4WD Camping on Fraser Island
A shining jewel of Queensland, beautiful Fraser Island is located just 3 hours north of Brisbane. A haven for fishermen, wildlife spotters, photographers, and 4WDing enthusiasts, there’s something on this island for everyone. Camping on Fraser Island is an experience not to be missed if you’re in this part of the world, and we recommend spending a solid few days on the island to make the most of this sandy adventure.
Getting to Fraser
After a frantic scramble getting everything ready to leave Brisbane for a few months (possibly longer!) we skedaddled out of town. Our friend Andrea was tagging along for a few weeks so we crammed her camping gear in the back and off we went, picking up a pop-up awning and inflatable kayak along the way to complete our off-road setup.
We arrived in Rainbow Beach in time to pick up a ferry ticket for Inskip Point. You don't need to book this ahead, just show up within the window of low tides. We drove the last 10 minutes to the beach, dropped the tire pressure, and loaded onto the ferry.
Bobby enjoyed a few “nice rig” comments, and Andrea and I hoped he could drive it well enough to get us to our campsite for the night! Never having done any sand driving before, I will admit I was a bit nervous. But as soon as we landed on Fraser I was blown away by the stunning, untouched beauty of the island. The only thing for miles were sand, waves, and the occasional 4WD racing to get the ferry back to the mainland before the tide came in.
Ferry from Inskip Point ~ 10 minutes
Camping on Fraser Island
Ferry drop-off to Zone 1 Camping ~ 1 hour
Fraser Island is enormous. Stretching over 120km, Fraser is full of wildlife and epic views. The beach along the eastern side of the island is so easy to drive that it’s classified as a highway, with the speed limit up to 80km/hour in some areas! We were shocked to learn our vehicle was covered by insurance here, although I’m sure they had certain stipulations.
We raced along to Zone 1, our designated national park camping area, booked online a few days before we arrived (read more about camping options below). We spotted dingoes and a breaching whale along the way, and a rainbow shone through the storm clouds just off the coast.
After a false start getting nearly stuck going over a sand dune, we made it to an inland track and found a beautiful little campsite perfect for our trailer. The crashing of the waves was the soundtrack of our visit, and the perfect white noise to fall asleep to.
The ocean was right over the dune, and life was good.
Fraser's Famous Lakes
Zone 1 Camping to Southern Lakes Circuit ~ 3 hours
Plus Lake McKenzie ~ 1.5 hours
The largest sand island in the world, Fraser is a very unique island. With 40 freshwater lakes, this island isn’t just about sandy beaches. The most famous perched lake is Lake McKenzie, which you’ve surely seen on Instagram.
Each of the lakes on the island are different in color and size. We’d recommend the Southern Lakes Circuit, if you’re prepared for some wicked 4WDing! As our first experience doing some major bumpy roads in the Navara, we had a great time while taking it slow. We stopped at Lake Boomanjin, which is the first walker's camp on the Fraser Island Great Walk. Next was Lake Birrabeen, with beautiful white sand beaches. The sun was still hiding, but we got a few glimpses of how magical this place looks in full sun.
Note that you cannot take food to these lakes because of the wild dingoes. Most areas only allow you to eat in fenced picnic areas. Please respect the signs!
Not having done much 4WDing, I found these roads to be a bit rough while sitting in the back seat. Pretty sure Bobby loved every minute... It was a good test of the rig's capabilities. Be prepared for some big drops! There are many places one car will need to back up or pull off the road to let others through.
The inland tracks have a speed limit of 30km/hour. There was a crash the day we left the island, so please drive slowly around those blind curves!
The weather was not in our favor during our stay on Fraser. It rained on and off the entire time. However, the storm clouds created great opportunities for rainbows, and we saw a few during our stay! The one at Lake McKenzie was pretty much perfect... Or was it 2?
After this we beelined back to the beach, and I’ve never been so happy to drive on a flat road.
Fraser’s Famous Shipwreck
Zone 1 Camping to the Maheno Shipwreck ~ 1 hour
Plus The Pinnacles ~ 15 minutes
We stretched our poor rattled bodies (at least mine was!) and raced off to the S.S. Maheno shipwreck, one of Fraser’s most iconic sites. We got it all to ourselves for a blissful moment, before it was inundated by sightseers.
