Heavenly azure lakes, endless white beaches, ancient rainforests and moonlit nights listening to the haunting howl of dingoes. Owooooo Owooooo. We are camping on Fraser Island. A World Heritage site and the world’s largest sand island. Aborigines call it K’gari meaning Paradise.
Wanggoolba Creek Ferry Landing
We arrive on the late ferry and make our first camp at Central Station It’s the closest camp to the ferry landing. The sandy track takes us through the great diversity of plant life that is unique to Fraser Island. We drive through eucalyptus and scribbly gums forest, with red gums, smooth-barked apple and lemon-scented native flowers. The landscape morphs into a lush green rainforest of towering palm trees, kauri pines, fern trees and rare ferns. Our vehicle is dwarfed by mythical giant trees that flourish in the only place on earth where rainforest grows in sand.
Fraser Island Camping
Camping is the best way to experience the raw, rugged and wild beauty of Fraser Island. From fenced campgrounds with facilities to unfenced remote camping, there is something for every adventurer. With 45 campsites, visitors can choose to sit around a campfire meeting other campers or camp on a deserted beach they have all to themselves. Some of the more remote sites require self-sufficiency and planning in advance. Because it is a World Heritage site vehicle access and camping permits are required.
Nestled in the rainforest, wooden stairs lead to our tent on a raised platform, surrounded by centuries-old forest and fallen logs covered in green moss. The birdlife, such as kookaburras and cockatoos are abundant. A few mosquitos buzz around, so don’t forget the insect repellent!
The fenced campground has toilet and shower facilities. There is also a separate area with tables and gas barbeques for day use. A great base if you want to explore the inland lakes or rainforest walking tracks.
Some of the best walks on Fraser Island start from here. The boardwalk beside the crystal clear Wanggoolba Creek is the start of the 11 km walk to Lake McKenzie.
Lake McKenzie is the most popular of the 40 lakes on the island. It looks exactly like it does in the travel brochures. The sandy beach is silky soft and the ice-blue water shimmers in the shallows and turns azure blue in the deeper part. It is invigorating and refreshing and once in, it’s hard to tear ourselves out! It gets busy here during the middle of the day, but a quiet spot can always be found. The lesser-known Lake Birrabeen is also pretty and you will probably have it to yourself as no tour buses visit here.
Our next camp is Wongai on the east side of the island near Eurong. Known as 75-mile beach, an expanse of pure white sand that stretches the entire length of the east side. This is the ‘highway’ as Fraser has no sealed roads.
Wongai camp is a basic bush camp with no amenities, typical of most camps on the east side. We pitch our tent on the sand dunes that overlook the ocean. What a view! To top this off we see our first dingo while setting up camp. Most visitors to Fraser hope to see at least one dingo during their stay. We go to sleep listening to the crashing waves and the sneaky pitter-patter of paws that check out our camp…
We wake to a sunrise that illuminates the beach with an orange glow and a pack of dingoes with five pups frolic and play on the water’s edge. Wongai is definitely our favourite campsite while camping on Fraser Island!
The pups have not long left their den and appear to be in the care of an older brother. He’s so gentle and the pups walk all over him. They spend the majority of their time with him. Their mum and dad appear on the sand dunes every now and again to check on them. When the pups see them they get so excited and rush over, they lick each other and howl. We watch in amazement at the greetings.
Dingoes, like wolves, are social. They have a tawny coat with white feet (pure-breed dingoes have white feet and a tiny white tip on their tail). Their intense dark eyes show intelligence and cunning. Fraser Island dingoes are the purest strain of dingo in Australia. Their conservation is significant to the Island’s ecosystem.
We travel further up the east coast to Eli Camp near Eli Creek. Once our tent is set up, we have a refreshing swim in the clear freshwater creek. Surrounded by overhanging paperbark eucalyptus and ferns the picturesque spring-fed creek is the largest freshwater creek on the island. When the tour buses arrive here it gets busy. Our camp is close, so we go for an early morning swim before the crowds arrive.
