Camping isn’t really my thing.
Call me crazy, but I like little luxuries. You know, toilets, pillows, showers and air conditioning.
But when you’re backpacking the east coast of Australia, you really ought to do it properly, and that means doing some camping.
Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, located about 120 miles north of Brisbane. It’s insanely popular with tourists, who storm the island by the thousands each year in rented 4-wheel drives.
As part of my East Coast package from Peterpans Adventure Travel, I had a 3 day/2 night 4×4 camping safari on Fraser Island. The tour was run in partnership with Dingo’s Resort, a backpacker’s on the main drag of Rainbow Beach. Participants were divided into groups of eight and given a safety briefing the day before departure. We were provided with food, cooking equipment, tents and a map – any alcohol was extra. Being typical backpackers, we added a few boxes of goon and some cheap beer, then off we went.
Besides being overrun with sand, Fraser Island is packed with freshwater lakes and streams. Within hours of driving onto the island, we pulled over for a swim in Eli Creek. This creek is the longest on the island. The water is pleasantly clear and shallow, with a gentle current to carry you downstream.
Look out for: Photo ops! Lots of overhanging branches and bridges to play with. These are the photos that’ll prove you found paradise.
I’d never seen a shipwreck up close, and the best part about the Maheno is that it’s completely unguarded. This is a rusted old hull of a ship, free for exploring at your leisure. The ship was on its way to Japan in 1935, destined for the scrap heap, when it was sucked into a cyclone. A few days later it washed up on the shores of Fraser Island, where tourists like you and I are free to check it out.
Don’t climb on it, though. That’s frowned upon.
Look out for: Changing tides. As the tide goes out, more of the shipwreck is revealed.
At 12 meters deep, Lake Wabby is the deepest of Fraser’s lakes. This means that you’re not the only one there – be prepared to share it with some unidentifiable fish. It sits at the bottom of a massive sand dune and is a murky green colour. The lake is small enough to swim across, though you’ll need to have some stamina to make it back.
Look out for: Freakin’ hot sand. Seriously. The. Hottest. Sand. Ever. I’d wear thongs on the way to the water if you value your feet.
If you’ve got a keen eye, you can spot tiger sharks, whales and dolphins from the headlands. After some careful scrutinizing, I finally saw them: a teeming mass of tiger sharks, hovering around the rocks.
Actual it was seaweed, a fact that my friends were all too happy to point out.
Even if you don’t succeed in wildlife watching, there are some fantastic views to be had and you’ll probably spy a few wild brumbies (shaggy ponies) on the way up.
Look out for: falling rocks. The great thing about Fraser Island is that you’re left to your own devices, but that’s more of a reason to be extra-careful.
Try as I might, I could not adequately capture the mesmerizing blue of Lake Mackenzie. It was almost pastel, beautiful even in the light drizzle that drove us out of the water and under the trees. It’s good for swimming, water sports, and sunbathing, which means that it’s unlikely you’ll get it to yourself.
Look out for: Picnic tables. Lake Mackenzie’s a nice place to get out your portable stove and cook some eggy bread and sausages.
The most beautiful night sky I have ever seen was on Fraser Island. Hands down. I knew about the Milky Way, but it wasn’t until Fraser Island that I saw clear proof of its existence. Free from city lights and pollution, the stars are absolutely brilliant.
Look out for: Poorly erected tents. We woke up suffocating in the middle of the night when the girls’ tent collapsed in the middle of a windstorm. It was hard to appreciate the stars at that moment.
I said I’m not a camping kind of girl, but the truth is, I really enjoyed camping on Fraser Island. It was like a giant playground, free for us to explore. The beautiful scenery and good company almost made me forget the lack of toilets. Almost!
Look out for: Dingoes. I don’t know about stealing babies, but they will happily take off with a loaf of your bread. And, as I can attest to, screaming, “Dingo’s got our bread!” doesn’t slow them down.
We pulled up at the ferry dock on the third day, sunburned and happy but ready for a hot shower. I’ve got nothing but fond memories of Fraser Island and would recommend it to anyone making their way up Australia’s east coast.
Even if you’re not that into camping.
Have you been to Fraser Island? What were your highlights?