Fraser Island is famous for being the world’s largest sand island, and one of the only places in the world where you will find rainforest growing in the sand dunes.
The traditional owners of Fraser Island, the Butchulla people, called the island ‘K’Gari’ (pronounced Gari), which means ‘paradise’, and the island is undoubtedly beautiful, with its exceptional natural features and formations earning it World Heritage status.
It features a surprising variety of mangroves, rainforest, sand dunes, wetland forest and is home to a wealth of wildlife.
But what about things to do on Fraser Island?
If you’ve done any research before you visit Fraser Island, you’ve probably heard that you can do 4WD beach driving here. But what about all the other Fraser Island activities?
Read on to learn more about things to do in Fraser Island, from swimming in beautiful lakes to exploring shipwrecks, walking through the rainforest and even whale watching.
We saw most of these Fraser Island attractions as part of our Fraser Island day tour with Fraser Explorer Tours.
It is also possible to do a Fraser Island self drive tour, but make sure you have a reliable 4WD car and are comfortable driving on the sand and along difficult roads.
Swim in Lake McKenzie
The most famous of all the Fraser Island lakes is Lake McKenzie, famed for its clear turquoise waters and stunning white sand beach.
One of the things that makes Lake McKenzie so special is that it is a ‘perched’ lake. This means that its water is entirely made up of rainwater. There are only around 80 of these perched lakes in the world – and 40 of these are found on Fraser Island.
The underlying lake bed not only holds in all this beautiful rain water, but it acts like the backing on a mirror, reflecting the colour of the sky, which is why the water appears such a bright blue here.
All of this makes Lake McKenzie the most famous Fraser Island swimming lake and going for a splash here is one of the not-to-be-missed activities on Fraser Island.
The sand here is also super soft and perfect for a long stroll along the shore.
There are changing facilities and toilets at the car park here. Do note the caged picnic area and be sure to only eat food within this zone. DO NOT take any food down to the lake with you – even if it is inside a closed bag. Dingoes are common here and can sniff out food from a long way away.
Explore the Fraser Island Shipwreck
The Maheno shipwreck is another of the most famous sights on Fraser Island. This rusting shipwreck has a rich and interesting history.
Originally a luxurious ocean liner, she was the first turbine steamer to cross the Pacific and one of the fastest ships of her day. Her fancy dining room, complete with grand piano, was frequented by passengers traveling from Sydney to Auckland.
During WWI she was used as a hospital ship before returning to being an ocean liner, until she grew too old and was decommissioned in 1935.
She was bought by a Japanese shipyard, who sold her propellers to pay for her, and so her last voyage from Sydney to Osaka was taken under tow. Unfortunately a cyclone caused her towline to snap, and without propellers she was swept ashore on Fraser Island.
During WWII the Australian Air Force used her for bombing practice and she is now broken in two as she lies rusting on the shore, where she is a popular attraction for people who visit Fraser Island.
As her name means “Island” in Maori it seems fate played a hand in her resting place, where she can remain glorious and famous – rather than rusting away in a Japanese shipyard.
Due to safety restrictions, visitors are no longer allowed inside the Maheno or to touch her, but you can still admire her from an arm’s distance.
Float Down Eli Creek
Over 80 million litres of fresh water flows in to the ocean from Eli Creek every day. To put that into perspective, you could fill an Olympic swimming pool in just 30 minutes!
This is all the more surprising when you see this tranquil little creek, but it does provide an excellent place to cool off in the tropical heat – especially when it isn’t safe to swim in the ocean off 75 Mile Beach.
For maximum enjoyment, bring along an inflatable ring or lilo for floating down the creek. It’s just a short walk along the boardwalk to the entrance point, so you can do this several times. There are also toilets here.
Drive along 75 Mile Beach
When people think of driving on Fraser Island, they think of 75 Mile Beach.
Named as one of the Best Coastal Drives in the World, this famous Fraser Island beach is less of a beach and more of a highway. Swimming is definitely not recommended here due to dangerous currents and pesky sharks… nor is building sandcastles, due to fast moving traffic.
