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Monday, January 29, 2018

The Great Expedition - Roadtrip from Perth to Exmouth, Western Australia


March is approaching, and with it, the start of whale shark season in Western Australia.  So, what better time to post about my experience road-tripping from Perth to Exmouth in late February of last year (yes, I am behind!)

My yoga instructor just asked me the other day whether it was worth it.  Well I arrived in Perth at midnight on a Sunday and left Perth at 11pm the next Friday (red eye flight back to Sydney).  So in 4.5 days, my mate and I drove a campervan 3,120 km or 1938 miles.  It was an amazing experience but very gruelling.  It was cool to do it once, but I’d say if you have the money it might be worth it to fly to Exmouth or take longer to truly enjoy everything along the way (minimum two weeks).  From my experience most of the good stuff was closer to Coral Bay and Exmouth but again I had to hit the highlights with only five days.  

Know before you go
  • If you get a park pass at the van rental place it’s $65 but only $44 if you get it at the first park that is part of the pass.  It’s a good deal if you are going to 4+ parks and don't want to deal with paying cash at each park, but otherwise probably not worth it.
  • Advanced notice, Optus gets ZERO reception in Western Australia so better have Telstra or be really onboard with spending every waking moment talking with your travel partner or sitting in silence.  Same goes for the radio.
  • If you EVER see a gas station that is open, stop and top up the tank no matter how close you are to full.  We almost ran out of gas TWICE on the trip due to road closures where we had to turn back or gas stations that were out of gas.  Yes, literally OUT OF GAS.
  • Camper van rental companies will not insure you driving on “unsealed roads” (aka unpaved roads).  Unfortunately a lot of the cool stuff is on dirt or gravel roads over the main streets.
  • We spent over $650 AUD in fuel across 4.5 days.  Like I said.  A lot of driving.  That’s your return ticket from Perth to Exmouth so you aren’t really saving money driving.
Packing List
  • Binoculars
  • Snorkel 
  • Swimsuit
  • Long sleeve, light weight outfit for nighttime (lots of bugs)
  • Thongs for camping bathroom
  • Two swimsuits so one can dry while you wear the other
  • Good shoes for hiking up stuff 
  • Underwater camera - would be good to have a nice one to catch great shots of whale shark (my shitty one didn’t do it justice)
  • Aqua shoes since some of the ocean beaches can be quite rocky
  • Beach towel
  • Bath towel
  • Sunscreen
The Menu
  • Single Fin Pale Ale from Gage Roads is not only indigenous to WA but the best fucking beer in Australia.  Nothing goes better with a sandwich eaten on the beach than a Single Fin.
  • Red wine (not a lot of fridge space)
  • Plums, apples and whatever fruit you like to go with Greek yogurt for breakfast - just makes you feel light and fresh in the morning after a cramped campervan sleep
  • Meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato and whatever else you like on sandwiches for lunch - easy to make in a small camper and require few utensils so less washing!
  • Hamburger meat, chilis, tomato sauce, buns and whatever else you like with your hamburgers for dinner - a hearty, meaty meal is perfect after a long travel day and the hot food goes down a treat
  • Pasta with your choice of sauce for the other dinners (when you get tired of hamburgers)
  • Snacks for the drive - you cannot buy enough of these because you are in the car ALOT.  Chips, hummus, crackers, lollies, chocolate, anything easy to eat while driving.
  • Total we spent about $200 AUD on food across 4.5 days which is pretty damn good for two people!
The Itinerary


Sunday - 26 Feb 2017

We cheated a little because my mate was already in Perth and picked up the camper van and stocked it with food (and booze of course) before I arrived so we were able to hit the road and make some progress before 2-3am when we finally pulled over to sleep near Lancelin at the Nilgen Nature Reserve (warning no toilets!) We rented from LetsGo for the camper and it was the perfect size for two! 



Monday - 27 Feb 2017

We woke up bright and early, had our yogurt and plums brekkie and headed to our first tourist stop - The Pinnacles (2 hrs from Lancelin).  Can’t say I was that impressed unfortunately.  It’s a bunch of rocks.  Not even worth the entry fee.  There are way cooler rocks in Colorado, Utah and other western states in USA.  Unless you love rocks, I’d pass.


