even killed a child, so we had to walk as a group with the girls within arm’s reach. There are both NP and private campsites on the island that have fences around them to stop the dingoes but the girls are sensible about camping with wild animals after Africa and we felt very safe in the truck. We were still really keen to see them though, we saw a couple on the beach when we were driving and we were able to stop to see them interacting. They are pack animals, so it was all about dominance, even when they were playing. On our last night one turned up at our camp while we were manoeuvring but thankfully disappeared into the bushes.

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We had a great few days on the coast, swimming in the crystal clear waters of Eli Creek, hiking up a headland and hanging out. The promised swells and washouts did come, making the driving far harder. We had to watch out for unexpected bumps and holes in the beach. The tide was also far higher than normal, which made finding a good parking spot for high tide very important. We found some lovely camps in the dunes and once the stormy weather passed the beach driving was very smooth.

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We had a great few days on the coast, swimming in the crystal clear waters of Eli Creek, hiking up a headland and hanging out. The promised swells and washouts did come, making the driving far harder. We had to watch out for unexpected bumps and holes in the beach. The tide was also far higher than normal, which made finding a good parking spot for high tide very important. We found some lovely camps in the dunes and once the stormy weather passed the beach driving was very smooth.

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We spent a day inland, it was difficult for the truck on the inland tracks as they were very tight for us, as well as being very sandy and steep. It must have been hard work for the truck as our fuel consumption went up to 1.5km per litre, on a good tar road it is usually around 5km per litre. We drove to Lake Mackenzie, which had the most perfect fine white sand and turquoise waters. We were so pleased we took our own vehicle and set our own agenda there, as bang on 10.30 a whole load of trucks/buses with loads of passengers arrived at the lake. We’d had the lake to ourselves and were just heading to the carpark for school when they arrived. By the time we’d finished school 2 hours later they’d all gone again, so we were alone for our second swim too. We found that with quite a few places on the island, the tours all seemed to arrive together at the same time, while the rest of the time the place was empty. The interior of the island had some surprisingly lush areas of rainforest too.
DSC08829DSC08840We had a great time of the island, Steve got really into the swing of driving on sand. We only had one dicey moment on the beach when a washout forced us into soft sand and a couple on the island track where he had to engage all the diff locks to get us through. It was great fun speeding along the beach and splashing through the surf, especially once the storm had passed. It took us a couple of days to work out what the “popping” sound, like bubble wrap, was as we drove. Hundreds of tiny, dead, gas-filled, bluebottle jellyfish littered the beach after the storm.DSC08849

 

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We decided not to leave the beach when we left the island, even though we were getting a bit fed up with sand and salty spray everywhere in the truck. We camped up for a night in Inskip Point National Park where the ferry left the mainland from, although we did pop into the tiny town nearby to thoroughly wash the truck first.

The following morning it was an early start to go and see a group of wild dolphins that have become used to humans at Tin Can Bay. The pod of 9 Australian Humpbacked Dolphins have been coming to the jetty since the 1950’s, when an injured male came close to shore to recover from a shark bite. Locals fed him while he was getting better and once he was able to fish again he went out into the estuary but returned with his family a while later. That was several generations ago. It was good to hear that the dolphins are completely wild and fish for themselves, the fish they are fed are the equivalent of a snack. Just a mature female called Patch turned up the morning we were there. Lucy was absolutely enthralled as we stood in the shallows for an hour watching her swim around and lean against the volunteer’s legs, while they explained about the pod. She got to give her a couple of small fish later too.

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4 thoughts on “Fraser Island

  1. Looks like great fun on Fraser island and to hand feed the dolphins must have been a thrill. Great pictures too of the truck in the surf. TC Jem

  2. Yep Fraser is magic!

    Dingos, Dolphins and Beach driving.
    But unfortunately you had the back end of a hurricane. Shame!

    What now?
    Time for the power washer to get rid of the salt water.
    MAN will thank you for it.

    Totsiens and hamba kahle
    T&J

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