Fraser Island in Queensland is the largest sand island in the world. It’s a place of exceptional beauty, with long uninterrupted white beaches flanked by striking sand cliffs and over 100 freshwater lakes.
Backpacking Fraser Island is one of the “must-dos” on the Australian travel trail and you’ll find a ton of travelers camping here. But you’ll also find a lot of locals here too, especially those that love 4×4 drives and multi-day camping activities.
You definitely don’t want to skip this place (but avoid the weekends when locals crowd the campgrounds and the small island seems like a small city).
You really only need a couple of days there and this Fraser Island travel guide can help you plan your trip to this beautiful part of Australia.
Table of Contents
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Fraser Island
1. See Lake MacKenzie
2. Visit the Maheno Shipwreck
3. Relax at Seventy-Five Mile Beach
4. See Indian Head
5. Explore Lake Wabby
Other Things to See and Do in Fraser Island
1. Bathe in Champagne Pools
North of Indian Head, these rock pools provide a safe place to bathe. Their name is derived from the froth created when waves break over the edge and into the pools. You can find the pools between Waddy Point and Indian Head along 75 Mile Beach. Just watch for big waves, which periodically slam into the pools.
2. Relax at Eli Creek
This freshwater creek midway along the main beach is where swimmers can float down with the current (bring an inner tube if you can). A boardwalk provides easy access to the top of the creek. It’s also a popular spot for picnicking.
3. Visit the Hammerstone Sandblow
This huge sand dune will make you feel like you are in a desert. It just seems to go on forever and begins in a section of rainforest and ends at Lake Wabby. This trek is definitely better–suited for those who are athletic and fit due to the softness of the sand. It’s about a 3-mile (4.6km) trek, return. Eventually, the dune will smother the lake as it continues to move and be blown by the winds.
4. See Wanggoolba Creek
In the middle of the rainforest, the Wanggoolba Creek runs crystal clear and is surrounded by rare King Ferns that are said to have existed here for over 2,500 years! Unfortunately, due to human destruction, only 60 are left. This site is sacred to the Butchulla people as a birthing area for the women. It’s peaceful and the trail along the creek makes for a serene walk.
5. Look for dingos
Fraser Island has a huge dingo population. They’re beautiful animals, native to Australia, and a protected species. Seeing them in their natural habitat is certainly a privilege — and no, you shouldn’t be afraid of them (but you shouldn’t approach them either). Observe from afar, and enjoy their presence.
6. Go fishing
While fishing in the freshwater lakes is prohibited, you’re free to fish in the ocean. During the warmer months, dart and mackerel are plentiful while tuna and swallowtail can be caught all year round. Expect to pay at least 200 AUD ($152 USD) for a half-day excursion. Full-day and multi-day trips are available too.
7. Take a 4WD tour
One of the best (and most popular) ways to explore the island is by renting a 4WD vehicle and cruising over the beaches. You can rent a car for a self-drive tour or join a guided tour for 2 or 3 days — whatever works for you and your budget! Expect to pay between 300-600 AUD ($228-457 USD) for a rental/tour.
For more information on specific cities in Australia, check out these guides:
Fraser Island Travel Costs
Hostel prices – There are no hostels on Fraser Island — only resorts, and they are stupidly overpriced. There are hostels nearby on the mainland with beds from $23 AUD ($18 USD), most of which organize tours to the island. Free Wi-Fi is standard in the hostels, though most don’t include free breakfast.
The majority of people camp out on Fraser Island, which you can do all over the island. You’ll need a camping permit before you go, which costs around 7 AUD ($5.25 USD) per night.
Budget hotel prices – Hotels are pretty expensive on Fraser Island, starting around $150 AUD ($115 USD). Expect to pay upwards of 400 AUD ($305 USD) for the nicer resorts.
If you’re booking through a search engine like Booking.com, make sure the accommodation is actually on the island first. Most searches include the mainland so, if you’re not careful, you might book in the wrong location.
Average cost of food – You’ll need to bring your own food with you if you’re camping. Groceries in this part of Australia cost about $70-80 AUD ($55-61 USD) a week for basic staples (not including alcohol). You’ll also need to bring your own water.
You can eat at the resort restaurants if you’re not a guest, but even the most casual places cost $25-50 AUD ($19-38 USD) for an entree. Unless you’re here to splurge, avoid eating at the resorts.
Backpacking Fraser Island Suggested Budgets
How much does it cost to visit Fraser Island? On a backpacker budget, you can do it for 35 AUD per day. If you’re booking a 4WD for three people, camping, and cooking at your campsite, and drinking a little expect to pay around 135 AUD per person. You’ll mostly do free activities like swimming, hiking, and relaxing at the beach.