We stopped in Jurien and Leeman for fuel and liquor and then again in Geraldton to stretch our legs before the turnoff to Kalbarri National Park.  I was super excited about Kalbarri. I’d heard amazing things about the hikes, rock formations and views of the sea.  We decided to stop in Grandstand which provided beautiful ocean views for our sandwich and Single Fin lunch.


We were in fine spirits as we approached the turn-off to the entrance to Kalbarri, only to find out the park was closed.  SO UPSET.  And we’d driven 2 hours out of our way AND the road heading north was closed as well so we had to backtrack the 2 hours back to Geraldton.  What a waste of a day.

Not only that but we’d made our first, almost fatal, mistake of the trip - we didn’t stop for petrol in Geraldton because we thought we had enough to make it the 30 minute drive to the BP Station in Northampton.  Unfortunately, we passed the closed BP realising it was 2 hours to the next petrol station.  We rolled into Billabong Roadhouse just in time.  We swore we wouldn’t make that mistake again!


From there, it was another 2 hours to the Shark Bay Caravan Park in Denham.  We were exhausted after 10 hours in the car and maybe only 2 hours doing anything!  But at least between the turn-off from National Route 1 (main highway) to Shark Bay, we saw at least 10 kangaroos.  So cool!

Shark bay Caravan Park was certainly an upgrade from our pullout off the road the night before - hot showers, toilet paper, hand soap, water and electric.  We topped up on everything and crashed pasta with tomato sauce and grilled chicken breast.  The main office is only open 8am-6pm so just take a spot if closed and pay in the morning.

Tuesday - 28 Feb 2017

We woke up SUPER early to zoom 30 minutes across land to Monkey Mia to feed the dolphins (can only do between 7:30am-12pm).  The earlier the better before the crowds show up.  If you’ve seen dolphins before this will be another buzzkill… only a couple people are chosen who actually get to feed the dolphins, everyone else has to watch from shore.  And of course, they pick the little kids.  It was a waste of $12/person (not included in the park pass we’d purchased!) But at least there was amazing coffee at the resort restaurant next to the feeding spot.


Another tip!  Monkey Mia is famous for the dolphins, but also for the northern tip of the peninsula.  Unfortunately you need a boat or 4WD vehicle to see a lot of it because it’s off the beaten path.  With our tight schedule and top heavy camper van with thin tires, there was no chance.  Yet another bummer…

At least we found a beautiful spot, Little Lagoon, for bacon, cheese and egg breakfast rolls and a swim.  Wish I’d had a snorkel so I could swim around and see some of the fish in the salt water.  


We took the turnoff fo the “scenic route” back to Denham.  You come in on the ocean side which has nice views and can you can stop at the estuary that leads from Little Lagoon to the ocean.  


Because we were so depressed with our luck thus far on the trip, we decide to just stop and whatever looked interesting on our way back to the National highway.  Next stop was Eagle Bluff (warning 4km on unsealed roads but we decided to risk it).  WOW what a view!  According to the sign you can see sharks, stingrays, dugongs, turtles, and more.  We only saw one ray.  The boardwalk is up on the bluff so bring binoculars!


There was another amazing bit of beach between Eagle Bluff and Goulet Bluff that I didn’t see a name.  Shell Beach was also worth a stop.  It’s very shallow and pristine white due to millions of shells ground into a fine sand.  We saw really cool rays but they swam away too quickly for me to get a pic.


Last stop before the main road was Hamelin Pool which was swarming with bugs and very hot.  Took a quick look and pic and then ran back to the car.


Once again we were idiots and rather than topping up in Denham (1.5 hours behind us) we arrived at the BP station just north of the turnoff onto National Route 1 only to find them open, but completely out of gas.  FUCK.  Once again we barely made it to the next roadhouse in Woomarel 30 minutes later.  But once again we at least got to see wild emu and more kangaroos on the way!  So cool how much wildlife is just hanging out of the main highway.  You don’t get that in Sydney!


We stopped in Carnarvon looking for a coffee but everything was closed so we decided to drive out to Pelican Point and enjoy a famous WA sunset.  The last two nights we’d totally missed a beach sunset because we were so focused on driving.  We watched kite surfers while we ate a delicious dinner of red wine with burgers topped in jalapeƱo, red onion, green pepper, chipotle mayo and lettuce on soft roll buns.  Best meal of the trip!  And the sunset was a perfect back drop.  So worth it.  Gotta remember to stop and smell the sea scents on this trip!