White-bellied sea eagles, Pied oystercatchers, Crested terns, sandpipers and pelicans are but a few of the birds on the beach. We notice hundreds of mutton birds washed up on the beach. Every year they migrate from Siberia to rookeries as far as Tasmania. Some years they fly into severe storms and fall into the ocean from sheer exhaustion. It is sad to see but nothing can be done for them and can only hope they recuperate and recover. It makes us think about the grueling and harsh journey these little birds make every year. They have incredible endurance and spirit.
Further up from Eli Creek, the Maheno wreck rests in the shallow waters. Once used as a hospital ship by New Zealand to transport wounded troops from Gallipoli during World War 1, it was washed ashore during a cyclone in 1935. Magnificent in its day, it is now a rusty and disintegrating skeleton. We pass Dingoes searching and scavenging on the shoreline. Fraser Island is known for its great fishing and some hang around popular fishing spots in the hope of getting fish from the fishermen.
Not far from Maheno wreck are The Pinnacles. Significant to the local Aboriginals, the coloured sands have formed over 1000s of years from minerals leached through the sand. To fully appreciate the rainbow of colours it’s best to visit here during the soft morning or afternoon light.
The Champagne Pools
Further up is another natural wonder. A scenic boardwalk leads down to the bubbly pools. Depending on the tide, the waves crash or cascade over volcanic rocks creating a sparkling effect into shallow sandy pools. Because of rips, undertows, stingers and sharks, the pools are the only safe place to swim in the ocean on Fraser Island. The boardwalk above the pools loops around the rocks and there are great views of the Indian Headland. The Champagne Pools at sunrise the next morning are worth the early wake-up. The sun dips into the ocean leaving a pool of gold below and a pod of Humpback whales breach in in the distance.
Our next camp is Marloo, about a 10 minute’ drive north of Waddy Point. We want to be close to Champagne Pools for sunrise. It’s windy here so we set our tent up behind the sand dunes for protection. The zipper on one of our tent screens snaps and it’s not until later when trying to sleep that the buzzing of mosquitos becomes unbearable. There’s no breeze behind the sand dunes, the stillness is stifling, made worse by the fact that we have the sheet over our heads to stop the mozzies from biting! Mozzie coils and insect spray don’t help.
In desperation, we drag the mattress down to the beach. The breeze keeps the mosquitoes away and we have a beautiful cool sleep under the stars. We wake in the morning and dingo footprints surround our mattress. Unknown to us they came and checked us out through the night…
We drive the inland sandy track through the Northern Scenic Drive past pink bloodwood, banksia flowering with lemon-yellow spikey flowers, scribbly and blue gum trees. Our last camp is on the remote west coast of the island at Woralie Creek.
We pitch our tent on the beach and it feels like a deserted island. The west coast is one of the best parts of our Fraser Island camping trip. The turbulent ocean, the salty breeze, the powdery white sand scattered with seashells and the sunsets are romantic. There are no amenities, but the creek is fresh water and sparkly clean for swimming.
The only company we have is a dingo. We see dingo footprints in the sand and hear them howling in the bush at night but only one comes close to our camp. While camping on Fraser Island we are lucky that not only do we see the dingoes, but we also witness them socialising and interacting with each other. Fraser Island wouldn’t have the same attraction and charm without them. We hope many other people get to see this vanishing icon in the future.
Fraser Island is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in Australia. The raw beauty, sandy beaches, tropical rainforests, translucent lakes, wild dingoes, epic sunrises and sunsets make this island one of the world’s natural wonders.
Fraser Island Dingoes
Dingoes have a social hierarchy system. As with all wild animals, they have their own individual personalities. Some are more cunning, dominant, mischievous and playful than others. They have to feed themselves on an island where food is scarce, protect their pups and survive in a place overtaken by humans. People can avoid negative encounters if they act appropriately and follow the guidelines. While camping on Fraser Island we are in their territory and doing so should be at our own risk.
Fraser Island was listed as a world heritage in 1992 and the state government realised the money-making potential and took control. They implemented practices to control the dingoes so they wouldn’t be an inconvenience or nuisance to the growing number of visitors. The dingoes were living a happy and harmonious life on the island interacting with visitors and locals before this.
Management practices in the past and present include culling, hazing, ear tagging of puppies, shock collars, non-lethal poisoned baits, electrified grates and fences, and euthanasia.
Demonised by the media and mismanaged by authorities the dingo population on Fraser Island is dwindling.