There are two access points to Fraser Island via barge: via Hervey Bay (technically River Heads), which lands you at Kingfisher Bay Resort on the west side of the island, or via Inskip Point, where the ferry drops you off on the southern tip of Fraser Island.
For our adventure, we chose the latter. We prefer accessing the island via Inskip Point. It is cheaper & quicker, the barges run every 10 minutes (sunrise to sunset, no booking required), and once you hit the beach, it's an easy beach drive to where ever you are staying. As a first timer, it's also easier to visit the main attractions directly off the Eastern beach. The only thing to consider is that the sand can be soft getting to the barge through Inskip Point. You also need to be mindful of timing your arrival with the tides as you will need to go around Hook Point to get from the barge landing point to the eastern beach. Depending on the conditions, from mid to high tide, Hook Point is often impassable. There is an inland bypass track that you can take for about 10 kilometres to bypass this section, however it's very bumpy, rough and slow going.
Coming from River Heads, you will land at the Kingfisher Bay Resort. From here, you will have to traverse the entire island from west to east on the inland tracks. This is approximately a 60 minute journey (1 way) which will take you quite a bit of time, and can be tricky if it's your first time driving on sand.
Three things we recommend doing prior to arriving on Fraser Island. One is to get a permit for driving on the beach. Two, fuel up in Rainbow Beach (there is petrol and diesel available on the island, but expect to pay top dollar). Three, drop your tyre pressure to around 18-20 psi. You should have equipped yourself with proper recovery gear like recovery boards, a snatch strap and (soft) shackles, rated recovery points on your vehicle and a shovel to dig yourself out of the sand should you get bogged.
Now it's time to get on the barge and make your way over to Fraser Island! If you want to learn more about what to bring to Fraser Island and how to prepare your 4x4, make sure you read our other Fraser Island blog.
Assuming you've driven up from Brisbane, by the time you reach Inskip Point, you've already been on the road for over 3 hours (250 kilometres). Add to that having to fuel up, grab a bite to eat and then wait for the barge, the time adds up quickly. It is essential to plan your visit around the tides, and even if you left early in the morning, it's likely getting close to lunchtime now. If you've packed a picnic, you can pull over once you hit 75 Mile Beach (the entire beach up to Ngkala Rocks on the eastern side of the island), and enjoy a quiet moment.
Alternatively, you can keep on driving for another 45 minutes before you hit Eurong, where there is a bakery and general store. This is also your main access point to the inland tracks which lead to some of the highlights on the island. The Eurong Beach Resort is a great place to base yourself to see all the southern island highlights. Prices are friendlier on the wallet as they have a range of accomodation options to suit your budget & lifestyle. There is also restaurant, an amazing pool plus its walking distance to the General Store + bakery. Remember, that you shouldn't swim in the ocean off Fraser Island, so you'll either have to visit one of the lakes, Eli Creek or the resort pool to get some refreshment
After lunch, there is nothing better than to park the 4x4, get settled into your prepared resort room & enjoy a cold drink by the pool. That's day one done if you don't want to rush it.
If you're super excited & want a bit more out of your day or to stretch the legs, our suggestion would be to take a quick drive up the beach to Lake Wabby. Lake Wabby is a perched lake that is slowly being taken over by the shifting sand dunes. This is a great stroll (45 mins one way) through the Fraser Island dunes, with the reward a deep, emerald green lake hidden away. A great spot for a swim with nature all around. It can be a hot walk during the middle of the day, so a late afternoon stroll is a great time to tackle it.
And don't forget - that road rules and speed limits apply on Fraser Island. The max speed is 80 kph on the beach, 40 kph in camping zones, and on the inland tracks 30 kph. You won't be going anywhere fast and you shouldn't want to either to really enjoy.
Your whole Fraser Island trip will depend on the tides. With no roads on the island, your travels up and down the beach will be dictated to by the tides. If you have a low tide in the morning and a high tide in the afternoon, you want to make sure to make the best of the beach first, and go inland after. The beach is at its best to drive on 2 hours either side of low tide, as this is when the sand is firm and the beach is at its widest.
Today, with a morning high tide, we're going inland first. This is super easy from Eurong, as you can drive straight to Central Station. Central Station is about your halfway point to one of the top highlights on Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie. Don't let the distance fool you though; it's only 15 kilometres from Eurong and you think 'the maximum speed is 30 kph, so it takes me half an hour', but this isn't true. The inland tracks on Fraser Island can get very bumpy, very soft and very congested. This is especially so in school holiday periods, or if it hasn't rained in a while. The tracks can get chewed up by the many tourists around and the tour busses with their big tyres.
So count on at least an hour drive to Lake McKenzie, but don't be surprised if it takes you longer. There are many detours and other inland tracks you can take and which will lead to other lakes, but none are as spectacular as Lake McKenzie. We'd suggest trying to get here early in the day to beat the day trippers crowds and tourists.
Make sure to pack a morning tea or lunch, but remember that you cannot eat it at the lake as they are trying to keep dingoes away from any unnatural food sources. There is a fenced enclosure to eat in that will keep the dingoes out; it's the other way around on Fraser Island with animals and humans.
Take it easy on your way back, and you'll be pretty happy to be back at Eurong again after your inland adventure.