This ship has quite an intriguing history, spending its years of service sailing between Sydney and Vancouver before serving as a hospital ship. In 1935 the ship was being towed to a shipbreaker in Japan, but a cyclone caused the towline to snap. The ship's propellers had been removed and there were 8 helpless men aboard. They camped ashore until the wreck was found by airplane a few days later. A few attempts to salvage the ship were made, with no success, so the furniture and piano were removed. A few couples even got married here, long before the wreck became corroded and rather dangerous.
After taking a lot of photos, we drove a few more minutes up the beach and took a photo stop at The Pinnacles, which I must admit were cool but not worth a trip on their own.
Although the northern tip of the island is supposed to be beautiful, we chose not to go any further north as our time on Fraser was limited. So, back down the beach we went.
The Pinnacles to Eli Creek ~ 30 minutes
Shallow enough to wade the whole way, we walked down Eli Creek. It was pretty, but much shorter than I expected.
We stopped in at Happy Valley just to check it out. The general store was pretty well stocked and had takeaway at limited hours. We thought we were stuck here at high tide as the waves had overtaken the sand around Yidney Rocks, but there's a back road that goes inland around the back of the resort.
Happy Vally to Lake Wabby ~ 40 minutes
The hike in to Lake Wabby was the most we’d stretched our legs in a few days. The forest was nothing special but the sand blow was huge! Apparently it’s consuming the lake at a rate of 1 meter a year.
Lake Wabby is the deepest lake on the island, and although we found it far too cold to swim, in the summer people sled down the sand dune into the lake! I was surprised to see catfish here...
And now for the highlight... I finally got to drive the ute while Bobby shot some drone footage! It’s some epic stuff, video coming soon.
Lake Wabby to Zone 1 Camping ~ 40 minutes
If only we’d had more time! Our last day on Fraser dawned perfectly clear, of course. Even though I've lived in Australia for over a year, I'm still in awe of the beach.
Leaving early in the morning to beat the tides, we overshot the ferry pickup spot (no signs?!?) and got bogged in the sand. Luckily some more experienced drivers were able to pull us out. It would’ve been nearly impossible for us to turn around in the soft sand with the heavy trailer in tow, and the tide was coming in too fast for there to be any other options. The grizzled ferry driver landed a bit further down the beach as the rest of the passengers looked on. A bit of extra entertainment for those on board, and some red cheeks worn by us newbies to the sand driving world. We’ll do better next time, Fraser! But, is it really an adventure if you don’t get bogged?
I’d love to spend a few weeks exploring Rainbow Beach (which we’ve heard has great diving) and Sandy National Park. Until next time, Fraser!
How to see Fraser Island
There’s only one way to see Fraser Island, and that’s with a 4WD. Whether you drive your own vehicle, rent, or take a tour, having a vehicle that can withstand a bit of rough handling is a must.
If the thought of driving (and possibly getting stuck) on sand makes you cringe, consider a drive-yourself tour. This provides a convoy to follow and pull you out if needed, while still having the full experience of driving along the sand highway.
If you're driving on your own, you will need a vehicle access permit. This is good for one month, and is purchased on the parks website. Ours was $53.65.
Make sure you have a tide chart and pay close attention to the areas you can't travel at high tide. Don't end up on the Wall of Shame (people who had to get towed or worse, dug out of the sand after sinking into the surf).
Camping on Fraser Island
Fraser is a national park, so you need to book campsites on the parks website before arriving. The campgrounds are not dedicated sites but zones, starting with Zone 1 at the southern end and going up to In the north. There are other campsites as well, although these are inland or on the western side of the island, which we heard was pretty rough to get to. We opted for the easy way out, leaving our trailer just over the dune at Zone 1 and taking the ute to explore the rest of the island. If you want to be close to the action we’d recommend Zone 4 as it’s further up the beach.
There are also tons of options besides camping on the island. There are resorts, holiday rentals, and private accommodation available. Contact Bobby at Hale Travel & Events if you'd like to book something!