We rolled into Coral Bay after 8pm worried nowhere will let us in.  Bayview Caravan Park didn’t have a entry barrier so we took a leap of faith and hoped we could pay later.  It was VERY buggy that night but otherwise it’s a great setup and nice facilities.  We passed out hard after another long day of 7 hours of driving.  But at least we did get to see some beautiful beaches and wildlife today!

Wednesday - 1 March 2017

We woke up early (I don’t think I’ve woken up this early this many days in a row in my life) and I made a “scrambled egg bowl” aka a mixture of all the odds and ends we had left - sandwich ham, cheese, tomato, green pepper and egg.  Turned out to be the best breakfast we had!


When we went into pay at the campsite office, we overheard the office manager talking to one of the camp staff.  We couldn’t believe our ears!  Apparently whale sharks had been sighted off the coast… weeks early!  They don’t usually start appearing until mid March and here it was still February.  We excitedly asked her if this meant we could swim with them and she said to check wth the local dive shop, Ningaloo Reef Dive and Snorkel.

We raced down the street and excitedly learned that as soon as they sight the sharks, “whale shark season” officially starts!  We excitedly booked two spots on the boat for the next day.  I also learned that the reason I’d always struggled with snorkelling masks is because I was wearing it too tight.  The dive shop guy showed me how to properly tighten and man it was so much better.  I was so excited I bought the mask (not just an impulse buy; I have a very small face which was also part of the problem!) We returned to the campsite and paid $41 for two nights (off season price).  Note: during whale shark season you should DEFINITELY book Coral Bay accomodation in advance as it fills up very quickly (not a big town).

The next day was really our last full day and we had to get most of the way back to Perth, so we realised if we didn’t drive up to Exmouth we’d have to skip it completely.  Seeing as how we’d already driven 17 hours, another 1.5 hrs up to Exmouth seemed like no problem.

Exmouth itself is a pretty boring little town; the real action is along the coast northwest from Exmouth.  We stopped at Turquoise Bay to snorkel and nap.  It’s really good snorkeling.  Not too deep and sheltered from the ocean so you feel pretty comfortable and a safe.  I’m very scared of the ocean and it didn’t scare me (too much).  I saw another ray, tons of fish and lots of amazing coral.  The current is really easy around Bay Loop and then if you are a more advanced swimmer you can do the Drift Loop - just take care either way to avoid the center which will carry you out to sea!


Feeling very refreshed, we decided to push ourselves a little bit farther and check out Yardie Creek Gorge in Cape Range National Park.  It’s very beautiful not might not be worth the 45 minutes each way from Exmouth.  Very easy hike in terms of incline but is some rough terrain so it’s good to have sturdy shoes.  If you are remotely athletic you’ll be fine.  It was HOT.  On the way back to the car we saw a really cool, GIANT lizard and then tons of kangaroos on our way back towards Exmouth.


We stopped along the way at Jabari Turtle Centre because apparently between Oct and Jan the turtles come onto the beach to nest.  We thought maybe they might be late this year (I mean the whale sharks were early?!?) but unfortunately no luck.  We did catch another incredible sunset though.  We sped back to Coral Bay to pass out so we’d be well rested for our big day the next day.


Thursday - 2 March 2017

We were up early for the 7:20am start (no chance we were going to be late and miss this!) Note: You need to bring your own towel, hat, sunscreen, swimwear and jacket (it can get cold).  They provide snorkel, flippers, wetsuit, water, tea, coffee, and lunch.  Obviously I brought my own fancy new snorkel!  It cost $380 for one adult ticket plus $80 for the snorkel/mask.  We started off with snorkelling an amazing reef in about 4-5 meters of water while we waited for the plane overhead to sight a shark.




It didn’t take long before they found one.  Lucky us!  Basically the way it works is there’s about 30 people to boat. They separate you into groups of ten.  The dive shop we bought tickets from has their own plane which circles over the ocean to sight the whale shark.  They call in the coordinates to the boat and we then chase down the shark.  The boat will pull directly ahead of the whale shark and then the first 10 people jump off the back of the boat.  As soon as you sight the whale shark coming towards you, you split to the left or right and then swim as fast as you can to keep up with the shark.  You do have to be careful to stay at least 4 meters away (laws) which you’d want to do anyway because if you get too close you disturb them and they’ll dive down too deep for you to follow (and you’re the asshole).  I’m terrified of the ocean and was shocked to find I was so at ease with the whale sharks.  They seem so calm and gentle.  Definitely one of the best things I’ve ever done.