If you feel up for another leg stretch, Central Station has had a recent renovation & has some interesting history on logging on the island. From Central Station, there are also some nice walks, toilets and picnic facilities. There is a boardwalk along the spectacularly clear, palm fringed Wanggoolba Creek. There is a slightly longer walk out to Basin Lake (allow 40 mins one way). This is a relatively flat walk, and the reward being another perched lake, about the size of a football field, you'll likely have to yourself.
Having covered off the main highlights along the inland tracks of Fraser Island, today is the day to hit the beach. You will need to plan it with the tides because you'll have to pass Eli Creek, which isn't always possible at high tide. Considering you're staying at Eurong, you will want to have crossed Eli Creek and be back on the south side again before high tide.
Heading north from Eurong, it's about 90 minutes to our final destination, The Champagne Pools. There are some more highlights along the way, so you can count on a good 2.5 to 3 hours before you arrive there.
After passing Eli Creek, you'll see something not found anywhere else: a landing trip for airplanes on the beach. There is even a sign that warns you too look out for planes, and you might start to see beacons & markers on the sand. The beach is so flat, that small, light planes can actually land and take off from the beach. You can even go and take a joy flight over the island for a spectacular view. A highlight in itself, this is hard to compare to a true Fraser Island icon: the Maheno Wreck. It's not every day you can park your 4x4 right next to the remnants of a ship wreck. Let me tell you it makes for some cool shots.
Continuing further up the beach you'll pass The Pinnacles, which are definitely worth a stop. These coloured sand cliffs are a spectacular display of hundreds of different colours that catch the light as it beams down from above. An array of oranges, reds, yellows, and browns is a sight to behold, especially during sunrise or sunset, or after its rained.
Keep driving and eventually you'll reach Indian Head, which is pretty much the only obstacle on this entire stretch of beach (bar a few rock outcrops that have bypasses). The bypass behind Indian Head is a great test to see how your 4x4 skills have progressed as you need to traverse 400m of soft sand. With the right momentum, tyre pressure, & following the existing tyre tracks, it shouldn't be an issue. Don't get too concerned if you don't make it the first time. Just don't dig yourself in, back up and try again. It'll all be worth it as Indian Head offers a very nice view to the north and south of Fraser Island, as well as the ocean after a short walk. Plus there are toilets and you'll have to cross it to get to the last highlight of our itinerary: Champagne Pools. If you time it right and get there on a rising tide, the water will be splashing over the rocks like champagne.
Enjoyed Champagne Pools! Fully refreshed! Had something to eat and drink. Well, then it's time to head back down the beach. There is a lot more to explore north on the northern side, like Orchid Beach, Waddy Point, Ocen Lake, Wathumba Creek and past Ngkala Rocks (not for the faint hearted), the absolutely stunning, Sandy Cape. If you want to venture there, you will need more time, experience & timing with the tides. Plus there is no accomodation at Sandy Cape, except remote camping, so you will have to be self sufficient to stay up there.
If you don't stop on your drive back to Eli Creek you can make it in about 70 minutes. One last time: plan this with the tides. Perhaps you want to keep some highlights we mentioned on the way up for the trip home to enjoy more time at the Champagne Pools. You just really need to make it back to Eli Creek before high tide.
No matter what, enjoy the drive and when you hit Eli Creek, take care when crossing it. Once you're on the southern side, you're sure to be good to make it back to Eurong no matter the tide, which is another 45 min drive approximately. So set up your beach tent alongside the creek, go for a refreshing dip and make sure to float down the stream in a tube or on a board. It's some of the best fun to be had on Fraser Island and a beautiful place to see.
After your last night at Eurong Resort (we counted on 4 days, 3 nights for this long weekend trip), it's time to pack up, grab a last coffee at the bakery and make your way back to Brisbane. You can do the walk to Lake Wabby on your last morning, drive up to Eli Creek if you're up for it, or even go back inland. Just remember that you've got about a 45 minute drive back to the barge, and a good 3-3.5 hours back home, perhaps even more if it's busy on the ever congested Bruce Highway.
It is a good idea to plan this itinerary from Friday to Monday, that way you beat the weekend traffic and you can be at Lake McKenzie early Saturday or Sunday morning so you don't have to struggle to find a parking spot. If you do this trip during School Holidays or in the middle of summer, you can be sure that it gets very busy (and very hot) on Fraser Island.
Our recommendation is to try and go in the off season - either April to July to avoid the crowds (but it can get cold) or late Winter, start of spring with the start of the Tailor season (August - October) when you'll be sharing Fraser Island mainly with fishermen. Winter also increases the chances of sighting more whales when those crisp westerly winds flatten the ocean.
Through winter, the mornings and evenings might be a bit cool, the water in Eli Creek somewhat refreshing, however the beach conditions are usually optimal and no big crowds. Eurong Beach Resort usually has some good deals around this time as well, so you can get to Fraser Island, stay in comfort, and not break the bank.
Any 4x4 purchased comes with complimentary membership to join the Motorama 4X4XMORE Club, which includes invites to tag-along tours to explore some of Queensland's most iconic 4x4 locations.
If you take you 4x4 to some remote location, over challenging obstacles or through rough terrain, you better make sure it's serviced properly. Make sure your 4x4 doesn't let you down when you need it most!