When you tell anyone you’re off to Fraser Island, an immediate sense of awe comes over their faces. The words ‘spectacular’ and ‘incredible’ start rolling off their tongues.
Fraser Island – or its traditional name, K’gari – certainly has an impressive reputation as the largest sand island in the world.
And we immediately realise why as the Kingfisher Bay Ferry (which departs at River Heads near Hervey Bay) draws closer to our destination, appearing like an untouched jungle in the middle of a crystal blue ocean.
We are first-timers at this famous attraction, and while we one day look forward to being able to camp and drive ourselves around its beautiful spots, this trip is about relaxing but still seeing the best it has to offer.
There are a few accommodation choices on the island, and we opt for Kingfisher Bay Resort.
Our home for the next three nights is a two-bedroom villa, which we are surprised to find has a full-size kitchen, lounge and dining areas, over two levels. While it’s certainly comfortable, don’t expect to find modern five-star luxury here – because that’s not what you’ll find. Some parts are dated and rough around the edges but the best bits are what’s outside the rooms, not in them.
Not all of the accommodation choices offer the convenience of parking right at your door, but the villas do, and it comes in very handy on the very rainy day we check-in.
Our first activity on the island is the hotel’s Bush Tucker Talk and Taste session hosted by Kaylee, an animal ecologist and ranger.
On an outdoor deck, surrounded by the sounds of the forest, we taste a smorgasbord of bush fruits, nuts, seeds and flowers teamed with crocodile, kangaroo and emu cooked fresh in front of us on the barbeque by a hotel chef.
It’s my first ever sample of crocodile, and with a pleasant texture similar to chicken, it makes a delicious accompaniment for the macadamia nut pesto on our tasting plate.
The croc is followed by a piece of seared emu meat which we dip into a hibiscus flower syrup glaze. As we eat, Kaylee has everyone (including my six year old) listening intently with her interesting facts on how bush foods have been traditionally used by indigenous Australians.
We’re a tad weary from the day’s travel to drink just yet, but we are surrounded by bush tucker enthusiasts sipping cocktails flavoured with lemon myrtle, pepperberry syrup and native bush lime.
We had hoped to spend our first full day on Fraser Island marvelling at whales, but the weather had other plans.
Our disappointment doesn’t last long when we learn a free beach walk is about to start. With rain clouds making way for some sunshine, we follow ranger Tess to Kingfisher Bay Beach, which borders one end of the resort grounds and the first piece of spectacular coast of the island you see disembarking the ferry.
Much to the delight of the kids in the group, Tess puts her hands in the sand and gives us a close up of a soldier crab, which is about the size of a five cent piece. As we walk on in low tide, we begin to spot them in the hundreds as they spread all over the creamy, muddy sand, popping their nimble shells under it in group formation as we approach.
The hour-long tour wasn’t in our original plans but it turned out to be an informative and fun introduction to the island that the whole family can enjoy at their own pace.
Online reviews from a few months ago noted that some of the dining options at Kingfisher Resort weren’t available, so I wondered how things had progressed for our visit.
I needn’t have worried that options would be limited because all three restaurants – Seabelle, Sand & Wood, and The Sand Bar were all open – plus the popular Sunset Bar was in full swing too.
This mum and dad couldn’t remember the last time we ate out dinner sans child, so it was music to our ears to find out our six year old could participate in the Junior Eco Rangers program (costing $40 at the time of booking), which includes fun outdoor activities and a meal for the kids while the parents can pretty much do whatever they like!
The rainy weather put a dampener on the campfire plans, but ranger Kaylee had a back-up plan of a movie and meal at The Sand Bar for the group of kids under her wing.
We chose to spend the evening at Seabelle Restaurant – and while kids are welcome there with a menu of their own – we take a cosy table for two in the dimly lit dining room. A striking feature of the restaurant is its open kitchen which sends continuous wafts of tantalising smells over our table throughout the meal.
