Fraser is a bit of a ‘Mecca’ for 4WD enthusiasts and it’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit. With us having to get up to Cape York and back before we head to the UK we did wonder if we had the time, but with being so close and unsure when we’d be in this area again it wasn’t too hard to commit.
Colin the service manger at Zone RV suggested we take the Van, but this early into the trip and not yet quite knowing how well I can tow tonne 3.5T through soft sand we had settled for leaving the van in Tin Can Bay, taking AUdrey the cruiser and staying at Kingfisher Bay resort on the west of the island.
We caught the ferry at River Heads, just outside of Harvey Bay. The weather was gorgeous and we could see a couple of dolphins playing just where the barge was moored before coming into pick us up.
Thirty minutes later we we’re rolling off up the wooden pier to the resort. I did wonderif I needed to deflate the tyres before getting on the island but the resort was mostly tarmaced – the sand would come later!
The bay looked fantastic with a few sailing boats moored up – reminded me very much of Monkey Mia in WA. After getting ourselves orientated we headed back down the beach to watch the sunset before dinner. What a sunset it was – the best so far of the trip.
After a buffet breakfast (the girls do love a buffet) we aimed to go visit the east of the Island and the wreck of the SS Maheno.
It was nearly right way we left the comfort of the bitumen and really got to understand what is meant by Fraser being the largest sand island in the world. Dropped the tire pressures to 25psi all round and drove over the Dingo Proof electrified cattle grid that helped protect the resort.
The tracks are narrow, with regular passing points but go straight through and up and down the island cutting through the differing forests. The tracks are not particularly tricky, but you do have to concentrate having to slow right down regularly so I don’t have our passengers and fridge bouncing off the roof or slicing open a tire with a jagged tree root.
The colours of forrest and sounds of the birds are soul warming. My new favourite – the Eastern Whip Bird – or as I like to call it the ‘Whip-Saw Bird’ sounds powerful, piercing through the trees.
It takes quite a while (at least an hour) to cross the width of the island to get to the Eastern beaches, but you are well rewarded leaving the closed in forest track and opening up to the wide expanse of Eastern beaches and the constant rolling waves of the sea.
We learned that the Western end of the Island is receding by 1cm per year while the Eastern end is growing at 2cm. So the Island is constantly getting bigger.
Driving up the beach at 80km/h is fun. You feel the sand through the steering wheel, there is a bit of looseness and a lag when turning. The word that comes to mind when trying to describe it is ‘flowing’, it kind’a reminds me of skiing!
There were a few occasions when we had to brake hard at washouts (caused by creeks running into the sea) that suddenly appeared in view, sliding 3.5 tonnes of car up the beach. A couple of times we needed to reverse a bit after these quick stops, to go either closer to the sea or island to find a less steep point to cross.
Leonie deciding to drive up one such ‘washout’ which turned out to be a reasonable creek!
When we’ve been driving north up the beach for at least 30 minutes you start to understand the scale of Fraser. It’s length is about 120km (same length as Hardrian’s Wall), and you can basically drive the whole Eastern side.
Eventually a large shape comes into view on the beach way in the distance through the sea spray, It’s awesome driving closer up the beach and seeing the shape come into focus and eventually drive right up beside Fraser’s famous landmark – the wreck of the Mahino.
Turns out the SS Mahino was built in Dumbarton, Scotland which is less than 5 miles away from where I was born!
And just to give us the prefect Fraser shot – a Dingo rocks up.
This is what the Mahino looked like in it’s heyday as an ocean liner transporting passengers between New Zealand and Australia around 1905.
All the kids wanted to do the next day was chill by the restort pool. So we went for a (long!) wander down the beach toward the old jetty. It turned out to be very long walk, but the girls had a ball especially seeing the thousands of soldier crabs marching down the beach.
Fraser’s other most famous attraction Lake Makenzie was on the agenda the next day, but the weather was looking a bit iffy!
Sure enough, we we’re on the beach for about 20 mins and it started to bucket it down. Sowe went to one of the fenced (dingo proof) picnic areas to have our luxury packed lunch the resort had made for us and I decided to go for a short walk along atiny bit of Frasers great walk which goes through the length of the island.
On the walk I came across this waterhole/billabong through the trees and knew it would make some great footage/photo, which I ended up entering in a Fraser calendar competition. Of course, another downpour occurred with me 2km from the lake. Forest was beautiful in the rain though.
We checked out the fine dining restaurant that night and couldn’t go past their Fraser interpretation of Chilli Sand Crab – correct choice! The girls, with Charlotte in particular love going to proper restaurants and mostly behave brilliantly, meaning Leonie and I can have a great time as well.
Another big forest and eastern beach driving day with some great winter weather took us to Champagne Pools near the northern tip of the Island and Eli Creek on the way back.
