After a few days of enjoyable ignorance we decided to check the news on our last morning in SA . We were both surprised when we got there that we were able to travel straight though unchecked and it was only another 20km up the road where we ran into the police. Much more relaxed than the SA lot we showed our passes, IDs, and were immediately let in. Another 100 clicks up the highway and we reached our spot for the night Erldunda Roadhouse. We picked this meeting point of highways to enable us to reach Uluru the next day and still have time to see a bit of it. From the outside and our dusty campsite it didn’t look too encouraging Erldunda turned into a bit of a desert gem, with a free washing machine, pool, and pizza for dinner.
The next morning full of anticipation and excitement (well I was anyway) we entered Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Even though I’d visited before it was no less incredible watching the enormous red monolith appear on the horizon and grow as we drove towards it. I wish I’d taken a picture of Matt while he was driving around the base and the way he was tottering on the edge of his seat and peering through the screen to try and see the top. We looked around the cultural center, went on three short walks (Minymaku, Watiku, and Dune Viewing), and set up our van in the sunset viewing carpark to watch what turned out to be a bit of a dud sunset and cook up some snags. Following dinner, we went into the town/resort of Yulara to catch our bus to the Field of Light art installation. I’d booked our pick up spot as the fanciest hotel I could find with the intention of having a drink before hand in a nice bar but it wasn’t to be, because Matt an I opted not to pay $45 per night for an unpowered site and stay up the road we couldn’t get served, not even one beer. After the disappointment of the booze denial the Field of Light more than made up for it. We had a 40 minute allocation to explore the 50,000 handmade, light emitting, bulbs and it wasn’t nearly enough. Photos do it no justice, it was just stunning.
Day two started with our second running over belongings event when Matt decided to shift the car and promptly ran over the washing up bucket containing 2 plates, a knife, the tongs, and my cup. I was stoked that it wasn’t my fault this time but was less happy to lose my insulated cup. Matt gave me his as compensation, so I was in a good mood again by the time we got to the Camel Farm. After hearing some great things about the Uluru camel tour we booked in for the 90 minute short version ($80pp rather than $135). We got introduced to our camel Kahn, had a quick safety chat, were shown how to mount a camel, and away we went. Riding on camels was very relaxing and the guiding was fantastic. We both learnt a lot about the camel farm, capturing feral camels, training them, and a heap of camel facts.
The afternoon was spent completing the 11km circuit of Uluru and learning more about the Anangu and the Tjukuritja (creation period when ancestral beings created the world/traditional law). It was interesting to see the complexity of the rock face up close and the lines and shapes within. There were a couple of places where artwork had been drawn on the roof of overhangs and small caves and areas where campfires had blackened the stone. Our favorite spot was the waterhole where we saw birds drinking and I saw a hopping mouse.
Our third and last day (entry is $ per person and only allows admission to the park for 3 days) was spent at the less popular and more impressive (in my opinion) Kata Tjuta. This area is of particular importance to Anangu men and is a 45km drive from the park entry. We decided to complete the Valley of the Winds walk which is by far the best walk in the park. The track was challenging but highly enjoyable and there were amazing lookouts and purple wildflowers everywhere. We made one last stop in the park to fill up our water tank, said a fond farewell to the incredible place and drove on to Curtain Springs to camp for the night.
Uluru Tips Don’t pay an extortionately high amount for accommodation in the town area, there is a free camp on the side of the road 20km from the entry gate. The IGA is surprisingly well priced. Fuel is unsurprisingly not well priced, we paid $2.12/L. Getting to the sunset viewing area an hour or two before the sun goes down will ensure you get the best spot to watch the rock change colour. Use all 3 days, the first time I visited I didn’t even get to stay for a whole day as it was on a guided tour and was way too short. We felt like we covered everything well using all three.
Campsite Review Erldunda Roadhouse – Great spot and very quiet if you are in the unpowered area, the powered sites looked like a casserole of madness. Said hello to their emus, very friendly camels, and rooster Cluck Norris. $30pn – 7/10.
Sandy View Rest Area – It’s a rest area on the side of the road but was quite a nice one. Next to no traffic after 9pm and a view of Uluru from the top of the dune. $Free – 5/10.
Curtain Springs Wayside Inn – Another spot that was effectively a car park but a big upgrade from the rest area. We had drinks in the beer garden and watched their cockatiels then splurged $4 each for a shower which turned out to be the best camp shower I’ve had on the trip so far. $Free – 7/10.
Three weeks into our trip and it has all gone a bit wrong with our broken roof rack fiasco and unplanned extended stay in Port Augusta but hey that’s all part of the journey and it wouldn’t be an adventure if bad things didn’t happen every now and again. Our introduction to ‘Gusta was not especially welcoming, we showed up on Friday afternoon after driving down from Copley and started to do the rounds of the local crash repair shops and a welder. The first place we visited was pretty positive about the gutters being fixable but couldn’t give us a quote on the repair because the guy that does it is away until Tuesday. The second place we went to straight up said no, the third said he wouldn’t even look at it. Getting a bit desperate we went to see a welder who actually had a decent look at it and then gave us a more helpful explanation about why he wouldn’t be able to fix it.
The next day we started to have a look for replacement racks and ended up ordering from a shop in town that said they’d be able to get them in by Tuesday. I wasn’t feeling very positive about it because the guy kept messing up the amounts of each part we’d need but we didn’t have any other options. We decided to use the unexpected time that we had living in a motel (thanks RACQ ultimate) to clean out the van, change the linen, wash all the clothes, and take the van to a car wash for a good clean. On Sunday we’d already had enough of the town so we drove out into the country to visit Mount Remarkable and do the Alligator Gorge hike. The scenery was so different to what we have been experiencing for the past week with the beachy suburbs opening up to green farmland. The walk was serene, it was 9km long and twisted through a series of canyons with red stone cliffs towering above us and the creek running along the bottom. We had fun doing the last section of the hike through The Narrows as it was made up of a series of stepping stones we ended up hopping across so we didn’t get our feet wet. At lunch we saw a large lace monitor trying to find a snack and being scared away by a red wattle bird and a magpie.
