Travel Travel Guides

Rainbow Beach to K’gari (Fraser Island), Australia

Large parts of Fraser Island were recently decimated by a huge bushfire (caused by an illegal campfire), with possible irrevocable changes to eco-systems. Look after this world!

I love places with pretty or unusual places names… Rainbow Beach, Port Fairy, Coral Bay, Useless Loop. It’s fair to say that Australia does not disappoint on this front. It’s interesting to wonder how a place got its name. It turns out that Rainbow was chosen to highlight the coloured layers found within the sand dunes in the surrounding area. Pretty!

CURRENCY | Australian Dollar
TIME NEEDED | 1-3 days
SEASONS & WEATHER | Mild in winter, hot in summer. Visit anytime.
TRANSPORT | 4WD is essential, there are lots of tours available though!
NEAREST AIRPORT | Hervey Bay (receives domestic flights).
NEAREST BUS STATION | Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach. Both towns offer tours onto the island.

Getting to the Island

Rainbow Beach is known as the ‘gateway’ to the Island, and is likely where you’ll catch the car ferry from. Driving on the island involves some pretty tricky manoeuvres across fields of rock and narrow passing points, especially if you want to reach the further ends or centre of the island. So instead of destroying a hire car, consider jumping on a tour instead. (If you’re taking your own 4WD car… make sure you buy a permit, and have some recovery boards and a spare tyre with you!).

The tours leave from most of the surrounding towns and cities, even Brisbane. However if being thrown around in the back of a 4WD is not your cup of tea (there honestly wouldn’t be a drop left in the cup), then you can catch a scenic flight, with a company called Air Fraser Island, who also land on the beach too.

A couple of small and speedy car ferries transport you across the short distance to the island. It may look tempting to swim across to those with an adventurous spirit, but the current can be strong in this narrow channel and sharks frequent the area as its a good feeding ground, so its very much not recommended.

About the Island

Fraser Island is the name most tourists and backpackers would recognise, but it is important to note that the official Aboriginal name for the island is K’gari (pronounced gurri), which means ‘paradise’. It is a highly unique place, and the name of paradise is very apt.

It is currently the worlds biggest sand dune island and was home to the Aboriginal people known as Butchulla. As is sadly often the case, white europeans brought prejudice, disease and mistreatment, so the population of local people dropped disastrously, with many of the remaining indigenous Australians moved to Yarrabah, near Cairns.

There are small communities on the island including Eurong, and other smaller areas, each full of small hotels and hostels, as well as the Kingfisher Bay Resort and Dilli campsite.

The only permanent residents on the island now are mostly there for tourism, or holiday makers camping or staying in rentals, and of course the wildlife, including wild dingoes. No amount of editing or sharpening could save the photo I took of one from a moving vehicle, but it’s an incredible sight to spot them in the wild so keep your eyes peeled.

You can almost understand how some tourists become so complacent and try to approach them, they look just like beautifully sleek and sandy coloured dogs.

Impressive Features to see

The island is big, and to experience it fully, at least two days would be best, but one day gives you enough time to experience the lakes, rainforest and part of the coast.

The Lakes

The fresh water lakes are one of the islands most unique features, especially as the island is formed of sand. Old leaf matter and other natural debris collected and hardened over time in natural depressions in the island, which where then able to hold water permanently.

The lakes are all tucked away inland amongst the forest, so you’ll travel down some pretty bumpy 4WD tracks to get them.

Lake McKenzie and Lake Birrabeen are probably the most famous, noted for their clear waters, bright blue shoreline and incredibly soft silica sand. But a visit to any of the freshwater lakes is extremely impressive.

The Forest

The rainforest on the island is beautiful. The air thick with the scent of earth and fallen leaves, humid and dense. Staghorn ferns hang from moss coated branches and palms intermingle with eucalyptus and kauri pines. It’s an extremely peaceful place to walk through, void of crowds, only the gentle sounds of the forest invading your ears. I think it was my favourite stop on our visit.

Wanggoolba Creek
A beautiful clear, fresh water creek with small areas of mineral deposits giving the creek bed a greenish/blue hue. The creek was known as a ‘women’s place’ in the local aboriginal culture. Women would come here to give birth, bathe, relax, and tell stories. Men were not allowed here, as is often the case in aboriginal culture, men and women would have their own sacred areas, each holding an importance in the story of their life.

The Central Station
The rainforest was once heavily logged for a number of hardwood trees including the valuable satinay tree, luckily the forest still thrives. Central station is now a camping/picnic area, and a boardwalk has been created that meanders through part of the forest.

The Coast

It would be hard to miss the 75 mile beach, lining the eastern shoreline of Fraser Island, wind buffets this coastline, causing the pacific ocean to crash onto the shore. It’s not generally considered a swimming beach, as powerful riptides and currents own the shoreline, as well as the possibility of encountering saltwater crocodiles, stingers (jellyfish) and sharks.

The beach is also known as the ‘main highway’, as cars use this to travel the length of the island when the tide is low. The tide often covers the majority of 75 mile beach, meaning you have to be very aware of tide timings throughout the day. Many of the popular coastal features can be found along here, including:

The wreck of SS Maheno
A wreck lying on the shoreline, halfway along 75 mile beach. It was a New Zealand ocean liner, which was being towed until the line was broken in a cyclone and the ship beached on the shore of the island. The SS Maheno is one of the most recognisable features along the shoreline. It’s rust red hull continually battered by the powerful pacific waves, contrasting beautifully with the sea and sky.

Champagne Pools
At area of rock pools in the north, named for the bubbling and frothing that occurs as waves swash over the edges of this natural rock pool. Take care not to get knocked out by the waves crashing in!

Indian Head or ‘Tuckee’
A headland at the far Northern end of 75 mile beach. Its the location where Captain Cook first laid eyes on the local people of the island.

Eli Creek
A very popular spot for relaxing and swimming, with a short boardwalk which you can follow inland and steps down into the creek itself. Freshwater runs down from the higher dunes and out to the sea. It’s a popular place to stop for picnics and refreshment in the cool fresh water. It gets a little busy, but it’s still lovely to walk through.

Coffee Rocks
These interestingly named rocks line the edges of the beaches on Fraser Island. Their height and visibility changing daily depending on the strength of the winds and current as they become more or less exposed. They’re essentially compacted clumps of old leaf matter, and are shaped and worn by the pounding waves, often turning the sea a rust red colour.

The Pinnacles
These colourful rock formations sit at the edge of 75 mile beach, they display beautiful layers of sediment. It’s also the type of sedimentary deposits found on Rainbow Beach which also gave the beach its name!

  • Hello! I’m Hannah Sweet.

    I write content for nature oriented brands and create blog posts for nature seekers, conscious creatives and solopreneurs.

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