While pouring over maps and Pinterest boards planning our east-coast roadtrip, there was one place that Nikki and I both knew that we had to exist within for a little while. It’s hard to say what caught our eye first about Fraser Island: it might’ve been the beautiful, crystal clear freshwater lakes dotted across the landscape, or it might’ve been that the beaches looked unbelievably wild and uninhabited.
Whatever initial reason it was, it was decided: we would be going to Fraser Island!
As it happened, if we weren’t so determined we mightn’t have made it at all. After an hour or two of mulling and researching and calling everyone we could think of to ask for advice, we found out a couple of things. Firstly, that the island was much, much bigger than we thought it was. Second, that the spots we really wanted to see were about as far away from each other as humanly possible. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, a vast majority of the island was only accessible by 4WD. Well then.
Enter Cool Dingo. We hadn’t even thought of doing a tour- this was our own backyard! Who on earth goes on a tour within their home country? The more we read about Cool Dingo, though, the more it made sense. They had four-wheel-drive busses, that could get us to everywhere we were dreaming of, the group sizes were pretty small (and the people we’d be touring with were young), all of our food and accommodation would be sorted, and honestly? It looked like fun! We were pretty sure that in the middle of a ten-day trip full of ten-hour driving stints, a bit of fun was exactly what we needed.
A little over a month of counting down later, and we were parking our van in the secure park, and jumping on a ferry to Fraser!
Just our luck, the time that we chose to head over was what our (brilliant) tour guide Gaz called ‘the coldest season that’d hit the place for a long time’. It was raining when we walked from ferry to bus, but in between introductions Gaz assured us that it’d be over before we knew it- and, true to form, by the time we’d coasted (or, bumped along four-wheel driving tracks) to Basin Lake, the rain had stopped and the weather was an absolute pearler for a wander.
tour leader Gaz
From the lake, we took a long stroll through a beautiful rainforest along Wanggoolba Creek- amazing, given that the whole island is essentially a sandbar! The forest was lush and green, and there was not a soul to be seen aside from our group; perfect wind-down bliss, and the most wonderful morning to start our three days in paradise.
After a chilled lunch session (complete with a kookaburra hanging out, much to the delight of every non-aussie in the group), we made our way down to Lake McKenzie; w o a h. The largest freshwater lake I’ve ever seen, and by far the clearest and bluest. We hung out here (and took about a million photos) for the next couple of hours, before heading back to our beautiful accommodation.
Kingfisher Resort is the premium option on the tour (#fancy), and after a day of exploring, let me tell you it’s well worth going that route! Our beds were plush and comfortable, the warm showers were heavenly and the view over a sea of wetlands and then the actual sea, glittering in the distance, made us appreciate the beauty of where we were even more.
We relaxed in our room for a little while, and when we were recharged (mentally, physically, and all of our devises haha), headed up to the Dingo Bar where the rest of our crew was about to tuck into dinner. One problem- we’d spent so long getting to 100% phone battery wise, that we’d missed the shuttle bus up! Luckily the staff at Kingfisher were super accommodating, and managed to sort us out. We were eating a delicious buffet dinner and chatting with people from all over the place in no time. After dinner, we balanced out our nanna-sides with our love of cheap drinks, and had a ball playing beerpong with a cocktail jug full of goodness before heading back to sleep. Side-note: beerpong is pretty much the ultimate game when you’re trying to get to know people. A hearty dose of competition and the ability to show a bit of grace when you lose miserably (hellooo) are a beautiful combination, and as we stepped back on the shuttle bus to the bottom of the hill we felt that much closer to the group of wanderers we were exploring this beautiful place with.
The next morning, we were super excited for a big shared brekkie after a week of eating whatever what was on-hand in the van. We sprung out of bed, packed our bags for the day with bathers and cameras and mozzie repellent and sunscreen and we… missed the bus. Again. After already looking like millennial idiots the night before, we decided that we could just walk up to the Dingo Bar for breakfast- after all, it only took about four or five minutes coasting there on wheels!
one of Cool Dingo’s famous 4wd-busses
Forty minutes later, we arrived at the bar as sweating, panting messes- we’d been told by Gaz that if we missed the bus, we’d ‘only ever miss it once’- and now we knew what he meant. At least we’d earned a big feed! We set of fifteen minutes later, my music blaring through the speakers (we were sitting at the front of the bus because we’re nerds, so got run of the song choices) punctuated by a heap of information from Gaz and his right-hand man Andy, who was training to be a guide himself. Some of the best bits included terrifying international guests by reaffirming all the talk they’d heard about the dangers of Oz- ‘oh my god, that leaf- that leaf will kill you. That tree might kill you, too- and the sand will definitely kill you’ and a stack of information about the geographical gems of the island and its fascinating history.
There was lots of driving, as we were making our way up pretty far north, but it never felt too lengthily as there was something to see all the time. The first stop was a pull-over on 75-Mile-Beach, when a strapping young pilot offered anyone interested a trip over the whole island in one of their fleet of small planes. It was heaps cheaper than we thought it might be, and so we jumped at the chance.
excited / nervous / very very slightly hungover..
