Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, a 162,000-hectare World Heritage–listed island off the central Queensland coast of Australia. Located about 260km north of Brisbane and about 15km from the nearest coastal town, Hervey Bay, it attracts a mix of eco-tourists, holidaying families, fishermen and birdwatchers.
Nature reigns supreme here. Fraser Island is a pristine combination of eucalyptus woodlands, rolling sand dunes, clear creeks, ancient rainforest, blue lakes, ochre-coloured sand cliffs, and the stunning 75 Mile Beach. Wildlife is abundant, most notably a pure strain of dingo, Australia’s native wild dog.
Fraser Island stretches over 123 kilometres in length and 22 kilometres at its widest point. Part of its beauty lies in the island’s absence of paved roads. Sandy tracks criss-cross it, and the only vehicles allowed are 4WDs.
Fraser Island’s World Heritage listing ranks it with Australia’s Uluru, Kakadu National Park and the Great Barrier Reef.
Start with these Fraser Island Itineraries
Fraser Island’s Top Attractions … Exploring the pristine beauty of Australia’s largest sand island
Fraser Island is a year-round destination but watching season – from June to early November – is one of the best times to visit. The sight of migrating Humpback whales travelling through the coastal waters off the island is unforgettable.
For the best weather, visit from August to December (Spring and early Summer). Fraser Island has a subtropical climate of warm, often humid weather cooled by sea breezes. Average temperatures range from 22°C to 29°C.
Cooler weather may be experienced in winter (June to August), so this is a great time for bushwalking. There’s less chance of rain, but remember to still wear sunscreen.
Late winter and early summer (August to December) are popular for fishing, and wildflower season falls between August and October.
But whatever time of year you chose to go, the natural attractions of Fraser Island will always have something to offer. You may get rain – but that just makes the rainforests shine and rarely prohibits getting out and about to see the sights.
Give yourself at least three days on Fraser Island. That’s enough to see the highlights – but you can easily spend much longer here, lingering over the many attractions and just chilling out.
In whale-watching season, you’ll want to spend at least a whole morning out on a boat and the other half of the day might be taken up looking at your photos!
A full day 4WD tour will show you the highlights…but if you plan to do any hiking, it is easy to add another couple of days. Then there’s time for bird-watching, swimming, fishing and the many activities and tours offered by the resorts. So, yes…my advice is a three-day minimum.
Fraser Island is a year-round destination but for the best weather, visit from August to December (Spring and early Summer). The climate here is subtropical, warm, often humid weather cooled by sea breezes. From January to March, Fraser Island is hot and wet, with an average maximum temperature of 29°C. Mid-year (June to September) is dry with occasional showers and an average temperature of 22°C.
Queensland Events & Holidays include:
Labour Day (First Monday of October)
Queensland schools have four terms. Holiday periods are two weeks in early April, two weeks in late June/early July, two weeks from mid-September, and six weeks from mid-December.
National Holidays include:
January 1: New Year’s Day
January 26: Australia Day
March/April: Good Friday and Easter Monday
April 25: Anzac Day
December 25: Christmas Day
December 26: Boxing Day
On national public holidays, banks, post offices and liquor outlets may be closed or open for limited hours. There are also additional holidays in each state or territory.
To check the local time on Fraser Island, click here.
Australian Eastern Standard Time (AEST) covers Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, and Tasmania. Central Standard Time (CST) is used in the Northern Territory and South Australia, and Western Standard Time (WST) is the standard in Western Australia. When it’s noon in New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria, Queensland, and Tasmania, it’s 11:30am in South Australia and the Northern Territory, and 10am in Western Australia.
All states except Queensland, the Northern Territory, and Western Australia observe Daylight Saving Time (DST) during spring and summer. At 2AM on the first Sunday in October clocks are advanced one hour. On the first Sunday in April at 2AM, clocks shift back one hour to standard time. However, not all states switch over to daylight saving on the same day or in the same week, so it pays to check if you are travelling at these times.