Monday was a very exciting day for me because I finally managed to get into a vaccination clinic to get my pfizer! Woo hoo!! My one regret from quitting my job was doing it before I got vaccinated, being a healthy 30 year old it has been completely impossible to get it. Fortunately South Australia was giving anyone 16-30yo the jab so I registered for mine using the motel address. No worries at all. I’m going to try and get my second one in the NT, probably Alice Springs in the next 3-6 weeks. In the evening the weather went absolutely feral with lighting, winds of 50km/h and pouring rain. We decided that we didn’t want to cook dinner outside our motel room on our gas stove and headed for the local pub where we ate two very tasty meals, Matt had kangaroo and I had butterfish.
RACQ read us the riot act on Monday and told us without a quote they’d no longer be able to put us up in our lovely motel home so we had to move out as unsurprisingly the first mechanic still hadn’t given us any information about the van. With not so heavy hearts we packed up and left heading towards a free camp via the Arid Botanical Gardens. If you ever have the misfortune of being stuck in Port Augusta this is probably one of the only places I’d suggest visiting. There was a beautiful variety of plants, a wonderful array of birds, and the cafe had scones and cream with quandong jam.
The free camp Matt picked was a short drive out of town in a place called Winninowie Conservation Park, unfortunately when we reached the entry we found that the gate was shut due to the “wet road conditions”, we looked down the track and it could not have been further from wet so I decided to call Parks SA and see if there was anyone that could check it for us. After a couple of phone calls I spoke to a ranger from Mount Remarkable who told me it was shut from the 10mm of rain the previous night, I explained how dry it looked and he said the earliest he’d be able to get down would probably be the next day, bugger! Unsure of where we would be staying the night we spent a while looking at the other options and decided on a seaside town but as we were driving out to go there we saw an SA Parks car and sure enough the ranger I spoke to on the phone. He came down, checked the road for us and sure enough it was dry. We spent the evening sitting on the sandy site and enjoying the mangroves while the eccentric care taker Doug talked my ear off about how he worked for the CSIRO collecting data on the campers and taught me about the animals and environment where we were staying.
We both slept so much better staying out in the wilderness again so we were feeling fresh for the drive to Copley the next day after we popped back into Port August for the last time to pick up the roof racks. We ended up stopping thrice along the way, once at Quorn to look at the old buildings and railway, the second time at the historic homestead of Kanyaka and the third stop was Hawker to fill up with fuel. It was an amusing 3rd visit to Hawker which was 3 more than we’d planned to do. Back in Copley we were greeted like old friends by the publican wearing his standard uniform of footy shorts and his hat (a cross between the Harry Potter sorting hat and a cowboy hat) and by the caravan park manager with his greeting of “you two again!” and then by the town mechanic who seemed pretty happy to be gifted the basket that was on top of our roof racks and two gas cylinder holders. He even brought our spare tyre over to the caravan park on his gold buggy. Matt spent the better part of the afternoon assembling the racks and we celebrated with a meal at the pub.
Comfort Inn Port Augusta – A pretty bog standard motel room in a pretty bog standard town. It was weird having a toilet in the same building as where we slept and we enjoyed having a couch. Glad that the RACQ paid for it – 6/10.
Chinaman’s Creek – Beautiful spot and we will probably come back in summer when it’s warm enough to swim. Caretaker was extremely eccentric. Toilets could do with some TLC and loo paper. $Free – 7/10.
Copley Caravan Park – $20 per night and automatically 8/10 because of how nice everyone in the town was and for how good the quondong tarts are.
We both have a couple of places on this trip that we are particularly looking forward to and the Flinders Ranges is one of mine, I was therefore especially excited when the rocky outcrops started to come in to view on the horizon and my spirits could not be dampened by the light drizzle that had set in. Matt was equally enthusiastic and had us stopping off so often at lookouts and landmarks that we didn’t reach our base for the next 3 nights until 2pm, despite it only being 40km up the road from the Cradock Hotel. I’d picked Willow Springs Station as our first site in the ranges because of its proximity to Wilpena Pound, the amenities, but most importantly the Skytrek 4WD adventure located on the property. We set up, made ourselves at home, and cooked dinner over the fire.
The next morning we woke up bright and early to find our camp chairs and my towel that I’d left out to dry were covered in a decent layer of frost, the locals have since told me that it’s not uncommon this time of year. We ate breakfast in the camp kitchen, removed the fuel from the roof of the van, took some of the more noisy things out if the kitchen and with key in hand headed off on our drive.
The way that the Skytrek works is that you book it at the station office, pay your $60 entry and get given a a key and an information booklet with all the interest points along the way. It was only a few hundred meters through the gate that we reached the first of 50 points in the booklet, a stream and spring next to a small cliff face. I drove the first 40km stopping off at each of the points and learning more about the environment and what it would have been like to work as a pastoralist during the 1880s in such an isolated place. The driving was not particularly technical and both the van and I managed it without issue. We stopped for lunch in a dry creek bed and spotted a family of emus. Matt took over the second part of the drive because we were warned before we departed that the last 15-20km of the drive was a lot more challenging (to the point where they had put in a route to avoid it entirely if you weren’t feeling up to it). Sure enough after another 20km we reached 2 steep hills which we tackled slowly and carefully with an occasional hit to the bash plate. It was completely worth a couple of scratches on the van because when we reached the top the views were simply breath-taking. 6 hours later, tired and happy we got back into camp.
On Friday it was my turn to pick an activity and I decided that we should try and get a bit more exercise in and do a walk into Wilpena Pound. I made the suggestion to Matt that we climb to Mary’s Peak (the highest point in the Pound) but was met with so much resistance we opted for 2 shorter walks. Matt has since informed me that he is happy to do more bush walking but needs to be trained up a bit before we do 16km hikes with 700m of climbing…fair enough. Our first walk was to the Wangara Lookout where we enjoyed views into the pound and received the happy news that our agent had found someone to rent our house in Glenorchy. Yay! On the way back we did a small 1.2km side loop called Drought Busters that had a number of information boards describing the animals and plants in the area, how they manage in the harsh weather, and the changes of the seasons. We made fantastic time so after lunch we got back on the road and visited Ridgeback Lookout (the best view in Flinders Ranges so far) and drove into Brachina Gorge where we saw yet another emu family but to our great excitement Yellow-footed Rock-wallabies!
