Somehow I managed to survive the 15 hour bus down to Rainbow beach, I think I must have slept most of the way as before I knew it we had arrived. At one of the stops I got chatting to a couple of girls from Jersey; Katie and Emily. We realised we would be checking into the same hostel and embarking on the same Fraser Island tour which was nice!
We arrived in Rainbow beach at around 10am. Rainbow beach is a tiny little town with maybe 10 shops that line the beach.
It does however have a fantastic coffee shop called Cafe Jilarty so I swiftly made my way over there for some much needed caffeine. Katie and Emily obviously had the same idea as I bumped into them again queuing for their cappuccinos!
A little more awake we headed back to the hostel to check in. The three of us were put in the same room and allocated the same group for Fraser Island which was really lucky! It’s so funny how you make friends so quickly travelling.
We had a really chilled afternoon which mainly consisted of napping up until 4.30 when we had to congregate in the hostel bar for our Fraser Island introduction talk.
We were split off into our groups for the next three days; these groups would be the squad in our 4x4s for the duration of the trip. In our group was me, Katie, Emily, three guys from Switzerland (Noell, Patrick and Marco), a German girl called Nina and a South Korean guy called Tony. It was a really nice mix!
Fraser Island, approximately 190 miles north of Brisbane,is the largest sand island in the world. Fraser is a place of exceptional beauty, with its long uninterrupted white beaches that are flanked by strikingly colored sand cliffs and 100 freshwater lakes. Fraser Island is a bit of a backpacking rite of passage; I couldn’t wait to hear about the couple of days that lay ahead.
Our introductory talk gave us a little bit of information regarding the history and geography of Fraser Island but ultimately it was a ‘how to survive the wildlife in Fraser Island’ talk. Everyone speaks about how everything in Australia is venomous and wants to kill you; well Fraser Island certainly lives up to that reputation. For a start you cannot swim in the ocean at Fraser Island – there are far too many sharks and jelly fish. Not only this, the land is inhabited by all sorts of poisonous spiders and snakes.Most dangerous however is the island’s resident pack of wild dingoes. We were given a thorough talk on how to avoid a dingo attack (never being in groups less than two, not taking food out of camp, always carrying a dingo stick etc). The camp site we would be staying in would be surrounded by electric fences for the specific reason of keeping the dingoes out! It was all a little terrifying!
That evening, after the talk was over, we all took advantage of the hostel’s burger night before heading back to our dorms and getting packed ready for the three days ahead.
The next morning we had to be up at the crack of dawn so we headed down to the bar for pancakes before being allocated our cars and loading them up. Our group, for the first day, had been allocated to sit in our guide, Daz’s car, which meant that none of us would be able to drive today. We were ensured that the cars would all be swapped over and we’d get plenty of time behind the wheel so we were all pretty happy to be driven around for the time being.
It used to be the case that when you visited Fraser Island the tour groups would give you your 4×4, a map and let you off on your own to explore for the duration of your trip – Miles said that was the case when he stayed on the island 10 years ago. Apparently there were too many car accidents and dingo attacks so nowadays the tours are ‘tag-a-long’ tours where you drive in convoy following the lead vehicle. I actually like this as our tour guide, Daz, was really knowledgeable about the area and so we definitely learnt more than we would have if we were left to our own devices! (I’m sure I would have been on of the statistics who flipped their car/was eaten by a Dingo so I’m all for health and safety going wild here!)
After getting the cars all sorted we loaded in and made our way across to the ferry. The ferry across to the island is only about 15 minutes so you’re on the sand before you know it – we saw a pod of dolphins on the journey which was nice!
Once on the island we hit the beach. It was great being in the front vehicle and watching all the cars behind struggle to navigate the sandy dunes – the cars were zigzagging all over the place!
Our first stop of the day was at the Wanggoolba creek rainforest walk through the Central Station area of the Island. This particular area was the center of the logging trade for over 100 years. It was a really cool little walk.
We stopped off and had lunch in the area – the first of many cheese and ham wraps (I can’t tell you how bored we were of these by the end of the trip…)
After a little more off road driving we headed towards Lake Birrabeen, one of the Island’s forty lakes. The water was absolutely crystal clear and the sands perfectly white – it felt more like a beach than a lake!
We stayed here for an hour or so, it was lovely and warm even though the sky was a little overcast.
We had about an hours drive along the beach to reach our campsite, N’gari. On the way we stopped off to admire the wreck of the Maheno.