You will only need casual clothes on Fraser Island, but if you are staying at one of the resorts then you might want to also pack something smart (but still casual) for dinner.
Make sure you bring a sweater or casual jacket for cool nights, especially in winter. Comfortable walking shoes, a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, and of course your camera, are the other essentials.
Fraser Island’s natural attractions are, of course, free. But getting there, getting around, accommodation and meals (unless you are equipped for camping) will all need to be budgeted for.
There are several resorts on Fraser Island, from the five-star Kingfisher Bay Resort to backpacker hostels and other resorts that offer smart, comfortable accommodation on a lesser scale than Kingfisher Bay but are equally good choices as bases to see the sights.
Hiring a 4WD will incur quite hefty insurance costs and fuel costs in addition to the hire charges. The other option for getting around is a 4WD tour, and there are several companies on the island that offer day tours to all the main beauty spots.
Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.
Price ranges are quoted in $AU.
See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $20-70 per person
$$$ => Tickets $70 per person
$ => Rooms less than $200 for a double
$$ => Rooms $201-300 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $301 for a double
$ => Up to $20 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$ => $21-35 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
$$$ => $36 for average main at dinner (or lunch/breakfast if no dinner is served)
N/A => Not applicable
$ => Tickets less than $20 per person
$$ => Tickets $21-$50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $51 per person
Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh.
But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.
Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.
That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.
If you want to fly to Fraser Island, be aware that you’ll be in a small plane and will land on the beach! See more in Getting There.
Have Car, Will Travel
Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping, and the major companies like Hertz, Budget, Avis and Europcar all operate around Australia, alongside smaller local companies that are worth investigating. Don’t forget that Fraser Island is 4WD-only, and see our advice on Getting Around.
There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.
Ride-sharing company Uber is relatively new to Australia and is currently under scrutiny by state governments where it operates. It currently operates in Sydney, Canberra (from Oct 30), Melbourne, the Mornington Peninsula and Geelong in Victoria, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Rides are ordered through a smart phone app, it’s convenient because no money changes hands (payment is made through the app) and it’s usually cheaper than a taxi. Another bonus? After requesting a ride, you can see where the driver is on a map, so you know that they are on their way and how long it will be. Try that with a cab.
Hopefully, your trip to Australia goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?
Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler.
Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:
Trip Cancellation – About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.
Medical – Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.
Trip Interruption – For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.
Travel Delay – Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.
Baggage – Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.
Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.
Do I need travel insurance?
If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. Standard medical and travel insurance is advisable for travel to Australia. Divers including the Great Barrier Reef or other Australian diving destinations should also ensure they have the appropriate insurance.
How do I choose an insurance provider?
Do your homework – check around.
The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip.
Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).
If you have pre-existing health conditions – Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.
Credit card insurance – If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage and restrictions.
The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners and travelers.
For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.
Australian dollars come in $1 and $ coins, and $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 notes. Each is a different colour, so they are easy to tell apart. Other coins are 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents and 50 cents. The $1 and $2 coins are gold, all the others are silver.
Prices sometimes end in a variant of 1 or 2 cents (for example, 52 cents or $1.78), a relic from the days before 1-cent and 2-cent pieces were phased out. In these cases, prices are rounded to the nearest 5 cents, so 52 cents rounds down to 50 cents, and 78 cents rounds up to 80 cents.
If you get money from an ATM, you may incur charges (often $2 or $3 per transaction). Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, Australian banks will allow you to get cash without an extra charge. Many grocery stores, gas stations and major retail outlets let you get a limited amount of “cash out” when paying for your goods – this is an easy way to get cash while on the go.
There are ATMs on Fraser Island at most hotels and resorts, but it is best to take some cash and credit cards with you, just in case.
Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout Australia. Visa and MasterCard are universally accepted in Australia; American Express and Diners Club are less commonly accepted, so it pays to check first. Always carry some cash, because some traders won’t take cards for purchases under $10 or $15.
Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card – which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access.
Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.
Tipping is always appreciated, but is not widely practiced or expected in Australia. It is usual to tip around 10% to 15% or round up to the nearest A$10 for a substantial meal in a restaurant, but certainly not mandatory. Some taxi passengers round up to the nearest round figure in a cab, but it’s okay to insist on every bit of change back. Tipping hotel porters and housemaids is sometimes done, but no one tips bar staff, barbers, massage therapists and spa employees or hairdressers.
Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and chemist shops (pharmacies/drugstores) will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.
Half the fun of Fraser Island is that it has no roads. Well, not what you and I might call roads, anyway. Sandy tracks criss-cross the island, and 4WDs are the only type of vehicles allowed on the island. So whether you go it alone in a hired 4WD or take an organised 4WD tour (that’s what I recommend), you’ll still find yourself bumping and grinding along bush-lined tracks between the main attractions.
The other unusual feature of Fraser Island is that 75 Mile Beach (yes, it really is), on the eastern side of the island, is not only a designated highway for cars – it’s also the landing strip for light planes doing scenic flights and transfers from the mainland! Cars and planes share the beach with pedestrians (so keep your wits about you!).
Ready to go?
By car & ferry
Your jumping off point on the mainland is Hervey (pronounced Har-vey) Bay, about 35km off the Bruce Highway from the town of Maryborough. Allow three hours driving time from the Sunshine Coast, and around five hours from Brisbane.
Four-wheel-drives – the only vehicles allowed on the island – reach the island on the Fraser Venture barge, which runs three times a day from River Heads, 17km south of Urangan Boat Harbour. Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island also runs a barge from River Heads. Book ahead for the 45-minute crossing. Barges also provide access to Rainbow Beach and operate continuously between Inskip Point and Hook Point.
Parking for your conventional vehicle is available at the ferry terminal on the mainland.
Qantas flies from Brisbane to Hervey Bay. Virgin Blue and Jetstar both fly direct from Sydney. Kingfisher Bay Resort runs a shuttle from Hervey Bay airport to the ferry terminal.
Air Fraser Island offers scenic flights, day trips and resort transfers on small planes which land on the beach. Helicopter transfers to Kingfisher Bay Resort can also be arranged.
Greyhound Australia coaches stop in Hervey Bay on the Brisbane-Cairns-Brisbane routes. It’s about a five or six hour ride from Brisbane. Kingfisher Bay Resort runs a shuttle from the coach terminal to the harbour.
The nearest train station is in Maryborough West, 34km from Hervey Bay. Passengers on the high-speed train from Brisbane can book a connecting bus service to Pialba (a suburb of Hervey Bay) through Queensland Rail. Trip time from Brisbane is three to four hours (and your train fare includes the bus transfer).
Four-wheel-drive vehicles are the only transport on the island. Many 4WD rental companies are based in Hervey Bay, but you must be 21 or over to rent one – and it’s not cheap, so shop around. You must also buy a government Vehicle Access Permit (which you can do from your rental-car company, at Urangan Boat Harbour, or the River Heads boat ramp).
Several companies will take care of all the details for you – including barge bookings, permits and car storage – and rent you camping gear as well. Book well in advance.
But to be honest, you should only attempt this if you are an experienced 4WD driver. All the roads on the island are sand, and disasters are common. It’s easy to get bogged in the sand, or trapped by the tides. It’s far less stressful to take the tours that are offered where you are driven by the experts.
Another option is the Fraser Island Taxi Service, but there is only one taxi on the island (a four-wheel-drive, of course), so it’s essential to book ahead. They will pick you up anywhere on the island and quote you a price before you set off. The taxi seats five, and there’s also room for your luggage and fishing rods.
Fraser Island is one of Australia’s top tourist destinations, known for its isolated beauty while still being easily accessible from the mainland. Despite that, there is never a sense of being in a crowd, even at the main attractions on the island.