All too soon Saturday morning arrived and we once again cleared out our campsite and said goodbye to the family of apostlebirds we made friends with to continue our journey into the far northern end of Flinders.
Willow Springs Station – I think it says a lot when you rock up at a place and instantly sign on for another day which is exactly what we did. The staff were helpful, Wifi worked well, hot showers, clean camp kitchen, and spectacular night sky. $25pn – 9/10.
I finished my last post with Matt and I enjoying my woeful first attempt of camp oven cooking so we will take off again from there. We left the farm after saying goodbye to the animals and checking out the view over the river. Our first stop for the day was Waikerie, a surprisingly pleasant little town with orange shaped rubbish bins, massive TV aerials, silo art of a giant parrot, and most importantly the Nippy’s Factory Outlet. I’d like to say that Matt and I were restrained and did not buy a ridiculous number of drinks to the point where we had to stack boxes next to be bed but I can’t. Now in possession of every conceivable flavour of milk me made our way towards our next campsite in Burra.
Our unplanned lunch spot ended up being Morgan, which in it’s day was the second busiest port in South Australia after Port Adelaide. It was an interesting town and we spent a good couple of hours following the historic walk through the village, train station, and port area. I’d strongly recommend stopping in if you are in the vicinity, especially if you have kids as there is a playground that is shaped in one part like a paddle steamer and in the other part as a train station! So cool!
When we rolled into Burra in the afternoon we were faced with yet another pleasant surprise. There is definitely something to be said for travelling around without much of an idea of what you are doing because we are constantly rolling into towns and being amazed with what is there. Burra is so far probably the best example of this as not only did Matt meet a lady working in the visitor centre who was from Burnie with her relatives attending school with him but the town itself was amazing!
Burra was established in the 1840s after copper was discovered on a local property, it was originally a number of different towns known collectively as “The Burra” but combined later on as they began to expand into one another. At the peak of the copper boom the population swelled to make it the second largest city in South Australia after Adelaide. What was so interesting about Burra was the number of historic buildings and how well preserved they all were. For most people the best option to visit these sites is to purchase a Heritage Passport from the visitor centre. The key that is provided to you after paying the $30pp and $50 deposit will get you into all of the main attractions (and they are numerous), I hear that it takes about 5 hours to complete them all. For those of us that wander into town in the late afternoon expecting a standard country town and therefore not having nearly enough time driving around and looking at the outside of the buildings was still highly enjoyable and interesting. My favourite part was 3km out of town where we saw the house from the album cover of Diesel and Dust by Midnight Oil!
We set up camp just outside town down a dusty dirt road at a place I found on WikiCamps called Red Banks, the sites were sunny in lowish bushland but with trees that were robust enough to put the hammock out. The next morning we walked to the Red Bank along a dry stream bed and then back into camp so we could pack up and make our way northwards. The drive towards Cradock was fairly uneventful apart from the loss of Matt’s straw hat. We’d pulled off the road (as we often do) to have a poke around an abandoned railway station at Eurelia and Matt decided to climb up the abandoned railway water tank. Just as he got to the top of the ladder a gust of wind caught his hat and blew it into the tank. I was very helpful and found him a new had in Cradock (pictured below).
Red Banks – Stunning location for a free camp with interesting walks and an impressive “red bank” of sand a short walk away. Free – 8/10.
Cradock Hotel – This place was so much fun, the publicans were lovely, beer was cold and the food was delicious. Couldn’t have picked a better spot to do the census “there are 11 people in town and half of them live here”. Free – 7/10 (broken glass all through the camping area).
I wasn’t planning on writing about Fraser Island before we left but as I lay in the bath this morning looking out the window at the cold grey sky I found my thoughts drifting to the tropics which inevitably led to contemplating our visits to the world’s largest sand island. It’s unlikely that we will be visiting on our lap and I therefore thought that I should write a post about our experiences on K’gari before we head off (in 50 days!!)
K’gari (pronounced gurri) is a word in the language of the Butchulla people meaning paradise that comes directly from the creation story of the island which you can find transcribed from one of the elders here. Fraser Island is a habitat to large numbers of vulnerable plants, birds, and marine life and has the second highest concentration of freshwater lakes in Australia (behind Tasmania). Of the lakes on the island 40% are perched, meaning that they are formed when sand is cemented together with decomposing organic material making a barrier that prevents the water from flowing away. There are 80 known perched lakes on earth making K’gari the perfect place to see (and swim in) these watery wonders. It is the ideal destination for travellers that enjoy 4WDing, camping, fishing, wildlife, bushwalking, and swimming.
Places to Stay The accommodation options on Fraser vary significantly in both location and price. I can only speak in confidence about the places that we have stayed/experienced but I’ll also outline the other options that are available to travellers.
Kingfisher Bay Resort On our first trip we spent 4 nights at Kingfisher Bay Resort. Because it was the off season (June) we got a fantastic deal which included accommodation, breakfast, drinks, and our ferry tickets. The resort will often have promotions and seasonal packages available on their website.
Kingfisher Bay is a very interesting place to stay. Some of the reviews online describe it as dated but we felt that the older architectural style and fittings added to the charm of the resort. The atrium is incredible, the staff were friendly and helpful, and the layout of the grounds and cabins makes you feel like you are a part of the wilderness.
We participated in several of the activities offered by the resort including the ranger guided bush tucker walk, where we learnt about and sampled food growing in the area, the ranger guided night walk, that included a trip down to the jetty to look for rays and the disturbing information that spiders eyes reflect torch light, the guided kayak paddle, and the brilliant Bush Tucker Talk and Taste. Needless to say we were never bored during our visit.
Private Accomodation There are a number of communities on Fraser such as Orchid Beach, Second Valley, and Happy Valley. In these areas you can find houses and units that can be rented. If you are planning to go to Fraser with a large group of people and weren’t camping this would be a great option. Find them by searching for “Fraser Island” on airbnb
Eurong By far the biggest town on Fraser Island is Eurong which makes it a very convenient base for holidays. The main place to stay is Eurong Beach Resort. We’ve never been into the building but we have looked jealousy at their pool (which is amazing). It’s cheaper than Kingfisher Bay and a bit more basic however the rooms appear bright and roomy and it would be a great place to stay on a budget.