75 Mile Beach is where you will find the Maheno and Eli Creek, amongst other Fraser Island points of interest. But its main function is as a highway (and also an airstrip – see below!) and as such, normal road rules must be adhered to.
It’s makes for challenging driving if you are not used to driving on sand, so take it easy. Also take note of the Fraser Island tide times, as the beach can vary in width according to the tides. Check here for tide times.
Go for Walks at Central Station Fraser Island
The Fraser Island rainforest is home to a diverse range of trees, including 1,000-year old Satinay trees, towering Kauri pines and ancient giant ferns.
It’s easy to explore the rainforest, with several Fraser Island walks on offer. The best place to start is Central Station. From here there are several walks you can follow, including to Pile Valley (4.6km return) and to Lake McKenzie via Basin Lake (6.3km one way).
If you just want a quick stroll, there is an easily accessible stroller/wheelchair friendly 950m boardwalk along Wanggoolba Creek. This small area in itself is pretty special.
The constant water flow and high humidity here, coupled with the extra nutrients brought in the creek waters and extra protection from the wind from the surrounding forests all combine to create a special sheltered micro-climate here.
You will find plants growing here that are found nowhere else on Fraser Island. Even if you are not much of a botanist, it is a nice place to stretch your legs!
Take a Sightseeing Flight with Air Fraser Island
There may not be a Fraser Island airport, but Fraser Island is one of only two places in the world where you can take off from a plane on the beach! (The other being Barra Island in Scotland).
And at 75 miles long, it makes 75 Mile Beach the longest airstrip in the world!
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be a part of this and so we boarded Air Fraser Island’s 8-seater plane and took a 15-minute sightseeing flight over the island.
We looked for sharks and whales in the ocean (didn’t spot any!) before admiring the rainforests and the many beautiful Fraser Island lakes from above.
You can watch our little video of taking off from 75 Mile Beach below:
Go Whale Watching in Hervey Bay
This was definitely one of our favourite Fraser Island activities.
Hervey Bay has just been named the world’s first Whale Heritage Site, recognising it as the best place in the world for sustainable whale watching. And it certainly didn’t disappoint!
Every year humpback whales migrate up from Antarctica to Queensland to have their babies. Hervey Bay provides good shelter for mothers and their calves, making it a popular stop-off point before they continue their journey.
This offers excellent opportunity to view these magnificent sea creatures up close in their natural habitat, and it really is one of the best Fraser Island trips you can do.
We had a mother and her calf circling our boat up close and were treated to a magnificent display of breaching by a large male whale.
Hervey Bay whale watching season runs from July to November.
Boats depart Kingfisher Bay Resort at around 7.30am every day, depending on the tides and return around lunchtime.
Fraser Island Map
The above attractions can be found on the map below:
Accommodation on Fraser Island
There is a range of accommodation options on Fraser Island, from resorts to private house hire and of course camping.
Kingfisher Bay Resort
For us, the best Fraser Island accommodation option was Kingfisher Bay Resort. This eco-friendly Fraser Island resort offers a wide range of accommodation, including hotel rooms, villas, houses and lodges to suit all group sizes and budgets.
You can read our full review here.
There is a good choice of restaurants, including fine-dining Seabelle, all day restaurant and bar Maheno, the casual Sand Bar & Bistro, and beachside Sunset Bar, the perfect spot for sundowners.
The hotel also has a choice of swimming pools, nature walks, a small playground and a shop. A junior ranger program runs during school holidays, to keep kids busy with nature-based activities.
Eurong Beach Resort
Located on the East Coast of Fraser Island, with direct access to 75 Mile Beach, Eurong Beach Resort offers budget-friendly accommodation in Fraser Island.
Choose from hotel rooms or two-bedroom apartments with kitchen facilities ath this hotel on Fraser Island. There are two onsite swimming pools, a casual restaurant & bar, BBQ area, general store and bakery all on offer.
Camping on Fraser Island
Camping at Fraser Island is popular and you have several different options, with around 45 campsites to choose from.
