Fraser Island: Exploring the World's Largest Sand Island
Words and images courtesy of Rinus Hartsuijker, a Dutch explorer currently travelling around Australia.
It’s 5 o’clock in the morning when the Kookaburras wake me up. I turn around in my sleeping bag, but I’m already too excited to go back to sleep. The day before a long, sandy 4wd track through Cooloola National Park prepared us for Fraser Island, which is only a mere 50 km ahead. I stick my head out of the rooftop tent and the humid air startles me. I pull back immediately, but it’s too late: mozzies, having waited for their chance to come in, find their way through the now open mosquito net. Alright then, I think - they’re in, I’m out. Twenty minutes of hurried packing later and we’re on our way to Inskip Point.
The sun just doesn’t want to join us this morning. Inskip is covered in a thick layer of fog which doesn’t make it any easier in locating the barge on an unfamiliar beach. When we finally get there we are guided to one of the three rows of cars already there. This is where the separation is made: all 2WD cars stay behind while only 4wd cars are allowed on Fraser Island. Our Toyota Troop Carrier should feel right at home.
Fraser Island Navigation & Maps
Hema HX-1 Navigator
Hema Explorer App
Fraser Island Map
4WD Map Pack
Since it’s only ten minutes to get to Fraser we leave the barge still in the thickest of fog. We’re glad another Landcruiser takes the lead and we follow him on the hard sand which almost resembles bitumen. We can barely see the thick waves rolling in and the start of the low tide gives us enough space to drive alongside them. In the distance we can see the outline of a the Maheno Wreck. The sun finally won its war against the fog and we get out the camera to capture this amazing scene.
That first day we drive all the way to Marloo, past Orchid Beach, and hide behind a small sand dune where we set up camp. We enjoy the sunset which is on the other side of the island, but still adds a beautiful colour palette to our sea view.
The next day we drive back to K’gari where we start the first 4x4 track on Fraser Island: the Northern Forest Scenic Drive. Knife Blade Lookout gives us a view over an enormous sand blow where you can almost feel the battle between sand and bush. We slowly continue on the track where the vegetation gives the eerie feeling of driving through a tunnel. I feel like I’m in a fun fair going through a haunted house: the branches are like cobwebs and the vegetation becomes a dark tunnel. An oncoming car suddenly appears from around the corner on our single track. My foot is on the brake immediately, and my adrenaline rush makes me go to lean on the horn, before putting the Troopy into reverse to create some space to pass. The other driver waits while I make some space for him to continue, after which he smiles meekly while he passes in a hurry to get away from us. It takes a while for us to get out of the adrenaline rush, but fortunately Lake Allom is close by, and a swim in the freshwater lake calms us down.
On the last few kilometers of the track we come across a deep ditch on the left side where the soft sand almost doesn’t allow us to level the car through it. We make it out of there unscathed after we reverse and try again – driving off-road on Fraser Island is not always a walk in the park. That night we camp at Eli where the howling winds and the lack of sand dunes keep us awake for most of the night.
The next morning we drive from Eli via the beach to Eurong, and from there we drive a sandy track to Central Station, where we meet road workers placing rubber mats on the soft sand. We set up camp amongst the trees and decide to do the return walk to Basin Lake for a quick dip. We like our hidden little spot so much that we decide on another night and a long, 18km walk the next day which will take us to Pile Valley, Lake McKenzie, Basin Lake and back to Central Station. It’s a long and testing walk in the sand, and by the time we have reached Basin Lake it starts to pour down with rain. Luckily we know the way from the day before, and we almost break into a run the last kilometers to get to the car. Not that it makes any difference, we’re soaked anyway.
It keeps on raining through the night and we have to pack up a wet tent and annex the next day. We take the Southern Lakes Scenic Drive to Dilli Village and continue via the beach back to Hook Point. We timed the trip back with the low tide and it seems like we’re not the only ones trying to get off the island. We join the long queue of 4wd cars waiting for the barge to take them back to the mainland, and from there we will continue our journey around Australia.