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Champagne Pools on Fraser Island

Four wheel drives stop in the distance as our pilot descends towards the ‘runway’, putting the plane down neatly on a pristine stretch of sand then helps us with our bags. It’s an unusual arrival but one that seems somehow appropriate given we’re exploring Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world. Here you’ll find giant dunes over 200 metres high dominating the landscape and rainforests tumbling towards the ocean, there are also freshwater lakes and myriad other beautiful spots to explore plus you can stay at the eco-friendly Fraser Island resort, Kingfisher Bay Resort. 

Arriving on 75 mile beach with Air Fraser
Arriving on 75 mile beach with Air Fraser

We’re picked up in a pre-arranged 4WD from Kingfisher Bay Resort – private ranger tours are just one of the many activities available on the island – and head to Eli Creek, a fast flowing watercourse which pours up to 4 million litres of water into the ocean every hour. A classic Fraser experience involves floating down the creek at a surprisingly swift pace, bobbing around in the water or relaxing on a blow up pool toy. You don’t need to be a good swimmer, like many of the activities on Fraser Island, all you have to do is sit back and relax. Next we hike to the top of Indian Head to spot whales, manta rays, dolphins and dugong then go for a swim in Lake McKenzie, one of the island’s many freshwater lakes. The water is soft like velvet and the fine silica sand is silky smooth, making it ideal for exfoliating your skin and polishing jewellery to a dazzling shine.

Exploring Fraser Island's lakes
Exploring Fraser Island’s lakes

Lake McKenzie is the most photographed of all the lakes; another popular photo stop is alongside the rusting Maheno, a former luxury passenger liner that was washed ashore during a cyclone in 1935. The crystal clear ocean around here is hard to resist, especially on a hot day, but swimming in the sea anywhere other than Champagne Pools, a sheltered area located north of Indian Head, should be avoided due to sharks and the strong undertow.

Champagne Pools
Champagne Pools

Keen trampers can tackle the Fraser Island Great Walk which travels for 90 kilometres through the island’s interior. The walk is not particularly difficult, especially for experienced walkers, but you’ll need a Fraser Island Great Walk topographic map and a camping kit as facilities are limited. Camping isn’t just a popular accommodation choice for walkers. There are numerous formal camping areas and informal beach camping zones on Fraser Island. Formal camping areas have designated sites, water taps or tap stations, and toilets. Most have gas barbecues, sinks for washing dishes and information displays. All of these camping areas have a 9pm noise curfew making them popular with families.

Camping on Fraser Island
Camping on Fraser Island

Air Fraser can fly you over for a day trip but if you want to see more of the island, you’ll definitely need a 4WD. Don’t be tempted to rent a ‘soft adventure’ vehicle from a standard car hire company as a 4WD that can handle deep sand and varied terrain is essential. Aussie Trax is your best rental option with an office on Fraser Island and another one in Hervey Bay. Staff provide a thorough safety briefing and are particularly patient with first time 4WD drivers. Perhaps more importantly, they also provide roadside assistance throughout the island although it’s unlikely you’ll need it. Fraser Island is a friendly spot and fellow 4WD enthusiasts are renowned for cheerfully providing assistance – and a little brute strength – if you do get stuck.

Disclosure: The writer was a guest of Fraser Island.

Queensland is home to three of the world’s largest sand islands. If you would like to know more, read our write up about Exploring the World’s Three Largest Sand Islands.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.