Campsites Most of our time on Fraser has been spent camping so we can offer some advice on where to stay if you are roughing it in a tent or campervan.
Central Station Campground – My personal favourite campground on the island it is situated in the middle of the rainforest and has the added bonus of being the closest site to Lake McKenzie. It has drop toilets, $2 showers, and massive flat sites for cars, vans, or tents. We left this site early in the morning and drove to the lake where we spent an hour enjoying it all on our own.
Wathumba Creek – An absolutely stunning site for a campground but be warned, do not try and camp there in summer! We set up for the night but ended up leaving in the dark because the midges were horrific. I literally have scars on my legs from the bites. The other issue was that a lot of dingos (wongari) were in the area and they were much too friendly. I had to shoo a couple away several times.
Add: I’ve just read that in early February this campground was closed due to issues with the wongari interacting with people. Good decision by QPS.
Dundubara – This wongari safe campground is a quick walk inland from the beach. There are open areas, grassy areas, and hot showers available. There is also a ranger station and phone reception next to the building which is handy. We really enjoyed our stay at this site and it was nice to spend a night where we weren’t being constantly followed by dingos.
Northern Beach Sites – We ended up staying in one of the Northern Beach camping zones after being chased out of Wathumba by the bugs. In the evening while we were cooking dinner I had a feeling that something was watching us and sure enough there were a couple of wongari poking their heads around the dune behind our van but they didn’t bother us. The sunrise the next day was spectacular. There were no facilities available at this site it was simply a cleared area on some dunes.
Eurong Beach Campsites – Just north of Eurong there are a number of beach campsites available. We chose one back from the main drag in some she oaks. It was very pleasant in the evening but unfortunately during the day we were hounded by sand flies. I ended up cooking dinner while Matt supervised my legs and swatted the flies off with a thong. We killed about 50 and still they came. After this trip we ended up buying an awning tent to avoid these kinds of situations in the future.
We really enjoyed camping on K’gari but struggled a lot with the number of biting insects. I think winter would be a much nicer time to be outdoors or bring a heap of insect repellent with you (and buy the strong stuff aeroguard didn’t work).
Transport K’gari is a mecca for 4WDing but if you don’t own an offroad vehicle don’t despair. There are numerous 4WDing tours you can do including the huge and impressive 4WD bus tours, self drive tours, and guided tours.
On our first trip we hired a 4WD for a day from Aussie Trax 4X4 (which is next to Kingfisher Bay Resort). The price was absolutely obscene, from recollection it set me back $400 without the additional cost of paying for petrol. Matt really wanted to do it for his birthday and there weren’t any other hire options where we were staying so I forked out for it. It would seem from the Google Reviews that the owner may have changed since we were there and I therefore wouldn’t recommend using this company any more. For us at the time it was a good option and the man that talked us through the hire and basic 4WD safety was friendly and fun.
Matt had basic 4WDing experience when we first visited but if you don’t I’d definitely steer clear of hiring and take one of the coach tours around the main sites on the island. The tracks aren’t very challenging but it there are a lot of potential hazards, especially along the beach, and if something goes wrong it would become a very expensive issue very quickly.
The second time we visited (in January this year) it was part of our trip to bring Egg down to Tasmania and we therefore had our own 4WD to get around in. It was absolutely brilliant and we saw so much more of the island in the 5 days that we were there. The inland tracks and beach were very soft but we didn’t have any issues with getting bogged or stuck. Another great thing about 4WDing on Fraser is that if you get into trouble there is always someone around to give you a hand. Before you leave the mainland don’t forget to buy a vehicle access permit to drive on the island. The Queensland Parks Service has two options:
1 month or less = $53.65
More than 1 month (up to 1 year) = $270.00
Ferries There are a number of ferries that service the island with two departure points: Inskip Point near Rainbow Bay and River Heads just south of Hervey Bay. These will either drop you at Kingfisher Bay Resort, Wanggoolba Creek, or Hook Point. We’ve taken the ferry on foot from River Heads to Kingfisher Bay and have taken van on the barge from Inskip Point to Hook Point. Be warned, Inskip Point is notorious for vehicles getting bogged while trying to get to the ferry and there have been a couple of incidents of sinkholes appearing.
Price varies depending on the service and vehicle being taken. In January we paid $130 for a return ticket with our van on the Manta Ray barge.
Fuel We filled up twice on our January trip, once at Happy Valley and once at Kingfisher Bay. Both places were $2.10-$2.30/L which is pretty normal for the island. I’d recommend bringing a couple of filled jerry cans along on any trip just to cut the costs down a bit or even better get a long range fuel tank. We used our 20L of spare fuel pretty fast.
Food If you are going to buy supplies or eat out on Fraser Island expect to pay a premium for it. The most cost efficient meals will be those that you cook on your own equipment with food that you have brought over from the mainland (there are big supermarkets in Hervey Bay). If you do want to eat out we’ve been to several of the options on the island and can recommend the following:
Kingfisher Bay Seabelle Restaurant Currently closed for renovations this high end restaurant is a fusion of modern Australian cuisine and traditional indigenous foods. Matt and I had a very memorable dinner there and I had an outstanding chili crab dish. It was also the site of the Bush Tucker Talk and Taste experience where I tried crocodile for the first time.
Kingfisher Bay The Sand Bar The most relaxed dining experience in Kingfisher Bay this friendly bistro is a great place for a quick meal and a couple of drinks. The pizzas and the burgers are great.
Kingfisher Bay Sand and Wood We only had breakfast here however it was sooo good it is definitely worth a mention. I’m often skeptical about buffet breakfasts as they don’t often represent good value or quality but this place was just great. The variety of food was brilliant and everything was delicious. No powdered eggs here! Yum.
Eurong Bakery Another budget friendly option especially for lunch, here you can find everything that you’d expect in a bakery. We had a sausage roll and a pie, both were very nice.
