Fraser Island – Aboriginal History & Legends (part 2)


Fraser Island - K'Gari - Paradise

Aboriginal life on Fraser Island

In the Butchulla people’s language, Fraser Island was known as “K’gari” (pronounced “gurri”) meaning “paradise”. Butchulla translates as “the sea people”.

Archaeological evidence suggests Aboriginal settlements existed on Fraser Island at least 5000 years ago. The Butchulla (Badtjala) people were the primary claimants of the island, and also controlled the mainland territory to Bauple Mountain, including the current locations of Maryborough and Hervey Bay. Whilst there was a permanent population on the island of around 500, this swelled to in excess of 3000 during the winter months when seafood was abundant.

The arrival of European explorers and settlers around 1840 (see my previous Blog post) had a devastating impact upon Aboriginal life on the island. Weapons, disease, hostility and government intervention forced the Butchulla people from their traditional homelands over the ensuing years, with only 250 survivors remaining by 1890. The timber industry and Anglican missionaries then arrived in force, and over the following 10 years poor treatment and hostile policies implemented by the State Government saw 94 Aborigines buried in 2 cemeteries on the west coast of Fraser.

 In 1904 the balance of the Butchulla tribe (now numbering around 100) were forcibly relocated to missions in Yarrabah near Cairns by the State Government, over 1500km from their traditional homelands. The last known Butchulla tribesman was “captured” in 1930 and deported to Cherbourg mission under police escort for no criminal offence.

On 13th February, 2008 an official apology was made to Indigenous Australians delivered by the Australian Prime Minister on behalf of Parliament and the Australian people, specifically for treatment of Indigenous Australians during the above period (1900 – 1950).

There are now only a handful of surviving descendents of the Butchulla people, some of whom once again live within the Fraser Coast region. Their history and legends are important, and efforts are being made to find and preserve important cultural sites so that this history can be shared with future generations. Proposals have recently been made to officially change the name of the island back to its traditional name of “K’gari”.

The Creation of Fraser Island (K’Gari) – a Butchulla Legend

(From stories told by direct descendent and Elder of the Butchulla people – Olga Miller)

Beiral, the great God in the sky, made all the people.  But after he made the people, Beiral realised that the people had no lands! So Beiral sent a messenger, Yendingie, to solve the problem and create lands for the people. Yendingie came down from the sky, and set to work to make the sea, and then the land. When Yendingie arrived at what is now known as Hervey Bay, he had a helper – the beautiful white spirit called Princess K’Gari.

K’Gari was a great helper, and helped Yendingie make the sea shores, the mountain ranges, the lakes and the rivers. Princess K’Gari enjoyed her work very much, and worked tirelessly to create all this natural beauty. One day Yendingie was concerned, and said to her, “K’Gari, you better rest, otherwise you will be too tired to continue our work.  There are some rocks over there in the sea. Why don’t you go and lie down and have a sleep?”

So Princess K’gari lay down on the rocks and had a long and deep sleep. When she awoke she said to Yendingie, “I think this is the most beautiful place we have ever created. Please, Yendingie, may I stay here forever?” “Oh no, K’Gari, I cannot allow that. You are a spirit, and you belong here with me!” But K’Gari pleaded with him, “Please, please Yendingie … I could still look up into the sky and see what you are doing. I would love to stay here.”

Finally Yendingie agreed. “You may stay here, but you cannot stay in spirit form. I will need to change you.” So he changed her into a beautiful island. So she wouldn’t be lonely, he then made some beautiful trees and flowers, and some lakes that were specially mirrored so that she could see into the sky. He made creeks and laughing waters that would become her voice, and birds and animals and people to keep her company. He gave these people knowledge and laws, and told them what to do, and how to procreate, so that their children and ancestors would always be there to keep K’Gari company.

And she is still there today, looking up at the sky in one of the truly most beautiful places on earth! She is very happy in, and as, “paradise”.

by Rob Lennon        Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

Fraser Island History and Legends


European History

The history of Fraser Island is as diverse and colourful as its flora and fauna. Whilst the island has been inhabited by humans for possibly as long as 5000 years, it’s European history begins in 1770 when explorer Captain James Cook sailed past the island on the 20th May of that year.

Cook first believed the island was part of the mainland, and named it Great Sandy Peninsula. Three decades later Matthew Flinders was the first white man to set foot upon Fraser, landing on the northern point (Sandy Cape) in 1802.

