11 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do on Fraser Island
The largest sand island on the planet, World Heritage-listed Fraser Island is one of Australia's most rewarding 4WD nature adventures. Called K'Gari, meaning "Paradise," by the local Butchulla people, this 123-kilometer-long island lies off the coast of Southeast Queensland, and it certainly lives up to its name. Most of the island belongs to Great Sandy National Park, a protected area of diverse habitats and dazzling beauty. Subtropical rainforest, seemingly endless beaches, mangroves, lagoons, towering sand dunes, and crystal-clear freshwater lakes and streams are just some of the natural attractions you can explore here, and the island evokes an intoxicating spirit of adventure in all who visit. Miles of dune-backed beaches rim the coast, creating a sandy highway for self-drive visitors and tour vehicles.
Besides off-road driving, top things to do on the island include hiking along the beautiful beaches and rainforest trails, fishing off the eastern beach, swimming, birding, mountain biking, wildlife watching, and camping. Subtropical Fraser Island is popular year-round, thanks to its hot summers and mild winters, and if you're driving, a high-clearance 4WD vehicle with low range capability is essential. For current conditions and safety information, check the K'Gari, Great Sandy National Park website. Start your planning with our list of the top attractions and things to do on Fraser Island.
1. Drive along 75 Mile Beach
Driving along the sweeping wave-thrashed shore of Seventy-Five Mile Beach is a fitting introduction to one of the most unique 4WD safaris in the world. Skirting the east coast of Fraser Island, the road is a National Highway and also serves as a landing strip for light aircraft. You can visit several tourist attractions along this roughly 120-kilometer stretch. The rusted hull of the Maheno shipwreck is a popular stop; as well as the multicolored cliffs of the Pinnacles; and the bubbly rock pools, called Champagne Pools.
While you're driving, keep an eye out for wildlife. Dingoes often pad along the shore or in the dunes, and humpback whales swim these waters during their annual migration (August through October). You might also see the occasional shark fin slicing through the sea - a warning to unsuspecting swimmers that tiger sharks prowl these waters. Dangerous surf and strong riptides are a further deterrent in case you're thinking about a relaxing dip.
The speed limit is 80 kilometers per hour in good conditions, and it's important to heed the tides. Stories of rental vehicles swept away in rising seas are a somber warning for drivers, but for many tourists, this merely adds to the excitement. From the mainland, the fastest and easiest way to access 75-Mile Beach is on vehicle and passenger barges, which depart from Inskip Point, a 15-minute drive from Rainbow Beach. If you're worried about driving on the island or don't have an all-wheel-drive vehicle, the best option is a 4WD Tour of Fraser Island from Hervey Bay.
2. Swim in Lake McKenzie
More than 200 freshwater lakes and creeks dot Fraser Island, and many offer ideal conditions for a refreshing swim. One of Fraser's most-visited attractions, Lake McKenzie (Boorangoora) offers a striking combination of sublime white sand and cool, clear waters in vivid shades of blue. The sand here is actually silky-soft silica, which filters the rainwater of this perched lake, making it so pure that it supports little aquatic life. Many visitors come here to sprawl on the satiny shores and swan about in the crystal clear water. Lake McKenzie is also a popular camping spot.
If you're looking for a more peaceful experience, Lake Birrabeen is a great option. This perched lake in the center of the island rivals the beauty of Lake McKenzie but lies off the main tourist bus circuit, meaning it is less crowded.
3. Look for Wildlife
Spotting wildlife is a highlight of any visit to Fraser Island, and its rich variety of fauna reflects its diverse habitats. On land, you might spot dingoes, reputedly Australia's purest strain; sugar gliders; brushtail possums; flying foxes; snakes; and sand monitors among other species. Birding is also superb. More than 354 species have been spotted on the island, including pied oystercatchers, white-bellied sea-eagles, brahminy kites, yellow-tailed black-cockatoos, and king-parrots.
Under the water, the animal life is just as rich. Dolphins, dugongs, stingrays, turtles, and sharks (particularly tiger sharks) swim these waters, and humpback whales migrate past the island from August through October. Whale-watching trips departs from Hervey Bay and cruise along the Fraser Island coast. If you're feeling super adventurous, you can also book a package that includes a swim with the whales.