Whale shark “season” happens because they come into the shallows to eat the plankton near the surface.  Man is it a sight!  They are HUGE.  They also have a unique pattern of spots on their side.  If you take a photo and submit to whalewhaleshark.org and it’s a new whale shark you get to name it!  We ended up seeing two sharks; one was about 6 meters long.  Just wish I had a better camera so I could’ve gotten better pictures.  Definitely worth the $50 to have the dive photographer take photos of you (most of these photos are his!).  If you tell him in advance he’ll make sure to come around and find you.  Allows you to spend time taking it in rather than worrying about the perfect shot.


The second whale shark must have known it was lunch time so he dived down into the depths leaving us to climb back aboard for a huge spread of meats, cheeses, etc.  Charlie, the boat dog, is a 100% purebred dingo.  Apparently they kill cross breeds because they are too dangerous.  I also learned that they are their own species; they aren’t actually related to dogs or wolves or any canines.  I had no idea.  Charlie was very friendly although you needed to approach slowly.  One of the little boys came at him too fast which resulted in a snarl and some tears.  Eek.



After lunch was a second snorkel, this time in much deeper water among these thin, vertical “bookcases” of limestone reefs.  I was a little more nervous snorkelling around here but the time with the whale shark had strengthened my resolve.  Even saw my first wild sea turtle (and thankfully no other types of sharks).



A trick for booking your whale shark adventure in Western Australia.  Exmouth is the most famous area but actually not the best area.  If you can swing it, it’s actually better to book your experience in Coral Bay instead.  Australian law dictates that humans can only spend one hour with each whale shark.  So if you do the math, that’s 3 groups of 10 people per boat rotating in to see the shark times X number of boats.  You can see how quickly, during the busy season, you might end up spending very little time with the shark.  The trick?  Coral Bay only has three boats licensed for whale shark dives, while Exmouth as 14.  So even during busy season, you’ll get to spend way more time with the sharks in Coral.  Ningaloo Marine Park is the whole ocean area from Coral Bay to Exmouth.  And then because we were technically before “official” whale shark season, we were the only boat out there, giving each group 4 chances to snorkel with the sharks (because we saw two).

We finished at 1:30; they’ll go until 5pm if still looking for sharks because they have their own plane.

We snuck into the Bayview showers to rinse off before jumping in the camper and driving like crazy people back to Perth.  We had a lot of ground to cover.  We stopped at Miliya Roadhouse for coffee and to stretch our legs.   They had hilarious T-shirts and it was the cheapest fuel on the trip.  The goal was to make it to Knobby or Cliff Head near Port Denison but we were too exhausted so we stopped at Gull Roadhouse for another burger dinner.  They had soft serve ice cream with sprinkles! OMG!  It was kind of gross and loud (truck stop) so instead of sleeping there we decided to drive a bit farther to Flat Rock Beach just south of Geraldton.  It was an 8 hour drive plus the dinner stop so we missed another sunset!

Friday - 3 March 2017

For some reason I woke up SUPER early and felt the need to soak up my last morning in WA before our evening flight back to Sydney.  I lucked out and was up just in time to watch the sunrise over the beach while I waited for my mate to wake. up.  WOW.   We cooked up the remains of the fridge, a fruit yogurt bowl and some crispy bacon before driving the final leg back to Perth to drop the car.  We spent some time wandering around Perth before our red eye flight but I’ll share my travel tips on Perth another time (you’ll just have to keep tuning in).



In summary, it was an incredible trip.  I wish I’d had more time to make the journey, but even still it was worth it.  While gruelling, the land you drive across is so wild.  We’d go hours without seeing another car, human or building…or gas station (teehee).  You really feel like an explorer traveling uncharted territory.  We certainly had our share of unlucky misses (Kalbarri, the better parts of Shark Bay, etc) but the surprise early arrival and snorkelling with the whale sharks made it all worth it.  It was one of the Top Five coolest animal interactions of my life (others include tigers in Thailand, safari in South Africa, etc).  If you’ve only got a week I’d fly but if you have two weeks minimum to spend some real time doing the drive, you should give it a go!



