The largest sand island in the world is known by most as Fraser Island, but the indigenous name for this place is far more accurate. In the Butchulla people’s language, K’gari means paradise and this World Heritage-listed site lives up to its name.
I joined a 3-day, 2-night Fraser Island camping trip and 4×4 self-drive tour from Rainbow Beach. I’d only camped once before and had tried driving a manual two or three times… but I never let details like that stop me!
Our 31-person group split up into 4 cars at Rainbow Beach and crammed our things into our vehicles before setting off toward the island. After seeing a plethora of jellyfish in the wake of the ferry to Fraser, any doubts about the gravity of the ‘don’t swim in the ocean at Fraser’ warning disappeared.
Our trip was an amazing three days of sun, sand, new friends, sand, good food, sand… well… you get the picture. If you’re wondering how Fraser Island could be more amazing than other islands you’ve visited, you’re in luck! Check out these 8 things that are Fraser Island-exclusives, and worth adding to the top of your “islands to visit” list.
8 things to see on a Fraser Island Camping Trip
1. Lake McKenzie
This was the highlight of Fraser Island for me. Although more than 250,000 tourists come through this island yearly, you can still feel as if you are on a deserted island. The refreshing water of Lake McKenzie is so pure and clear that it creates a mirror effect as you swim underwater.
2. Indian Head
This feature has a sad history. When white people came to Fraser Island, they murdered most of the indigenous people, marching them up to the top of Indian Head and forcing them to jump. Today, strides are being made to give K’Gari back to the Butchulla people and Indian Head is a good place to take in the beauty of this place and remember the traditional owners of this land.
From the top, we saw dolphins chasing their next meal, turtles, stingrays, and a school of Spanish mackerel. The most awe-inspiring moment, though, was a family of breaching whales taking their time near K’Gari as they migrated through Queensland.
3. Champagne Pools
You can’t go into the ocean…. But the ocean can come to you!
The beautiful turquoise Champagne Pools are fed by crashing waves. When the bubbles clear, look below you for schools of fish who have managed to cross over the rocks and into the pool. And be sure to look into the crevices of the rocks for interesting sea organisms.
4. Eli Creek
Running low on water? Head to the top of Eli Creek and fill your bottle with some of the fresh, cool spring water. Be sure to point your water bottle downstream to avoid drinking debris.
Rumor has it that there’s a whale skeleton nearby… but I didn’t see it. To be fair, I’m not really a seek-out-animal-bones kind of girl, so I wasn’t looking too hard.
5. Maheno Wreck
Usually ship wrecks are confined to the ocean and best explored with scuba gear, but Fraser Island has a unique feature on its sandy shores.
Built in Scotland in 1905 and sold to the Union Steam Ship Company in New Zealand, the SS Maheno was able to carry up to 410 passengers. It broke records for its trans-Tasman voyages, and had a brief stint on the Australia- Honolulu route. After a facelift in 1914, it was commandeered as a hospital ship for the Great War and was known to be a great healing vessel.
By 1935, though, it was outdated and sold as scrap to a company in Japan. On its final voyage, bad weather and a broken tow line conspired to keep the SS Maheno in Australia permanently.
It washed up on the shores of Fraser Island, where it remains to this day. Over the years, it has served as a training ground for special forces during WWII, a testing site for rocket mail deliveries, and even as a wedding venue.
6. Lake Wabby
Finishing our rainbow tour of pools on Fraser is Lake Wabby. Trek through the forest and across an ocean of sand, and you’ll come upon Lake Wabby, a green lake. Its color comes from the eucalyptus trees surrounding the lake which creates the most intoxicating and healing scent. If you’re lucky (or unlucky?), there are little fish that swim in this lake and feast on the dead skin on your feet. It’s like a free fish spa, if you’re into that kind of thing.
One of the special things about this place is the presence of the dingo. This wild dog has been in Australia for more than 4,000 years. They’re at risk of being polluted by crossbreeding elsewhere in Australia… But on Fraser, they’re 100% dingos! They look like dogs, but are very much wild animals. As signs around the island say “Dingos are wiley.. don’t wait for proof.” There have been a few cases of tourists being attacked by dingos, so be sure to treat these guys with the respect they deserve, and don’t go anywhere without your dingo buddy!
8. Nights on Fraser
Take a dingo buddy or two down to the beach for some epic star-gazing! Be sure to download a star-gazing app before heading to the island so you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at. We saw Pluto, Uranus, and a host of other constellations!
Be sure to look down, too, because there’s something special about the wet sand… Stomp around a bit to experience a light show that rivals the starry sky. Bioluminescent organisms in the sand cause it to glow a blue color when it’s agitated by movement. I can attest that the bioluminescent sand makes a pretty awesome stage for a moon walk.
Fraser Island was the perfect blend of adventure and relaxation, and its distance from the mainland resulted in a 3-day technology fast.