Local Aborigines were sighted and reported by Cook in his logs in 1770, and Aboriginal legends also report sighting Cook’s ship sailing towards a “dangerous sand shoal”.  The Aborigines, standing in a group on the beach, shouted and waved warnings to the ship, which saw the shoal at the last moment and changed course quickly, to then disappear “into the sea” and over the horizon.

The first “official” exploration of the Island occurred 20 years later in 1822, when Captain William Edwardson was sent north by the Governor of NSW to search for a site for a new penal colony. Edwardson soon discovered that the peninsula referred to by Cook and Flinders was, in fact, an island, and renamed it Great Sandy Island. He was in the Hervey Bay / Moreton Bay region for three months, but was deterred by the “hostile natives” from exploring Fraser Island to any great degree. The new penal colony was eventually settled in Moreton Bay and formed the beginnings of what was to become Brisbane.

Perhaps the most interesting story begins on the 20th May 1836, exactly 66 years after Cook discovered “Great Sandy Peninsula”. On this day the 350 ton brig Stirling Castle sailed past the island on a voyage from Sydney to Singapore. On board was Captain James Fraser, his wife Eliza and a crew of 16. The unlucky Captain Fraser was said to have spent more time in lifeboats than onboard the vessels he commanded.  A written account suggests “Fraser was a pompous, fat old bore of about sixty, much in demand by shipowners who had managed to over-insure their vessels. He had the reputation of a man who could succeed in sailing any ship to its destruction in a cloudless sky and in total absence of reef, shoal or iceberg!”.

Sure enough, on 22nd May 1836, Captain Fraser sailed the Stirling Castle straight onto a reef in the Swains Reef group, approx 220km north of Fraser Island (now known as Eliza Reef). The Captain and crew stayed aboard the wreck until the following day, when waves breaking over the vessel threatened to break her up, and it was decided to abandon ship. Eleven crew escaped in the longboat and seven others in the pinnace, and they proceeded to sail for nine days south before landing on Lady Musgrave Island to repair their leaking boats.

After another nine days of sailing south, the crew in the pinnace (at this stage on unpleasant terms with their Captain), discovered they could sail faster than the longboat, and decided to part company with the Captain and others. The Captain disapproved vehemently, but at this stage was not well respected by his crew, and the two boats went their separate ways.

The Captain’s plan was to head to the settlement at Moreton Bay. After a few more days at sea, however, there was smoke sighted ashore, and the remaining crew became mutinous. They threatened to throw the good Captain overboard if he did not agree to put in to shore! They beached about 30km south of Sandy Cape on “Great Sandy Island” (three weeks after leaving the wreck of their ship!). “Natives” came down in crowds as they landed, and whilst at first they were held at bay by firearms, eventually exchanged food and fish for clothing.

The Captain and Second Mate set about repairing the badly leaking longboat, with the other seamen refusing to lend a hand. When the Captain considered the boat again seaworthy and was ready to head south again to Moreton Bay, the crew refused to help launch the boat and informed the Captain they would walk to Moreton Bay!

Captain Fraser, his wife Eliza and the Second Mate Baxter were left behind, and unable to launch the longboat on their own.  They set off south along the beach on foot, taking with them all the supplies they could carry.

From this point on the narrative becomes confusing, as the lone survivor, Eliza Fraser, changed and embellished her story many times over the ensuing years. It is assumed her first account is likely to be the most accurate: “The next day we met with numerous tribes of natives, who finding us unarmed, took everything from us with the exception of our clothes, beating us severely at the least resistance”.

Eliza Fraser

After walking for another 2 days “without food or water”, they came upon another tribe who stripped them naked and forced them to their camp. They were then “enslaved” to “carry wood, water, and bark, and treated with the greatest cruelty”.

Captain Fraser, not the fittest to begin with, soon became weakened and incapacitated. Unable to lift a large log he was instructed to carry, he was speared by one of the natives, the spear entering just below his shoulder blade. He died about 8 days later (approx 4th August) and was buried by the tribe. (The Second Mate also died at the hands of his captors, after being “burned and tortured” by the natives for not being able to “carry wood”.)

A few days later (according to Eliza), one of the natives (who may have been an escaped convict – David Bracewell) rowed her to the mainland in a canoe and aided her escape. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew that had parted ways upon the high seas had reached safety on Bribie Island, and a search party was launched for Captain Fraser, his wife and the rest of his crew.

After being passed through another two tribes on the mainland, Eliza was eventually rescued. Lieutenant Otter, leading the rescue party wrote : “Although only 38 years of age she looked like an old woman of 70, perfectly black and dreadfully crippled from the suffering she had undergone.”