Orchid Beach Trading Post and Driftwood Bar This pub/store/bar/museum was a great stop on our way to the northern end of the island. We popped in for lunch, Matt had a burger and I had the most fantastic squid (pictured below). Again really good prices and look how fresh that salad is.
Things to Seeand Do Nothing can really prepare you for the beauty of Fraser Island as it is truly like nowhere else on earth. Expect rugged coasts fringed with colourful sand cliffs, pristine lakes, dunes, and awesome rainforest. Our favourite places include:
Central Station There are so many interesting things in and around Central Station it is definitely worth taking an hour or two and exploring the area thoroughly. The original town was built to service the logging industry on Fraser Island which began in 1863. Other area highlights include Wangoolba Creek with water that is so clear it almost seems like it isn’t there at all, King ferns which only grow in one other place in Queensland and the Satinary tree which has the hardest timber in the world and was used for the construction of the Suez Canal.
Boorangoora (Lake McKenzie) Undoubtedly the most famous place on Fraser Island is Lake McKenzie and it isn’t hard to see why. Leaving the car park and walking down to the lake you are greeted by perfectly white sand and turquoise water surrounded by forest. It’s not only my favourite place on K’gari but one of my favourite places in Australia. I feel truly blessed to have been able to visit twice in the last couple of years and in January to have had it to myself for over an hour.
If you would like the lake to yourself your best bet is to camp the night at Central Station and then get up early in the morning and drive over. We left the camp ground at 6am, got to the lake at 6.30am and had breakfast before swimming and exploring from 7-8am. The other things in our favour were, COVID-19 has prevented international travel and Fraser had only just opened to tourists again after a large fire shut the island.
Lake Wabby Come and see this place while you can. Adjacent to Hammerstone Sandblow this beautiful emerald lake is slowly being eaten by the dune and will disappear entirely in the next 100 years. It currently provides a habitat to 13 species of freshwater fish that live in its 12m depths. The walk from the carpark is around 40 minutes each way, make sure you take plenty of water as it gets very hot on the exposed sand.
Lake Allom Our second favourite lake on the island is Lake Allom. Named after a forestry surveyor in the 1900’s called Noel Allom the lake is one of the only rainforested lakes on K’gari and is filled with friendly turtles that swim up to the viewing platform. There is a circuit walk around the lake offering different viewpoints and additional turtle spotting opportunities.
Champagne Pools This natural spa changed a lot between our first and second visit as the result of the tides and therefore I’d recommend visiting with a higher tide rather than a lower one. The large rock pools are one of the only safe places to swim on the eastern side of the island and are very popular.
Eli Creek Another great spot to hit early in the morning to miss the crowds this creek is the largest on the island and has a flow rate of 4 million litres of fresh water per hour which makes the current perfect for cruising along on an inner tube.
S.S. Maheno The S.S. Maheno had an interesting life as a ship. It was built in 1905 and worked as an ocean liner between Australia and New Zealand until 1915 when it was commandeered and used as a hospital ship in World War I. After the war it was returned to New Zealand finishing its life as a commercial vessel in 1935. In the same year, as it was being towed to Japan the tether attaching it to the tow ship broke and the S.S. Maheno washed up on the Fraser Coast where it has remained.
Wathumba Creek Wathumba Creek is off the beaten track and therefore missed by most tourists to K’gari. Matt and I spent so long swimming here we went all pruny and only got out when the water was so low we were sitting on the bottom. Unfortunately due to wongari interactions the campsite and the beach are currently closed and will remain closed until the end of June or later. We experienced several issues with the wongari here which in retrospect I’ve learnt we should have reported to a ranger. When it reopens we’d strongly recommend a visit.
Lakes Birrabeen and Boomanjin Two of the lesser known lakes are Birrabeen and Boomanjin. Birrabeen is an almost exact copy of Lake McKenzie just much less popular with tourists. It has the same pure white sand, crystal clear water and surrounding forest. Boomanjin was the only brown coloured lake that we visited. The colouration occurs as the result of the feeder creeks passing through a wallum swamp, collecting the tannins, and tinting the water.
Sand Unsurprisingly the biggest sand island in the world has a lot of different sand. There are sandblows, sand dunes, sand cliffs and coffee sand. There is sand of every colour texture and shape. If you are a sand lover or passionate about sand Fraser Island is for you! On the other hand if you are like my dad and hate sand I’d probably give it a miss.
Wildlife K’gari is a paradise for animals particularly birds, reptiles and marine life. There are beautiful creatures everywhere you look. Of course the most famous inhabitant of the island is the wogari. Said to be some of the most pure dingos in Australia these wild dogs can be seen along the shores and in the forests. Unfortunately due to tourists attempting to feed and take photos with dingos they are becoming increasingly bold and changing their behaviour which has resulted in several dingo attacks during the past decade. If you visit please ensure that you read the information booklet on wogari and give them the space and respect that they deserve.
I hope that this quick guide to K’gari has been helpful, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to send us and email and we will be more than happy to provide further information. It is a truly wonderful place to visit and a must see for anyone completing a lap around Australia.
We’re definitely getting to the pointy end of our trip countdown (116 days) so while we are still loving getting away in the van the holidays are becoming more and more focused on adjusting our set up and working out what we need to pack for The Big Lap.
There have been quite a few changes in our lives since I returned from Three Capes in October last year. In January we ran the COVID-19 gauntlet and picked up our van from Brisbane after 16 months apart. It felt very strange to be in a different state, almost criminal, but we immensely enjoyed our time on Fraser Island and then high-tailing it through NSW, ACT, VIC and then finally home to Tassie. The additional upgrades to the van turned out fantastically. When we got back from the trip Matt also finalised his finishing date of work as the end of July. His company is giving him leave without pay for the duration of our adventure which will give us a lot more stability when we get back. Because they are being so considerate we are working with their preferences so even though I was really keen to leave this month we have pushed it out. That in turn has meant that for what feels like the 20th time I’ve redone the itinerary, oh well. We’ve now broken it into a mini internal lap of the desert in August-November and will then commence a lap of the coast. The final piece of news I have is in February I resigned from my job! It was making me unbelievably miserable and stressed so I just thought bugger it, gave 12 weeks notice and figured I’d spend 3 months off work at home being a housewife and doing some trip preparation. The lovely company I worked for ended up finding a replacement for me much faster than anyone anticipated so I got paid out 7 weeks notice and 2 weeks annual leave. This big chunk of cash inflow allowed us to hit and then surpass our $70,000 savings target. Big tick, so financially we can leave any day.