On a mid-range budget of about 400 AUD per day, you can hop on a two-day tour organized from the mainland. This will be fairly no-frills but it does come with resort accommodation. It also covers all the big expenses like the ferry crossing and getting around. I recommend Kingfisher Tours or Fraser Explorer Tours.
On a “luxury” budget of 505 AUD per day or more, you can stay at one of the resorts, rent a 4WD to get around (and split the cost), eat at restaurants for all your meals (although some resorts will include your food), and enjoy a few drinks.
Here’s a chart with some suggested budgets to help you plan. Prices are in AUD:
Fraser Island Travel Guide: Money Saving Tips
Fraser Island is not a cheap place to visit, especially if you’re staying at a resort or doing a tour. However, if you go on your own and with friends, there are lots of ways to lower costs and split expenses. Here are some ways to save money when you visit Fraser Island:
- Drink goon (box wine) – Goon is infamous on the Australian backpacker hostel trail. This cheap box of wine is the best way to drink, get a buzz, and save a lot of money at the same time.
- Cook your food – The best way to reduce your costs is to cook as many meals as possible. Pick up all your supplies before you cross over to the island (including water).
- Split expenses for a 4WD – You need to have a 4WD to explore Fraser Island, but they aren’t cheap. Make some new friends to split the expenses with and you’ll save a fortune.
- Book tours as a package – If you’re traveling solo, an organized tour is actually one of the more affordable ways to see Fraser Island.
- Go during low season – Prices are always more expensive during peak season. Consider visiting in the winter to beat the crowds and pay less.
- Bring a LifeStraw – You need to bring your own water to Fraser Island. A water bottle with a purifier will come particularly in handy in here.
Where To Stay on Fraser Island
Here are some of my recommended places to stay on/near Fraser Island:
How to Get Around Fraser Island
The only ways to get around the island are with a 4WD vehicle or as a part of a guided tour. Rentals start at 300 AUD ($229 USD) per day, with prices lowering the longer you rent (if you rent a 4WD for a week it’s just 150 AUD/$115 USD per day).
There are lots of guided tour options for backpackers and hostels on the mainland will often help you arrange your booking. They can range from day trips to multi-day trips. They’re not cheap, but they cover all the essentials: your crossing to the island, accommodations, activities, etc.
Expect to spend around 200 AUD ($152 USD) (return) to take your 4WD vehicle to and from the island via the ferry. Be sure to book your ferry in advance so you can be sure you have space.
When to Go to Fraser Island
Fraser Island is warm year-round. Winter is from May to August, with temperatures ranging from 55-77°F (14-25°C). It’s driest during this time, so the chances of experiencing rainfall are slim. The summer season is from September until the end of April, where temperatures climb into the high 80s°F (30s°C). Because the island has a subtropical climate, occasional storms are sometimes a risk. Be prepared for ferry delays or getting stuck on the island (e.g. have some spare cash on hand).
While the summer months will be the warmest, they will also be the busiest. Consider going in the shoulder season so you can enjoy warmer temperatures without the crowds. Prices are cheaper in the off-season too; even the fare for the ferry is lower during this time.
How to Stay Safe in Fraser Island
Fraser Island is an incredibly safe place to backpack and travel.
Most incidents on Fraser Island tend to occur because visitors are not used to the island’s unique climate and wilderness. Be sure you have plenty of sunscreen and stay as hydrated as possible. If you’re hiking, be on the lookout for snakes and spiders, and if you’re bitten, seek immediate care. Furthermore, if you’re swimming, heed the red and yellow flags. Yellow flags indicate swimming conditions may be dangerous; red flags mean the beach is closed.
There’s a slim chance you may encounter wild dingos on your visit — keep your distance, respect their territory, and don’t run away. The Department of National Parks advises facing the dingo(s) and backing away slowly, and if you’re traveling with another person, stand back to back.
The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:
Fraser Island Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources
Below are my favorite companies to use when I travel to Fraser Island. They are included here because they consistently turn up the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors.
- Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
- Momondo – This is my other favorite flight search engine because they search such a wide variety of sites and airlines. I never book a flight without checking here too.
- Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
- Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there, with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
- Kingfisher Tours – If you’re doing a quick one or two-day tour around Fraser Island, I recommend going with Kingfisher Tours. They’re budget-friendly and will take you to all the sights you want to see.
- Fraser Explorer Tours – Fraser Explorer Tours is the other tour company I recommend going with on Fraser Island.