Eliza Fraser Rescue

Initially, Eliza enjoyed much sympathy. This began to wane, however, when her accounts of the ordeal became more and more random, and increasingly embellished. After her return to England she became a minor media celebrity, and her story grew even wilder. In one account she claimed she had given birth to a child during her ordeal just after leaving the wreck – it had died and been consigned to the deep! Controversy followed when she approached the Mayor of London to request a charity be set up for her and her 3 children (not mentioning the fact she had secretly married another sea Captain in Sydney within 6 months of being rescued before heading back to England on his boat).

There is no record of when the island officially became known as “Fraser Island”, but there is no doubt that the first mentions of the island as “Fraser” were in the British press, being named after the “ordeals” of Eliza and her husband.  Eliza became a sideshow attraction in Hyde Park in London, telling ever more exciting versions of her story to anyone who would listen. She was killed in a carriage accident in Melbourne in 1858 during a subsequent visit to Australia.

Throughout it’s long history, the island has been called Fraser Island for only a brief and recent span of time. For thousands of years previous to this, the traditional landowners had their own name for the island - “K’gari”, pronounced “Gurri” in the Butchulla people’s language. There is currently debate calling for the name of the island to be changed back to it’s original and traditional name – K’gari. The Aboriginal stories and legends about the creation of the island are beautiful and timeless, and I will share these in part two of this blog post.

Everyone should visit Fraser Island at least once, preferably by choice and not by shipwreck!! If you are travelling to Hervey Bay, or would like to visit Fraser Island, we would love to have you stay with us at the Emeraldene Inn. We have some awesome packages for tours, accommodation and self-drive to visit Fraser Island.

Acknowledgement : For a full history of Fraser Island, Fred William’s “Princess K’Gari’s Fraser Island” is the best book I have read!

Copyright: no portion, in whole or part should be reproduced from this article without the express permission of the author and without being properly acknowledged. (c)

by Rob Lennon    Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

Fraser Island 4wd Self Drive


Fraser Island 4x4Fraser 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

Fraser Island Self DriveIf 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 $160 return / vehicle). 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.

Fraser Island Map

Safety

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 $407 per person for 2 passengers (or $260pp 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

 

Lady Elliot Island & Fraser Island Packages


Reef, Rainforest, Sand Dunes (& Salty Air)!

Hervey Bay gives the visitor the unique opportunity to experience 2 magnificent World Heritage listed natural destinations – Fraser Island & the Great Barrier Reef.

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world (125km x 25km) and boasts ancient and amazing rainforest, perched freshwater lakes, one of the world’s most beautiful beaches, and an incredible diversity of native bird and wildlife.

Lady Elliot Island sits at the bottom of the Great Barrier Reef, and offers the visitor arguably the best coral and marine diversity of any tourist accessible reef on the east coast of Australia.

For nature lovers, these are 2 totally different nature based experiences, but both accessible from Hervey Bay, allowing overseas visitors to tick a lot of “Australia” boxes in a short period of time, and from an easily accessible base.

3 & 5 Day Itineraries

We have put together 3 amazing & popular packages that showcase these attractions in the best way possible, allowing visitors to optimise time and budget. We take care of all the arrangements, transfers and bookings, and can even organise tilt train transfers from Brisbane or northern ports.

Eco-Adventure

Without doubt, if time allows, 2 days / 1 night on both islands is the best way to go. Our incredible 5 Day Eco-Adventure Package includes 2 days / 1 night on Lady Elliot (including return scenic flights and limo transfers to/from the airport), 2 days / 1 night on Fraser Island, nights 1, 3, and 5 at the Emeraldene Inn, and all meals on the tours. A number of accommodation options are available with prices starting from $885pp twin share all inclusive (or $615pp for 2 adults / 2 kids).

With this package the 2 trips are totally different experiences. The Fraser Island Safari is a fully guided trip, which includes LOTS of expert information, history, biological & geological facts from experienced guides.

The Lady Elliot Trip is what we like to call “self-guided”. Whilst all activities (glass bottom boat tour, guided snorkel tour, turtle tour, bird tour, reef walk tour etc) on Lady Elliot are included, you can choose when, what and if you want to participate. You may just want to chillax and snorkel for 2 days (snorkelling equipment use free of charge btw) ….  or if you are certified, you might like to do a dive on the afternoon of arrival (extra charge) …. it’s up to you!

Fraser & Reef Package

If time is an issue, then our Fraser & Reef Package is a great option. As there is a lot to fit into a short period of time, this package incorporates premium tour options with small groups to optimise your experience in the region (3 nights and 2 full days).

In addition to enjoying 3 nights in our best Superior Suites (king beds, free wifi, free plunger coffee, free bottled water), you will explore Fraser Island in a Hummer, with a maximum of 4 passengers and driver / guide. Little extras like free Hummer Hats, morning and afternoon tea, a beach picnic with beer and wine,  and champagne and chocolates on the way home make this a memorable day.

The following day is a day trip to Lady Elliot Island. After a limo transfer to the airport you will enjoy an amazing scenic flight to Lady Elliot Island where you can spend the whole day exploring the island and the surrounding Great Barrier Reef. Glass bottom boat tour, guided snorkel tour, reef walk tour and seasonal tours are all included for you to participate if and when you please. A huge buffet lunch is included to recharge those snorkelling legs so you can get back out there in the afternoon and squeeze in as much reef time as possible!

This great package is available for only $725pp all inclusive.

2 Day (3 night) Fraser Explorer Package

If you’ve only got time for Fraser Island, then make it 2 days on the island so you can really appreciate the beauty of the place, and also get to explore the top end up to Indian Head and the Champagne Pools .

This package includes nights 1 and 3 at the Emeraldene Inn plus the Fraser Explorer 2 Day Tour. This fully guided tour (max 40 passengers) collects you from the Emeraldene at 6:50am on the morning of day 2 of your package. You have 2 full days on the island with a very experienced guide who can pass on all the history and interesting information that makes Fraser Island unique. Accommodation overnight is at the Eurong Beach Resort in ensuited private motel-style rooms, and all meals whilst on the island are included. You will be dropped back at the Emeraldene at 6:30pm on the evening of day 3.

This package is $415pp twin share – awesome value!

More Packages

These 3 packages are by far our most popular trips, but we have a lot of other packages available on our website for you to explore. We are also more than happy to tailor a package to meet your needs, so don’t be afraid to ask! Our aim is to make your travel planning as easy as possible, and for us to do all the work so you can enjoy your time on the Fraser Coast.

by Rob Lennon                                Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

Which Fraser Island 1 Day Tour ?


Fraser Island Tours

As discussed in a previous blog post, Fraser Island is a BIG island, being nearly 125km long and 25km wide. There are no roads on the island, just sand tracks, which can be quite difficult to traverse during periods of extended dry conditions. As such, seeing the island in a single day is a challenge, but if this is the only time you have, then it is still an incredible experience.

Tours from Hervey Bay vs Rainbow Beach / Brisbane / Noosa

As can be seen on the accompanying map, most of the good stuff to see is in the middle third of the island. The tours that depart from Hervey Bay cross from the mainland at River Heads (about 20 minutes south of Hervey Bay), and land right at Wanggoolba Creek on the western side of Fraser Island. You have immediate access to the middle of the island, and you are only minutes away from Lake McKenzie, Pile Valley and Central Station.

If you depart from other destinations south, you will travel to the island from Inskip Point, west of Rainbow Beach, and then face a journey either up the eastern beach or on a rough track inside the island (depending on the tides). Tours from Noosa or Brisbane make for a VERY long day, as you face a 3 ½ hour transit from Brisbane before you even get to the island, or 2 hours from Noosa.

Most of the Day Tours that depart from Brisbane or Noosa do not include the northern sites of Eli Creek, the Maheno Shipwreck or the Pinnacles Coloured Sands. Departures from Hervey Bay include 8 hours on the island vs only 3 hours for some trips from Brisbane.

Maheno Shipwreck Fraser Island

Which Day Tour?

For departures from Hervey Bay ALL 1 day tours visit the same sites on the island – Wanggoolba Creek, Pile Valley, Central Station, Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek, Maheno Shipwreck and Pinnacles Coloured Sands. (On the 2 day tours you also get to explore Lake Wabby [my favourite lake] and the top of the island – Indian Head & Champagne pools) ALL tours depart the mainland on the 8:30am barge from River Heads and return on the 5:00pm barge from Wanggoolba Creek.

The primary difference between the tours on offer is group size (and meal options). Obviously the smaller the group size, the more expensive the tour. During very busy periods (Xmas, Easter and school holidays) it is a definite advantage to be in a smaller group tour.

The 3 day tours that I recommend are the Fraser Explorer Day Tour (40 passengers – $175pp peak, $155 low season), Fraser Explorer Premium Tour (20 passengers – $199pp), and the Fraser Experience Hummer Tour (4 passengers – $245pp). The Explorer Day Tour includes a buffet lunch at Eurong Resort, the Premium Tour includes an ala carte lunch at Eurong Resort which includes beer and wine, and the Hummer Tour includes a picnic lunch with beer and wine, and a special afternoon champagne and chocolate treat! All trips have morning or afternoon tea.

