(Updated 2019) Fraser Island is an amazing World Heritage listed destination, and a “must-see” on any Australian east coast itinerary. At 125km long and 25km wide, the island is the biggest sand island in the world, with almost the entire 1840km2 a protected National Park.
The island is a nature lovers wonderland, with pristine freshwater lakes “perched” atop silicone white sand dunes, a rainforest growing entirely from sand, a 75 mile beach rated as one of the top 10 in the world by visitors, over 350 species of birds, and over 850 species of native plants.
With no sealed roads, the inland sand tracks that weave their way across the island, and the eastern beach “highway” can only be traversed by 4wd vehicles. For those with an adventurous spirit, a love of the outdoors, and a penchant for offroading, Fraser Island is a thrilling 4wd experience.
Fraser Island Self-Drive vs Fraser Island Tour
You will find a lot more detail in one of my previous blog posts, however my advice is usually that if you have the opportunity, it is best to do a guided tour first, then a self-drive adventure on your next visit to Fraser Island. There is so much history, geology and biology to learn about the island, and you will miss this by exploring the island on your own. A day tour to familiarise yourself with the conditions, and to understand all the things that make the island special, will enhance your self-drive experience on a future trip.
If you are considering a self drive, I recommend a minimum of 2 days, but preferably 3 days / 2 nights or more to allow you time to adjust to the regularly challenging driving conditions, and to give time to immerse yourself in the beauty of the island.
Planning a Fraser Island 4wd Self Drive Trip
If you are planning to hire a 4wd vehicle, be aware that you are not permitted to take general hire vehicles on the island. The major rental car companies (Hertz, Europcar etc) have specific clauses in their rental agreements prohibiting their vehicles from driving on Fraser Island. You will need to hire a vehicle from a local hire car company that has 4wd vehicles specifically equipped and set up for driving on Fraser Island. These hire companies in Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach are experienced and knowledgeable about the Island and its driving conditions, and have contingencies to assist if there are problems with the vehicle, if you get “stuck” or if you have an accident. If you hire a 4wd from Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach, it will generally include all necessary permits and barge crossing fees. You will also get a minimum 1 hour briefing / instruction with a suggested itinerary and a lot of local advice.
If you plan to take your own 4wd to the island you should only do so if it is a genuine high clearance 4wd designed for offroad use. As a rule, if you can’t lock the hubs then your “all wheel drive” city 4wd will not be adequate for handling the extremely challenging conditions on the island. (eg I would NOT take a Rav 4 or Kluger on the island).
The BEST resource when planning your trip is the National Parks website, where you will find all the information you will need for your Fraser Island trip. I will, however, summarise the important information and links below.
Fraser Island Permits
All vehicles accessing the island must have (and display) a vehicle access permit (approx $42). Anyone planning to camp on the island must also have camping permits (approx $5.45 per person per day). Permits can be purchased online from National Parks.
Fraser Island Barges
Access to the island is via Inskip Point (15 mins from Rainbow Beach – barge trip takes 10 minutes) or River Heads (20 minutes from Hervey Bay – trip takes 40 minutes) – bookings are recommended, and essential during school holidays (approx $175 return / vehicle : $200 during peak season). Barge tickets and island permits can also be purchased directly from the Kingfisher kiosk which is located near the barge departure point at River Heads. Alternatively see the Fraser Island Barges website for times and prices.
What to Take
Anyone planning a self-drive trip to Fraser Island should remember it is a remote location, with often very challenging conditions. The island is huge, and whilst there is frequent traffic on most routes during peak periods, if you get into difficulty in remote areas it is a long way to get help. Mobile phone coverage is very limited. Visitors should always do plenty of research prior to arriving, and anyone going to the island should have adequate travel, vehicle and medical insurance.
As a minimum you should carry – tyre pressure gauge and pump, snatch strap, shovel, maps, first aid kit, extra drinking water, sufficient fuel , insect repellent, sun screen, tide times. Here is a link to the best Fraser Island Map for planning and driving on the island. Ensure you check the weather forecast thoroughly before departing.
High clearance 4wd vehicles are essential – lock hubs and deflate tyre pressure to the minimum of your manufactures recommended specifications for driving on soft sand.
Beware beach hazards – washouts, creeks, high tides (only drive 2 hours either side of low tide on the eastern beach).
Obey speed limits and road rules – Queensland road rules apply on all beaches and tracks including wearing seat belts at all times! There have been numerous fatalities on the island and a major contributing factor is no seatbelt!
Minimise your impact! Do not park on dunes. Take all rubbish and everything you brought onto the island, off the island.
Some great resources below:
Driving on sand safety guide
Survive your drive on Fraser Island
Be Dingo Safe – AND considerate of wildlife – it was their island before we came, so respect their freedom. These are wild animals – Dingos of Fraser Island Safety Guide
Fraser Island Camping
Once on the island you have several options for camping – formal camp areas (Central Station, Dundubara, Waddy Point, Lake Boomajin), commercial campgrounds (Dilli Village, Cathedral Beach) , informal beach camping zones, and walkers camps (Lake McKenzie – no vehicles). The formal campgrounds are mostly within the interior of the island and have bathroom amenities, BBQs and dingo fences. These campsites can be booked via the National Parks permit link (above). For the adventurous, there is nothing better than picking a camp spot just off the beach, and relishing the solitude, peace and starlight.
Be aware that there are no open fires permitted on the island. In the formal camp grounds there are communal fire pits where open fires can be shared.
Limited fuel, food, and facilities can be found at small townships : Eurong, Kingfisher, Happy Valley, Orchid Beach, Cathedral Beach, and Dilli Village.
Must See Fraser Island Favourites
My suggested must-sees – Central Station, Pile Valley, Eli Creek, Lake Allom, Lake Birrabeen, Indian Head, Champagne Pools, Lake McKenzie, Lake Wabby.
Fraser Island 4wd Self-Drive Packages
If all this planning, permits, equipment and information seems overwhelming, then let us do all that for you! We have some awesome Fraser Island 4wd Self-Drive Packages that include everything you need – Landcruiser 4wd, instruction and safety briefing, camping equipment (or accommodation on the island), barge transfers, all permits, insurance, and a night before and night after in Hervey Bay at the Emeraldene Inn.
For example, 2 nights of Hervey Bay accommodation at the Emeraldene Inn (nights 1 and 3), plus 2 days / 1 night on Fraser Island (including car hire, insurance, barge transfers, all permits and fees, all camping equipment) – only $465 per person for 2 passengers (or $280pp for 4).
If camping isn’t your thing, we organise accommodation at Eurong Beach Resort for your time on the island. We have packages from 1 to 5 nights on the island.
As experienced local operators with some great local hire and tour operator partnerships, we are happy to assist anyone planning to visit the region. Please feel free to contact me directly with anything we can help with.
by Rob Lennon Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay
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