Note that these Fraser Island campsites do get busy during peak periods and so you are advised to book ahead. Bookings can be made 6 months in advance here.
If you are camping Fraser Island with kids, it is highly recommended that you choose one of the campsites with dingo fences. These include those at Central Station, Dundubara, Waddy Point and Lake Boomanjin.
Camping permits are required to be purchased in advance and these must be displayed on your campsite. You can check camping fees here.
How to Get to Fraser Island
Getting to Fraser Island from the mainland is by ferry either from Rainbow Beach or River Heads.
Fraser Island Ferry
You can take the ferry to Fraser Island from either Rainbow Beach (if you have your own 4WD vehicle – ensure you have a permit first) or take the Fraser Island barge from River Heads, located just 20-minutes south of Hervey Bay.
The barge to Fraser Island takes around 50 minutes from River Heads. If you are staying at Kingfisher Bay Resort, you can check into the resort at their mainland check-in at River Heads and your luggage will be taken care of from there.
Drive time from Noosa to River Heads is around 2.5 hours.
Closest Airport to Fraser Island
The closest airport near Fraser Island is Hervey Bay / Fraser Coast airport. From here you can transfer to River Heads to catch the Fraser Island ferry.
Getting around Fraser Island
You need a hardy 4WD vehicle to drive around Fraser Island, and be comfortable driving on sand and on pretty rough off-road conditions within the interior of the island.
You can choose to self-drive, organise Fraser Island tours from Hervey Bay, join a tour from Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island or join a Fraser Island tag along tour, where you follow the leader while self-driving.
The Best Time to Visit Fraser Island
As it’s located in Queensland, you can expect the Fraser Island weather to be warm all year round and there isn’t really a bad time to visit.
Temperature wise, you can expect Summer (Jan-March) to be between 23-30 degrees Celsius, and Winter (May-Aug) to be around 14-25 degrees.
If you want to experience Fraser Island whale watching, then you’ll need to visit between July and November.
Dingoes on Fraser Island
The most famous Fraser Island animals are the dingoes and getting to spot one of these wild animals is a highlight of visiting Fraser Island. It is estimated that there are around 250 dingoes living on Fraser Island.
However, it is important to be dingo safe! They look cute, but they are wild animals. By observing some basic rules, you can remain safe and help protect these animals:
- Never feed the dingoes
- Never approach the dingoes
- Keep children within arms reach all times
- Walk in groups
- Don’t go jogging along the beach
- Camp in fenced campsites
- Keep food locked away
- Don’t take picnics to the lakes
- Dispose of rubbish properly
If you see a dingo, keep your distance and keep still and it will likely ignore you and go on its way. If a dingo approaches you:
- Stand at full height and slowly back away
- Remain calm and call for help if necessary
- Do not run!
Fraser Island History
The history of Fraser Island is as interesting as its varied terrain.
K’Gari was home to the indigenous Butchulla people for more than 5,000 years, but was ‘discovered’ by the British in 1836, when the ship Stirling Castle shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef just north of here.
Captain Fraser, his wife and a few of his crew washed ashore on K’Gari in their rowing boat and bartered with the local indigenous population for food and shelter.
According to his wife, Captain Fraser died after being speared during a disagreement with a local aboriginal man and the other crew also soon perished. The sole survivor was Eliza Fraser, who lived with the Butchulla people for a couple of months before being rescued when she travelled to the mainland with the community.
As her stories spread of her time on K’Gari, the island became known as ‘Fraser’s Island’, a name that remains today.
In the 1860s Fraser Island was a hub for timber logging, thanks to its abundance of valuable kauri pines. Logging continued on the island until 1991, but by then tourism had taken over.
The northern part of Fraser Island became a national park in 1971, with more areas added later. The island was awarded World Hertiage status in 1992.
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Disclaimer: Mum on the Move were guests of Kingfisher Bay Resort during our visit to Fraser Island. Our day tour of Fraser Island with Fraser Explorer Tours and our whale watching tour with Hervey Bay Whale Watch were also complimentary.
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