As expected, the food is incredible – and with most mains priced between $30 and $40, it is fine dining prices. The paperbark-wrapped Queensland barramundi with lemon myrtle, macadamia nuts, wild lime and munthary berries (among a long list of ingredients) is a highlight, along with our choice of dessert: the apple and rhubarb crumble with brandy crème and honey drizzled mascarpone cheese.
Our second and last full day on Fraser Island is reserved for the Beauty Spots Tour we’ve heard so much about. The rugged – and very bumpy – sand roads should be left to experienced four-wheel-drivers, so the bus tour is an easy way for a first-timer to see the best the island has to offer without the stress of getting bogged.
As our guide and driver Ian “Butch” Butcher enters our first windy road of sandy tracks (those who suffer from car sickness may not find this enjoyable), we wonder if this rain that has lingered in our stay so far will put a dampener on the day, but as soon as we begin weaving through the lush, tropical rainforest foliage that only weeks before was dry and brown, we are grateful the weather has delivered such a beautiful sight. This is truly “wild” territory and if you want to “get away from it all” then this is the perfect place to do it.
We head to 75 Mile Beach, an endlessly picturesque stretch of golden sand that’s even breathtaking in the rain.
Thankfully when it’s time to stop, the clouds shift and we have a burst of sunshine to explore Eli Creek. There, four-wheel-drives line its edges, setting up camp for the day and kids race up the boardwalk into the sand dunes carrying inflatable doughnuts, excited for the trip down on the creek’s calm, lazy river. We’ve brought our bathers but it’s a little too chilly for us still.
After our next pit stop down the beach, at the sacred Aboriginal site, The Pinnacles, our son can’t wait to get to the Maheno shipwreck, which became stranded on Fraser Island in 1935.
And it doesn’t disappoint. “It’s so big!” he proclaims.
The rusty, moss-covered remains of this impressive cruise ship are half-submerged in the sand, the tide lapping around it just enough to cover our feet as we wander around it. It instantly feels like we’re on a movie set on a deserted island.
On the drive back to the beach for lunch, we spot the holy grail: a lone female dingo camouflaged in the sand watching us drive by. She sits peacefully as we snap away and Butch explains how lucky we are, not having seen a dingo in the past fortnight.
The tour goes back inland to a village of farmer logger’s cottages. With the industry stopping in the 1950s, they are now used as headquarters for the Department of Environment and Science.
“We’ve left the best until last,” says Butch as we make a bumpy meander in the bus to our final stop, Lake Mckenzie. He isn’t wrong.
What awaits us is the epitome of paradise. The incredibly soft, white silica sand is like velvet between your toes, leading into the clearest blue water I’ve ever seen – which by the way, all comes from the rain, with no streams or oceans flowing into it. With nothing else around but lush green bush surrounding this spectacular kilometre-wide lake, it’s no wonder this is the most visited spot on Fraser Island.
Despite having seen so much on this beautiful island on our first trip here, we know there are endless more treasures to explore, and we are already counting down until we can return to this wild, adventurous paradise that truly feels like the edge of the world.
Need to know
- Fraser island is accessed via Hervey Bay, which is about two-and-half hours from the Sunshine Coast.
- Passengers and cars can travel on the Kingfisher Bay Ferry at several departure times daily. The trip takes about 45 minutes. It pays to book well ahead if you want to bring your car – which costs $180 to $270 return, depending on the size of the vehicle. If you want to leave your car at River Heads, there are options of free or secure car parks.
- Two-wheel-drive cars are welcome at the resort but they cannot be driven anywhere outside its perimeter as the roads are only suitable for four-wheel-drives.
- If you don’t have your own wheels, check out the options from Fraser Explorer Tours.
- Be prepared to bring your own supplies – and lots of snacks for the kids – if you intend to self cater. Food travels a long way to get to the island and you’ll be paying for the convenience for whatever you need there.
- Take a look at Kingfisher Bay Resort’s What’s On Guide to plan your trip.