That brings us nicely up to the Easter long weekend. We had decided (before I resigned) to take leave on the Wednesday and Thursday before Easter so we could make the most of a decent 6 days away. I was trying to pick somewhere that wouldn’t be completely crowded and we ended up choosing the Huon Valley region of Tasmania which would also allow us to take The Egg to the most Southern road on continental Australia and give us time to walk to the most Southern Point.
On Wednesday morning we packed up the van, grabbed our new awning tent and started the journey south. The drive down to our campsite for the night wasn’t particularly far so we made the most of the journey first stopping in at the Port Huon Trading Post (a mediocre looking take away joint) which my dad assured us had amazing savory treats and then making our way to Cairnes Bay where we pulled out our new coffee machine and tucked into our lunch/snack overlooking the river. Dad was right, the home made pastries were fantastic and driving past you would have never guessed it, if you’re in the area pop in. With full stomachs and slightly buzzing from our first real coffee made out of the van we continued around the coast and stumbled upon the Huon Aquaculture Farm Store. Matt is an absolute salmon feind as seen on our Gordon River Cruise trip so of course we popped in. The shop had a wonderful variety of products and we walked out with two packets of cured salmon ($7 each) and a pot of the trout dip ($9). If fresh fish is more your style you can get whole trout or salmon for $18/kg and $17/kg respectively which is just ridiculously cheap. Further along the road I spotted a beautiful white sand beach called Little Roaring Bay. We stopped in because it looked like the perfect place for a paddle. I pulled off my shoes and happily walked towards the water with a couple of locals looking on in reflectively what must have been amusement. As soon as the sea washed over my feet I turned around and went back to the shore. It was like sticking your foot in a bucket of ice. Brrrrr!
Matt wanted to do a bit more exploring around the area but I knew the campsite we were heading for was a popular one and it was about 2pm already which forced our hand to drive the final few km to Cockle Creek. On our way in the free campsites outside the national park were filling fast so I was a bit worried that Boltons Green might be full already. Fortunately because it is a small site and needs a parks pass we managed to get one of the few spots that remained. It was at this point Matt realised that he hadn’t filled up the water tank correctly and we had about 1L of fresh water (whoops). Luckily there was a tap in the campsite even if the instructions were to boil the water first. We grabbed a beer each and went down to the beach with our camp chairs to enjoy a beverage and a bit of sun.
After a rest I suggested we go on the hike out to Fishers Point. Matt being the avid cyclist that he is avoids walking like it’s the plague and he needed a lot of encouragement, particularly when he found out the walk was 2 hours return. I decided that it probably wasn’t wise to mention that the hike I had lined up for tomorrow was 4 hours and 16km long. If you decide to do the Fishers Point track my biggest recommendation would be to head off on low tide. We left just as the water started to go down and the way out involved a lot of rock scrambling and at a couple of points we lost the track completely. It was worth it though with views of the sea, crystal clear water and distant mountain ranges. The turning point is a very overgrown pilot station and lighthouse complete with random English garden plants like fuchsias.
That evening I cooked Pad Thai for dinner and we both settled down with our books and read. The campground was visited by some very cute pademelons and small wallabies which we enjoyed watching before retiring to bed.
Feeling very well rested after our long sleep we got up and started to prepare for the big hike planned for the rest of the day. I was very excited as it has been on my walking bucket list for some time, Matt was less enthusiastic as I’m fairly sure it’s the longest hike he has ever done. I made up some rolls and snacks and packed my hiking gear while Matt cooked up bacon and eggs for breakfast. We ended up getting to the start of the trail just on 8.30am while half of the camp ground were still fast asleep. The forecast was a moderately warm 28 degrees and we wanted to be done before it got too hot.
The trail could be broken into 3 distinct environments/sections. The first 3km was a rocky but gradual climb up Moulder’s Hill that I found quite challenging due to my dodgy ankle rolling on every bit of uneven track. We overtook a couple of other walkers with kids along the way, saying g’day as we went past and also came upon a few hikers finishing the South Coast Trail.
The second section of track was almost entirely on boardwalk through a marsh/swamp area. The track was severely overgrown and in places the boards were broken or sunk into the ground which made it a little bit hazardous. I’d strongly recommend long pants or gaiters for this walk as in my shorts and hiking boots my legs were quite scratched up. The scenery was stunning and the flat terrain made walking pretty quick.
The final section was a forested area which went from sandy banksias into rainforest and then back again before a slight hike up a hill and onto the cliff area for a breathtaking view of the southern coast. I was amazed at the geology of the area as the black almost volcanic stone wasn’t something I’ve seen in Tasmania before. There were a number of warnings to stay away from the cliff edge with the reason becoming very clear as we climbed down to the beach and observed the collapsed edges around the point.
Knowing that it was probably going to be a long time before I was there again I managed to convince Matt to do the additional hike out to Lion Rock. The national parks website says that you can go down there and “marvel at what the wild ocean has washed up”, sadly the only thing I was marveling at was a coke bottle that looked like it had been at sea for years. Even in one of the most wild places on the planet rubbish turns up. I popped it in my bag and poked around the rock pools that were oddly empty. We spent a fair bit of time at the beach watching the massive surf and eating lunch before heading back the way we came. The return journey was uneventful apart from seeing a ground parrot in the marshland for the first time! Our walk ended up being a total of 19.1km which was well over Matt’s longest hike and very close to mine.
Tired but happy we returned to camp for the night. The one unusual occurrence being one of our neighbours couldn’t get their gas stove to work so we lent them ours so they could cook dinner. I’m a big believer in karma so hopefully if we ever end up in the same situation someone will help us too.
