184,000 hectares of sand floating in the pearly waters of the South Pacific would make for a pretty awesome rally track right? Too bloody right it would. Today I’m reminiscing about my self drive adventures on Fraser Island, when I did just that.

Adrenaline rushes, dodging sand dune drop offs, navigating through dense rainforest and racing against the tide. This certainly felt more like a rally than a romantic drive along the beach. Little did I know before arriving on Fraser Island that this was about to become the highlight of my Australia backpacking adventure.


Self Drive Adventures Travel on Fraser Island, Australia.

A Special Noosa Mention

I couldn’t begin this post without mentioning Noosa. Noosa is not only where a lot of people begin their self drive adventures on Fraser Island but it’s also one of the best, most beautiful spots in all of the East Coast of Australia. Noosa can easily be missed but if you’re planning a trip along the East Coast then make time for at least a day here. If I were to move to Australia someday, this is where I’d want to be.

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Travel East Coast Australia (source)

To Self Drive or Not to Self Drive?

Visitors have 2 choices. 1. To take an organised tour, or 2. to embark on your own self drive adventures on Fraser Island either by yourself or in convoy with a guide in the lead vehicle.

Gabby and I have compared notes on Fraser Island on numerous occasions. Gabby chose the organised tour option as a break from her outback road trip whereas I chose to self drive (not in convoy). We both made it to all the key hotspots, lookouts and lakes and both had the opportunity to stay overnight, so you shouldn’t miss out either way.

The organised tour offers you a little more safety and a guide who knows where and when to be at the lookouts and hotspots. But with the self drive option, you are quite literally in the driving seat and get a hands on experience of the biggest sand island in the world.

I was with 4 friends at this point of my trip. We all chipped in and booked a 4×4 for our 2 day self drive adventure on Fraser Island through Pelican 4×4 Hire. On arrival at any self drive 4×4 rental, you’ll be given a 1 hour safety briefing on the do’s and don’ts when driving on the island. There have been lots of accidents on Fraser Island over the years, most notably in 2009 when a 4×4 flipped on the beach as the tide came in, killing 2 tourists. So pay attention to this: Be warned, this is dangerous and accidents are easy to come by if you’re not on full alert and paying absolute attention to your surroundings. Respect the island and you’ll be fine.

Anyway, mini lecture over…..on to the fun stuff.

A Ferry Good Day (sorry I couldn’t resist getting cheesy)

From Noosa, I headed to River Heads (2.5 hours drive away) to pick up a ferry to Fraser Island. The ferries run regularly throughout the day but not after dark. If you miss the last ferry back to the mainland, you’re a bit buggered.

Once you land on Fraser Island, you’ll have to get to grips with driving on the sand pretty damn quickly. As I mentioned earlier, this is the largest sand island on earth so not a place to visit if you can’t stand getting sand everywhere. And I mean EVERY-where.


Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island

Along with a 4×4 full of my mates and our backpacks, we set off down the beach in search of our first stop off. Within 10 minutes we’d had 2 near death misses as we hit multiple drop offs in the sand. You can look ahead all you want but sometimes these drops just come out of nowhere. You’ll be sent straight out of your seat, bashing your head on the roof before coming into land on your measly padded seat. Never did I imagine I’d be sat in an off-roader with four blokes all complaining how much of a pounding our asses were taking.

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. 4x4 Hire Fraser Island Australia

You’ll have plenty to see and do on Fraser Island but there are 4 things not to miss……


1. Lake Mckenzie

After a bumpy, windy and rough old drive we arrived at Lake Mckenzie. Pure white silica sand leads down to a picturesque lake.

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Lake Mckenzie

Fun Fact: The silica sand is similar to that you would find on Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays. As you skim your feet across and into the sand, it makes a squeak. This is known as ‘Singing Sand’.  

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Lake Mckenzie

You can’t not take a dip here – make sure you have your swimmers to hand! Once you’re in the cool, clear waters, you won’t want to get out, especially if the baking Aussie sun is beaming down on you.


2. SS Maheno Shipwreck

The SS Maheno was washed ashore Fraser Island during a cyclone in 1935. It’s now one of Fraser Island’s most popular tourist hotspots and certainly makes for a cool photo opportunity.

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Shipwreck

Brown Snakes and Sleeping Remedies

We were having such a good time on Fraser Island that we decided to stay the night and catch the ferry back the next day. Oh the beauty of not having a plan. Luckily for us, there was plenty of room at Base Camp. Base Camp is a ‘luxury camping’ hostel. I wouldn’t exactly refer to Base Camp as ‘luxury’ but it did offer camping with kitchens and bathrooms on site. They also run tours of Fraser Island which I hear are very good.

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Base Camp

All we wanted was a place to rest our heads for the night. What we got was a whole lot more.

When we first arrived at Base Camp there was a bit of commotion. A member of staff soon appeared from around the corner with a spade in hand. He plonked the spade on the desk and wished us a friendly ‘g’day’.

Instead of bidding him hello back, we were transfixed on the decapitated snake head that was casually resting on the spade.

