Off-Road Adventures on Fraser Island

Beach driving on Fraser Island is not as easy as you might think. Here we see some experienced 4wd campers crossing one of the many streams that cuts deep gutters in the sand as they run into the ocean.

While the roads around Hervey Bay and along the Fraser Coast are not likely to get you too excited there are plenty of off road adventures on Fraser Island and that’s just a short barge trip from Hervey Bay.

Actually Hervey Bay is the ideal jumping off point for anything you want to do on Fraser Island because it’s got plenty of comfortable accommodation for the night before and the night after your trip to Fraser Island.

Fuel is also cheaper here in Hervey Bay than it is on the island and there are plenty of supermarkets where you can stock up on your supplies. You will also find plenty of specialist parts and accessory suppliers for 4WDs in Hervey Bay so you can pick up spares and extra equipment to make your trip more of an adventure and less of a struggle.

The basic recovery gear you will need
While you will see many 4WDs turn up covered in recovery gear the locals tend to travel light and the basic gear you will need is:

A shovel

Snatch straps

Rated recovery points

A tyre pressure gauge

A 12-volt compressor

Two bow shackles with a rating of at least 4.75 tonnes

Take your time
Once you roll off the barge your off road adventures on Fraser Island begin. Depending on which barge you catch you may be into the thick, sandy tracks that criss-cross the island or you may have the comfort of a short tarred section … but the tar doesn’t last long.

The main tracks that criss-cross the island are signposted but they are not what most people might expect.

Instead they are narrow … so narrow that two vehicles cannot pass without one either edging into the scrub, that grows right to the edge of the tracks, or reversing to a point where the track is a little wider … they are rough in some spots and covered in thick sand in others.

Rough tracks and thick, soft sand makes for challenging driving conditions on Fraser Island

These tracks are narrow and if there’s a bus or truck heading towards you please don’t expect it to get out of the way … they basically have nowhere to go.

And, believe it or not, driving on these tracks is often easier after rain than after a period of dry weather.

The maximum speed on these tracks is really low and you will be in four-wheel drive all of the time … and down into low-range much of the time.

Slow speed on these tracks is actually an advantage from a safety point of view because they twist and turn and visibility is really restricted. And just to make things even more interesting, many of these tracks are used by the 4WD tourist buses and even bigger trucks that move supplies around the island.

Crossing the island on these tracks does take time but suddenly you will be out of the scrub and onto the beach on the eastern side of the island and the driving conditions change in the blink of an eye.

Driving on the beach
The beach provides the main north-south access for visitors and residents alike. At high tide access to the north end of the island is restricted and many people who live or are visiting that area plan their trips to coincide with low tide.

The bigger high tides … around the full moon … often cover the beach in other places too but at other times the beach is the road, a landing strip for light planes … and they do regularly land on the beach … and a great spot for some serious fishing.

The gutters cut by creeks crossing the beach can be much deeper than they might appear - the two gutters in this photo were so deep that we crossed them at less than 10 k/ph

There are two rivulets between us and the oncoming vehicle. Can you spot them? Can you tell how deep or wide they are?

Both were so deep that we had to slow down to less than 10 k/ph.

While some people see the beach as something of a high-speed highway it can be quite dangerous to drive at excessive speeds. Many rivulets and creeks carry fresh water across the beach and into the sea and the channels they cut can be quite deep and hard to see. Hit one at high speed and your off road adventures on Fraser Island could be over before they really get started.

There is also no guarantee that the rivulets you saw yesterday will be in the same place today. They regularly change course and location and Eli Creek … the biggest of the creeks that crosses the beach … can change its exit point by hundreds of metres overnight.

To avoid slowing down for those fresh water outlets many drivers drive closer to the surf and the sand on this part of the beach can be quite compacted … but there can also be some very soft spots where you will quickly become bogged. You may not be able to get your vehicle out before the tide comes in and your vehicle is engulfed.

Apart from the natural dangers on the beach there is also another very good reason why you should drive with caution and obey the speed limit signs … yes, there are speed limit signs.

Beach driving on Fraser Island

The beach on Fraser Island is regularly patrolled by Queensland Police who use radar to check speed limits and conduct random breathalyzer stops to ensure that you’re not driving while over the limit.

If you come prepared and have a reliable 4WD then you will enjoy some great off road adventures on Fraser Island but if your vehicle is not in such good condition and you don’t have the necessary equipment to get you out of any problems you might get into then your time on Fraser Island will not be as much fun as you hoped it would be.

There is a range of accommodation on Fraser Island. You can camp in designated camping areas, there are quite a few holiday homes for rent or you can stay at either of the two resorts on Fraser Island.

Don’t own a 4WD? Not a problem
If you don’t own a 4WD but would still like to experience off road driving on Fraser Island then you can. There are a number of companies that hire 4WD vehicles to visitors but there are restrictions on where you can take them.

If you do intend hiring a vehicle, then we would recommend Atlas 4WD Hire.  They are a family owned business and they can handle bookings for camp sites or other accommodation on the island.

You will find their website here.

Atlas 4WD Hire for Fraser Island