Monday, November 17, 2014

Trip Report: Fraser Island 2014

Known as the worlds largest sand island, Fraser Island, off the coast of Queensland, Australia is one of Australia's iconic 4wd destinations... It's a destination for the whole family with enough activities to keep everyone entertained.
Here's an update on my newbie experience of Fraser Island...
Pajero & Prado at the Maheno Wreck

Joining me on this trip was my family (in the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado D4D) along with a friend and his family in their Mitsubishi Pajero v6 petrol.  Our plan was simple - explore Fraser Island.  We opted to pack touring tents which gave us the flexibility to quickly setup and packup so that we would spend four nights in different locations. The touring tents worked well with packup time was under 20min (including bedding, chairs, tents etc).
Malamoo Mega popup tent
Getting There...
We opted to depart Noosa and head North across the Tewantin ferry to Noosa North Shore and along the beach (Cooloola Recreation Area) to Rainbow Beach.

The sea tide was in our favour (worth checking if taking this route) and allowed us to travel easily up the beach skimming the low tide mark.  Rainbow Beach is aptly named as the sea cliffs display a rainbow of colours.  Unfortunately it was raining so the crisp colours were stained by the wet weather.
The town of Rainbow Beach provided us with the opportunity to purchase a barge ticket for the Inskip Peninsula crossing ($110 return), fill the petrol Pajero (which was averaging 30l/100km on the beach) and get a sneaky ice cream for the kids.
I had only the Hema Map, no guide book and a vague memory of Pat Callinan's latest Fraser Island TV episode in my mind.  There was no nightly planning rather a decision to pack up in the morning on find a few interesting spots to explore.

Here are a few thoughts on Fraser Island:

Manta Ray Barge:  Head to Inskip Peninsula and take the Manta Ray Barge.  You can exit your car for the ten minute crossing which gives you the opportunity to spot dolphins, turtles and jelly fish. The children loved the feel of the rolling deck especially when the sea water washed across the open deck wetting our feet.
Manta Ray Barge: Inskip Peninsula
Tyre Pressure: do a proper job on deflating your tyres (16-18psi) and your Fraser Island experience will be more enjoyable.  The sand does get soft, especially in areas were the backpacker tag-a-long and bus tours travel.  You will have plenty of opportunity to watch people attempt to extract their 4x4 - don't be one of them!

Crossing Eli Creek at low tide

Attempt to visit the island out of peak periods... 

Arriving ahead of the tourist busses, Eli creek was peaceful as the fresh water meandered through the gully and the wooden boardwalk  was clear of watery footprints.  The crystal-clear water was fresh enough to chill as we floated on our bellies downstream.  We managed a single 'run' before the first tourist Land Cruiser 80-series pulled in and eight backpackers emerged.

Within 30min, another ten private vehicles had arrived and claimeds spot on the bank of the creek.  My Fraser Island 'newbie' mentality was geared to believe that our two families would have been the only vehicles at Eli creek.  I eventually counted 33 private & tour vehicles and heard from a Fraser Island 'Long-timer' that over the Christmas holidays, the creek can see in excess of 140 vehicles parked up!

Dingo's are not domestic dogs...
Keep your distance...

There were about 12 vehicles parked up when the Dingo walked up Eli Creek.  From vehicle to vehicle the Dingo rumour spread and soon camera's were grabbed and children gathered.
He was a scrawny male, tagged in his left year and bold enough to recognise that the humans would not interact with him and bold enough to sniff out rubbish on the rear wheel bins...

Boldly the Dingo wandered between the parked four wheel drives until a bus tour guide arrived and chased him away.  There are plenty of Dingo warning signs around the island but no mention of what actions need to take place when a Dingo does walk into camp or up the creek.  
I asked about the Dingo etiquette... can we chase them away?  Or do we give into their territorial wanderings?  I had mixed answers and in the end it seemed that the Dingo had the right of way!
Plenty of warnings about Dingos
The Family: Fraser Island is a awesome destination for the whole family.  Their is enough activies (mainly water activies) for the kids to expell energy and for Dad to enjoy some fun driving.
The SS Maheno wreck is perfect for practicing your late afternoon photography as the rusty wreck glows red in the fading light.
SS Maheno Ship Wreck
Be sure to Google Lake McKenzie to experience the seasons of colour...
Lake McKenzie, Fraser Island
A sad sight... one of six old Turtles spotted
Turtle fin
Camping: It's worth considering keeping the campsite as simple and easy to setup and packup as you can. We opted for touring tents which gave us a packup time of under 20minutes.  The benefit is that you can explore the many camping areas including Central Station (below) and the coastal camping area.
Central Station
Beach camping South of Indian Head
Fuel Consumption: Watch your fuel consumption.  We drove 400km on sand and the Land Cruiser Prado D4D averaged 16.8l/100km whilst the Mitsubishi Pajero averaged just over 32l/100km.  We had to visit Eurong Beach Resort to refill the petrol tank (and buy an ice cream of course).
Looking North from Indian Head

Fraser Island or Moreton Island? Both islands are sand islands and offer a very similiar experience.  Moreton Island wins on the ferry journey as it takes an hour to cross and adds to the fun of the journey.  However, Fraser Island is a must for families - there is simple more to do.  The family can enjoy the fun four-wheel sand driving, trekking to the inland lakes, watching the fresh water turtles munch flies and swimming in the creeks.  Moreton offers a man made reef for swimming but offers no inland lakes. The 4wd driving is equally fun.  
In summary, head to Fraser Island if you are after a family trip and need to keep the kids entertained. Head to Moreton Island if you want a chilled out break (without backpacker tour busses) and enjoy the totally different coastal beaches (the rough East coast vs the calm West Coast).

That's it for Fraser Island 2014.  I will be going back to visit as I still need to visit the lighthouse (which was closed for maintenance) on the Northern most point of Fraser Island.  
Heading South to Inskip Peninsular

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