Need a Fraser Island camping itinerary to help you navigate the island? Whether you’re hiring a car or doing it yourself, planning your route and what to take in advance really does pay off.
Hailed as one of the things to do on anyone’s East Coast road trip from Sydney to Fraser Island, you could spend two days or many days traversing the island and settling in.
It all depends on how much time you have but 2-3 nights is a good amount to get your adventure fix and cover the main spots.
Read on for my 3-day Fraser Island camping itinerary and ultimate planning guide.
Where: Great Sandy National Park, QLD, Australia
Getting there: 12 hrs drive north of Sydney or 2 hours drive from Sunshine Coast airport to Inskip Point. This gives you access to the Southern tip of the island on the Manta Ray Barge (10 mins crossing). Alternatively, you can get the Fraser Venture Barge from River Head just south of Hervey Bay. This takes you to Kingfisher Bay in the West (20 mins crossing).
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3-day camping itinerary
To help plan your route, here’s an itinerary based on what I did and where I stayed on a 2 nights/3 days trip to the island. I accessed the Southern tip of the island at Hook Point.
Get onto the island 2 hours before low tide. Drive up the Beach Highway to the Champagne Pools, stopping to see Eli Creek, Maheno Wreck, The Pinnacles, Red Canyon and Indian Head on the way. This can be done on the way up or leaving some for Day 2.
Beach camp in Zones 4-6 (4-5 were closed when I was there so I stayed in Zone 6). Or camp at Dundubara campsite off the beach (which has dingo fences, showers and toilets).
Drive down the beach to Cornwells in Zone 2 and take the Central Lakes Scenic Drive inland towards Central Station. Stop to see Lake Wabby then spend the afternoon at Lake Mackenzie (a must-do!).
Spend the second night camping at Central Station campsite where there are showers and toilets.
You will want to time your final day around the tides so you can actually drive to Hook Point and off the island. Drive out of Central Station along the South Lakes Scenic Drive route towards Dilli Village.
Along the way stop at Lake Birrabeen (if you want to swim today, this is the best one) and Lake Boomanjin. Rejoin the Beach Highway at Dilli Village and drive off the island.
Adapting your itinerary
You can do this route in reverse order or take it slower, staying at another beach zone or another inland campsite. If you only have one night you could also complete it faster over one night and two days. Just drive up and down the Beach Highway before taking the inland route for the night.
The number one thing you need to factor in when driving inland is it takes up to 3 hours to get to Central Station campsite (with stops at the lakes along the way). To avoid driving the sand roads in the dark, time it to arrive ahead of sunset.
Planning your trip to Fraser Island
Before you go, you need to know a four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle is pretty much essential for touring Fraser Island. High clearance is needed to drive the inland tracks so if you don’t own a 4WD, you will need to either hire a 4WD vehicle or book a tour.
Or, if you’re keen to drive yourself, tag-along tours also run meaning everything is organised for you and you get to follow the tour guide in a car with other people.
I have a Toyota Landcruiser Prado so I managed to do it myself. It was 100% worth it but I can’t believe how much planning went into driving Fraser Island in my own 4WD. To help you plan your trip to this unforgettable island, here’s what you should know before you go.
What you will need
- A vehicle permit costing $55.90 per month: Buy online at www.parks.des.qld.gov.au or from the Great Sandy National Parks Office in Tewantin (near Noosa). You can also get one at select offices in Rainbow Beach, Hervey Bay and Noosa. This permit is for Fraser Island only so if you’re travelling up from Noosa and plan to drive or camp at Teewah Beach in the Cooloola Recreational Area, you are better off buying the combined permit for both areas. This is what I bought and it cost me $86.15 for one month.
- A ferry ticket to get you and your vehicle onto the island: This costs $130 return ($85 one way) from Inskip Point (near Rainbow Beach) or $180/$205 (low/peak) return ($110/$130 one way) from River Heads (near Hervey Bay). Buy online here.
- Tide times for the island: High tide varies a lot each day (by 1-2 hours) and you need to be aware of it. Either download the times onto your phone in advance (there is little to no signal on the island) or head to an information centre to pick up a hard copy.
- A map of the island as well as one of the camping zones: You can also pick one up at one of the information centres listed above.
- Fuel, recovery gear (in case you get bogged in the sand), portable toilet (if camping on the beach), all food, drink and enough water for your whole trip: There are a few cafes on the island and petrol is available in select spots but it’s very expensive, and you really don’t want to be driving around to find food.
Worried about getting bogged?
So was I because it’s what people post a video of! There is of course always the chance you get bogged (hence having the right recovery gear with you) but let your tires down (to at least 20psi) and follow the Queensland beach driving tips here to minimise the risk of it happening.
Despite having good conditions when I went (lots of rain in advance helping compact the sand and make it harder for driving on) the sand was still soft around the entry points to Seventy Mile Beach. So it’s a good idea to be comfortable driving on a beach.
If you’re still worried and have never done beach driving before, consider doing a trial run before you go. Tewantin Beach is a good option and it’s also the quicker route from Noosa to Fraser Island! I cover this in my Sydney to Fraser Island road trip itinerary.
Planning your route on Fraser Island
You will need to plan your rough route in advance of setting foot on the island. This is because campsites have to be booked in advance and there is hardly any signal (especially if you’re not on Telstra), on the island.