Sunday, December 10, 2017

Fraser Island - Make like Han Solo and Adventure

February 10-11, 2017

With summer upon us here in Australia, I thought it was timely for me to dust off the travelogues from the past year and get back to blogging at the perfect time for some of you planning your summer holidays.

First up, Fraser Island.  Please read this post in detail as the #1 advice I can give on Fraser Island is know what you are signing up for and you will have a much nicer time.  Learn from my mistakes.



IMPORTANT NOTE - if you are not a fan of heat and sand and bugs and very bumpy road conditions, you need not read further.  If you are looking for a relaxing vacation, look up “Hamilton Island” or “Byron Bay.”  At Fraser Island, even the “lux” version is a little like Indiana Jones.

Now that we’ve established you need some sense of adventure to survive, you have a couple options.  In general, I’d say you need minimum 3 days/2 nights and max 4 days/3 nights unless you are with a large group and not looking to sightsee the whole time.  If you only have 1 day, I wouldn’t bother because you will feel rushed the whole time.  You could do a single night on the island but for reasons below I would avoid. As I see it, you are looking at 2-4 night adventure with a couple of options based on how much you want to “dial up” the adventure.  

“I’m on holidays and don’t want much adventure”

Stay at Kingfisher resort and do guided day tours. Recommended for families, couples who want some privacy and first timers who like to relax/have everything taken care of.

Pros - Relax in a real bed, use a flush toilet, eat food prepared for you and drink to your heart’s content both at the resort and on the day tour.  No worries about getting lost or what happens when you get stuck up to your axles in sand, because you have a guide to deal with it.  You are also likely to see almost all the main attractions and you can drink if it suits you.

Cons - The interesting stuff is on the opposite side of the island from Kingfisher (not walkable - minimum 20/30 min drive one way) and since you need to return to the resort each night you are doing a lot of unnecessary back and forth and you are at the beck and call of the tour so if you want to stay longer somewhere “too bad.”  I also feel like there are plenty of places to "do a tour."  Go to Fraser Island because you want a little adventure (see Hamilton Island).

“I’m on holidays but I want a little adventure”

For this you have two options:

A) Stay at Kingfisher but rent your own four wheel drive vehicle
Recommended for those who have driven in sand before and those that like luxury and flexibility. 

Pros - All the pros of Kingfisher + flexibility of touring the island on your own time and staying longer where you like.

Cons - All the cons of Kingfisher + if it’s your first time to Fraser or four-wheel driving in soft sand, you do have a pretty high chance of getting lost or getting stuck in sand and you have to deal with it (read below for my experience).  Depends how you handle very frustrating situations.

B) Overnight camping tour
Recommended for solo travellers, anyone looking to meet people and first time campers/visitors to Fraser.  

Pros - Camp close to the places of interest (no back and forth to Kingfisher) and have camp more or less set up for you (someone providing and pitching the tent, etc).  You get taken to the coolest points of interest, you can try out driving on sand (which IS fun) or ride shotgun and drink if you prefer.  All while making new friends and not worrying about getting lost or stuck because your guide does this every weekend.

Cons - You are at the beck and call of the tour and could be stuck the whole time with an awful group (can’t avoid them).  Also even though it’s a guided tour, it’s still pretty non-lux camping.  Be ready for beach campsites without showers and flush toilets and depending on the time of year there are a lot of bugs.

“F-ck it. Adventure here I come!”

Make like “Han Solo,” rent a four wheel vehicle, camp and tour the island on your own.  
Recommended for anyone who likes flexibility, privacy and adventure.  Probably best if you've "done" Fraser or done four-wheel driving before.

Pros - Flexibility of touring the island on your own time, staying in whatever campsite you want* (some require advance booking) and staying longer where you like.  Highly efficient to see all the sites in a shorter amount of time.  Don’t have to deal with anyone outside of your own group.  

Cons - Requires the most pre-planning as you need to rent a truck on the mainland, take the car ferry, stock food and water for yourself, bring/set up your own campsite, etc.  Fairly unlikely to meet anyone as people tend to stick to their groups although we made some.  You also need a designated driver for obvious reasons.  Also you are likely to get stuck or lost if it’s your first time and need to sort yourself (see my story below) and as mentioned above beach campsites are pretty wild. 

Lastly… time of year.  December through January are easily the high season with most students on holidays and adults off for Christmas, Boxing Day, NY, etc.  I actually recommend going when I did in mid-February.  The craze of summer tourists has passed and the weather is still warm enough for swimming but not too hot.  You can’t swim in the ocean because of sharks and tides so better to go when it’s a little cooler anyway.

