1. 75 Mile Beach
Rating: Easy – may require high clearance
Starting Point: Hook Point
Fraser Island is the largest island off the east coast of Australia, and the largest sand island in the world, making the drive up the eastern beach the perfect way to get a glimpse of Fraser’s size. The beach is popular with anglers, particularly in winter and spring when the tailor are running. The beach surface is generally firm, and the speed limit is 80km/h in most parts. The drive will take you past numerous designated beach camping zones, which are well marked and well patrolled, so be sure to have your vehicle access and camping permits on hand if you camp there.
The drive eventually leads to the mouth of Eli Creek, from which up to four million litres of fresh water pour forth into the ocean each hour. Take the boardwalk that follows the creek inland for a glimpse of its glassy waters, or get in and float back down to the beach to fully experience Eli Creek, where you may see jungle perch swimming against the current. A short distance north is the Maheno wreck: the rusted skeletal remains of a 5,000-ton ocean liner that has been beached for over 80 years.
Near the end of the drive at Orchid Beach is Champagne Pools, the only place where saltwater swimming is encouraged on the island, as sharks patrol the coastline and dangerous rips are commonplace. Champagne Pools however is a natural collection of pools created by volcanic rock, meaning it is safe for swimmers. The pools are named for the way the water fizzes after crashing over the volcanic rock, making it a unique experience for any visitor.
After rounding Indian Head along a detour track, you could re-join the beach and head right up to the tip of the island, Sandy Cape. However, there is a very soft sand bypass to negotiate around South Ngkala Rocks, while access over North Ngkala Rocks is extremely rough and should only be attempted by experienced four-wheel drivers at low tide.
2. Northern Forests & Lake Garawongera Scenic Drives
Rating: Difficult – Low range and high clearance
Starting Point: K'gari Camping Area
Starting at the K’Gari turnoff on Woralie Road, the track begins by plunging through soft sand around the beach access track inland towards K’Gari camping area. Be forewarned, the distance of this track does not reflect the time it takes to traverse it, as these tracks are tough going and require more time than you would expect. The drive perfectly skewers the diverse cross-section of Fraser Island’s natural beauty, taking you through deep rainforest where the canopy blocks the sky, then through open heathland and eucalypt forest near the island’s freshwater lakes.
The first point of interest along the drive is Knifeblade Lookout 4km in, which overlooks the windswept expanse of Knifeblade Sandblow. A further 4km ahead is Lake Allom, its tannin-stained waters home to countless turtles that frequently break the water’s surface. Soon after is a crossroad where you must turn onto Northern Road and begin heading southwest, which leads to Boomerang Lakes. The final inland leg of the journey is Lake Garawongera Scenic Drive, a rough track that is suitable for experienced 4WD users. From there it’s out on to the beach once more, and north back to K’Gari to complete this adventure-filled loop.
3. Southern & Central Lakes Scenic Drive
Rating: Difficult – requires low range and high ground clearance
Distance: 75km return
Starting point: Dilli Village
This full-day adventure is best turned into an overnighter if you want to fully enjoy the many lakes the track comes in contact with along the way. Fraser Island is home to half the world’s perched lakes, which are defined by their separation from the water table. This means most of Fraser Island’s lakes are fed only by rainwater, keeping them pure and clear.
Ensure your tyre pressures are lowered sufficiently for this drive, as soft sand abounds and the track is narrow and winding. Follow the signposts for the Southern Lakes Scenic Drive and you will cross paths with Lake Boomanjin, Lake Barga and Lake Birrabeen. Further along is Central Station, where once a logging village and even a school once stood, and which is now a picnic and camping area. If you take your time on the first leg of the journey, an overnight camp at Central Station is an ideal midpoint.
Past Central Station is Lake McKenzie, the most iconic sight associated with Fraser Island, and the perfect example of its unique beauty. Pure white silica lines the edge of the lake, the water’s colour changing from glass to turquoise and then to azure as it deepens. If you want to experience the serenity of Lake McKenzie, ensure you get there before 10am to avoid the crowds.
After Lake McKenzie, Bennett Road continues west before doubling back to lead you to Lake Wabby. Lake Wabby is the deepest lake on the island, and pressed up between Hammerstone Sandblow on one side and thick forest on the other, is disappearing at a rate of one metre each year. Take the walk to the lookout to get some perspective on this natural phenomenon, before driving to Cornwells Break Road and then back down to the beach to finish the track.