K’gari (Fraser Island): Australia’s Natural Paradise for Adventure Seekers

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by James Wallis
Updated: November 21, 2023
9 minute read
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K’gari, known as Fraser Island to many, was a great experience shared with friends. Nestled off the eastern coast of Australia near Brisbane, K’gari is a natural wonderland that beckons adventure seekers from around the world.

Visiting this World Heritage-listed island which is the largest sand island on the planet, boasting an array of breath-taking landscapes and unique experiences was a truly memorable experience and sums up Australia in a nut-shell.

Traditional camper van at Rainbow Beach
Fraser Island or Kgari beach and sea

Day 1: Getting to Fraser Island

Our adventure started with a 5am start (which we found is absolutely normal in Australia due to the sun and their active lifestyles) from Cleveland where Anna, Chris, Joe and I would drive up to the Rainbow coast to meet Andy, Adam, Baz, George and Ross for a 10:30am briefing about driving 4×4 SUV’s from Wendy at Rainbow Beach Adventure Centre 4WD (she became quite a reference during our whole trip). 

Wendy at 4WD Adventure Centre training team Zeus ready for Fraser Island

During this one-hour training session, we absorbed crucial information regarding the do’s and don’ts of the island. We learned about navigating the island’s unique challenges, including avoiding getting stranded by the tides and steering clear of sand traps.

Fraser Island map of tide times and routes

With just three days for our adventure, we had a race against time to explore as much as possible while adhering to speed limits and steering clear of costly entanglements in the sand and sea.

Fraser Island Pajero and Zeus explorers
Team Zeus minus Adam at Rainbow Beach
Colourful steps at Rainbow Beach

Before we delve into the Fraser Island story, let’s introduce the key players: Jay, Anna, Andy, Adam, Baz, Chris, Joe, George, and Ross.

Prior to stepping foot on K’gari, en route to the ferry, we encountered fellow drivers who had become bogged down in the soft sands, obstructing our path. Skillful driving by Joe and Andy was indispensable in reaching the ferry, setting the stage for the exciting adventure ahead.

Fraser Island ranger talking about slowing down and getting stuck with all of the other drivers when accessing ferry

After a brief ferry ride to Fraser Island, we were eager to navigate the beautiful sands and savour the island’s unique scenery. Driving on the uneven sand while avoiding the glistening freshwater rivers feeding into the sea required intense focus and vigilance, which we managed expertly.

Kgari Fraser Island 4x4 driving team from England
Sand Roads on the beach of Kgari
Jay and Adam on Fraser Island

Lake Wabby

Our first destination was Lake Wabby, the island’s only barrage lake. Surrounded by a shifting sand dune, this emerald-green oasis provided an ideal spot for swimming and admiring the breathtaking scenery.

This initial stop was a fantastic start to our island adventure, featuring frisbee games and exhilarating runs down the sand dunes into Lake Wabby. Though we couldn’t help but jest about the potentially lurking crocodiles or other Australian wildlife, the water was perfectly safe for our enjoyment.

Andy and Chris exploring sand fields near Lake Wabby on Kgari
Sand and lake Wabby on Fraser Island
Fraser Islands Lake Wabby with people in the water
Sand fields near Lake Wabby

Kingfisher Bay and the questionable food

Following this immersive start, we embarked on an in-land drive to Kingfisher Bay, our designated accommodation. The journey was bumpy due to Zeus’s remarkable suspension, but it was undeniably fun as we traversed winding forest roads. We arrived at precisely the time advised by Wendy, as night driving was not recommended due to safety concerns. The island’s tides and obstacles demanded our vigilance, even at night.

Sand Bar food at Kingfisher Bay was awful

Our first evening at the spacious wooden lodges was made memorable by enjoying beverages in the hot tub and pool area. We dined at Sandbar, where the food quality left much to be desired – pizzas were burnt, and pasta and chicken were prepared in an unusual manner. Thanks to Adam’s articulate critique of our meal, we were offered complimentary drinks as an apology.

Andy drinking free drinks because the food was so bad at Kingfisher Bay
Anna drinking at Sand Bar on Fraser Island

Though the drinks were decent, we didn’t stay too long, as our 5am start and our previous early risings for the Ashworth wedding, coupled with our adjustment to the Brisbane lifestyle of embracing the active morning hours, had left us all feeling rather weary.

Day 2: Champaign Pools

Our second day kicked off promptly, with the goal of reaching Champagne Pools before the tide rolled in at 8 am. Missing this window would leave us with no option but to walk, a time-consuming alternative.

The ocean at Champagne Pools

Team Zeus consistently found itself trailing behind Team Pajaro, which boasted more speed and power on the expansive sandy beaches of Fraser Island. However, on this particular day, Team Zeus unintentionally took a well-timed wrong turn out of Fisherbay, covering a much shorter distance than the agreed-upon path.

While Team Pajaro made a coffee stop, we arrived a few seconds ahead at Champagne Pools after a swift two-hour sprint northward along the beach.

Big crashing wave at Champagne Pools

It’s worth noting that Team Zeus felt confident in its ability to overcome obstacles steadily, without the fear of getting stuck, even though we consistently lagged a few minutes behind Team Pajero.

Also, we even joked that we still beat them to Champaign Pools after giving them a chance by driving with the handbrake on which we did for a couple of minutes when leaving our lodge at 5am.