Built in 1905, the SS Maheno was one of the first turbine-driven steamers. She plied a regular route between Sydney and Auckland until she was commissioned as a hospital ship in Europe during World War One. She also served in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea.In 1935, she and her sister ship the Oonah were sold to Japan for scrap. The rudders of the boats were removed and they were being towed to Japan. When they reached Queensland Waters, a cyclonic storm snapped the tow chain and the Maheno drifted helplessly onto Fraser Island’s ocean beach. The wreck has remained ever since and has become one of the main attractions for visitors of Fraser Island.
After admiring the wreck for a little while, we hopped back in the cars and soon arrived at our campsite and got our bits sorted. Nina and I were tent buddies which was nice!
That evening we all made dinner (chicken stir fry) and partied on until the small hours. Many bags of goon were drank and many games of ring of fire played. We stumbled back into the tents and I personally slept perfectly!
The next morning we made a quick camp breakfast and loaded back into the 4x4s – this time our group was swapped out of the drivers car and into our own car which meant we could drive. Emily took the first turn!
After a bit of a drive on the beach we stopped at our first destination for the day; Indian Head. This headland historically got it’s name from Captain James Cooke. It’s said that when he was mapping the coastline of Australia he spotted aboriginal people at it’s peak and reported it as ‘Indian Head’.
We climbed up to the top and enjoyed the beautiful views down. Apparently you can normally see whales and sharks swimming in the waters below but as the water was so choppy our visibility wasn’t great.
This rocky headland is actually the birthplace of Fraser Island. Over time as the sand moved with the sea it got trapped by the rock and formed the island. Without this rock the Great Barrier Reef wouldn’t actually exist as the rock stopped the flow of sand, which without it would cover the reef – it’s all pretty fascinating stuff when you think about it!
On the walk back down we noticed a little group of people crowding around Daz and staring at the floor. ‘Erm you’re all going to have to walk through the grass and around the walkway’ he said. Turns out there was a baby brown snake lying right out on the walk way. Although it looked pretty harmless these are one of the most poisonous snakes in Australia and even a bite from a baby would be enough to kill you!
Back on the (non snake infested) ground we piled back into the cars and hit the sand again. Nina took the wheel this time and we headed to our second spot of the day; the Champagne pools.
These pools are rock pools on the beach that, when the waves come in, fill up with bubbly water that gives the sensation of champagne – they were pretty cool!
We all swam out on the rocks and sunbathed out on the decks enjoying the view!
We then headed inland to get ready our second lunch of the journey – yet more wraps.
This time around it was my time behind the wheel and as always I became the laughing stock, not only of my car, but the whole group! I was awful! Driving in sand is pretty much the same as driving in snow – it’s just so difficult to control the wheels! I was OK of I’m honest on the beach (OK a bit wobbly, but how difficult can driving in a straight line be?). Manoeuvres however – awful. I must have stalled about a million times reversing into a safe place to on the beach. In the end Daz said through the radios ‘just leave it car two’ so my car was parked about 5 meters away from the rest of the convoy…great.
We stopped off at Eli creek which has a slow moving current making it the perfect place to hop on a rubber ring and float down to the bottom. The sun was out in full force so we all enjoyed a bit of a sunbathe out on the sand.
A couple of hours later we hopped back into the cars and made our way back to camp. That evening it was the guys turn to cook for the girls in our car – we had a great meal of steaks, salad and potato. That night went much the same as the night before with lots of drinking, dancing, ring of fire, beer pong and flip cup. I obviously had a great night as I woke up to a phone full of drunken tent selfies. It could have been worse – Katie and Emily woke up to a mouse in their tent.
The next morning was a bit of a struggle to wake up but after a quick breakfast we were back in the 4x4s. Our destination for today was the famous Lake Mackenzie and we had over an hour of bumpy off-road driving to get there. I don’t get travel sick at all but I wasn’t half pleased to get out of the car when we arrived!
We stayed at the beautiful lake for a couple hours which was plenty time to have a swim and a sunbathe. Most people were still feeling a little fragile after the night before so I think we all appreciated a bit of down time.
It was soon time to leave the island but we made one last lunch stop on the way down to the ferry. We we’re all a bit gutted that we didn’t manage to spot even one of the island’s pack of dingoes! Luck was clearly on our side however – just as we were queuing for the ferry we spotted one lone dingo resting out on the sand. He looked tame enough but I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to get any closer.
After a few group photos we were back on the ferry and making our way back to Rainbow Beach.
That evening the guys all left in their camper to make their way up to Airlie Beach. We said goodbye to them and then Katie, Emily and I headed to Cafe Jilarty for dinner. Pizza never tasted so good after a few days of camp food. We all had a pretty early night that evening – we were knackered!
The next morning I would be boarding the greyhound bus heading south – next stop Brisbane!