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Along with the Whitsunday Islands, Fraser Island is a staple stop off for backpackers heading up, or down, Australia’s East Coast. My friend, Rachel, and I stopped off at Fraser Island where we boarded a Fraser Island ferry with a group and spent two nights on this sandy island. If you’d like to plan a Fraser Island trip but are wondering how to visit Fraser Island, here’s how to get there along with what to pack and what to do during your visit to Fraser Island.
About Fraser Island
Fraser Island on the east coast of Australia is the world’s largest sand island. It’s just off the southeast coast of Queensland and is a UNESCO listed island and one of the best wilderness adventures you can have in Australia.
The island stretches on for over 120km and is full of untamed beaches, old-growth forest, beautiful Fraser Island lakes and wildlife. The only things it lacks are infrastructure and paved roads! Which is what makes a visit here so great and why Fraser Island holidays are so popular.
Fraser Island’s most infamous inhabitants are the dingos. Whilst they may look like rather cute dogs they’re in fact pretty dangerous. You’ll have to take special precautions to make sure your camp isn’t raided by dingos.
How to get to Fraser Island, Australia
Getting to Fraser Island involves taking a small boat – as you’d expect when visiting an island! One of the most common ways is to come from Hervey Bay to Fraser Island as lots of backpackers heading up the east coast stop in Hervey Bay.
Barge to Fraser Island
One of the most popular ways to get to Fraser Island is to take the Manta Ray barge. This runs between Inskip Point and the southern tip of Fraser Island. It costs about AUS$120 return per 4×4 car and takes just 10 minutes. The barges to Fraser Island runs from 6 am-5.15 pm daily.
If you’ve booked on to a tour of the island with a company the cost of this should be included in your package.
Alternatively, you could take a ferry to Fraser Island with Fraser Island Barges. These are less frequent and go from River Heads (just outside of Hervey Bay) to Wanggoolba Creek and Kingfisher Bay on the west of the island. These barges to Fraser Island take a bit longer – about 50 minutes – but do cost a little less at AUS$105 per vehicle.
Flights to Fraser Island
There are no airports on Fraser Island. The closest airport to Fraser Island is Hervey Bay, which has domestic flights from Sydney or from Brisbane. If you’re looking to go from Brisbane to Fraser Island, a flight will be quickest, or you can drive in 3-4 hours.
Upon landing in Hervey Bay, drive south to River Heads to catch the barge as above.
I always use Skyscanner to book flights whenever I travel as it never fails to get me the best travel deals!
Driving on Fraser Island
The only real way, and definitely the best way to see Fraser Island, is to hire a 4WD or join a tour and drive the sands for a few days.
Where to rent a 4×4 for Fraser Island
If you plan to visit Fraser Island on your own you’ll need to haeva . 4×4. There are no paved roads on Fraser Island and as a result, it’s not recommended to take anything other and a 4WD with high clearance. Cars without this are likely to get damaged or stuck in the sand and boggy ground.
If you don’t have a 4WD you can hire one from several places before catching the barge. You must be 21 and over to be able to get a 4WD hire for Fraser Island. If you’re under 21 like I was when I went, then your best bet is to join a tour of Fraser Island.
Hervey Bay 4WD rental
You can rent a 4WD from the following companies in Hervey Bay amongst others.
Inskip Point 4WD rental
You can also find Fraser Island 4wd hire from Rainbow Beach. This is great if you’re catching the barge over to the southern tip of Fraser Island.
4WD Hire on Fraser Island
There’s only one place to hire a 4WD on Fraser Island, and that’s Aussie Trax. They don’t get the best reviews but by waiting to pick up your 4WD hire on Fraser Island, you’ll save a bit of money on barge ticket prices. Just don’t expect anything too fancy with this car hire in Fraser Island.
Book your Fraser Island car rental with Aussie Trax here.
Vehicle permits for visiting Fraser Island
You will also need a vehicle permit in order to drive on the island. The rental companies listed above should be able to help with this but if you are taking your own car then buy a Fraser Island permit online, or in person at the following offices:
- QWPS Rainbow Beach Office (7a m – 4 pm daily) ph: 54863160
- River Heads Info Office – Barge landing car park – (6.15 am – 11 am daily )
- Marina Kiosk Hervey Bay – Urangan Boat Harbour – (6 am – 6 pm daily)
A vehicle permit costs $50.60 for 1 week or less and must be placed on the left-hand side of your windscreen/dashboard so that it is visible from the outside of the vehicle.