“‘Oh yeah’, the guy said, ‘we had a little incident with a brown snake in the kitchen, but don’t worry, he’s not gonna be a problem now.”

Great! Not only had we arrived at a venomous snake infested campsite but the receptionist was the Spade Butcher of Southern Queensland.

Needless to say, we were quite sure the snake was dead and anyway, this was Australia and it all adds to the adventure, right?

Our tents were perfect. Corrugated iron sheets offered a canopy above the tent’s roof, giving you a little more cover. Our tent slept 6 and came complete with an en-suite bathroom. This may not be ‘luxurious’ to everyone but if you’ve ever spent the night in a Bangkok hostel for just US$1 then this was Buckingham Palace.

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Camping

Still buzzing from the adrenaline of the day’s activities we were going to struggle to sleep. Luckily the Spade Butcher (whose actual name I’ve forgotten unfortunately) offered us an alternative. Get so rat-assed that you needn’t worry about falling asleep as you’ll simply pass out and wake up the next morning, face first in a half eaten bag of cheesy crisps. Oh yes, us Brits know how to do classy!

As we left Base Camp we noticed that our 4×4 had security and was being watched over by a local Goanna Lizard, and boy was he was a beaut.

3. Lake Wabby

This lake is very different to Lake Mckenzie. The green basin of fresh water lies is nestled at the bottom of the Hammerstone Sandblow. This massive dune like sandblow is slowly moving further into the water. Someday the lake will be completely covered by sand, so feel privileged if you’ve had the chance to swim in the water with its 13 species of resident fish.

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Lake Wabby

The heavens opened as soon as I stepped foot in the lake, but it did nothing to dampen the experience. My clothes at the lake’s edge were wetter than me but after an hour of larking about in the water, body rolling down the sandblow and bathing with the fish, the sun came out. All was right with the world and we headed off to our last port of call before heading back to the mainland.

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Lake Wabby

4. Indiana Head Lookout

Indian Head is located at the furthest point of Seventy Five Mile Beach (pretty sure the beach’s name is self explanatory).

When driving to Indian Head, you’ll most likely have to drive through a large area of water that comes up as high as your bonnet. The need for the 4×4’s snorkel soon became quite clear. Make sure your windows are closed!

Once you reach the base of the headland, park and make the climb up to Indian Head Lookout. It’s well worth the short trek and you’ll be rewarded with a stunning 360 degree view of Fraser Island. This is also a pretty good place to spot mantarays and sharks in the water below.

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Clifftop Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Indian Head Lookout

As we left Indiana Head Lookout, we clocked the time. Shit. We had just 35 minutes to make it from the far eastern tip, three quarters of the way back down to the south of the island in order to catch our ferry. Oh and the ferry was the last one that day. We were going to have to put our foot down.

Disclaimer: I am not by any means recommending you speed around Fraser Island. In hindsight we should have probably just made peace with the fact we’d missed the ferry and instead, return to Base Camp till morning. But hey, we’re British and blokes…. sensible sometimes doesn’t come naturally. 

As we teared down the beach, the tide was beginning to come in creating drop offs left, right and centre. It soon became quite clear how dangerous this place could become and how it would take just a split second to make a fun, exciting situation a dangerous and potentially fatal one.

Self Drive Adventures On Fraser Island. Ferry

Obviously I’m writing this so I’m happy to say we all made it out alive and even caught the ferry with mere seconds to spare. Phew.

Self drive adventures on Fraser Island or organised tour? Either way it will be an experience unlike any other and an adventure of a lifetime…I promise you that.


  • http://abrokenbackpack.com A Broken Backpack

    Fraser Island is my next stop in Australia! We bought a 4X4 and now.. I can’t wait to go! 🙂

    • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

      Thanks, Melissa.
      Ah you brought yours? Amazing! Hope you have an awesome time. Look forward to reading about your adventure 🙂 Go careful out there.

      • http://abrokenbackpack.com A Broken Backpack

        I will! 🙂

  • Gregg A

    Hey, can you tell me were you driving through salt water of fresh water. I too have a 4×4 and wondering what long term damage may occur.

    • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

      Hi Gregg. Thanks for reading 🙂
      Its a mix of the two really. You’ll have salt water coming onto the beach from the sea of course and a few floods are salt water. In the woods and nearer the lakes you’ll drive through a few streams of fresh water but they are only small so I’d prepare for salt water which is likely to be encountered a lot more than fresh.
      Hope that helps 🙂 Have an awesome time!

  • http://megansblog.co.uk Megan

    I am moving to Australia for a year in December and am definitely planning on heading to Fraser Island at some point so this post is great! It sounds like you had such an amazing time. Although not too keen on the headless snake keeper…….

    • http://www.theglobewanderers.com TheGlobeWanderers

      Hi Megan.
      Amazing. Where is your first stop?
      So pleased you enjoyed the post. Thanks for reading 🙂
      Fraser Island was amazing so you’ll have a blast. Haha, all except snake butchering matey, yea.
      Best of luck and safe travels for your big adventure in 2016 🙂