Hopefully the above gives you most everything you need to know when choosing your Fraser Island adventure (or another vacation).  If you still think you want to venture to Fraser here is my first-hand account with some tips on getting there, what to bring and more.  

I did it “Han Solo.”

GETTING THERE

We flew out on a Friday morning from Sydney to Hervey Bay arriving at 11:05am.  It was
10 minutes to Fraser Magic office to pick up the car (don’t forget to drop a Google Maps pin - we almost forgot how to get back to their offices!)

THE VEHICLE

You’ll need to rent a four wheel drive vehicle; we chose Fraser Magic.  If you are a young, blonde American female like myself, you probably won’t earn a lot of credibility from the rental guy.  He didn’t take us seriously at all. He took us through all this information about what to do and not to do and you felt awkward asking questions.  Since you may end up feeling this way here are the four things to remember when it comes to driving.  In general though (as you'll see throughout this post, DON'T rent from Fraser Magic).


  1. Pedal to the Metal - You think you want to be timid because you might crash.  Highly unlikely.  To get through sand, you need far more gas than you do on concrete so put the pedal to the metal.  Honestly, like 25-30 km.  You can drive on the beach in high range and get up to 80 km just make sure to shift back to low range before going inland (and before returning the vehicle).
  2. Steer Less - Yes, that sounds crazy, but because the tires of so many trucks create deep grooves in the sand, if you keep a light hand on the steering wheel the car will find its own way.  It’s when you try to tell it where to go that you’ll get stuck and are more likely to crash.
  3. Get in Gear - We were told to stick to 3rd gear when driving in sand and 4th gear (“drive”) on the wet sand along the ocean.  Not true.  Definitely stick to 1st or 2nd gear on the inner roads.  Just remember to return the car in "drive" as they require or you’ll get fined.
  4. Towing - They tell you that if you get towed by anyone else on the island besides the "official" tow company you aren’t covered by insurance.  This is true.  And if you feel like sleeping in the car after getting stuck and wasting your holiday waiting for the ONE tow truck on the island to get to you...go for it.  I’m sorry but there are plenty of Aussies on the island who have been driving the island for years.  Up to you to “take the risk” if you get stuck.  We got towed "unofficially" and it was so worth it.

THE GEAR

You can rent gear a part of the vehicle rental - two sleeping bags and a tent.  It also came with a gas stove top, plates, cutlery, cooking oil, dishwashing soap, two rolls of TP, salt and pepper and matches/lighter so you don't need to buy those things (although if you go with a different outfit than Fraser Magic obviously call and check what's included).  

I recommend you bring:
  • A few sets of singlets, shorts, swimmers - it’s VERY casual 
  • Shower towel (couple days and you are feeling gross) + beach towel
  • Thongs
  • Trainers (there are some cool hikes - I cut up my foot in thongs)
  • Warm outfit for nighttime, just in case
  • Hat with a wide brim
  • Portable speaker - if you’ve got a small one it’s nice for lying on the beach.  Even better if it’s water resistant for floating down Eli Creek
  • AUX cable - depending on the rental you can listen to music and you do a lot of driving so it's well worth it.  Again portable speaker solves this problem too.
  • External charger - nowhere to charge at night so if you need to top-up bring it with you
  • Hand sanitiser - lots of peeing behind trees on this trip...
  • Bug spray - and lots of it!
  • Mini first aid - lots of camping admin - always good to have some bandaids on hand!
  • Sunscreen 
  • Eye drops for contacts - it gets dusty out there!
  • Face wash - again not a lot of showering so makes you feel clean
  • Shampoo and conditioner - for when you stay somewhere with a shower
You will also want lilos or floaties for the river float but you can buy those on the island from the General Store near Kingfisher Lodge for $10 each (not in the actual lodge itself) so don't bother bringing.