The Champagne Pools get its name from the way the ocean waves spill over as froth into the natural pools. The girls loved it, the colours we’re magical and there we’re even a few large fish in the pools. (Nice recommendation Shane V).
It’s quite amazing to find out that Eli Creek’s flows 4 million listers of fresh water into the ocean every hour! It’s a popular spot and the girls had a ball floating down it twice.
On our final day, as we planned to leave Fraser via the other ferry point on the south of the island taking us to Inskip Point, we had time to squeeze in a sea kayak to a little mangrove lined creek just north of the resort in the morning. Leonie loves canoeing, but it turned out Llewella wasn’t that keen so it ended up being quite stressful intermingled with some real beauty.
The drive to the souther tip was majestic given the weather really turned it on. We watched a pod of dolphins while waiting on the beach for the ferry to pick us up. There is facebook page called ‘I got bogged at Inskip Point’, so I made sure I was in low-range coming off the ferry and kept the gas on till clear of the point, turned out to be a non event, the rains must have made the sand nice and firm.
Easily go back to Fraser, we really only saw a fraction of it, might even take the van next time, or better still just the 4WD and a couple mates.
Is another one of those charming little towns you’d probably only visit if you were travelling up the coast or lived in the area and wanted to get away somewhere sleepy for the weekend.
Leonie had booked us in for over a week as we planned to leave the Van here while we visited Fraser Island. We arrived later than we planned as I spent a few hours at Zone RV HQ on the way up while they diagnosed why our fridge would only work on 240v and not 12v.
We’re finding out when your home is the van – any sort of repair or maintenance can be a bit of ‘federal case’ – the logistics of what you do when the van is being repaired, especially if you need to move out and in again can be a right pain. In this case we we’re glad we didn’t have to empty our fridge/freezer or have it completely replaced. Zone arranged for a Dometic engineer to visit us in the park the next morning – one PCB swapout and all was well.
The late arrival meant it was easy to justify getting Fish ‘n Chips from the ‘Snack Shack’ as recommended by the park owner. Correct Decision. Turned out to be the best fish ‘n chips we’ve had so far across 3 states. It was the salad that made all the difference – massive amounts of really crispy green lettuce leaves combined with delicious ‘Red Emporer’ fillets made it 5 star! Still not sold on the need for grated cheese with a green salad though. Highly Recommended.
Next day, we got the bikes down and all five of us went for a ride to explore the town. There is a great path that starts near the CP and takes you right to the marina. We past a great kids park, the ‘Snack Shack’, Fresh fish Market and found out where you can feed the famous Dolphins of Tin Can Bay at the marina.
I love these bike rides with the whole family, it’s really quality family time, and I’m so glad we made the call the to bring the bikes on the trip even though they weigh quite a bit, we’ve used them loads.
Rest of the day was spent chilling around the CP – the girls we’re entertained till night time playing with some new friends they met in the CP. At every opportunity they are frantically asking can we go back and play with our friends.
This is only their second time on the trip that there have been other kids in the park and they’ve had a chance to make friends. I suspect as we head north this will happen more often – kids are so good at making friends quickly.
We headed out to Rainbow Beach for the day and planned to drive the beach for a bit and have lunch. I had read about the ‘Carlo Sand Blow’ and it being great for sand surfing so we stopped in town to hire a couple of Sand boards and found our way there.
It’s a great big sand dune that stretched all the way to the ocean with fantastic views down to ‘Double Island’. We all had a blast flying down the steepest part of the dune but the lady in the hire shops was right – it’s exhausting climbing back up it!
Onward to Rainbow beach itself – I had planned to maybe drive on the beach as far as the lagoons at ‘Double Island’ but we had left it too late, the tide had turned and I didn’t fancy being the subject of one of those facebook vids of your 4wd bogged and flooded on a rising tide!
So we setup on the safe side of the rocks for probably the most relaxing afternoon on the beach since all the work I had been doing recently and out time in Byron Bay.
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity of getting some great photos of the girls at this clever piece of public art in Rainbow Beach before heading home for the day. Fortuitously, the girls had a rainbow outfit, perfect!
On our last day, before heading to Fraser Island we just had to go and check out the ‘Dolphin Experience’.
It was a lovely morning with the river glassy. For $10, you got to get up close to the dolphins who come say hello most mornings and feed them.
After experiencing the ‘Dolphin Feeding’ lottery of Monkey Mia in WA and the careful controls to ensure the level of feeding does not impact the natural hunting abilities of the Dolphins, we we’re a bit surprised to learn everyone would get a chance to feed these Dolphins.
However we only fed them very small fish, and we learned the feeding only provides a very small percentage of their daily requirements. Needless to say the girls loved it and it was well worth getting up early for.