Our third day on the road started out bright and sunny which was pleasant after the showers that came through yesterday evening. I made french toast and sat by the beach to eat breakfast. We had quite a bit on the itinerary so we packed up and hit the road. Frustratingly on the way out we were unable to locate the “End of the Road” sign to get a photo with Egg, I don’t know if we were both just having boy looks or what was going on.
Matt was very keen to do a bit of 4WDing, after all that is why we have a 4WD, and the nearest track was out to Southport Lagoon. The parks and wildlife sign at the beginning of the track had it rated as moderate/hard but honestly we’d driven on “easy” tracks that were more challenging than it was. This belief was confirmed when we got to the campsite and saw a guy in a small AWD parked up. The area was nice so we hung out down by the water and made a coffee.
Bear with me for a second because I don’t think I’ve explained the situation with the coffee machine or what a ridiculous ordeal it has been. Before we started going on longer trips we both thought that we would be able to live on Moccona and the occasional take away coffee during our lap. Please don’t ask me how, as two coffee fanatics with our own machine, grinder, and preference for high quality beans; we formed the opinion that a system of instant coffee would work…I don’t know. Anyway after driving down from Brisbane in January it became very obvious it wasn’t going to be a viable plan and we’d have to get a coffee machine. I handballed the decision making back to Matt and after a few months of research and looking into the space we had he decided the best option would be the Breville Essenza Mini and frother for the Nespresso system which was great except we couldn’t run it because our inverter was too small. Matt therefore also bought a new 1500w inverter and completely rewired our electrical system to make it work. It definitely ended up being worth it and we’re saving $9+ per day because while the coffee isn’t cafe standard it is a hell of a lot better than Moccona.
Anyway, back on the road we drove up to Lune River (my favourite fossicking location) and then along to the Mystery Creek Cave walk. On the way in we power walked like crazy as there was a big loud family entering the hike just as we were and we wanted some time in the cave alone. As we hiked I thought I heard a lyrebird but we didn’t have any time to investigate. The track follows an old tramway that was cut to both pull out timber for construction in Hobart and stone from a quarry that was used to construct the jetty at Ida Bay. Along the side of the track were discarded boots, plates, bottles and cups as well as machine relics and signs of logging. We crossed the creek, went through the quite impressive quarry, and then scrambled down into the gully where the gaping hole of the cave could be easily seen.
The cave was just incredible, it was massive with a creek running through and glow worms covering the roof like thousands of tiny stars. Mystery Creek Cave has reportedly one of the best glow worm colonies in the southern hemisphere and looking up I was inclined to agree. Exporation without a guide is restricted to the main cavern but of course Matt just had to go and have a look into the mouth of a couple of side passages where he found a massive cave spider. We spent probably 30 minutes walking around and I unsuccessfully attempted to capture the glow worms with my camera. All too soon the family joined us and the serenity was broken so we popped back out into the light and comparative warmth of the forest. 40 Degrees South has a very interesting article on Mystery Creek Cave which you can read here.
Back on the road we continued on to the Hastings Cave Visitor Center. Due to COVID-19 cave tours were restricted to 8 people at a time and of course were booked out for Easter but we were there for other reasons. Just through the entry is a thermal pool where for $5.50 per person you can swim in 29 degree fresh water and indulge in a hot shower. Refreshed and smelling much more pleasant we drove up and across to the Esperance River and found a nice little site next to our own private section of the water course.
Esperance River Campground was a nice reminder to both of us to take WikiCamps reviews with a grain of salt. The camping area is very extensive rather then the specific points indicated on the map and despite the 3 stars given and scathing reviews from previous people was just lovely. We had afternoon tea next to a beautiful river in the forest and watched the sun go down and the critters come out. The only downside was that there were a ridiculous number of European wasps, a problem we solved by putting up our awning tent.
We woke up to some very intense wind which had continued on from the early hours of the morning. I’d been woken up several times by small branches being blown out of the tree behind the van and hitting the roof. Had we known it was going to blow a gale we would have camped further into the open. On the bright side the awning tent which we put up wet was now very dry.
Our plan for the day was to make our way over to the Hartz ranges following the forestry tracks and trails and stay at a free camp called Arve River. It was forecast to reach a very warm (for Tassie) 30 degrees with the wind getting worse as the day went on so we packed up early and headed off.
Everything started very well until about 5km into our trip, down in a little gully we were faced with a 4WDing obstacle. Matt and I both did a 2 day 4WD course a couple of months ago to prepare ourselves for the big lap so we weren’t too bothered by it. The track narrowed quite considerably with a rocky base, and a tilt to the left into a steep bank. We both got out and walked it, had a good look, and then set about doing some track building. I focused on the left hand side where the bank was really steep and Matt filled in the holes. I wanted to keep cutting out the bank some more but Matt was feeling confident we’d done enough so got in the van and gave it a crack. It could not have gone more wrong. Because of how narrow the road became he couldn’t take the line he thought he’d be able to and rode high on the right hand side. As the van started moving through the gap it tilted sharply to the left embedding the entire left hand side in the clay embankment which left the left front wheel and right back wheel completely airborne. We literally could not have done a better job of bogging ourselves for the first time.
It was just a nightmare because there was so much wrong, we had 2 wheels with no traction, the right front wheel was down on the slope and obstructed from reversing by a mound and the left back barely had anything to grip onto, the van was buried into the side, we had no water because we didn’t fill it at home but it also turned out our tank had a leak, we didn’t take the PLB with us because we were just mucking around in Tassie what could go wrong, we were in the middle of nowhere, and no one knew where we were. So many errors leading up to one big problem. There was literally nothing for it, we just had to get ourselves out. Our first focus was digging out the side which I got into while Matt removed the mound of clay behind the front right wheel. After a bit of digging we gave it a go but almost all the power seemed to be going into the airborne left back tyre. We moved the recovery boards around and tried to go but the wheel didn’t have enough weight on it to grip so it just spun on the track. I then started building up under the spinning wheel with rocks and sticks to try and add some traction but was frustrated in each attempt we made to reverse my sticks all sunk into the mud. We tried using the floor mat which got shot out like a magic carpet. After 2 hours of work having moved nowhere we decided to try and lift the van off the edge using the high lift jack. We had avoided it for this long because they are notoriously dangerous but we were out of options, we set it up and Matt started to crank and low and behold the van shifted, maybe 5cm to the right but enough to get off the remaining bit of edge I hadn’t dug out. Yay! We got in the van, tried again and didn’t move an inch.