THE MENU

It is VERY expensive to buy food and drink on the island so bring as much as possible with you.  Better to be naked or stinky than hungry I always say so food over clothes!  Here’s my shopping list for 1 girl + 1 guy.
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 bag of apples
  • 1 bag of rolls
  • 1 pack of sliced tasty cheese (two packets inside)
  • 2 bags of salad lettuce
  • Pack of turkey meat
  • Pack of chicken slices
  • Mayo
  • 1 onion
  • 2 peppers - pick based on your heat tolerance 
  • Greek yogurt
  • Plums
  • Honey 
  • 24 pack of Pure Blonde (read “beer”)
  • 2 bottles of red wine
  • 2 bags of ice (we bought one later)
With two nights, two days, we made:
  • Brekkie - yogurt with fruit and honey - when you’ve been camping there is nothing like fresh fruit to start your day off nicely
  • Lunch - turkey/chicken/salami sandwiches
  • Dinner - hamburgers

There’s a Woolies near Fraser Magic. Just give yourself a full hour to buy food and alcohol if you already know what you want; you don't want to miss the ferry because there isn't another one.  You really just need to buy ice on the island.

GETTING TO FRASER

Car ferry tickets are part of the vehicle rental as well. It’s a 15 minute drive to Rivers Head Barge to board the car ferry to Fraser.  You’ll want to go to ferry office and make sure to get your return ticket and then make sure you get the return half of the ticket back from the guy on the barge.




TOP THINGS TO SEE ON FRASER

And now to my story...

Day One

Long story short, within 20 minutes of being on the island, we got hopelessly stuck, up to our front and back axles in soft sand, trying to cross the island to the west coast (where everything is).  After 2-3 hours of trying to shovel our way out, it was getting dark and another car came by.  I left my travel buddy at our car and jumped in with this French couple to head to the beach to call for help (no cell signal on the inner areas of the island).  



After almost an hour of driving we reached the beach, where I called Fraser Magic for help.  I was basically laughed at, told to shovel (I explained we were past that) and then told to spend the night in the car as the tow couldn’t come until morning.  Keep in mind, I’m an hour DRIVING from my car and partner, the couple who’d given me a ride sure as hell weren’t going to drive me back, and if you’ve heard ANYTHING about Fraser Island it’s riddled with dingoes happy to reenact a scene from The Ghost and the Darkness.


Lucky for me, Tony, the Tour Guide, happened to drive by in his yute, headed back to his campers.  He literally saved me from sleeping alone with the dingoes and took me back to find my travel partner and car.  Towed us out and invited us back to his camp of 35 eighteen-year-old backpackers who were VERY drunk by the time we arrived.  


It was also my travel partner’s birthday and he’s never been camping.  I got paid out hard by the campers:  "He has never been camping and you brought him here? Threw em into the deep end didn't ya!"

After dancing to “Big Booty Bitches,” pitching our tent, downing some well-earned beers and catching an incredible sunset, we passed out.



Day Two

You can’t go onto the beach until 10am because the sand is too soft for your tires and you’ll get stuck (again) so we hiked up to Lake Wobby.  It’s quite uphill and a bit rocky so make sure to wear thongs at minimum (sand is VERY hot) and bring a lot of water.

The lake was such a nice retreat after sleeping in the dried sweat of 3 hours shovelling.  REMINDER:  YOU CANNOT SWIM IN THE OCEAN HERE and the beach camps don't have showers.  So be ready to dirty and smelly or find nice lakes and rivers for a swim. 


Interesting facts about Lake Wobby:
  1. Due to the massive sandhill above it that is slowly drifting with the wind, the lake will be gone in 20 years.  
  2. It’s at the base of a HUGE hill and I’m glad I came with Tour Guide Tony because he told us, while tempting, not to run down the hill, or you will die because it’s too steep to stop and your legs will go out from under you.  
  3. There are little fish that nibble your feet!
As soon as 10am rolled around, we jumped back in the yute, eager to see all the main attractions since we’d lost the entire day prior.  

Top things we’d been told to see in 3ish days (in no particular order):
  • Eli Creek 
  • Indian Heads
  • Champagne Pools
  • Lake McKenzie 
  • Walk from White Lake to Dundubara
  • Drive up to Lake Allom to see the turtles
We stopped at Happy Valley for ice (cheapest place on the island) and purchased a simple First Aid kit because you do get a bit cut up and then decided to head straight from Lake Wobby all the way up to Champagne Pools at the top of the island.  It’s about 30 mins from Eli Creek to Indian Head (Eli Creek is more or less the “centre” sitting in the middle of the island).

On the way to Champagne Pools, we stopped to walk to the top of Indian Head which takes about 30 mins.  Very beautiful views and worth the easy walk up.  We didn’t stay long because we felt pressure to see everything in one day so we headed straight back to the car.