Where to stay on Fraser Island
Since a trip to Fraser Island is a wilderness trip, you won’t find many hotels to stay in (although there are a few!). Most visitors choose to camp. There also aren’t really any hostels in Fraser Island, the most budget-friendly way of visiting is to camp.
Best hotel on Fraser Island
Check out these hotels on Fraser Island if you’re looking for somewhere to stay.
Kingfisher Bay Resort
Kingfisher Resort on Fraser Island, is one of the most popular choices for Fraser Island accommodation. The resort has 4 pools, is beachfront and ideal for couples looking for a Fraser island hotel.
Fraser Island Retreat
Another of the more popular Fraser Island hotels is Fraser Island Retreat. It has a pool and villas with beach views. It’s also super close to some of the top Fraser Island attractions listed below.
Where to camp on Fraser Island
There are 45 areas for camping on Fraser Island. These vary in terms of facilities so pick according to your preference. Some campgrounds have ‘dingo deterrent’ fences which help stop dingos getting too close.
People say that one of the most picturesque campsites on Fraser Island is Central Station. Central Station campground is towards the middle of the island and is a great place for exploring the lakes.
How to buy a camping permit
If you are camping then you’ll need to purchase a camping permit. This applies whether you plan on camping in a designated campground or not. You can buy a camping permit online at QLD.gov.au. You can also buy it in person at the QPWS office at Rainbow Beach or Eurong (on the island).
Make sure to print your permit before you head to Fraser Island. Once on the island attach your Fraser Island camping permit to your tent or camper van. If the inspection officers can’t see your permit, or you don’t have one, then you could be fined.
Camping permits for Fraser Island cost around $6 per person per night and children under 5 are free. If you want to shower during your stay then you’ll need to take extra change to pay for this!
Best Fraser Island Tours
These tours all involve a 4WD Fraser Island experience. Some are Fraser Island day tours, others are multi-day. If you can swing it, I’d highly recommend looking into the longer Fraser Island tours from Hervey Bay as that way you’ll get to really experience the beauty of this island.
Whilst you may be looking to save money, remember that you get what you pay for when it comes to cheap Fraser Island tours (crappy vehicles, not much food, etc!).
Fraser Island day trips
- This Fraser Island day tour from Noosa or Rainbow Beach gives you the chance to experience a day trip to Fraser Island. Lunch is included on this Fraser Island 1 day tour too.
Mutli-day Fraser Island adventure tours
These multi-day Fraser Island 4WD tours include accommodation in hotels. You’ll be able to book cheaper, camping tours at hostels in Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay.
- This Fraser Island 2 day tour goes from Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach and includes a stay at Eurong Beach Resort rather than camping.
- Another option for a 2 day Fraser Island tour is this Fraser Island 4WD tag along tour that goes from Hervey Bay. You also get to experience driving your own 4WD too.
- This is an extension of the above tour giving you 3 days, 4 nights on Fraser Island and is a great option for those looking for Fraser Island self drive tours.
Best things to do in Fraser Island
Wondering what to do in Fraser Island? Here’s your guide to the best things to do including Fraser Island lakes, beaches and more.
The vivid blue of Lake McKenzie tends to be on most guided tours. I stopped off here on my tour of Fraser Island and went for a quick dip!
Eli Creek, Fraser Island
Eli Creek is freshwater and makes a great spot for a relaxing float along with the current. There’s a boardwalk which takes you to the top of the creek too.
SS Maheno Shipwreck
The SS Maheno Shipwreck is also on pretty much every Fraser Island itinerary. The ship was wrecked in 1935 when it was being towed to Japan for scrapping. Before this time the SS Maheno was used for bombing tests during World War II. Nowadays you can see it at low tide washed up on the beach.
The Pinnacles are coloured sand cliffs on the eastern beach of Fraser Island. There are said to be up to 72 different colours on Fraser Island although most are red or yellow. This spot is one of the best places on the island to see the coloured sands.
Hike to Lake Wabby
Lake Wabby is a green coloured lake with a large sand dune. If you fancy it, you can run down the sand dune before diving into the refreshing lake at the bottom which is the perfect end to a great walk on Fraser Island. If you’re lucky you might spot some freshwater turtles and fish!