There are a couple of other operators in Hervey Bay that offer other small group tours. These tours have either 7 or 8 passengers (plus driver) in a Landcruiser. For me personally, I wouldn’t find it appealing to be squeezed in a landcruiser amongst 8 of my closest friends and family for a full day of hot and bumpy driving, let alone a number of complete strangers, so I’m not a big fan of these options – but if you like to make friends on tour, then the option is there!

All these tours offer free transfers from Hervey Bay accommodations and from the Emeraldene Inn.

There is further information about these tours and itineraries on our website, and lots of Fraser Island Tour packages worth checking out. Drop me an email (relax@emeraldene.com.au) if I can help with any questions or tour planning advice.

By Rob Lennon                                 Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay

Fraser Island Tour or Self-Drive?


Fraser Island is a World Heritage listed destination for a justifiable reason – it is a magical reflection of nature at its best! How to experience all the island has to offer in the best way possible, is the real challenge for a visitor to the region with a limited time and expense budget. With this in mind, it is first worth explaining why Fraser Island is unique, and why it is a MUST visit destination on your east coast excursion.

Fraser Island Info & Facts

Fraser Island is located off the southern Queensland coast, and is the largest sand island in the world. The island is 125km long and 25km wide, and other than a few small urban settlements, almost the entire 1840km2 landmass is a protected National Park.

The sand, which has been accumulating for over 750,000 years, is almost 98% pure silicon quartz, and is as soft and pure as talcum powder. There are over 36 sandblows on the island, which are huge parabolic dunes which constantly move and change under the influence of prevailing winds. The eastern “75 mile” beach is known as the “beach highway” and doubles as a landing strip for small planes and a roadway for vehicles.

Fraser Island is the only place on Earth where a rainforest grows entirely out of sand. In Pile Valley there are 1000 year old satinay trees, as well as scribbly gums, red gums, piccabeen palms, pandanus and brush box. More than 850 species of plants thrive on the island, growing entirely from sand!

Fraser Island has over 100 freshwater lakes, including 40 perched lakes – some of the cleanest lakes in the world! The fresh water in the perched lakes, sitting on top of compact sand and vegetable matter, is so pure and soft, that you truly experience a sense of weightlessness as you float above almost pure white silica sand. Lake McKenzie is the most famous lake and is a photographer’s dream.

For the bird watchers there are over 350 species of bird on the island. There are over 74 species of reptiles and of course there is also the famous Fraser Island dingo – one of the last pure bred dingo species in the world.

Fraser Island Self-Drive or Fraser Island Tour?

Fraser Island is MUCH bigger than most people anticipate. There are no sealed roads on the island – they are all sand tracks. During long dry periods these tracks can get VERY rough and dug up by the constant daily traffic and tour buses. It can be very challenging crossing from the west coast to the east coast of the island if you are not experienced in driving offroad and in sand.

If you are considering a self-drive trip (and you have not been to the island before), you should plan a minimum of 2 days (preferably more). To try to “see” the island in a day when driving in unfamiliar and challenging conditions is inviting trouble. I recommend 3 days / 2 nights if you want to self-drive and get a full and meaningful experience of the island.

The other advantage of a tour is that there is SO much fascinating and interesting information about the flora, fauna, European and Indigenous history, and geology and biology of the island. You can only get this from an experienced guide. You simply miss out on 50% of the experience if you wander around the island yourself with a guide book.

My recommendation is to do a guided tour (either 1 day or 2 day) the first time you visit the island, and then when you come back embark on your own self-drive adventure.

Fraser Island Tours – 1 Day or 2 Day ?

There are numerous options for guided tours to Fraser Island (and I will dissect the different Fraser Island tours in another blog post). As discussed, Fraser Island is BIG, and there is a lot to see, so trying to do it in a day is a real rush. You can get a taste of the island in a day, but if you want to spend time enjoying the beauty of the different sites on the island I really recommend you take the time to do a 2 day tour.

The 1 day tours (from Hervey Bay) only go as far north as the coloured sands, just above the Maheno Shipwreck, whilst on the 2 day tours you also get to experience Indian Head and the Champagne Pools, and obviously get to spend aa lot more time at all of the stops.

We have lots of great Fraser Island packages (both self-drive and guided) on our website. Check them out and drop me an email (relax@emeraldene.com.au) if I can help with planning and advice.

by Rob Lennon                 Emeraldene Inn & Eco-Lodge, Hervey Bay