One of my favourite road trips of all time is the one I made from Sydney to Fraser Island and back.
With well-timed stops up the East Coast, this road trip combines the best of regional New South Wales with Queensland’s glorious Sunshine Coast.
It’s the perfect mix of beach driving and island hopping. Stopping off at the idyllic beach towns of Byron Bay and Noosa as well as camping on Teewah Beach and the lesser-known North Stradbroke Island.
Read on for my two-week Sydney to Fraser Island camping road trip.
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Planning your trip
This itinerary has been designed as a guide only and I encourage anyone setting off on a road trip in Australia to remain flexible. Often the best adventures and most memorable moments are those which are unexpected and unplanned. It’s exactly how this route came about.
To drive on Fraser Island you need a four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicle. It’s a sand island with high clearance required to both get on and off the island, as well as drive the inland tracks. So it’s best if you have your own 4WD to tackle the Fraser Island part of this road trip.
If you don’t have a 4WD for the whole trip then you will need to skip driving up Teewah Beach to Rainbow Beach. I suggest instead either heading inland from Noosa to visit the Glass House Mountains or spending more time in Noosa.
If driving your own 4WD, it’s a good idea to practice driving on a beach before you reach Fraser Island itself. Either before the trip or on Teewah Beach. To minimise the risk of getting bogged always lower your tyre pressure to around 15psi.
On an adventure like this, have recovery gear with you so you can be confident you (or someone else) can pull you out of the sand. At the very least have two Maxtraxs and a shovel on hand to dig yourself out.
When to go
The majority of this road trip is spent in Queensland which enjoys warm temperatures all year round. But depending on how much you enjoy hot, humid days I would avoid the Summer months (Dec-Feb) which are both busy and very hot. The Easter school holidays are also best avoided if possible. It’s the busiest time on Fraser Island when campsites are booked out.
If you are looking for another classic road trip from Sydney then check out my post on the best road trip stops from Sydney to Byron Bay.
Day 1: Sydney to Lennox Head
Day 2: Lennox Head to Noosa Heads
Day 3: Noosa Heads and Noosa National Park
Day 4: Noosa Heads
Day 5: Noosa Heads to Cooloola, Great Sandy National Park
Day 6: Cooloola to Rainbow Beach
Day 7: Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island
Day 8: Fraser Island
Day 9: Fraser Island to North Stradbroke Island
Day 10: North Stradbroke Island
Day 11: North Stradbroke Island to Byron Bay
Day 12: Byron Bay
Day 13: Byron Bay to Bellingen
Day 14: Bellingen to Sydney
Fraser Island to Sydney road trip itinerary
Day 1: Sydney to Lennox Head – (752 km) 7hr 40 min without stops
Aim to do a big jump up the coast of New South Wales to Lennox Head on the first day. This gets the bulk of the driving out of the way and gets you closer to the Queensland border from the off. It also allows you to stop in the lovely little coastal village of Lennox Head.
Lennox Head is a 20-minute drive South of Bryon Bay and a hidden gem of a place. Think Byron Bay but many years ago and on a much smaller scale. Somewhere that feels up and coming with lots of very good coffee shops, cafes and restaurants.
It’s a great overnight stop, not far off the Pacific Highway, and means saving a longer stopover in Byron Bay on your way back down to Sydney. If you’re not heading back to Sydney then I’d still recommend visiting Lennox Head if you can.
Camp at Lake Ainsworth Holiday Park
Reflections Holiday Parks Lennox Head is the perfect relaxing spot right next to a tea tree lake. Many people take a SUP board down or go for a dip in the lake. The water is really brown from the paperbark tannins so it’s not too inviting. However, once you’re in it’s both relaxing and serene.
The campground is also an easy 20-minute stroll into Lennox Head Town with places to stop and eat along the way.
Things to do in Lennox Head
- Take an afternoon dip in Lake Ainsworth Tea Tree Lake.
- Have dinner at Williams Street (with live music playing some nights).
- Go for a morning swim or surf along Seven Mile Beach.
- Make sure you have a coffee and breakfast at Shelter before hitting the road again.
Day 2: Lennox Head to Noosa – (324 km) 3hr 40 min without stops
Pack up and head to Noosa early to make the most of the next few days. It’s another relatively long drive to get you up to Noosa but once you’re there it’s one of the best places to relax and fully switch off.
Camp at Noosa River Holiday Park
Noosa is surprisingly big with four different areas to base yourself in. These are Gympie Terrace (by the river and where the river campsite is based), Noosa Junction, Noosaville and Noosa Heads which incorporate Main Beach, Hastings St and Noosa National Park.
You will spend most of your time around the Noosa Heads area but there are no campsites here so the Noosa River Holiday Park is the next best location along the river. When I camped I drove into the National Park and Main Beach during the day and caught a taxi in at night (roughly $12 each way).
Noosa River Holiday Park is one of the few camping options in and around Noosa but luckily it’s a good one in a great location right on the river. The camp kitchen has one of the best views I’ve seen and looks right out over the river so I recommend booking here.
For more information, read my more detailed post on camping in Noosa and things to do.