World Heritage listing has ensured that Fraser Island ranks among Australia’s most important landscapes. It also has a rich indigenous and European history, and savvy visitors will learn a lot during their visit.
It is also well-known as the home of a pure strain of dingo (Australian wild dog), and visitors love to see these wild animals on the beach. There are strict laws – and hefty fines – attached to interaction with dingoes but they are still an icon of the island.
Long before it was a tourist destination, this World Heritage-listed sand island was the home of the Butchulla indigenous people, who occupied a large stretch of mainland as well as the island they called K’Gari for around 20,000 years before European explorers sailed along the Queensland coast.
The name K’Gari translates roughly as “paradise”, and it’s a name that many modern visitors think completely apt.
British explorer Captain James Cook discovered the island in 1770, naming Indian Head for the aboriginal people he met. Cook named the island “Great Sandy Peninsula”, believing it was connected to the mainland. In 1799, another explorer, Matthew Flinders, sailed into Hervey Bay and discovered the peninsula was, in fact, an island.
In 1836 the brig Stirling Castle was wrecked at Swain’s Reef, north of Fraser Island. The 18 survivors travelled south in a life boat and marooned on Fraser Island. Of them, only Eliza Fraser, the wife of Captain James Fraser, lived to return to the mainland and the island was named after her.
Fraser Island has claimed many ships with 23 wrecks were recorded between 1856 and 1935, when the S.S. Maheno beached near The Pinnacles. The Sandy Cape light house was switched on in 1870 but this, and a smaller light on Woody Island, did little to reduce the number of ships that met their end here.
Logging was started on Fraser Island in 1863, with the prized timber mainly kauri pine, hoop pine and cypress pine. In 1925 satinay trees became the major timber logged on the island after it was found to be resistant to marine borers and became popular for use in jetties and other marine infrastructure around the world. Satinays from Fraser Island were used in the construction of the Suez Canal and to rebuild the London Docks after World War II.
In 1949, small-scale mining for minerals began and by the 1960s, sandmining exploration had begun. This resulted in strong protests from conservationists and after a long-running battle against both logging and sand-mining their efforts to preserve and protect the island were successful.
National parks were declared in the northern part of Fraser Island in 1971 with more additions in later years. Sand-mining ended in 1976, while logging was halted in late 1991. The 1992 World Heritage listing of Fraser Island increased international visitation and set the scene for the burgeoning tourism industry.
Central Station, a former logging camp, is now a ranger information station and interpretive centre of the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, which is now responsible for the management of the island.
A warning about dingoes
The dingoes that roam Fraser Island are bold, fearless and dangerous. They are also beautiful, but don’t forget that they are wild animals, not dogs. It is a legal offence to feed or interact with dingoes in any way, punishable with a maximum A$3000 fine. This is strictly enforced by National Park rangers.
Over the years, as tourism as grown on the island, visitors and campers have – sometimes deliberately, sometimes
unwittingly – provided food for the dingoes. This has led to them becoming scavengers, and they have also been been
responsible for one death and several serious attacks on people in recent years. Take care not to let children wander away from you, and don’t walk alone on the trails.
The dingoes on Fraser Island roam all over the island, however there is dingo-deterrent fencing around most townships, Kingfisher Bay Resort, the K’gari Educational and Cultural Centre, and most camping areas.
The dingo Canis lupus dingo is a protected native species in Queensland national parks. Wildlife authorities believe that Fraser Island dingoes are the purest strain of dingo on Australia’s east coast, and perhaps Australia-wide, as they have not crossbred with domestic or feral dogs to the same extent as most mainland dingo populations. Their conservation is considered of national significance.
Fraser Island dingoes are a sandy golden colour and are naturally lean. Pups often have black markings on their back and tail, which is lost as they mature. Most have white socks and white markings on their chests and tail tips. At night, you may hear them howling, lone dingoes or packs communicating with others. It’s a wonderful, eerie sound.
Admire the dingoes if you see them, but remember to ALWAYS keep your distance, and never feed them.
For more information, click here.