After a great breaky at the Dolphin Cafe – it was on to Fraser Islan
Anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE kitty cats. So I am going to share on our blog all the cats I meet on our travels around Australia. 😺
First here is us saying goodbye to our beloved River. I am missing her so much. Before we left mum laminated these picture for me and they are in my bunk area.
Let me introduce caravan cat. She sit by the door and tells me she loves waiting for us to come home and open the door.
The first cat that I met on our travels was a travelling kitten. She was on a lead sitting with her family at the the Cocklebiddy Roadhouse. She was a dark grey with stripes, a sweet little thing but we didn’t get a picture of her.
The next cat I met was Streaky Bay cat. We met her as we rode into town on our bikes. She was sitting by the the sea, cleaning herself. She was really friendly and pounced up at me when I went to pat her. Then she followed me down the path back to my bike.
I really wanted to take her home, but she had a yellow collar so I guess she had an owner. It always makes me feel happy to meet a cat.
I had an idea to travel this 300km unsealed road in our planning, it’s what our van (goldilocks) is meant to tackle easily and it’s the most direct route from Hyden to Norseman.
My first google search came up with a listing for the road on dangerous roads.org! But after a couple of tourist focussed sites called it a great drive and Leonie giving the OK, we decided to do it.
It would also cross the ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ and the ‘Holland Track’, skirting the Goldfields – an area I knew to be beautiful.
I made sure to test out the Sat Phone before we left, in case we had any issues as I knew there wasn’t going to be any phone reception, on most maps there isn’t even a road!
The very first section of unsealed road was pretty bad in terms of corrugations, but as soon as we had let our tyres down the ride was a lot more comfortable.
There wasn’t that much traffic on the road, which was to be expected, just a few cars, couple of ther vans and some road trains. Went through our first dust cloud left by a road train – you don’t see much ahead of you for a few seconds!
We had a quick look at the breakaways which had some prectatular rock erosion features and then headed on to where the chap at the IGA in Hyden had recommended – McDermid’s Rock – which turned out to be a cracker.
Charlotte and I thought it would be fun and possibly useful for others to review the bakery’s we visit while we hall it around Australia.
Charlotte has selected ‘Custard Tarts’ as the focus of the review and I’m reviewing Coffee – I drink a lot of coffee!
Custard Tart Review – Charlotte
One of my favourite features of the tart was the custard which was very wobbly which is nice and you could just eat the custard and it would be absolutely delicious.
The pastry was crispy and crunchy which went really well with the delicious custard.
Overall the textures were really good, but the pastry was quite sweet and so was the custard so it was a bit like sweet on sweet, otherwise delicious.
Custard – 5
Pastry – 4
Presentation – 4
York Custard Tart Overall – 4
Coffee Review – Ken
My coffee of choice is a long machiato (topped up), but I’ve ran in to lengthy debates/issues in the past trying to order a Long Mach when interstate so have standardised on a flat-white – all parts of Australia should know the ‘Flat White’ – an espresso shot with hot frothed milk.
I like to taste coffee when I drink coffee – so will be ordering a strong flat white i.e. a double shot.
I wasn’t 100% sure my order for a double-shot flat white was understood correctly as English didn’t seem to be the member of staff’s first language.
Turned out they got it – the coffee came with ‘Ex’ on the lid – assumed Extra shot – nice!
Temperature – 5
Strength – 5
Taste – 4
Presentation – 3
York Coffee Overall – 4
Overall a great coffee, the temperature was perfect for me, initially hot enough that I could sip it but not quaff it! There was just a little something about the taste that stopped me awarding it 5 out of 5.
Ningaloo and Cape Range National Park are very, very special places.
This video I created is just a snippet of the natural beauty that you can discover if you can make the journey.
Leonie took me there for the first time when we first moved to Australia in 2001. We had a flimsy tent in the back of our very old but very reliable Mitsubishi Magna wagon.
Things seemed simple back then, which without three children it was of course, and we’re hoping to re-taste some of that simplicity with our new van life.
I remember we had a blustery night in Denham before snagging a camping spot in the national park, and being exposed to the beauty and magic of the place.
Just looking across the reef, you have no idea about the abundance of sea-life accessible just a few feet off the beach.
We’ve been back since many times – camping, with the Jacobson’s community camper trailer and most recently we hired a caravan.
It was this last time in July 2017, when we had so much fun together as a family of five, living the simpler life, laughing hysterically between ourselves over every evening meal, kids making new friends, that made us think there must be more Ningaloo’s around Australia.
When we got back to Perth, it wasn’t too long before we looked into seeing if it was possible and making the commitment to end my 10 year career with Dimension Data and spend 18 months exploring Australia in a van!