Fraser Island has long been one of my favourite spots to explore. I’ve been going there before I could walk and when my family lived in Hervey Bay I’d regularly jump in the tinnie with my big brothers and drive across to Fraser Island’s Moon Point to spend the night fishing the sand banks, dreaming of the day when I could have my own boat, 4wd & driver’s licence… I’ve lost count how many times I’ve stepped foot on Fraser but I still get excited every time I go there.
Stretching just over 120kms, Fraser is one of Australia’s premier 4wd destinations. For some, Fraser represents the chance to escape with the family for a week or weekend, for others it’s a yearly fishing haunt, and for many it’s a once in a lifetime experience just to see the place. Whatever your reason for visiting Fraser, it’s best to go armed with a plan of what you want to see and do, especially if you find yourself battling the crowds during a peak period. So this is my guide to exploring Fraser’s lesser known spots – the ones you can go to in the school holidays and still have your own patch of sand – starting at the south.
From the moment you drive off the Inskip Point Ferry you’re faced with options: you can head straight up Middle Road and enjoy this rough, corrugated and dusty track, or if the tide is low enough you can turn right and head around Fraser’s southern-most point, Hook Point.
Hook Point offers fantastic views back to Rainbow Beach and you’d be pretty unlucky not to see a steady supply of birds checking out the surf and soaking up the sun here. Fraser has over 350 different species of birds that visit the island and some species like the Arctic Tern can live for over 20years! Give these local birds some room on your way past, because when they’ve just flown in from Antarctica the last thing they want to do is be forced to take off again because a 4wd is going to run them over.
When you’re driving along the beach, keep a look out for things that have been washed up. I’ve seen everything from fully grown Humpback whales to turtles and Manta Rays; many of them have also had sizable shark bites which are a healthy reminder that the waters surrounding Fraser are not just home to friendly fish.
Only 20kms or so up the beach you reach Dilli Village and you can head inland here to Lake Birrabeen. This lake is almost a carbon copy of Fraser’s super popular Lake Mackenzie only it doesn’t get the same number of tourists. So if you’re after a Lake Mackenzie experience without the crowds, this is a fantastic spot. Birrabeen is a perched lake which basically means it needs rainwater to stay full and it sits “perched” above Fraser’s huge underground water table.
On a sunny day this place is one of the most picturesque spots on the island and it makes a fantastic spot for a swim. If you’re feeling fit you can swim right the way across to the other side and you’ll notice a small clearing that you’re almost guaranteed to have all to yourself. But if that sounds like too much work on your holiday, you can wade around in the shallows, and with a bit of luck you might spot a turtle on the fringes of the vegetation.
By now you’ll be pretty tired, especially if you swam across Lake Birrabeen and back and you’ll probably want to setup camp before night fall. You’ve got three options: if you’re down right terrified of dingoes you can camp inland in one of the dingo-proof enclosures; if you’re into your beach fishing you can head back out to one of the many spots on the eastern beach or if you really don’t like socializing and want to maximize your chances of solitude go to Ungowa on the western side of the island. This is a fantastic spot to watch the sun set and enjoy the views of the Great Sandy Straits. Bbzzzzzzzz… Don’t forget that sandflies enjoy sunsets on the western side as much as we do.
Speaking of the western side a great spot on the Island is Wathumba which is on the north eastern side of the island. It’s a bit of a drive if you’ve only just arrived on the island so for most people it’ll be their second night’s camp.
To get to Wathumba you’ve got a few options, my personal favorite is via Woralie Road. This is one of the prettiest tracks you can do on Fraser, as it winds its way across the island and through a variety of scenery from heath country to dense rainforest.
Once you pop out on the far side the fun begins as you are greeted with the wide open and remote western beach. Unlike the eastern side of Fraser, the western beach is often very soft and unpredictable. Lots of people have lost their cars around this part of the island so make sure you’ve got some experience in soft sand driving before venturing out onto the west side. This is as remote as Fraser gets so if you do get stuck it could be quite some time before someone arrives to help.
For the most part you’ll share the west side of Fraser more with boaties than with other 4wders as not too many people head over that way. It helps give Fraser a more adventurous feel and even during the school holidays you could drive along the beach here and not have any wheel tracks to follow.
There are heaps of creek crossings on this side of Fraser, and depending on the tide some can be deep and boggy so if you’re a little unsure it’s best to walk them first. While you are at it, give the water a taste test to see if it’s fresh or salt.
Access to Wathumba from the south west is always a bit of fun and it’s not uncommon to find huge stretches of sea weed covering the beach here. You need to be really careful driving over this stuff – if the sea weed has been there for a while, soft white sand can cover it making it almost impossible to spot, and more importantly, there can be a thick layer of sea weed sitting on top of the water which can make it look like there is hard ground underneath not 10ft of salt water.
Wathumba’s main draw cards are its remoteness, the fishing and I really enjoy snorkeling up down and around the mangroves here. At the top of the tide, it is mind-blowingly beautiful but at low tide it’s a bit swampy, and sandfly and mosquito infested, so make sure you pack the repellant!
Another section on Fraser that’s also remote is the Sandy Cape. To get here you need to cross the South and North Nkgala Rocks. These coffee rock sections can be a real challenge depending on what the tides and weather conditions have been like. Don’t forget though that Fraser is the world’s largest SAND island, so if one of the rocky sections is a bit full-on then you’re usually only a short walk away from some sand that can be used to fill in any big ruts or ledges that could be of concern. There are also some small bypass tracks around some sections of the rocks but even these can cause problems as the sand can be very soft, but with your tyre pressures let down these really shouldn’t be a problem.
Once you’ve conquered the Nkgala Rocks it’s free sailing to Fraser’s most northern point. At the Sandy Cape you’ll usually only be sharing it with keen fisho’s and people who prefer the more remote style of camping, which is just the way I like it.