We looped around all of the perched lakes, forests and masses of sand, and it was incredible seeing the island from above- even if I was regretting beer-pong a bit as the pilot showed off his precision-flying skill! We landed a little way down the beach, and met the bus there- it was like we hadn’t missed a beat.
incredible view from the plane.
The next place we went to ended up in being my absolute favorite- Eli Creek. It was pretty busy there, but only as busy as you’d expect a remote-ish island to be. Floating down the dreamy blue water was like ten spa-visits at once, incredibly refreshing and so pretty it was almost unreal.
floating down Eli: bliss!
After Eli, we made our way to the Champagne Pools- one of the spots that caught our eye in the very first place!
It was exactly as we’d imagined- crystal clear water, sparkling alluringly, protected by a rung of rocky ledges from the wild ocean beyond it. We had about an hour here- actually, that’s another thing; we never felt rushed on or hurried up on the trip, which was so good- to soak in the pools and chat more with the group (we ended up giving an impromptu-and-probably-bit-depressing lecture on beach safety) before climbing the stairs back up to the bus.
From the pools we headed to Indian Head, where we learned the sobering history of the island’s indigenous population. Honestly, this was one of the most fascinating parts of the trip in my opinion: the past was so rich and so horrific, and it was so important that this message was spread to those enjoying the spot today. It felt a little bit embarrassing being Australian after hearing what happened on Indian Head and the island at large, but I really recommend giving it a bit of a google if you’re interested. Aside from the history lesson, the spot was also a breathtaking view-point: we could see so far along Fraser’s east coast that it was truly humbling.
the view from Indian Head
On the way home we checked out the Maheno Shipwreck: seriously, mind-blowing to think that so much of the vessel was under sand, and that it was so well preserved considering!
a little bit of maheno shipwreck
That night, after more long showers and relaxing on our balcony (again, #fancy!), we made our way down to the Maheno Restaurant. It was pretty much my dream: a kind of all-you-can-eat, a la carte blend, that saw us order a main meal and have our pick of mountains and mountains of delicious sides, salads and desserts. Holy heck. The service here was beautiful, and after eating ourselves (not quite) sick, we rolled back to our room and had probably the best sleep ever.
The next morning, we had breakky at the hotel- we couldn’t go past the Maheno option after the incredible spread the night before, and after a long and languishing feed we were ready to do the last day in a big way.
a funny little breakkie spread
When the bus pulled up it felt a little quieter than it had over the last few days: this third leg of the tour was optional, and lots of our tribe had headed back to the mainland the night before. There was no way we’d have done that, because we were so excited at the thought of doing Hammerstone Sandblow!
The morning was a blur: we did a bit more trekking to reach the sandblow itself, which was insane. Right in the middle of an island, dotted with blue pools and green creeks and lush rainforest, was a desert! Well, a desert-ish: a few hundred meters of sand on sand on sand, that looked pretty much like I’d always imagined the Sahara to. Turns out that deserts (or, deserts-ish) are not only beautiful; they’re also really hot, and kind of exhausting to traipse through! After mucking around, rolling down dunes and leaving footprints everywhere we trailed, we were so keen to jump in Lake Wabby: an emerald green jewel on the side of the sandblow, with water that was as cold as it was deep and even more refreshing than that. Lake Wabby had a quiet, unassuming beauty about it. We floated around here for a little while, soaking up its strangely mysterious vibe, before heading up to the bus for a trip to another buffet for lunch.
Look, I’m just going to say here that I am a buffet person- who isn’t? I ate so much on this tour that it’s amazing I could walk / run / swim / hike / be ridiculous at all, but I guess it was energy food, ‘cause each and every time I was stoked with myself after going back for seconds. Ahem. And thirds.
The lucky last stop of our tour was Lake Birrabeen. Here, we pulled out a stack of Stand Up Paddleboards (SUPs), and cruised around on the glossy surface of Birrabeen and crashed out on the sandy white shore to chat to the new friends we made along the way. I know that I haven’t really mentioned the other people we were travelling with (too much incredible natural beauty to wax lyrical about!), but they made a great trip even better. I wish I could list them all- you know who you are, incredible folk, but I will tell you to keep an eye on Danielle and Dom: a gorgeous Canadian / American couple who we really clicked with on the way.
one last soak
Before we knew it, we were having one last soak at the Sand Bar pool near the ferry, and we were off to the mainland. After lots of hugs and a couple of happy-snaps, we were pulling our van out of the secure-parking she’d been chilling in for the last few days, and gazing at beautiful Fraser in a new light.
me, gaz, nik & andy
The island was a serious highlight of our trip, and we were so full of incredible history, unreal sights and memories we wouldn’t swap for the world: and after experiencing Fraser Island with Cool Dingo, we wouldn’t do it any other way.