Fraser Island is unique in that it is – at 120km by 15km – the world’s largest sand bar. Despite being composed entirely of sand, the island boasts verdant rainforests and crystal clear lakes and is home to dingoes, wild horses and an abundance of bird life. Great Sandy National Park comprises most of the island and there is a national park entry fee of $35.40 per vehicle.
The central west coast of the island is connected to Hervey Bay by a ferry service. Ferries operate from River Heads (south of Hervey Bay) and Urangan Harbour in Hervey Bay and charge $140-150 return for a 4WD and three passengers.
Ferries from Inskip Point near Rainbow Beach work out cheaper, for example Rainbow Venture (tel (07) 5486 3154) charge $80 return for a 4WD vehicle including three passengers.
You will need a vehicle permit if you are taking a vehicle across on the ferry. These cost $35.40 and let you take a 4WD onto the island for one month. The National Parks vehicle permit includes an information pack with a colour guide as well as details on camping and hiking on the island. National parks permits are available from the Marina Kiosk at Urangan boat harbour as well as from the Brisbane, Bundaberg, Maryborough, Rainbow Beach and River Heads offices of the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service.
Because it is a sand island, a four-wheel-drive vehicle is essential for exploring Fraser Island; this explains why it is so expensive to get around the island. Renting your own 4WD (which usually comes complete with camping gear) is the way to go as it gives you much more independence than a tour, although you need to split the cost with a few others to make it affordable.
Most backpackers take advantage of the so-called self-drive tours of the island. These aren’t really tours; they’re more along the lines of car rental with a few extras thrown in. Generally a bunch of travellers each pay between $140 and $190 per person for a three-day trip and are given a 4WD and a lecture about what to see and the dos and don’ts of driving on Fraser Island. Ferry fares, camping gear and a vehicle permit are usually included in the price but a lot of the companies that organise these trips will charge you an extra $10 for fuel and $15 for insurance. These self-drive ‘tours’ give you the independence that comes with having your own set of wheels and no tour guide. Most hostels in Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach can organise self-drive tours.
If you would rather not organise a self-drive tour through a hostel you can organise everything yourself renting from Aussie Trax (tel (07) 4124 4433). If you already have a group organised, this can work out cheaper than the 4WD safaris organised by hostels in Hervey Bay.
There are also plenty of companies that offer more conventional guided tours, although these cost more and you miss out on the fun of driving off-road.
Guided and self-drive tours of Fraser Island include:
Tel (07) 4120 3333
2 day/1 night guided tour $289-339; 3 day/2 night guided tour $359-409
Tel (07) 4194 9222 or 1800 249 122
1 day guided tour $149; 2 day/1 night guided tour $253-305
Tel (07) 4125 3933 or 1800 063 933
2 day/1 night guided tour $269; 3 day/2 night guided tour $435
Camping is the main accommodation option on Fraser Island. Most campsites are operated by the national park and require camping permits that are available from shops, both in Hervey Bay, Rainbow Beach and on the island for $4.50 per person per night.
There are also a couple of resorts on the island that provide accommodation to some of the tour operators, so you may stay in a resort if you’re taking a tour.
You should bring 50c coins for coin-operated showers and gas barbecues that are located at camping areas on the island.