©Copyright Kelley Mether, 2016
Sand, dingos, irukandji and more sand…but it’s worth it.
Ah, Australia. Why is it that such rugged beauty has to be accompanied by such nasty critters? Oh well, get used to it, ‘cos it just is.
On the east coast of Australia, part of the The Great Sandy National Park, you’ll find Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. In 1992 it joined the list of World Heritage Areas, in recognition of the island’s internationally significant natural features.
There are so many things about Fraser Island that make it a fantastic adventure. There’s the rough sand driving – do NOT underestimate the need for a good 4WD! (And in case you’re wondering, I’m talking high clearance Landcruisers, Hiluxs, and Pajeros, not all wheel drives such as Forresters or RAV 4s). Getting sand-bogged in 34 degree heat is not funny, after the first time. Take a snatch strap and a shovel; if you don’t get bogged yourself, the person in front of you probably will, and there are no two lane highways on Fraser.
Think crystal clear inland lakes with soft white sand; think tea tree coloured lakes with (apparently) healing qualities; think spring fed, fast flowing creeks that you can float down on, on an inflatable ring or boogie board. Think kayaking, jet skiing, think fantastic fishing spots and plenty of fish to catch.
Now, think dingos and irukandji. What??? Yes, the Australian dingo is alive and well on the island, they are wild and yes, you should take all those signs all over Fraser seriously – the ones warning you to never walk alone, never to try to feed or befriend them. There have been dingo attacks on the island, they are not pets. And what the hell are irukandji?? Well, they are reasonably new beasties to Fraser, and not a welcome or cute addition, either. Irukandji are the smallest known Box Jellyfish – only about the size of the top of your thumb, and completely transparent – and their sting can be fatal. Even more to look forward to, your last hours (and they take a while to kill you) are spent not just with agonising, wracking body pain, but with an impending sense of doom and disaster as well. Lovely.
You can get there via Rainbow Beach (ten minutes on the Manta Ray Ferries, $120 return) or from River Heads just outside of Hervey Bay itself (an hour and ten minutes on the Fraser Island Barges, about $110 one way).
If you’ve got a choice, don’t go during the Christmas, New Year, or Easter seasons. Besides the campsites and beaches being overcrowded with 4WD’s, you’ve also got the issue of the already very rough sand roads being even more churned up. Getting bottomed out, wheels spinning uselessly with the car’s underbelly hugging the sand is a common problem during peak seasons.
Fraser is beautiful at any time, but if you really want to swim, go between October and April. Eli Creek in particular is too cold to swim in during Winter.
There’s plenty of choice: Kingfisher Bay Resort if you’re monied up, Eurong Beach Resort if you’re not quite so monied up, loads of self-catering fully furnished houses at places like Orchid Beach. There are also dingo-proof camping sites run by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service as well as take-your-own-chances camp sites along the many beaches.
This is a sand island, and if you’re not driving at low tide, on hard pressed sand, it’s easy to get bogged. The inland tracks are soft at the best of times, so you’ll want to lower your tyre pressure to at least 18psi. Towards the top of Fraser, around the Orchid Beach and Cathedral Beach areas, the roads leading from the beach inland are particularly treacherous, and most cars were down to 14psi. This sounds very strange to most drivers new to beach driving, but there’s nothing more annoying than pulling out someone who has absolutely refused to listen to reason regarding tyre pressure.
Do carry a snatch strap! At one stage on this last trip to Fraser, we helped pull out a car that nobody dared drive close to, for fear of getting bogged also. Luckily, most drivers were carrying snatch straps and we were able to tie three together to pull the car out from quite a distance away!
On the really soft sand, especially if you’re going uphill, speed and momentum are called for. Without it, you’re lost.
Fraser Island Ferries: http://www.fraserislandferry.com.au
Manta Ray Barges: http://mantarayfraserislandbarge.com.au
Eurong Beach Resort: http://www.eurong.com.au
Kingfisher Bay Resort: http://www.kingfisherbay.com