- World Nomads – I buy all my travel insurance from World Nomads. They have great customer service, competitive prices, and in-depth coverage. I’ve been using them since I started traveling in 2003. Don’t leave home without it!
- Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. Just enter your departure and arrival destinations and it will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost. One of the best transportation website out there!
Fraser Island Gear and Packing Guide
If you’re heading on the road and need some gear suggestions, here are my tips for the best travel backpack and for what to pack!
The Best Backpack for Travelers
Straps: Thick and cushy with compression technology that pulls the pack’s load up and inwards so it doesn’t feel as heavy.
Features: Removable top lid, large pocket at the front, hydration compatible, contoured hip belt
If you want something different, refer to my article on how to choose the best travel backpack for tips on picking a pack and other backpack suggestions.
What to Pack for Your Trip
- 1 pair of jeans (heavy and not easily dried, but I like them; a good alternative is khaki pants)
- 1 pair of shorts
- 1 bathing suit
- 5 T-shirts (Unbound Merino is my preferred company. If you’re a member of NM+, you can get 15% off your purchase)
- 1 long-sleeved T-shirt
- 1 pair of flip-flops
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 6 pairs of socks (I always end up losing half)
- 5 pairs of boxer shorts (I’m not a briefs guy!)
- 1 toothbrush
- 1 tube of toothpaste
- 1 razor
- 1 package of dental floss
- 1 small bottle of shampoo
- 1 small bottle of shower gel
- 1 towel
Small Medical Kit (safety is important!!!)
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Antibacterial cream
- Hand sanitizer (germs = sick = bad holiday)
- A key or combination lock (safety first)
- Zip-lock bags (keeps things from leaking or exploding)
- Plastic bags (great for laundry)
- Universal charger/adaptor (this applies to everyone)
- LifeStraw (A water bottle with a purifier)
Female Travel Packing List
I’m not a woman, so I don’t know what a woman wears, but Kristin Addis, our solo female travel guru, wrote this list as an addition to the basics above:
- 1 swimsuit
- 1 sarong
- 1 pair of stretchy jeans (they wash and dry easily)
- 1 pair of leggings (if it’s cold, they can go under your jeans, otherwise with a dress or shirt)
- 2-3 long-sleeve tops
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 3-4 spaghetti tops
- 1 light cardigan
- 1 dry shampoo spray & talc powder (keeps long hair grease-free in between washes)
- 1 hairbrush
- Makeup you use
- Hair bands & hair clips
- Feminine hygiene products (you can opt to buy there too, but I prefer not to count on it, and most people have their preferred products)
For more on packing, check out these posts:
Fraser Island Travel Guide: Suggested Reading
In A Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson
Bill Bryson is one of the most prolific and recognized names in travel writing. This book chronicles a journey through Australia and takes you from east to west, through tiny little mining towns, forgotten coastal cities, and off-the-beaten-path forests. Bryson includes lots of trivia in his tale as he travels around in awe — and sometimes in fear (thanks to box jellyfish, riptides, crocs, spiders, and snakes) — of this enormous country. This is the book that inspired me to go to Australia.
A Long Way From Home, by Peter Carey
Irene Bob loves to drive fast, and her husband is the best car salesman in southeastern Australia. Together they decide to enter the 1954 Redex Trial – an endurance drive that circumnavigates the entire country. Willie Bachhuber, a failed schoolteacher, joins them. If they win their lives will be forever changed — but first, they’re led out of the comfortable Australia they know so well and into an unexpected adventure full of twists and turns. Peter Carey is a two-time Booker Prize winner, and one of Australia’s most well-known writers.
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback, by Robyn Davidson
This is Robyn Davidson’s memoir of her incredible journey 1,700 miles through the Australian desert to the sea, accompanied only by four camels and a dog. Davidson fends off sweltering heat, poisonous snakes, and dangerous men — all while wrangling her temperamental camels. It’s definitely one of those transformative stories that allow you to get super invested in the author as well as the severe Australian desert landscape.
The Songlines, by Bruce Chatwin
You can’t come to Australia without learning a little bit about the country’s Indigenous Australians. This is part travelogue and part autobiography, and one of Chatwin’s most famous books. Here, Chatwin searches the Australian Outback for the source of the Aboriginal “dreaming tracks,” the invisible pathways from which the Aboriginals’ ancestors sang the world into existence. The Songlines was an instant best-seller when it was published, and nowadays it’s a classic.
Australia Travel Guide: Related Articles
Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Australia travel and continue planning your trip: