Fraser Island

Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world, stretching over 123 kilometres in length and 22 kilometres at its widest point.  The highest dune is 244 metres but most rise to between 100 and 200 metres above see level.  Drilling has shown the sand extends to 100 metres below sea level in places.  Most of the sand comprises grains of quartz (silica), with less than two per cent being other minerals such as rutile and zircon.


In 1972 UNESCO adopted the World Heritage Convention to protect special places for all  humanity. Fraser Island was listed by UNESCO in 1992 in recognition of its natural values.  The official citation pays tribute to the island's exceptional natural beauty and refers to over "250km of sandy beaches with long, uninterrupted sweeps of ocean beach, with more than 40km of strikingly coloured sand cliffs, as well as spectacular dune blowouts, ocean surf beaches, spectacular tall rainforests growing on low nutrient sands, perched dune lakes including both clear white water lakes and dark black water lakes, banksia woodlands, heath, patterned swampy fens and sheltered mangrove areas in a spectacular mosaic landscape".

Fraser Island provides a globally significant example of geological processes and biological evolution including complex coastal dune formations that are still evolving, an array of lakes that is exceptional in terms of number, diversity, age and the evidence of dynamic and developmental stages along with outstanding examples of ecosystems that have developed in response to maritime conditions and poor soils in coastal dune formations.


Separating Fraser Island from the mainland the Great Sandy Strait is listed by the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance.  The wetlands include rare patterned fens, mangrove colonies, sea-grass beds and up to 40,000 migratory shorebirds.  Rare, vulnerable or endangered species include dugongs, turtles, Illidge's ant-blue butterflies and eastern curlews.


The shifting sands of Fraser Island and those of nearby Cooloola, have continually concealed and revealed a unique geological history.  The dunes have the longest and most complete age sequence of coastal dune systems in the world.

While most of the sand that makes up Fraser Island has come from the far south-east of Australia, some of it has travelled for thousands of kilometres and millions of years from Antarctica, starting its journey before landforms Australia and Antarctica were separated from each other.

Mobile sand blows formed by the prevailing south-easterly winds, progress across the island often burying forests and other plant communities.  The rate of movement of the dunes each year depends on factors such as wind strength, the amount of moisture in the sand and plant colonisation.


There are three rocky outcrops of igneous rock from volcanic activity on the island.

Indian Head is the most prominent landmark on Seventy-Five Mile Beach.  The 60-metre high rocky bluff, shaped rather like a whale, is a spectacular viewing platform.  You can often see birds of prey resting on the cliff tops and sharks and stingrays swimming in the clear waters below.

Middle Rocks contain the largest true rock pools on the island being Champagne Pools, also referred to as The Aquarium.  They form superb natural fish traps and were used as such by the Aboriginal people.  Washed by waves at high tide, the bubbling sea water makes them excellent swimming holes.

Waddy Point is the northern-most outcrop.


Fraser Island was first sighted by Captain James Cook in 1770 while travelling up the east coast of Australia.  Captain Cook named the island "Great Sandy Peninsula" in the mistaken belief it was connected to the mainland.

In 1799 Matthew Flinders in the 'Norfolk' explored parts of Hervey Bay and discovered the peninsula was in fact an island.

In 1836 Captain James Fraser on the brig 'Stirling Castle' was wrecked at Swain's Reef, north of Fraser Island.  The survivors travelled south in a life boat and eventually found themselves marooned on Fraser Island.  Of them, only Eliza Fraser, the wife of Captain Fraser, survived.  Europeans named the island after Captain James Fraser.


The Butchulla people are the indigenous people of Fraser Island.  The tribal lands of the Butchulla extended from Burrum River in the north, south to Cooloola National Park and west to Mount Bauple.  The Butchulla people's name for Fraser Island was k'gari, pronounced Gurrie, which means paradise.

The Butchulla tribe consisted of six clans, giving permanent population of about 700.  This population increased to around 2,000 during winter when other tribes would visit to feast on fish such as tailor and mullet.  There are now few living descendants.

The shifting sands of Fraser Island and those of nearby Cooloola, have continually concealed and revealed a unique geological history.

Lake Wabby

Lake Wabby is surrounded on one side by the massive Hammerstone Sand Blow and on the other side by eucalypt forest.  This is an example of a barrage lake, formed when a creek became blocked by a shifting sand dune causing the water flow to be dammed.  Its emerald green waters are home to 13 species of fish.  Access by foot from the eastern beach is 45 minutes.

Lake Wabby, emerald green in colour is unique to Fraser Island.

Indian Head

This volcanic outcrop is the only rock formation on Fraser Island jutting out approximately 200ft above sea level and lies approximately 95kms north of Hook Point (ferry access point via Rainbow Beach).  Sailing past in 1770 Captain Cook named it Indian Head as he observed native Aboriginals on its peak.  Today it continues to be a vantage point for fishermen (hunting in the protective waters the rock provides for prey) as well as keen sightseers wishing to glimpse migrating humpback whales between August and November (heading north from the antarctic to have their young in the calm waters of Hervey Bay).

The only rock formation on Fraser Island Indian Head provides an excellent lookout vantage point.

Wanggoolba Creek

Thirty minutes inland at Central Station awaits the magical experience of Wanggoolba Creek.  A twenty minute walk along the purpose built board walk allows visitors to marvel at the slow flowing crystal clear freshwater introducing a number of species of fish, turtles and eels.  Flora lovers will enjoy stopping at the viewing platform of the Angiopteris evecta King Fern growing directly in the creek, its root structure supported by the water (due to its primitive origins).  This specimen is extremely rare and cannot be found anywhere else on Fraser Island, providing a unique opportunity to observe prehistoric plant life.  Those with more time can continue to Pile Valley and Lake McKenzie for the full walking experience deep into the tropical rainforest.

As Fraser Island's creeks flow silently over sandy beds, they spring from a huge underground acquifer which holds about 30 times more water than Sydney Harbour.  The creek water remains at a reasonably constant temperature of 18 degrees celsius.  Hundreds of creeks spill over the beaches of Fraser Island one of the biggest and most beautiful being Wanggoolba Creek which flows from the rainforest near Central Station to the west coast of the island, south of Kingfisher Bay Resort.

Wanggoolba Creek at Central Station gives you an idea of how pristine this environment actually is.

Eli Creek

Eli Creek is the largest freshwater creek flowing freely out on to Seventy-Five Mile Beach at a rate of approximately 4.2 million litres of water every hour.  Situated on the east coast of Fraser Island, north of Happy Valley it provides the ideal freshwater dip and exploration opportunity.  A timber walk-way and bridge make for easy access and is extremely popular with day trip visitors.

The largest of freshwater creeks flowing into the Pacific Ocean is Eli Creek - excellent spot for a cool water dip.

The Maheno Shipwreck

The SS Maheno, a shipwreck on Seventy Five Mile Beach at Fraser Island connects Australia and New Zealand with the ANZAC's at Gallipoli.  ANZAC Day was borne out of the campaign on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 when the Australian and New Zealand armed forces combined their efforts to overrun the Turkish army.

While the campaign did not achieve the intended goal the conduct of the ANZAC’s indelibly shaped the Australian and New Zealand nations.

Before her tours of duty the Maheno was owned by the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand and more significantly for 2015, it marks the centenary of the landing at Gallipoli, as it was the New Zealand Hospital Ship Maheno (NZHS Hospital Ship No 1) in WWI.

The New Zealand Hospital Ship Maheno collected both Australians and New Zealanders from ANZAC beach in 1915.  After the withdrawal from Gallipoli and for the duration of WWI the Maheno collected the wounded of all nationalities from the major battle fields of France and transported them to Britain for further care.  So many owe their lives to the dedication and efforts of the medical teams and the hospital ships including the Maheno.

The SS Maheno, launched in 1905 operated as a passenger ship primarily on the cross Tasman run between Australia and New Zealand.  The Maheno held the speed records for almost two decades.  Following the start of WWI, the Maheno was chartered by the New Zealand government and converted to be HMNZ Hospital Ship No 1.  Much of the medical equipment on board came from public appeal.  The first voyage of the Maheno as a hospital ship was from 7 July 1915 to 1 January 1916, arriving at ANZAC beach in Gallipoli for the first time on 26 August 1915.  Normal service duties resumed after the war.

On 3 July 1935 the Maheno left Sydney under tow after having being sold to a Japanese shipbreaker.  On the afternoon of 7 July while about 50 miles from the coast the towline parted during a severe cyclone.  Attempts to reattach the towline failed in the heavy seas and the Maheno with eight men aboard drifted off and disappeared.  The Oonah, the former Bass Strait ferry towing the Maheno and also destined for the Japanese shipbreaker, broadcast a radio message requesting assistance for the Maheno, whose propellers had been removed.

The ship was finally found on 10 July by an aircraft piloted by Keith Virtue beached off the coast of Fraser Island.  The crew of the Maheno set up camp onshore, waiting for the Oonah to arrive, which it eventually did on 12 July. The ship was subsequently stripped of her fittings but attempts to refloat her failed and eventually the wreck was offered for sale but found no buyers.

The SS Maheno is named after a small New Zealand community between Dunedin and Christchurch.  The original SS Maheno ship’s bell has hung at the Maheno (Primary) School in New Zealand since 1967.  The bell was removed before the ship was sold to be scrapped and retained by the former owners of the ship Union Steamship Company of New Zealand until the bell was donated to Maheno School.

And so the gallant shipwreck of the SS Maheno has been resting on the eastern beach of Fraser Island since 1935.  No doubt many have memories of its early landing and the subsequent 'land mark' it created.  It has been the subject of many an avid photographer with literally dozens of postcard designs having been produced over the years.

One of our facebook fans, Steve Gilbert, recalls fond childhood memories clambering over the wreck on his Fraser Island camping holidays.

"Great memories of that ship. It had 3 levels when I was a kid and we camped on the beach next to it. I knew every inch of it lol."

Thanks Steve for your insight...what a fantastic adventure, camping AND a shipwreck, Ahoy Matey!

The SS Maheno - shipwrecked on Fraser Island since 1935.

Fraser Island Dingoes

Fraser Island Dingoes are acclaimed as one of the purest breeds on Australia's eastern seaboard.  They are wild animals and should be admired from afar.  They look cute but can become dangerous if guidelines provided by Department of National Parks (Queensland Government) are not adhered to.

Taking a rest.

Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service warning:

Some dingoes are dangerous because people have fed or encouraged them.

Be dingo-safe!

  • Always stay very close (within arm's reach) to children, even small teenagers.
  • NEVER feed dingoes.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Bin all rubbish and secure food.
  • Know what to do if a dingo approaches.

In the scrub.

It is an offence to feed or make food available to a dingo, or intentionally attract or disturb a dingo anywhere on Fraser Island, whether on public or private land.  Never leave food or rubbish unattended.  Remove plates and scraps from tables, keep food and rubbish in strong lockable containers, keep iceboxes and picnic containers in your vehicle when not in use and never take food or drinks, except water, to lake shores.  Penalties apply.

Double trouble.

Central Station Rainforest

Magnificent Staghorn specimen - Central Station, Fraser Island

Only thirty minutes inland from Eurong Beach Resort lies Central Station.  So named as logging families built their housing and school here in the 1920's - well before the island was heritage listed.  Today it is a majestic public camp ground with all the trimmings.  Its location is ideal as it offers the best vantage point to Lakes McKenzie and Birrabeen as well as Wanggoolba Creek, home of the giant King Fern.  Further breathtaking specimens of kauri pine, brush box, Fraser Island satinay and piccabeen palms are also found in this area.

This tropical rainforest area includes unmanned information displays explaining the history of the island, its development and of course various forms of flora and fauna, some unique to the micro-climate of Fraser Island.

Close up of bug on a Staghorn tree fern - Fraser Island

Staghorn and Elkhorn tree fern canopy - Fraser Island

Champagne Pools

Just north of Indian Head lie stunning Champagne Pools.  Safe for swimming (beware of water breaking over the volcanic rock barrier) a timber stairway leads down to these natural water havens.  Panoramic views make for a must see destination.

A stairway to heaven - Champagne Pools offer safe beach side swimming holes.  Beach swimming anywhere else is not recommended - rips and undercurrents are too dangerous.

Lake McKenzie

Fraser Island, surrounded by salt water and formed entirely by sand, supports over 100 freshwater lakes and numerous creeks.  The most visited lakes are perched dune lakes such as Lake McKenzie and Lake Birrabeen, which have sparkling blue water ringed by white sandy beaches and eucalypt forests.  Perched lakes sit upon a layer of humus impregnated sand or "coffee rock" formed from accumulating organic matter and sand cementing together into a largely impervious seal.  Perched lakes are dependent on rainfall for the maintenance of water level.  There is a slow loss of water from perched lakes due to evaporation and seepage through the coffee rock.

Most lakes are only visible by air - but Lake McKenzie is ideally situated approximately 25 minutes inland track drive north from Central Station rainforest.

This pristine perched lake is approximately 65,000 years old and a wonder to behold and relax in.  A designated picnic area along with showers and washrooms allow for a fantastic experience at one of Fraser Island's most popular destinations.

One of the most popular destinations on Fraser Island, Lake McKenzie can be visited on a one day trip.

Wedding wonderland

Rainbow Beach is a coastal wedding hotspot.  Here couples can enjoy the relaxed yet spectacular atmosphere of a beach wedding - creating the life long memories they wish for themselves and their guests.

Cassandra and Greg held their commitment ceremony on the famous Carlo Sand Blow.  A stunning sand escarpment famous for panoramic views of Fraser Island and Double Island Point from Rainbow Beach.

The wedding party.

Caro Sand Blow offers a spectacular backdrop to wedding nuptials.


4WD access for Carlo Sand Blow is not required - in fact it's an easy drive to the highest point in Rainbow Beach township accessible by foot in 15 minutes.  Double Island Point is another favourite beach wedding destination where 4WD access is required and we have had the privilege of supplying rental vehicles for an entire wedding party.

Wedding bliss for Jason and Erin - congratulations!

Happy holidays

One wedding, a honeymoon and Fraser Island.

This lovely family from the UK took full advantage of the local Cooloola Coastal region discovering Noosa, Teewah Beach and of course beautiful Rainbow Beach.  The six day adventure culminated with their honeymoon celebrated on Fraser Island.  Congratulations!

From Florida and beyond.

After 20 years Mr Dodd's initial experience of Fraser Island resonated with him so much he wanted to share the adventure with his fellow UK expat friends, Mr & Mrs Brian Barton, visiting from America.  After a three day tour, they returned exhilarated by their off road experience taking in all of the flora and fauna Fraser Island had to offer.  Coupled with the idyllic weather it was smiles all round and Mr Dodd aims to return and introduce Fraser Island to the next generation, his own family.  We look forward to seeing you then.

"They are all my girlfriends".

Sokratis and his partner Claire wanted to show their two friends visiting from Ireland the sights and sounds of Fraser Island.  Camping turned out to be a true adventure with tall tales 'spun' from a particular fellow traveler declaring "funnel web spiders everywhere" through to a lost thong (aka flip flop) rendering one very hot footed experience for the gallant Sokratis.  These make for wonderful memories, hairy, hot or otherwise.

Eat Pray Love Spanish style.

When Eva's travels from Germany took her to Spain, she met Raul.  This adventurous couple have since spent 12 months traveling throughout Australia and can happily attest to Fraser Island being a major highlight of their itinerary.  With over 400,000 visitors every year we are not surprised and still get a kick out of witnessing such wonder and awe of this world heritage listed paradise.

From Brasil with Love.

Yuri has been living and working in South Australia on a scholarship and lucky enough to take a month to travel with girlfriend Thayna.  They are on an east coast adventure having started in Cairns, traveling south to visit Fraser Island and completing their trip via the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.  They loved the island and particularly the inland lakes including great camping facilities at Central Station rainforest.  Hopefully they have some time to detour inland and take in our beautiful Sunshine Coast hinterland regions such as Montville and Maleny on the way home.  Great to have these two lovely South Americans on board - happy travels!

a fraser island engagement.

This Swedish threesome had a wonderful time on Fraser Island.  A little tentative at first wondering what a Dingo encounter may entail soon realising there was no danger after all.  Erik had obviously something extra special in mind when he proposed to his girlfriend Amanda - rings happily displayed upon their return.  Congratulations on your engagement!  We think is it wonderful to be able to participate in people's lifelong memories.  Their trusted friend Victor also didn't come back empty handed - he gained a healthy 'glow' from Queensland's generous dollop of Vitamin D. 

An international Adventure.

This awesome foursome (three Germans and a Spaniard) met on their travels in Australia forging new friendships and discovering the natural horizons of Fraser Island.

Deep Sea Love.

English Emily and Spanish Sergio met in Thailand while completing their diving instruction courses.  Their 'water-world' relationship blossomed to take them to Australia in pursuit of Fraser Island and then continue to Ayr where world famous Yongala shipwreck and diving hot spot promises more adventures!

An Adventure Study.

Meet Henning, Martin and Robert - taking a few days off on Fraser Island after their Brisbane PhD student conference - safe trip back to Deutschland gentlemen!  Wir Danken fuer den Besuch.

Beach driving


NB: A vehicle access permit is required from Queensland Parks and Wildlife.

Beach Driving

DO NOT drive in saltwater - observe low tide windows for beach access (eastern beaches are trafficable 2.5 hours before and after low tide only.

Maximum beach driving speed limit is 80kms per hour.

Watch our for freshwater creeks and approach with caution.

Park vehicle above high tide mark, facing downhill (avoiding oncoming traffic and ensuring safety of vehicle against incoming tide).

Inland Driving

With the exception of specific one-way tracks between Eurong and Central Station all other tracks are dual thoroughfare allowing two-way oncoming traffic.  Use side-bays situated along tracks to give way.

Observe inland speed limits and only use established tracks sounding horn when turning blind corners.


DO NOT engage high range or low range 4x4 on a sealed surface (that is, ensure 2x2 is engaged when driving on a sealed surface, including accessing the barge (ferry) and driving through Eurong Beach Resort).

Ensure adequate distance is maintained between your vehicle and other vehicles, for example 50 metres, allowing time to avoid potential issues another driver may be about to encounter.

Copyright Rainbow Beach Adventure Centre 4WD Hire

Rainbow Beach

Only a 45 minute drive east of Gympie on Queensland's Cooloola coast, Rainbow Beach offers a huge range of activities and accommodation options.  Boutique shops, fine dining and activities such as para-gliding, sky-diving, shark diving, dolphin kayaking, four wheel driving, surfing, swimming, fishing and bush walking should keep the avid visitor completely satisfied.  The beach atmosphere is casual whether camping (both public or private caravan parks available) or staying in 5 star luxury resorts.

Often described as one of the most beautiful beaches in Australia (it hits the Top Ten list on a regular basis) Rainbow Beach is considered the jewel in the crown featured in what is known as the 'great beach drive'.  Connecting to 4x4 beach access scenic drives along Teewah Beach and Noosa North Shore it makes for one of Australia's most popular off road experiences. 

A definite highlight are the panoramic views on offer from Carlo Sand Blow which is a 15 minute walk from the top of Cooloola Drive in Rainbow Beach.  It is one of the Top Ten para-gliding spots in Australia and once up there you will understand why.  You'll also see 4WD vehicles driving on the beach below the coloured sand cliffs which is a gazetted road and connects to Leisha Track and over to the Teewah Beach heading to Noosa.  The 4x4 beach drive from Rainbow Beach to Noosa takes approximately 45 minutes.

A popular public beach camping spot in Rainbow Beach is Inskip Point.  Situated only metres from the Barge point taking 4x4 vehicles over to Fraser Island, Inskip Point is the ideal fishing and exploration destination and offers safe swimming conditions at Pelican Bay.

The easiest, quickest, fastest and cheapest way to get to Fraser Island is via Rainbow Beach (known as the 'gateway' to Fraser Island).  The Barge runs daily and on demand, no timetable, however, it pays to check tides as best access to and from Fraser Island via Inskip Point is during the low tide.  The low tide beach window, which provides the beach ON and Off times, is generally determined by calculating 2-3 hours either side of the day's lowest tide time.


NB: A vehicle access permit is required from Queensland Parks and Wildlife.

Mudlo Rocks

Sometimes referred to as "Rainbow Beach's best free entertainment" Mudlo Rocks positioned just before the beach access ramp into town can make for a very negative experience when dueling with mother nature's beach hazards.

Mudlo Rocks at Rainbow Beach can be selective in granting passage - observe beach conditions and low tidal window.

While the same driving tips apply for local beach driving enthusiasts Mudlo Rocks can pose an entirely different accessibility scenario.  During TCMarcia early 2015 the rocks were severely exposed rendering beach passage impossible for a number of weeks, even at dead low.  The alternative is just a matter of using the Freshwater Road (a sand track off Teewah Beach that leads back into Rainbow Beach township).  Disaster strikes when people tempt fate during unsuitable tides and beach conditions due to the town access track lying just beyond the rocks.  Submerged soft pot holes and coffee rock clusters lie in wait for the next unwitting victim.  Furthermore saltwater will start corroding every part of hot moving componentary it has been exposed to ON CONTACT.  Rinsing the saltwater off is a ridiculous concept.  Once an alternator is exposed to a splash of saltwater the lifespan is shortened extensively.  Same goes for the wheel bearings, rotors and starter motor - they will be the first to go.  Beach driving is a lot of fun but lack of respect is costly.

Rock Report Rainbow Beach

This facebook page is widely followed by 'rockers' who love visiting this area and frequently seek information and also impart their own pictures and updates.  It is a community page that has virtually come into its own due to the popularity of beach driving locally and on Fraser Island - focusing particularly on conditions around Mudlo Rocks.  Becoming a "stucker" is not a title worn with pride - being a stuck sucker is rather self explanatory.

Taking the risk (driving outside the low tidal window) just wasn't worth it.

An upturned vehicle on the beach makes for considerable deliberation.

In early 2015 Tropical Cyclone Marcia managed to swallow 2 metres of sand off Rainbow Beach.  Thankfully our world-class playground was returned to us within 2-3 weeks.

Local Beach Driving Tips by Hema Maps

Hema Maps are Australia's leading map producers and distributors.  When it comes to driving off the beaten track Hema Maps can be relied upon to provide reliable information.

Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island - a lesson in safe beach driving

What we say and do

Most people know a 4WD is required to visit Fraser Island.  Sometimes even those with their own off road 4x4 vehicle don't want to take it to the island because of the salt conditions and rough terrain, including of course lots of soft, deep sand.

At Rainbow Beach Adventure Centre we strive to provide the best quality vehicles for off-road hire to Fraser Island and Rainbow Beach, Queensland.  We'd like to think that we give confidence to all visitors wishing to explore Fraser Island independently and that driving on beach conditions are remarkably straight forward (as long as we stick to the rules and regulations - see our tips below).  Feedback confirms our visitors feel completely capable in the self drive experience that delivers all the highlight destinations of this world heritage listed paradise.

Established by Greg Haring in 1999 our upbeat little enterprise has always operated an all-Toyota 4WD fleet that is now dominated by automatic 100 Series GXL Series 2 Land Cruisers.  The hire package includes unlimited kilometres, basic liability coverage, full driving demonstration, tidal information, map and suggested itinerary.

Drive to beach conditions and observe the low tidal window - generally 2-3 hours either side of dead low providing beach access for approximately 5-6 hours. 

Note tide moves forward approximately one hour daily.

Rainbow Beach Coloured Sands Legend

According to aboriginal dreamtime legend, a beautiful black maiden by the name of Murrawar lived on the banks of the Noosa River.  Murrawar fell in love with the rainbow which came to visit her every morning as she clapped her hands and sang to her lovely rainbow.  One day Burwilla, a wicked tribesman, stole Murrawar for this slave.  Murrawar worked all day while Burwilla sat in the shade admiring his evil spirited killing boomerang.  His boomerang was larger than the largest tree in the forest.  After some time Murrawar managed to run away running along the beach as fast as her legs could carry her.  Burwilla's boomerang was chasing her and as she called out for help she fell to the ground too frightened to run.  Suddenly a loud noise in the sky saw Marrawar's faithful rainbow racing towards her across the sea.  The evil spirited boomerang attacked the brave rainbow and they met with a loud roar and thunder, killing the boomerang and shattering the rainbow into thousands of little pieces. 

As the coloured pieces of the rainbow landed on the beach the sand dunes magically transformed themselves into the coloured sands they are today.

Dreamtime love ends in broken rainbow shards giving new life to the coloured sands.