Off roading on Fraser Island

When Ashley and I were figuring out what we wanted to see in Australia, we went back and forth on Fraser island.   It required us to waste a day in Hervey bay and when we looked at the pictures/advertising for it we didn’t really understand the appeal.  Most people come out to Hervey bay with their own vehicle and camp or come out with a tour group to camp.   Camping isn’t exactly our go to activity unless our friends invited us so we weren’t really sure what to expect on this tour.  We went ahead and worked it into our trip and went for a day tour and we were both very happy we decided to!

The tour started off with an early pick up from our hostel.   We rounded up a few more people and made our way over to a boat that was waiting for us.  The boat transported cars and people over to Fraser Island where we would start our tour.  Every vehicle on board was a 4×4 or huge bus 4×4 type thing.    Once we made our way across we found our bus and climbed aboard.  I had never been on a bus like this before.  This was a 52 person bus that was specifically designed for off road conditions.   Shortly after we started I figured out why.

Fraser island is built entirely out of sand which makes it a very unique place.  The trees and everything that grows there is built on sediment and dead plants that have slowly built up over time to create a base layer for plant life.   Since the island is made entirely of sand there are no roads on 99.9% of the island.   The island is also pretty big.   Before long we were tearing along at what felt like a very unsafe speed in a monster bus driving completely on very deep sand.   The bus flew through it with ease and we never even came close to getting stuck.

Our first stop on the trip was to take a quick bathroom break at one of the only resorts on the island.  After that we made our way down to the beach.  The beach itself is actually a high way made of sand complete with road signs and speed limits.   Vehicles closest to the water have right of way and those traveling closer to land have to give way when it gets narrow.  Planes also take off and land on the beach and have right of way to all vehicles, although they have specific landing strips set up off the highway.    We made our way down the highway at what felt like 100 mph splashing through the ocean water.   Along the way we passed our first Dingo!  There are tons of wild Dingo’s on the island but due to the season it was unlikely we would see one.

We stopped part way down the 75 mile sand highway at one of the run ways.  For $75 extra you could hop on a plane and it would fly you over the island and then land further down to meet up back up with our group.   We decided to skip out on the extra cost as it was pretty overcast that day and the tour was already pricey.   Up head we made it to the Pinnacles.  the Pinnacles are a sand structure that has been built up over time.  I’m not entirely sure why they were so special but that’s ok.

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We got the people back who boarded the plane and after checking out the special sand formation we were off to the next stop.   We made our way to a ship wreck that was on the beach.  The ship was called the SS Maheno and was first launched in 1905.   The ship entered service as a passenger vessel between New Zealand and Australia.   During WW1, the ship was taken over by the government so it could be used in the war.  The ship was used in 1915 to sail all the way to Egypt to pick up wounded soldiers and return them back to New Zealand.  In 1916 the ship went up to the UK to picked up wounded soldiers.  The ship ended up making the trip to the UK and back to New Zealand a total of 6 times before the war was over and the government gave the ship back.    Upon receiving the ship back, the owners decided to sell it and found a buyer in Osaka.  The owner from Osaka took delivery in Australia and started transporting it back to Osaka but didn’t make it far at all.  They were hit by a hurricane and the ship (being towed) broke free and drifted into the storm before eventually landing on Fraser Island.  The buyer in Osaka couldn’t figure out a way to get the ship afloat again and tried unsuccessfully to sell it.   They stripped what they could and ended up just leaving the ship there.   I have no idea why I found the story so interesting but it stuck with me!

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After we stopped at the ship we went to a river that you were supposed to be able to float down.  When we arrived it was a very shallow river just a foot or two deep.   The water was crystal clear though!  We walked up the path along the river and then Ashley and I walked down the river which was nice and refreshing on a hot day.   At the bottom of the river a lot of Australians had set up camp and were hanging out with their families.  It was a great place to bring family and kids and everyone was having a good time.

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After we were done at the river we made our way back to the main resort.  We were starving at this point and ready for a break.   We finished lunch and then went to a loggers camp.   The loggers camp had been set up when logging began in 1863.   The timber was such good quality that it was exported to Egypt and America.  Logging was eventually made illegal and they stopped logging in 1991.   After the camp we went on to our final destination for the Fraser island trip, Lake McKenzie.   The lake is right in the middle the island and has a great beach as well as incredibly blue water.   It was a bit overcast when we were there and you could still see how blue the water was.     Our trip to Fraser island turned out to be a huge success!  It was really fun to learn about the history of the island and see so many different things throughout the day!

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