This is it, the last big adventure of the trip! It’s a little sad to write that, the trip has been such a great experience.
Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island – so large that, before sense prevailed and it was protected, it was mined for the sand. It is also home to some of the purest bred dingoes in Australia, set apart from the mainland their stock has not been polluted by feral dog – more on the dingoes later.
The barge departs from River Heads. To make it fun there is no wharf there, just a slipway where the barge drops its ramp and then uses its engines to hold in place against the tide. You then have to reverse on – all good and well in a car, slightly more pressure with a trailer, especially when you are first on and everyone is watching…..
The crossing is about half an hour, nice and smooth as the waterway is protected from the open ocean by Fraser itself.
Unlike the crossing from Inskip to the south, there is no danger here of bogging straight off the barge. It is a simple drive (forward this time…) up a concrete slipway onto a gravel road. The gravel lasts a couple of hundred metres then the sand begins – nothing of great concern though, all pretty smooth and firm, winding through the constantly changing forest.
Whilst it is possible to drive north / south on the internal tracks by far the easier way is to drive along Seventy Five Mile beach on the east of the island. Hence the earlier comment about tides, best not to drive in the 2 hours either side of high; there are plenty of you-tube posts around of cars getting wetter than they should.
Joining the beach at Eurong it is actually a pretty simple drive, washouts are the only danger. Washouts are little streams cutting channels as they ran out to sea – a simple matter of keeping speed under control and your eyes open. The beach itself is huge; wide and stretching out of sight in both directions.
Camping on Fraser
Along the beach there are various camping zones, behind the dunes, plus some commercial resorts and a few fenced national park campsites. The dune camping is beautiful, right behind the beach but no facilities. The fenced campsites come with toilets, showers ($1 a go) and, from the girls’ perspective, most importantly a fence to keep the dingoes out.
We chose Dundabara, towards the north end of the beach, but still close enough to the attractions. As with all QLD national parks you have to book ahead. There are only 5 trailer spots and you choose on arrival, so best not be unlucky last in. It’s a great spot, spacious and with a communal firepit; the only drawback is, being in the trees it is a bit shaded for solar.
However, for the second and third nights the trees were a blessing, with violent thunderstorms sweeping in from the south their shelter was very welcome.
One of the icons of the island. In July 1935 the Maheno was being towed to an Osaka shipbreaker when a cyclone pushed it ashore. At first it sat above the sand and plans were made for its salvage, until a year later a second cyclone half buried the hull in the sand. So there it has sat, slowly rusting, until only its outline remains.
Aside from the superstructure one of the few remaining identifiable features is a row of 4 holes through the remains of a tiled floor, clearly what used to be a set of toilets.
It seems to have been a draw ever since the time it first ran aground. In the shop at Happy Valley there are copies of a newspaper clippings covering a wedding on board in 1936 – apparently the guests, and the bride, had to climb a ladder for the nuptials, held on the sloping deck.
There are several drives marked on the map of Fraser, and is part of the Northern Forests scenic drive. There are many sandblows dotted around, this one is the largest on the island.
Formed when a break in the beachside dunes allows wind to push sand inland, the sandblow then marches with the wand, devouring the forest ahead of it. However as with most things in nature it all balances out, once the sandblow passes its trail revegetates.
Ordinarily this would just be a pretty, but ordinary lake. What sets it apart is how it is being slowly filled in by the Stonetool sandblow, also it is the deepest lake on the island at up to 12m.
It can be reached either from the beach or inland from the Cornwell Road track. The inland path is shorter and passes a great lookout.
Also along the northern track this is a pretty lake, surrounded by sedge set within a concave depression. By rights it should not exist, as it is above the water table. However layers of vegetable matter form a waterproof layer which traps the water, creating a “perch” lake.
Allom is home to a large number of friendly turtles, although their fondness for swimming by the boardwalk suggests they have perhaps been fed in the past.
Another icon of the island, located to the north just before Wadi Point. Historically these pools were fish traps for the local people, a major food source. There are certainly plenty of fish there, no longer threatened by spears but by being trampled to death. As with many of the major attractions you can have the pools all to yourself, then a tour bus arrives and they are like Bondi on a hot Saturday.
At high tide the waves tumble over the rocks which make up the walls of the pools, filling them with the bubbles that give their name. At low tide the pools are calmer, less bubbles but great snorkelling amongst the fish.
Whilst most camping is on the eastern side there are a few camps on the west, Wathumba is one, reached via an inland track from Orchid Beach past Champagne Pools. With the wind prevailing from the North-East this side is much calmer. Located on a large creek this a beautiful place of white sand and mangroves. A fine spot for lunch.
Another example of a perch lake, and the prettiest lake we saw on the island – also the busiest. If you have got it to yourself you have either got up very early, or should buy a lottery ticket when you get back to the mainland.
The track in is easy enough, we pulled the trailer through fine, just a little bumpy in places and you need decent clearance. Not so easy for the guy in the jeep who was belly down in the sand ahead of a dozen cars including us and a tour bus – first problem was tyre pressure, second problem was a lack of clearance: not sure if he was, in the words of the ad, happy “he bought a jeep”…
Unlike Allom or Wabby the water is crystal clear; combined with a gently shelving white sand beach this a beautiful place. Not the best place for lunch though, you can only have food within small fenced areas away from the beach.
Some of the more lurid press would have you believe they are crouched in the grass, slavering to pounce as soon as you turn your back. Not quite true. In fact by day 4 we were beginning to think they were a myth. Not surprising really – Fraser is about 1800 square kilometres, so with an estimated population of 200 that is 1 dingo per 9 square km (although that’s not a true measure as they are a pack animal).
The best chance of seeing them is early morning or in the evening, they use the beach or inland tracks as easy pathways so those are good spots. This one was on the beach lazily heading north:
They have little fear, this one came right up to the car presumably looking for food (now where would he have learned that association?); he soon moved on when there was none.
Although they are not that common it is easy to see why kids need to be kept at arm’s length at all times.
This is a picturesque little stream of crystal clear fresh water, flowing down a small gully to the sea. It is incredibly popular, so much so there is a boardwalk to the head of the stream. From there you can float down with the current – or if you are a tour group you can walk up then down en-masse, which was our first experience as they swamped us.
High tide proved a good time to see Eli, as it becomes impassable; for our second visit we had it to ourselves for a wonderful half hour.
Fraser is fantastic, tons to do all in close proximity and in relative terms a “safe” adventure.
Unlike some places in Australia, if you get stuck you are unlikely to be there for days waiting for another car – more likely you’ll be at the head of a queue forming behind you, embarrassed as anything but with plenty of helpers; after all if they are stuck behind you they have to get you out to get past!
The worst part of it is several hours back on the mainland washing and polishing the car to get the sand and salt off!