By this point I was getting pretty anxious mainly because no one knew where we were so I hiked up the hill and called my dad and asked him if he knew anyone with a 4WD. Unfortunately he did not but I felt a lot better that someone knew where we were and that we were stuck. Reassured I returned to the gulley and kept working. Things definitely improved after we shifted the van. I added more sticks to my wheel and we found we got back 2cm to huge excitement. The right front hit the ground and started being semi useful, Matt dug out the left front more and cm by cm we started moving back until 3 hours after we got stuck we were free. I’ve included the before and after shots of the track because interestingly it became increasingly wet while we were stuck. Beyond relieved we hightailed it back onto the main road and into Geeveston where beers and lunch were consumed.
Absolutely exhausted we went into the forest to our intended campsite but found it was exposed to the severe winds that were plaguing the area. My nerves were well and truly shot by this point so we decided to go to Tahune Airwalk and see if they either had more shelter or an exposed area. We were in luck, paid our $10 fee and parked up in the massive open overflow car park. With next to no energy we heated up some water and washed the mud off with our camp shower, had a small wander around the hiking trails, cooked dinner and went to bed.
For our last full day I had originally planned on hiking up to the top of Hartz Mountain but we were both tired, sore, and covered in blisters from the digging so instead we opted for a couple of very short walks one to Arve Falls and the other to Waratah lookout. I’m starting to lose track of the number of times I’ve planned and then failed to climb Hartz Mountain, it would seem it is not meant to be.
We had an uneventful drive down the river to Franklin and set up in the riverside camp area where we met some friendly travellers and a couple of long term campers including a bloke and his daughter that had been living there for a while. I can’t remember his name but you’d be hard pressed to find a nicer guy, he had some wonderful stories about his life, growing up in the NT and mustering cattle. He offered us a cup of tea and I told him I’d make him a coffee in the morning with our machine. We also met a family living in a massive bus. Their two sons ran a business making rock necklaces which they then sold at markets. With the money they had made they bought a trampoline/mat for gymnastics and showed me all kinds of amazing tricks
That afternoon Matt and I walked down to Frank’s cider house and grabbed a 4 pack to take away and then headed back to the campsite where we caught up with my mum and dad who had bought a van of their very own just last week! It’s a great little van with a heap of space and unlike ours allows one to stand up when inside. Mum gave me an awesome piece of Serpentine and Stichtite which she picked up at the closing down sale of a gallery for $10! I already had a little piece at home which I got in Queenstown for $5 but this was so much better. It’s my new favourite for sure. We had afternoon tea together and then mum and dad headed back to Hobart while Matt and I stayed in Franklin, had dinner, and watched the bandicoots bounce around.
All too soon the holiday came to an end and we found ourselves packing up and heading back to Hobart. In Huonville we stopped at the carwash and sprayed the effects of the bogging event off the paintwork and headed home. We both had a fantastic time and even more importantly learnt a lot. There have been a few more to do’s added to out list of things to complete before we head off.
Boltons Green Campsite – Absolutely stunning campground on the edge of a sheltered bay looking across to mountains. Very nicely maintained drop toilets, fresh (boil first) water, mix of sites of various sizes. Free camp however you’ll need a national parks pass to stay there 8/10.
Esperance River – We couldn’t stay at the best spot on the river because it was already taken by a guy with a caravan but we did find a very nice site further along the road. No amenities at all where we were but toilets and a shelter can be found further down the road. Free site, very peaceful 7/10.
Tahune Airwalk Campground – Our unplanned stay when our first plan changed due to severe wind. $10 per night, free WiFi near the cafe, clean toilets, and access to the nature walks after hours. Because we needed to be away from trees we positioned ourselves in the overflow car park but there were some other nicer areas towards the Hang Gliding. In the white water rafting shed out the back we found power points, running water, and two sinks that we made the most of. Staff were lovely and helpful 7/10.
Franklin Camping Ground – Right on the river this spacious and flat grassy area was $10 per night. Technically it can only support self contained vehicles (which we are not) but there was a toilet available and bins so we were just careful with our very small quantity of grey water. The caretaker is a lovely man, the views were stunning and we met a lot of nice people here 7/10.
Our final day of the walk started like all the others, it’s interesting how quick we’ve settled into a routine. The 3 slower walkers (myself included) also happen to be the earlier risers so we get up, make ourselves a coffee and breakfast before the other group emerge. We roll up our sleeping bags, wipe down our mattresses #COVIDSAFE, repack our backpacks and then off we trot.
It wasn’t long out of the plains of Retakunna before we hit the steepest and longest climb of the 3CT, Mount Fortescue. Last night the ranger had told us not to get worked up about it because it looked worse than it was but let me tell you after 3 days of solid hiking it was pretty damn hard. Fortunately my legs, which yesterday evening were worse than useless seemed to have recovered and with a couple of story seat breaks we managed the climb with the second half of our group catching us just as we got to the top. Mount Fortescue was really interesting as it was a rainforest environment (something we had not expected to see on this hike) complete with huge ferns and ancient myrtle trees. It was quiet, dark, and mossy.
After regrouping we began the downhill run to the track junction to complete our second Cape of the walk, Cape Hauy. The reason it is called 3 Capes but only 2 are walked is the plan was originally to make a 6 day walk incorporating Cape Raoul but it wasn’t to be. I’m happy to still count it was we did get an amazing view of it from our first camp. The path continued through the rainforest for a time before climbing out into a more normal eucalypt forest with views of the cliffs along the way. The weather was highly changeable and I felt like I was constantly adding and removing layers as we went.
We reached the track junction right on schedule and stopped in the clearing to have lunch. This was the first point on the track that there was unfortunate evidence of other people, an orange peel left on the ground, toilet tissue spread through the bushes. I’d like to be able to blame tourists but since the borders are closed and the rubbish was fresh it was clearly locals doing the damage. I’d like to think my fellow Tasmanians would have more respect for the environment. If you’re bushwal