Men walking along Champagne Pools beach

We spent several delightful hours playing in the foaming waters of Champagne Pools, sunbathing beneath the cliffs, and enjoying a couple of relaxing beers before setting off around 2pm to visit our next two destinations: Maheno Shipwreck and Eli Creek.

Men in Champagne Pools on Fraser Island
Swimmers at Champagne Pools on Kgari
Champagne Pools on Kgari

The Maheno Shipwreck

The Maheno Shipwreck, a captivating photo spot, adds historical intrigue to the entire island experience. Stranded on Fraser Island in 1935 after being sold to Japan for scrap and towed through Queensland Waters, the ship succumbed to a cyclonic storm, breaking the tow chain and drifting helplessly onto Fraser Island’s ocean beach.

Shipwreck on Fraser Island
Friends at Maheno shipwreck on Fraser Island
Anna at Maheno shipwreck on Fraser Island

Floating down Eli Creek

After capturing a few pictures, we headed to Eli Creek, a popular attraction offering a lazy float down a crystal-clear freshwater stream surrounded by lush greenery. It provided a refreshing and tranquil experience, perfect for those seeking relaxation amid nature’s beauty.

Eli Creek river

Leaving Eli Creek, we spotted Dingoes, the island’s top predators, prompting us to exercise caution and stay in groups while walking around the island. There are stories of Dingoes attacking unsuspecting visitors and ganging up on humans, driving them into corners, possibly driven by hunger. The best advice is to stay clear and, if possible, remain in your vehicle.

Lone Dingo on Fraser ISland
Anna at Rainbow Beach in Australia
Men taking picture of lone Dingo on Fraser Island

After enjoying the wildlife and the sea, we drove back to our base at Kingfisher Bay for more relaxation in the jacuzzi and swimming pool, hoping for a better meal than the night before. Opting for takeaway from the Dune Restaurant (aptly named by Australians for their straightforward approach), the food was an improvement, though not the absolute best.

Adam James and Joe in the back of Zeus 4x4 truck on Fraser Island
Chris driving on Fraser Island
Anna driving to Kingfisher Bay
James Joe Chris and Adam team Zeus with Anna taking the phots

Aside from being a day of relaxation, it was also a day of exploring the island’s extensive network of sandy tracks, catering perfectly to off-road enthusiasts.

James and Anna in Zeus on Fraser Island

All these mentions of early starts and relaxation on Fraser Island remind me of a joke Anna and I once shared about “Let’s Start Resting Early.” The joke emerged when, after a day of exhaustive activities, work, and studies, as we were just beginning to go to sleep, I asked, “Which day are we waking up at 5 am? (we planned to do a video at sunrise).” Anna replied, “On Sunday.” I said, “The day when we planned to rest?” Anna, in her characteristic style, responded, “Yes. We’ll wake up at 5 am and start resting.”

Anna in the forest on Fraser Island
Walking in land on Fraser Island

Day 3: Last day on Fraser Island

On our third day we had a lie–in and set-off at 8am on our adventure to discover the hidden freshwater lake of the famous Lake Mckenzie. The water here is clean enough to drink from and as clear as you can get around the world, even as clear as lakes like the crystal clear waters of Lake Paisupok in Banggai Islands.

Walkway on Fraser Island

Crystal-clear waters and white sands of Lake Mckenzie

Lake McKenzie is famed for its strikingly white sand. Comprising fine silica sand, the lake’s shores boast an exceptionally soft and silky texture. Additionally, this sand serves as a natural filter, contributing to the lake’s crystal-clear waters.

Lake McKenzie tree

We spent as much time as we could exploring the shores of the lake and just generally hanging out in the water on the lilos and playing frisbee and just chatting.

It reminded Anna and I of the beach of Boracay as the sands were so white and the water being so blue, however, the sea water in Boracay was much warmer than Lake McKenzie but maybe it was much more refreshing under the merciless sun of Australia.

Lake McKenzie friends jumping in crystal clear water

Like all other days, we had a limited amount of time to spend during our adventures on the island so we were on a race against time to beat the tides as well, this day being the day we needed to catch the ferry back to the mainland.

We needed to get 4×4 Zeus back to Wendy for 5pm and wash the car to protect it against the harsh eroding water and sandy conditions of Fraser Island.

Leaving Boorangoora lake on Kgari

We were cutting our last day on the island fine with the timing we left Lake McKenzie and coupled with the optimistic timings to reach the ferry for 3:30pm we actually only managed to reach the ferry at the Barge Beach Landings for 4pm.

Lake McKenzie walkway

It was quite appropriate that while crossing on the ferry, we were treated to the sight of dolphins leaping out of the water at sunset, providing a fitting farewell to the wonderful adventure we had shared with friends.

Ferry at Fraser Island
Friends on Fraser Island Ferry at sunset

Once back on the mainland of Rainbow Coast all there was left to do was fill the car full of petrol and return it back the way we found it (dirty than we received it due to the car wash being closed but it full working order due to the great driving of both team Zeus and Pajaro), as well as drive back to Caloundra where Indian Curry was waiting and a trip to hospital for one of the team due to sickness.

James driving to Rainbow Beach from Cleaveland

All in all, it’s safe to say we all had a trip of a life-time and would love to do it all over again exactly the same way we did it, maybe with a few minor adjustments to even more friends to share the experience with and everyone in good health.

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