4. Stroll the Rain Forest Trails near Central Station
Once the center of logging operations, Central Station now marks the starting point of some picturesque hikes. One of the most popular is the easy .7 kilometer Wanggoolba Creek trail, which weaves through subtropical rainforest. A boardwalk follows the fern-fringed creek through picabeen palms, vines, and strangler figs. This area is also home to the impressive king fern, which grows and sprouts the largest fronds in the world. Below the boardwalk, the creek's water is so clear, it looks almost invisible as it flows silently over the soft, white sand. From here, you can continue on a trail through forests of tall eucalyptus and satinay trees to the shores of beautiful Basin Lake on a four-kilometer (approximately two-hour) circuit trail. Before or after your rain forest hike, be sure to browse the exhibits on the island's history and ecology. Central Station is also a great place for a picnic.
5. Float along Eli Creek
Eli Creek is a popular picnic and swimming spot along Seventy-Five Mile Beach. Deceptively powerful, the creek pours about four million liters of fresh water into the sea every hour. A pandanus-fringed boardwalk along the creek leads to a bridge where children like to splash about and float down the creek's fast-flowing waters on inflatables, one of the favorite free things to do on Fraser Island. Change rooms and restrooms are nearby. While you're here, keep an eye out for jungle perch, eels, and frogs. Note that drivers should take care when crossing the creek in a vehicle as it often carves deep channels along the beach.
6. See the View from Indian Head
At the far northern end of 75 Mile Beach, Indian Head is the island's most easterly point and offers breathtaking panoramic views along the wave-washed shores, and rolling dunes and scrub beyond. It's about a 15- to 20-minute climb over soft, dry sand to the top of point, but the hike is well worth the trouble. This is also a fantastic spot to look for wildlife along the shore - especially during winter, when tailor, also known as bluefish, gather to spawn. Depending on the time of year, you might also see manta rays, sharks, whales, dolphins, and turtles. Not surprisingly, this is also a top spot for fishing.
7. Hike the Fraser Island Great Walk
The Fraser Island Great Walk is one of the best things to do on Fraser Island without a car. This 90-kilometer trek traces the tracks of old logging routes and the island's first human inhabitants, the Butchulla people. Wandering along the wild windswept beaches of Fraser Island is a highlight, and the trail also passes some of Fraser's most popular tourist attractions, such as crystal-clear Lake McKenzie, the subtropical rainforest and historic exhibits of Central Station, Wanggoolba Creek, and dune-backed Lake Wabby. You'll also pass the small settlements of Dilli Village and Happy Valley, where you can stock up on supplies.
This walk is relatively easy and takes about six to eight days, with walkers' camps along route. You can also break the trek up into smaller sections if you're short on time. Those seeking a little luxury after the hike can rest up at Kingfisher Bay Resort, on the island's western side, and soothe their weary muscles at the resort's Island Day Spa.
8. Climb the Dunes at Lake Wabby
Fraser's deepest lake, Lake Wabby is another of the island's most popular waterholes and a great place to see nature in action. It's both a window lake and the only barrage lake on Fraser, meaning the natural spring is blocked by a giant sand bank. Bordering its blue-green waters, the towering Hammerstone Sandblow engulfs the lake by about a meter per year, a testament to the constantly evolving landscape. From the lake parking lot, it takes about 40 minutes to hike to the lake, but the journey is mostly uphill on soft sand, so it's best to start early before the strong heat of the day.
If you're feeling less energetic, you can climb to a lookout with superb views of the wind-sculpted landscape, the sand blow, and the water it is quickly smothering. From the lookout parking lot, it's only 450 meters to the viewpoint, and then another 1.5 kilometers to the lake. Once you arrive, at the lake, you can cool off with a refreshing dip. Don't be surprised if you feel something nibbling your toes; this is the only lake on the island that supports fish, and they like to help exfoliate your feet.
9. Explore the Maheno Shipwreck
About 10 kilometers north of the tiny settlement of Happy Valley, the Maheno shipwreck is a popular attraction along 75 Mile Beach. The boat was once a trans-Tasman liner, and in 1935, a cyclone swept it ashore while it was being towed from Sydney to Osaka. The eight crew on board camped on the beach for a couple of days until help arrived, but the ship could not be refloated, and attempts to sell the vessel were unsuccessful.
Today, its rusted skeleton is a haunting landmark along this wind-whipped stretch of coast. Sand is slowly engulfing the remains, but it's still an impressive sight and a worthwhile stop for a photo op as you're driving along the beach.
