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Fraser Island Is A Fun Ride For Families

Flanked in natural beauty and steeped in cultural heritage, it’s no wonder Fraser Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Australia. This World Heritage-listed wonderland, where sandy beaches are long and uninterrupted, freshwater lakes are sublime, and ancient rainforests are simply magic – ideal for families.

Long, uninterrupted beach driving is guaranteed to soothe the soul. (Image: Penny Shipway)

It seemed like everyone had been to Fraser Island except me. So around eight years ago (before we had kids) my hubby and I bought an old Landcruiser and decided it was time to get to this famous island we had only dreamed about. We put in for our annual leave, got all the permits required and bought spanking new camping gear – we were set.

A full rainbow is a great welcome to Dilli Village. (Image:Penny Shipway)

But then came the rain. And it fell and fell and fell. It was so bad in fact they were evacuating people off the island. It was a definite no-go.

So we spent our holiday tucked up inside our tiny worker’s cottage playing board games, while the rain cascaded down for days. Then of course life got in the way – two babies, a mortgage, moving houses and job changes.

But one day in early 2016, the stars finally aligned – we were finally going to Fraser Island!

As the weeks drew closer I started to check the weather (as you always should before you go) and guess what? Rain. Expected. All. Week. And true to the weatherman’s word, it rained – poured even. There was a lightening show so great it was like nothing we’d seen before. Our darling host Di at Dilli Village was insisting we take refuge in one of their cabins. But we dug our heels in and stayed with our campsite.

Penny’s daughters play in the white sand of Lake McKenzie. (Image: Penny Shipway)

And? It was nothing short of amazing. In fact, it only added to the adventure!

Thankfully it was dry enough to head out the two full days we were there (the rain actually makes the sand harder and easier to drive on – win!). What surprised us the most was just how much our kids loved the four-wheel-driving. I mean, it’s a pretty bumpy ride out there! So as we set off from our campsite, and we all started bouncing around I thought, “Oh, here we go – please don’t cry, kids!”.

Well, not one tear was shed the entire trip. Only squeals, shrieks, screams, and fits of hysteria (phew!) as we bounded along the beautiful inland road and through the most divine thick rainforest that even the tourist brochures couldn’t do justice. The driving on Fraser is sensational – smooth on the beach, bumpy inland, and just oh-so-much fun. So sit back, breathe in the fresh air and take it all in.

Penny’s tips for family holidays on Fraser Island:

  • If you are camping, my pick is Dilli Village. It’s run by the University of the Sunshine Coast for research so it’s well-maintained and is the closest campsite to the Inskip Point barge, which can be relieving after a long drive.
  •  Kingfisher Bay Resort is great for those less inclined to get dirty, and if you’re coming from Hervey Bay.
  • See Lake McKenzie. If you’re short on time this is the one. You will not be sorry.
  • Eli Creek can be impassable at high tide, so plan your day accordingly.
  • Be dingo savvy. If you remain confident around the dingoes (i.e. don’t run away and stand your ground), they will leave you alone. Just keep your kids close to you at all times.
  • There’s refuelling spots at Eurong, Happy Valley and Kingfisher Bay for food, ice and fuel, but it’s always best to be prepared in case you mess up your tide times or get bogged.
  • A little rusty behind the wheel? Brush up on your skills before you go or take a four-wheel-drive course on the island when you get there. You can also hire one if you are a bit precious about your brand-new Land Rover.
  • It’s a bouncy ride, so make sure your eggs and wine are buckled up or things may get a little messy!

Penny’s family enjoy Lake McKenzie. (Image: Penny Shipway)

On our first day we saw Lakes Birrabeen, Boomanjin and McKenzie (very easily done in one day from Dilli). Lake McKenzie is that popular one you see saturating Instagram travel feeds. And yep, it’s just as good as the pics (no filter required!). It has the softest, white sand and swimming pool-clear water. As we all got in the water my husband even said, “This would have to be up there with one of my favourite beaches (er lakes, but it feels like a beach!) in the world.”.

He was right. We stayed for a few hours. In fact, it was pretty hard for us to get out – who wants to leave paradise?

The Maheno shipwreck is a fantastic pitstop for photos. (Image: Penny Shipway)

On our second day we chose to do a beach drive and headed north up to the Maheno Shipwreck, a New Zealand ocean liner washed ashore by a cyclone in 1935. After some photos and a pitstop there we drove back down to another popular must-do, Eli Creek. This slow-moving freshwater creek (also crystal clear!) snakes through more pristine rainforest and out to the ocean. It’s hard to believe it pumps four million litres of water into the ocean every hour!

The famous Lake McKenzie with its crystal-clear water and soft, white sand. (Image: Penny Shipway)

A short walk over a lovely boardwalk takes you to the top of the creek and you can actually lie on your back and float all the way down. It’s perfect for kids because it’s only around waist-deep for little ones the whole way.

After our swim, we took the inland Lake Garawongera scenic drive (these drives are perfect for lulling littlies to sleep), which we later found out was for experienced four-wheel drivers only! We had to laugh, but hey if we survived with a three and four year old, you can too!

Penny and her girls enjoy a morning play on the beach. (Image: Penny Shipway)

This two-hour trip from Happy Valley takes you inland to the lake then continues south back out to the beach. So after a picnic and swim at yet another divine lake (this one a tea colour due to the lake’s tannins), we headed back to camp.

Every now and then we would spot a dingo and slow down to take a pic. Just be careful because these bold creatures will come right up to your car for a sniff! So maybe don’t go dangling your arms out the windows. And remember not to feed them.

Four-wheel-driving through thick rainforest was the ultimate highlight! (Image: Penny Shipway)

Back at Dilli Village, with our dingo fences, we felt nice and safe and the facilities are perfect for those wanting a hot shower at the end of the day. There’s a freshwater lagoon at the site where the kids can have a dip and a small bridge which takes you straight out to the beach – perfect for a sundowner while the kids have a splash.

So if you’ve been thinking about going to Fraser, just do it. You will not be disappointed.

Just make sure you have a solid four-wheel drive with a good amount of clearance, spare fuel, snatch straps, and all your camping essentials. Oh, and don’t forget your sense of adventure – this island is jam-packed with excitement and fun!