Our adventures on Fraser Island
4/1/11 - 4/3/11
After an 8 hour drive from Mackay to Hervey Bay, we were knackered once again. We loaded up on camping food and supplies (boxed wine…check! Easy Mac…check!) retired early to our king-sized bed (huge treat) and prayed for sun. Early the next morning, we headed to Aussie Trax, the company that we rented us our 4x4 vehicle and camping gear for our weekend on Fraser Island. As we are all class all the time, we opted to rent our own vehicle instead of embarking on a group tour. We wanted our boxed wine all to ourselves, thank you very much. Therefore, we wound up with what we lovingly referred to for the rest of the trip as the Barbie Jeep. It was a 2 door white Suzuki that barely fit us, our camping gear, our food for the weekend, and our bags…and it was amazing! Barbie Jeep because the rest of the 4x4s out there were huge Land Rovers with engine snorkels and monster-truck suspension.
Fraser Island is an amazing place. It is the largest sand island in the world. And somehow, lush rainforest and beautifully clear mineral lakes exist atop the sand dunes. The only way to navigate the island is in a 4-wheel drive vehicle because the driving is done on the beach and on inland sandy/very muddy/bumpy tracks.
It is a requirement for all those heading to Fraser to watch a 30-minute video, consisting of driving and dingo safety on the island. In addition to the numerous warnings about insurance being null and void if intoxicated (“and you still may be over the limit the next morning!” it kept reminding us), we were quite amused by the scene in which two women encounter a dingo (a wild dog), cross their arms over their chest, and back away slowly while maintaining purposeful eye contact with the creature. We did not know then how handy this tip would be for us later on. We also learned that driving on the beach is prohibited at certain times due to high and low tide times. The tides pretty much rule life on Fraser:
After this, we packed up the Barbie Jeep and headed to the ferry at River Heads. Upon boarding, we proceeded to the top deck to bask in the beautiful sunshine for which we had longed for the past week. Here is Nikki soaking up the rays:
After enjoying the 45-minute ride, we disembarked in the Barbie Jeep with Marin at the wheel. What ensued for the next hour or so was a small test of the strength of our marriage. We seem to have had a few of these on this trip… It was necessary to drive from West coast of the island to the East (where the beautiful beaches exist) via a rough inland track. The conversation throughout sounded a bit like this:
Nikki: “Marin, please slow down a bit.”
Marin: “Sweetie, I am going 10 km/hour.”
As the same conversation repeated itself many times over, Nikki stopped saying please and Marin stopped saying Sweetie. These polite terms were instead replaced by “Why don’t you listen to me?” and “Don’t you tell ME how to drive!” But, we made it. ☺
It was so strange to follow a one-lane rugged sand road through the rainforest and emerge on the other side of the island onto beach and yes, believe it or not, a beach resort (the only one on Fraser – it felt like some sort of weird colony from Lost). We stopped at the general store there to pick up some additional supplies, namely a $25 dollar (yes that’s right folks) 6-pack of VB (Victoria Bitter). Can’t camp without cold beer, after all.
Nikki took the wheel and the beach driving was a whole lot smoother than the inland road. As you can see, she started to relax a bit:
Driving on the beach for miles and miles and miles was very cool:
The only thing to watch out for on the beach is what they call “washouts.” This is a place where freshwater flows down from the rainforest and the lakes over the beach and runs into the ocean saltwater. They create creeks in the sand and if you hit a deep one too quickly, it is bad news bears for you and your vehicle. While Nikki enjoyed crossing the washouts at the approximate speed of an injured tortoise, Marin’s style was a bit more…adventurous. To Marin, it was only a good crossing if you went fast enough to completely cover the windshield with splash.