Lake Birrabeen is more inland and the drive here is a fun, peaceful 4WD adventure!
Spot Sharks from Indian Head
You’re not usually advised to swim in the waters around Fraser Island. And, if you head up to Indian Head bluff then you’ll probably find out why. It’s not uncommon to spot sharks patrolling the waters down below or even rays!
75-mile beach, Fraser Island
The 75-mile beach stretches along the entire eastern side of Fraser Island. It’s also considered the main road! Most of the things to do on Fraser Island such as the Pinnacles, Eli Creek and the Maheno wreck are found along this, one of the most famous Fraser Island beaches.
One place you can swim safely is the rock pools near Waddy Point. These are known as the Champagne Pools.
Sandy Cape Lighthouse
Up in the northeastern tip of Fraser Island is the heritage Sandy Cape Lighthouse. Not many travellers make it all the way up here but if you’re spending a week or so on the island it’s worth the visit.
How much does it cost to visit Fraser Island?
Costs of visiting Fraser Island vary depending on how you’re travelling there. If you have your own 4WD you’ll obviously find Fraser Island a bit cheaper as you won’t need to hire a car or join a tour group.
If you don’t have your own 4WD you should consider joining a tour group as this can make things a bit cheaper since the tour includes car hire, permits, food and tents.
Accommodation: Assuming you’re camping this is around $6 a night per person. However, you’ll need to already have tents and camping equipment.
Cost of food: This depends on what you want to bring (e.g. alcohol). Goon is a cheap way to drink and you’ll also need to pack extra cartons of water. Budget for around $50 for a couple of nights.
Transport: Expect to pay about AUD$200 per day for a 4WD rental for Fraser Island.
Tour costs: A self-drive tour costs anywhere between AUS$300-$500 for 3 days/2 nights. You’ll be put in a group of other travellers and everyone over the age of 21 will have a chance to drive. This will include all your food, permits, transport fees and camping equipment.
What to pack for your visit to Fraser Island
If you’re booked on a Fraser Island tour they’ll have taken care of all this so you don’t need to worry! All you’ll need to bring are clothes, toiletries, personal medications, sun cream, clothes and shoes. Oh and maybe some new songs to play in the cars!
- Food & water: There are a couple of shops on Fraser Island but it’s better to pack everything you need for the duration of your stay with you before getting on the barge. This includes water (for drinking and washing), food
- A first aid kit for both yourself and your car: Your car’s first aid kit should include items such as; radiator coolant, a spanner set, gaffer tape, a can of WD40, jumper leads, zip ties and a spare fan belt.
- Extra fuel: Whilst Eurong, towards the east of Fraser Island, has places you can buy fuel it’s best to bring extra with you too. Distances between attractions might not look far on the map, but Fraser Island’s roads will guzzle your fuel!
- A camping stove: Campfires are only permitted in a select few campsites. This means you’ll have to bring a stove for cooking on.
- An air pressure gauge: Sand driving requires slightly deflated tyres so you’ll have to pack an air pressure gauge to do this. You’ll also want to bring or rent some recovery gear including a shovel in case you need to dig yourself out of the sand and/or mud.
- A map & GPS system: It’s extremely important to bring a good Fraser Island map (like this one!) and a GPS system. Most of the time you’ll probably be without phone signal so you can’t rely on your data.
Dingo safety on Fraser Island
During my trip to Fraser Island, we didn’t see any Fraser Island dingos. At first, I was disappointed but then I learned how dangerous they can be.
Dingoes on Fraser Island tend to stay clear of humans but there are plenty of stories of Fraser Island dingo attacks, particularly on children. In order to keep safe from dingos whilst on Fraser Island you should abide by the following:
- Keep all food locked up in a vehicle and never feed dingos. You will be fined for failing on either of these.
- Small children can attract a dingo’s attention so keep them close. Running can also have the same effect so walk everywhere while on the island.
- Do not leave anything lying around in an unfenced campsite that dingoes could chew through. Even something as simple as toothpaste left in your tent can attract dingos
- Once you’re finished cooking clean up straight away. Dig a deep hole away from your tent to pour the washing up water into if there are no facilities.
If you’re threatened by a dingo you should stand still and fold your arms across your chest. Face the dingo, then calmly back away (if you are with another person, stand back-to-back).
Call for help, but wait until the dingo is gone before you continue on your way. Never run or wave your arms. In an emergency, call 000 or 112.