Getting onto Fraser Island
If you plan to access the island at Hook Point (taking the Manta Ray barge from Inskip Point), you need to get onto the island within 2 hours of low tide to pass the first section of the ‘Beach Highway’.
If you don’t time it right, this section is impassable. This means having to park up and sit in your car for a good few hours for the tide to change. So it’s definitely worth timing your landing!
Check the tides
Once on the island driving the full Beach Highway, you will still need to consider the tides. Use the beach camping zones to explain what is and isn’t passable at high tide.
I found Zones 3-7 fine to drive along up to 3 hours, and even 4 hours, outside of high tide (the sand is just softer but not impassable). However, it becomes difficult to pass Yidney Rocks and Eli Creek for more than 2 hours on either side of high tide. So try and get up beyond these sections as soon as you can.
Driving 75 Mile Beach
Consider taking a day to drive up and down the beach. I received a lot of mixed advice on how long it takes to drive the full length from Hook Point to the Champagne Pools (beyond here the driving gets much harder and more technical so I avoided this as a beginner beach driver).
The highest estimate was allowing up to 4 hours but in reality, it took about 1.5 hours total driving time. This, however, will depend on how busy the island is in terms of how many other cars are on the Beach Highway.
Poyungan Rocks and Yidney Rocks in Zones 2-3, are the main choke points where you need to take it slow and may have to wait for other vehicles to pass.
Camping on Fraser Island
Luxury accommodation is available on the island but where’s the fun in that? If you plan to camp on Fraser Island, you have three options.
Option 1 – Camp on the beach in a camping zone
This is the best way to get your fix of adventure and is what makes camping on Fraser Island so special!
Sure, you have to forego access to toilets for the night (take a portable toilet with you if you want to avoid getting a fine and well, in case you might need to use it).
You might also encounter a dingo or two (be strict about not leaving any food outside of your car).
It is, however, a truly amazing experience not to be missed.
Booking a camping zone
Deciding I wanted to camp on the beach was a no-brainer but what I struggled with was working out where to camp exactly.
You book a camping zone, not a camping spot at a campsite. And there are 1-7 camping zones to choose from all along 75 Mile Beach. You also need to book in advance of arriving on the island due to the no (or very, very limited) signal situation.
Choosing a camping zone
When asking at information points where the best zones to camp in were, I was always told all of them were good. But how to pick? Having now been there, I can tell you that yes, all the zones are great options and are stunning.
I camped in Zone 6 (Yurru) in the end but it’s essentially the same beach and there are sheltered areas behind the dunes in each zone. So it then becomes a question of which stretch of the beach you’ll be close to when the time comes to set up for the night.
This can be influenced by how much you want to fit in seeing during the day, or by the tide preventing you from driving any further up or down the Beach Highway.
Option 2 – Camp just off the beach in a dingo-fenced campground
Not quite the beach camping experience but this option does provide a bit more luxury and comfort.
The fencing doesn’t guarantee protection from dingoes but the benefit of staying at one is having access to a toilet (and even a shower at some of them). Plus being able to cook and eat your dinner in peace.
Having experienced a dingo lurking around in the dark whilst cooking, this cannot be underestimated.
Option 3 – Camp inland from the beach
I highly recommend camping at Central Station campsite which is further inland, towards the middle of the island. The setting with tall surrounding tress is beautiful and you really feel like you’re on an island miles away from everything.
The main thing to consider is factoring in the 3-hour drive to get to Central Station from 75 Mile Beach. With the vegetation being dense, you should also aim to only be driving within an hour of sunset. Otherwise, the off-road driving will become significantly harder.
13 best things to do on Fraser Island
Here’s a list of the top things to see and do on Fraser Island. All of them can easily be done either in 24 hours or at a more leisurely pace. You just need to factor in tide times and daylight hours.
1. Drive 75 Mile Beach a.k.a. the “Beach Highway”
2. Take a dip in Eli Creek
Although Eli Creek can get busy (and many think this spot is overrated), my experience was of it being quiet. Meaning I was able to float calmly down the creek (albeit in very shallow water).
Be warned, this place is popular with larger groups setting up base for the day along the creek. It was gazebo central when I visited. It is still a beautiful spot though and worth the stop.
3. Spot the Red Canyon
4. Look out for The Pinnacles
5. Stop off and see the Maheno Wreck
6. Take in the views at Indian Head
7. Swim in the frothy Champagne Pools
8. Take the Central Lakes Scenic Drive inland to Central Station
9. Stop for a walk through the rainforest to Lake Wabby
10. Don’t miss Lake McKenzie
Enjoy swimming in the tropical colours of this freshwater lake. If you’re strapped for time head straight to Lake McKenzie. You do not want to miss this one!
11. Take the Southern Lakes Scenic Drive from Central Station to Dilly Village
12. Stop off at Lake Birrabeen for a swim
13. Visit Lake Boomanjin
So what are you waiting for? It can be quite daunting reading everything you need to know beforehand and I can see why many book a day tour instead. But if you own a 4WD and are up for an adventure, I really recommend doing it yourself! And I really hope this guide helps you plan your camping trip to Fraser Island.
I absolutely loved my time on Fraser Island and would love to go back there. Next time I’ll take it slow and really settle into the wild adventure Fraser Island offers anyone landing on its shores.