We headed to Lake Wabby, one of the island’s most amazing freshwater lakes. It is the deepest one on the island (12 meters) and is very clean and filled with curious catfish. The lake is accessed by parking your jeep on the beach and hiking inland about 2.5 KM through rainforest. Along the way, we spotted some huge, scary spiders:
Arriving at the lake was awesome, as the trail leads out of the rainforest onto a ginormous sand dune. We thought perhaps we had missed the lake or it had dried up until we followed the steep slope of the dune down to a gorgeous lake where people were swimming in the amazing oasis. Lake Wabby is surrounded by Eucalypt forest and 3 sides and the sand dune on the 4th. Also, the shoreline is shrinking by 3 meters per year as the dune encroaches on the lake. We jumped in immediately, before it was gone! Check it out:
We hiked back out to the beach and drove further North to find our campsite for the evening before the tide came in. One of the coolest things about Fraser is that you can just set up camp along the beach pretty much wherever you like with no one else around. This is exactly what we did! Home sweet home on Night #1:
We each began our designated camping jobs, Marin setting up the tent and Nikki preparing the evening’s food supplies. We drank boxed wine out of tin cups and ate the best generic tortilla chips and salsa ever at our beach-front camp site, as we watched the day beautifully melt into night. This was one of our favorite parts of the trip so far hands down! The view from our doorstep, and Happy Nikki taking it all in:
Our dinner that night: the worst Easy Mac you can imagine (hard noodles and cold broth with some salsa added for an extra kick). But it still tasted great because we were so happy! We think it was some time around 8pm when we hit the hay because what else is there to do in the dark when you are camping?
We rose early with the sun the next day and battled the many horseflies of Fraser as we packed up camp. As we drove up the beach further on day 2, we stopped to see some of the best highlights of Fraser Island.
Eli Creek is the largest Freshwater creek on the island and you can actually swim in it. You hop in towards the top of the creek and then float on out to the ocean, just like a fish. So fun. We took this opportunity to take the day’s “shower.” Take a look at Eli, and this classic jeep scene along the beach:
Further up on the beach, The Maheno Shipwreck is the remnants of an actual vessel that was cast ashore Fraser Island in 1935. It is awesome to see the waves splash over it and erode it:
Although the ocean is beautiful on Fraser, you cannot swim in it because of the sharks, jellyfish, and extremely strong tides. However, there is one location at a place called the Champagne Pools at the Northern end of the island, where rock formations create natural shallow salt water pools out of ocean water and it is safe to swim. These pools are absolutely gorgeous, with different areas that are shallow and then suddenly deep. We enjoyed some salt water swimming and beers in the sunshine here:
Indian Head juts out at the Northern tip of Fraser. It is a great place to hike up for amazing views of the island’s dunes and rainforests. Occasionally dolphins and turtles can be spotted in the waters below. Check out the view of the dunes behind the beaches, and look how happy we are:
After our long day of exploring we found another both private and perfect beach campsite. Our home on Night #2:
Marin had mentioned earlier in the day that she was disappointed that we had only seen 1 dingo so far. As we drove up and down the beach, she had her camera poised and ready on her lap for the perfect dingo shot. Marin cannot get enough of the Aussie wildlife ☺!
Well she got her wish as we were enjoying our tortilla chips and tin cup wine that evening. We had just remarked how absolutely delicious the tortillas were when out of nowhere, in the dark, a dingo appeared about 1 meter behind us. He had snuck up behind us on the dune and taken us completely by surprise. And just like the silly women in the dingo safety video we crossed our hands over our chests and backed away (after Marin shrieked like a little girl). The bold dingo snatched up our bag of chips in his mouth and proudly trotted away to share with his buddies up the beach.
We should mention here that both the dingo safety video and the numerous signs posted all over the island strongly warn against this as the dingoes can get very aggressive. The signs instruct you to hit a dingo hard with a blunt object if they attack you. And if you are camping with children under the age of 14 on Fraser, you must sleep inside these weird human cage things.
It turns out the dingo really can eat your baby. And your chips!
Marin completely forgot all of this and found the dingo rather cute (despite his theft) and called out, “Here boy, here boy.” She then made that lip smacking, kissing noise that you make when you want an animal to come closer. And come closer he did! He returned to take a few licks of our salsa – apparently not his thing, as he left it behind.
Day 3 events on Fraser: Marin eating a most delicious bacon, meat and cheese pie at the local bakery, a hellish drive back through the inland tracks of the island and a stop at Lake McKenzie (there are over 100 lakes on Fraser, all freshwater). Nikki frolicked in the clear water while Marin napped off her pie:
After this we caught the Ferry back to Hervey Bay, bid farewell to the Barbie Jeep, jumped back in our little Astra, and headed down the coast to Noosa.
Up next, the beach towns we fell in love with, Noosa and Byron Bay, and our visit to Steve Irwin’s legacy, the famous Australia Zoo. Woohoo!!! Xoxo Marin and Nikki