4-wheel driving around Australia’s Fraser Island
Around a five-hour bus journey north of Brisbane on the eastern coast of Australia is the largest sand island in the world, Fraser Island. Although well frequented by hordes of tourists each year, I still would advise people not to miss it. This is even following the tragic occurrences during recent months in which dingos (Australia’s wild indigenous dogs), have savagely attacked a small number of tourists who have visited the island. Having been to Fraser Island myself, I was as alarmed as anybody at the savage attacks and only hope it does not reoccur, detracting tourists from what is a spectacular wilderness location, unlike no other on earth.
Most peoples’ adventures begin back on the mainland of Oz in the sleepy town of Hervey Bay. This is where you can club together with other travellers at a choice of several hotels and hostels and inexpensively rent a four-wheel drive vehicle that is so essential to getting around the sandy trails of Fraser. The night before my adventure began I soon bonded quickly with virtual strangers from an array of countries as we scoured the supermarket for barbie fodder and beers. The next morning after a lesson by the car hire company in four-wheel driving techniques we were soon sunbathing on the ferry over to the big sandy island. A labyrinth of trails opened up before us so we would soon lose the dozens of other vehicles in our wake.
Our first stop of the day was at Lake Mackenzie at the heart of the island. The crystal white sand beneath helps the water sparkle an invitingly bright cyan colour. None of our gang wanted to leave, but then there was so much else left to explore around the island. Another winding trail got us to an endless beach on the far east of the island. This serves as the island’s only motorway and here you are reminded that you’re sharing the island with others but still with ample space. We motored north and examined the ‘Maheno’ shipwreck, just a mass of rusting iron washed half way up the beach. After an afternoon of being sun-soaked and sandblasted, we spent our first evening in virtual seclusion amongst some woods, but close to the sea. Whilst collecting firewood I was reminded of my presence in true wilderness as a large funnel web spider eyeballed me from a web the size of a house. Soon after the sun dipped beneath the tree line we were blessed with a clear starlit sky. What better way to round off a perfect day of sightseeing than to stoke up a barbie and enjoy a ‘tinny’ or two. Everyone boasted about their four-wheel driving ability, or laughed at others ‘inability’ behind the wheel!
At dawn on the second day, I came face to face with a dingo outside the door of my tent, before he sloped away into the bushes. We’d been warned to keep food locked in our vehicle over night, as the dingo will thieve anything. Certainly one shouldn’t offer a dingo food either, as this encourages them, making the dingo expect food in the future. After getting the troops moving our next port of call was Champagne Pools. Here the ocean waves crashed into rock pools thus giving the bubbling champagne effect (hence the name). It is perhaps the only safe place to swim in the sea off the whole of Fraser Island, as we would later discover. Nearby on a prominent headland called ‘Indian Head’ we all spent an hour gazing into the sea water down below us, eventually spotting what looked like the dorsal fins of sharks. In fact the great white shark is a well-known predator lurking close to Fraser Island’s shoreline. We retreated inland to try and find more fresh water where we could swim more safely. Eli Creek, surrounded by vegetation provided us with an unusual but fun experience. We waded upstream and simply just floated with the current back towards the sea. I’d recommend Fraser Island to anyone of all ages as a group excursion. It offers great freedom to explore miles of woodland, inland lakes and coastline. And as regards to the dingos, let’s remember the island is their natural home and we’re only visiting it.