Another 15 minutes and we were at the Champagne Pools.  Just wow.  They were amazing.  You can “do them” in 45 minutes but I’d recommend spending a couple of hours if you have the time or even spending the whole day there.

You’ll definitely need an underwater/waterproof camera or Go Pro and water shoes for absolute comfort.  The setup is a bunch of rocks that have created natural pools of water leading up to the beach.  They are called the “champagne” pools because waves come in and crash on the rocks that surround the pools causing a flurry of bubbly water reminiscent of bathing in champagne.  Yes, you kinda of feel like a baller… minus the water hitting you in the face if you aren’t paying attention.  You can swim here because the rocks keep out the scary crocs and sharks and killer riptides Fraser Island is known for.

I was bummed to leave as soon as we did, but we were keen to see as much as possible, so we jumped back in the yute and spent 20-30 minutes driving back to Eli Creek.  I was starting to get the hang of this whole driving thing and was enjoying 80 km down the beach.


Another amazing place to spend the afternoon.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was about (we had done ZERO research before coming on this trip clearly) so I’ll enlighten you ahead of time.  Eli Creek is a perfect example of the perks of not driving yourself and going with a tour.  It’s a place to meet other people and have a bit of a beach party (err creek party).  


Best thing to do is park the car on the beach, walk up the boardwalk ramp all the way to the “top” of the creek and float on your lilo down (don’t forget to bring beers).  The creek bottom is very soft so you don’t need shoes. We spent as long as humanly possible here before jumping back in the car  to drive to Central Station.  We wanted to arrive before dark (seeing as how we’ve had great luck on this trip so far).


To get to Central, we drove down to Eurong and then headed inland, trying to spend as little time on the inland track as possible.  Sure enough our piece-of-shit car overheated and we had to pull over and wait an hour for it to cool down.  Pretty embarrassing as multiple cars pulled over asking if we were okay.  NEVER book with Fraser Magic.

Finally “limped” into Central station.  If you are coming from Eurong, it’s the campground BEFORE actual Central Station (look for the sign).  Unlike the beach camps which are “come as you are,” Central is a main camping hub with bins for rubbish, showers and toilets.  


We ended up making friends with Joe and Alissa, two of the people who’d stopped on the track enquiring if we were okay.  We invited them over for some wine while we waited for our hamburgers to brown.  Let me know tell you - a shower + hot food + quiet bed was VERY well received.  There are a lot more flies inland though.  Make sure to keep your tent door zipped at all times!

Day Three

Woke up, packed up and headed to Lake McKenzie, which we’d heard you can’t miss!  Have to admit at this point, we were terrified of driving so we debated all morning about going because it’s is ALL inland roads to get there.  After a lot of up-n-down driving we arrived and boy, it was worth it.


You’ve never seen a lake so crystal clear.  Literally you can dive under and open your eyes.  It’s so clear because it isn’t a lake created by a natural spring, it’s 100% made from raindrops.  I think that’s so fucking cool.


Because it’s such an amazing lake, you can't eat or drink there in an effort to keep pollutants away, but you should bring your floaties, goggles and underwater camera with you (as if your floatie isn't dirty...).  Also don’t forget your thongs as, again, VERY hot sand.  You can easily spend the whole day here; I wish we’d brought a portable speaker.  

We eventually left with plenty of time to get to the car ferry, since we’d had such bad luck and had a plane to catch.  We caught the barge from Wanggoolba at 3pm.  There is NOTHING to do at this ferry stop (it's not the Kingfisher one) so if you are hungry, thirsty or prone to boredom, bring something to do/eat.

Barge arrived and carried us off the island without a hitch and we made it back to Sydney alive.

In summary

Overall, legend of a trip.  Shockingly, I would love to go back but only because I know what I know now.  I’ve never written a blog post (other then my Burning Man packing post) that is more helpful for those thinking going.  I hope the “bumps” in the road I faced and my learnings will help make your Fraser Island experience more enjoyable.


Next time I go (yes, I swear there will be a next time), I’d probably go with a group of friends (ideally ones that know how to drive in the sand) and camp as a group and spend a long weekend there.  For those that aren’t Australian, I do think it’s a really authentic taste of what Queensland and island life in Australia is like.  I DO highly recommend that you go.  Good luck!