10. Camp in the Rainforest or on the Beach
Sleeping in the rainforest or snoozing to the sounds of waves crashing along the shore, makes a Fraser Island adventure even more fun. The island has more than 45 campsites strung along its beautiful beaches and tucked in the rainforest. Most of the sites are run by the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service and offer easy access to the island's top attractions.
If you want to avoid the crowds and don't need facilities, opt for one of the more remote sites, like Caree and Diray along the Sandy Cape, on the far northern tip of the island, or camp along the western beach. For more facilities and creature comforts, Cathedrals on Fraser is a private site with showers; toilets; and a well-stocked shop, which also serves hot food.
Families with children under 14 years of age should choose a camp with a dingo-safe fence. You can book up to six months in advance, and this is highly recommended during peak periods, when many sites fill to capacity.
Official site: https://qpws.usedirect.com/qpws/
11. Fish off the Beach
Fraser Island is a top spot for beach fishing. If you're willing to brave the 4WD traffic, casting along Seventy-Five Mile Beach can be exhilarating and rewarding, especially from July through November, when tailor spawn along the coast. Other popular catches include bream, whiting, flathead, mackerel, tuna, trevally, and sharks, among other species.
Fishing the gutters along the beach can be productive, especially near Waddy Point or north of the Maheno. Other prime casting spots include Sandy Cape, the island's northernmost point; Indian Head; and Middle Rocks. Best of all, the island has plenty of fresh bait, including worms, pippis, and yabbies (a type of shrimp), and you can harvest it yourself. Note that fishing in the island's freshwater lakes and streams is prohibited.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Fraser Island
Renting a 4WD vehicle can be expensive, and it can be difficult to navigate your way around the island's soft sand tracks, but a tour will handle all these details so you can relax and explore the stunning scenery. Most include meals, national park fees, hotel pickup and drop-off, and all transportation, including the passenger and vehicle ferry.
- Day Trip from Hervey Bay: If you want to see some of the island's highlights in a day, sign up for the Fraser Island 4WD tour from Hervey Bay. This nine-hour tour takes you on a 4WD tour along the famous Seventy-Five Mile Beach to see all the sites, then you can cool off in the clear waters of Lake McKenzie and float along Eli Creek. You'll also have a chance to explore the rainforest and learn all about the island's unique ecosystems and wildlife from your expert guide.
- Two-Day Trip from Hervey Bay: Spending two days on the island gives you a chance to explore more of the island's unique ecosystems. The 2-Day Fraser Island tour from Harvey Bay gives you time to see all the top sights, as well as hike some of the trails near Central Station, swim in Lake McKenzie, hike to the viewpoint at Indian Head, soak in the Champagne rock pools, and visit Lake Wabby. This tour also includes an optional scenic flight.
- Two-Day Trip from Brisbane or the Gold Coast: If you're based farther south along the coast, the 2-Day 4WD tour from Brisbane or the Gold Coast will transport you to and around the island, where you can hike the trails near Central Station, swim at Lake Birabeen, admire Indian Head views, and look for kangaroos and dingoes.
- How to Get to Fraser Island: You can access the island by car ferry and boat services from Rainbow Beach, Hervey Bay, and River Heads.
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Other Queensland Adventures: If you're looking for things to do near Fraser Island, Hervey Bay is one of the best fishing destinations in Australia. Anglers come here to hook golden trevally on the crystal-clear flats, and you can also cast for tuna, giant trevally, and cobia, among other species. About a two-hour drive south of here, Noosa Heads is a chic resort town with sparkling beaches, fantastic surf breaks, and a wildlife-rich Noosa National Park. Dining and shopping are other highlights. Continuing farther south, you can explore all the tourist attractions of the Sunshine Coast. See some of Steve Irwin's favorite animals at Australia Zoo, shop at Eumundi Markets, and ogle marine life at Underwater World Sea Life.
Brisbane and Beyond: For urban adventures, drive a couple of hours south from the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane, the state capital. Museums, botanic gardens, and the lovable koalas at Lone Pine Sanctuary are some of the highlights here, and you'll find plenty of appealing day trip ideas, from idyllic islands to lush national parks. This is also a fun family-friendly destination. See our article on top things to do with kids for ideas. Even farther south is the glitzy Gold Coast, rimmed by beautiful beaches. Designer boutiques, shopping malls, and vibrant entertainment venues draw travelers who are looking for a little more action. Families love the popular theme parks nearby, like SeaWorld and Warner Bros.