Day 3 & 4: Noosa Heads
Noosa is a place where there is enough to keep you entertained in between bumbling around and taking some time out to properly relax. It has a real holiday vibe to it (the main high street, Hastings St, even feels like you’re on holiday in Europe at times) so I recommend staying at least three nights here.
Things to do in Noosa
- Relax on Noosa Main Beach
- Check out the shops along Hastings Street
- Visit the beautiful Noosa National Park
- Complete the 10.8km return coastal walk from Noosa to Sunshine Beach through the National Park. To shorten the walk you can take a bus back from Sunshine Beach.
- Eat out along Hastings Street: Bistro CC or Boardwalk Bistro for breakfast, lunch or dinner with a view. For stunning views in a more casual setting check out the Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club.
- Take a river ferry or cruise down the Noosa River
- Eat out at Noosa Junction
- Visit Clandestine Coffee and Land & Sea Brewery in Noosaville
Check out my separate blog post on the best things to do in Noosa.
Day 5: Noosa Heads to Cooloola, Great Sandy National Park – 1hr 30 min drive on a beach
If you are completing this road trip in a four-wheel drive then this is an awesome shortcut to take between Noosa and Rainbow Beach!
Teewah Beach is a long open beach in the Cooloola Recreational Area of the Great Sandy National Park. It’s also a beach you can drive and camp on.
Getting to Teewah Beach
Teewah Beach is a great introduction to beach driving and good practice ahead of Fraser Island. It gets you comfortable driving on sand without it being too challenging. Hit it at the right time outside of school holidays and you’ll have it practically to yourself. The access point is relatively easy (easy enough for beginners) just make sure to drop your tyre pressure down to 15-18 psi.
Planning your trip to Teewah Beach
You will need to obtain a vehicle permit to drive on Teewah Beach. Buy online at www.parks.des.qld.gov.au or from the Great Sandy National Parks Office in Tewantin (near Noosa). If travelling onto Fraser Island, save money and buy a combined permit costing $86.15 for one month.
If skipping this part you can drive to Rainbow Beach via the main highway with no problems.
Camp at Teewah Beach or Freshwater Camping Area
You can opt to camp within either a camping zone on Teewah Beach with no facilities or at Freshwater Camping Area for the night which is in a nice wooded, sheltered area. You will need to book both online at parks.des.qld.gov.au.
2022 UPDATE: You are now required to have a chemical portable toilet with you when camping in the beach camping zones on Teewah Beach (where there are no toilet facilities). I picked up the cheapest I could find for $69 from Anaconda. The dump point is located at Freshwater Camping Area.
Visit Double-Island Point
Before leaving the Cooloola Recreational Area whatever you do, make sure you drive up and over the headland to Double Island Point. Here you can surf perfect longboarding waves.
Top tip: Camping on a beach is a truly unique experience and one I’d encourage anyone to do but it’s worth checking the weather forecast beforehand. Big open beaches can be very exposed and not great for a good night’s sleep in high winds.
Day 6: Cooloola to Rainbow Beach – 45 min (beach driving)
Rainbow Beach is one of two towns and jumping-off points for Fraser Island. The other is Hervey Bay where you catch a ferry to the West side of the island but this itinerary means driving up from the South so it makes sense to go from Rainbow Beach.
It makes for a nice overnight stop with some good cafes and bars and a nice beach. And then there is the Carlo Sandblow which is one of the best parts of Rainbow Beach – a huge sand dune with views over the whole area and a beautiful place to visit at sunset.
Rainbow Beach is also a great stop to finish preparing for your trip to Fraser Island so aim to stock up on fuel, water, and food, buy your ferry tickets and book your campsite stays whilst here.
Camp at Rainbow Beach Holiday Village
Camp in town at Rainbow Beach Holiday Village. It’s a basic holiday park but in a good location. Alternatively, there is a more rugged bush camp close to the water out of town at Inskip Point, where you catch the car ferry over to Fraser Island.
Day 7: Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island – 20 min drive to Inskip Point and a 10 min car ferry ride
It’s time to go to Fraser Island! Day one on Fraser Island is all about driving up and down the Beach Highway, stopping off at sights along the way and spending the night camped up on (or near) 75 Mile Beach.
To get onto the island, drive to Inskip Point from Rainbow Beach and take the Manta Ray Barge. The journey across the water takes 10 minutes.
To make the most of your time on the island aim to get onto it about two hours before low tide. This is to ensure you can drive the first section of 75 Mile Beach which becomes impassable around high tide. There are quite a few little pieces of information like this that will make your time on Fraser Island much easier and more enjoyable so make sure you’re fully prepared for this adventure.
I’ve written a more detailed blog post about planning a trip to Fraser Island to help prepare. You will also need the following before you set off:
- A vehicle permit costing $55.90 per month
- A Manta Ray Barge ticket to get you and your vehicle onto the island costs $130 return ($85 one way) from Inskip Point.
- Tide times for the island.
- A map of the island as well as one of the camping zones.
- 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.
2022 UPDATE: You are now required to have a chemical portable toilet with you when camping in the beach camping zones on Fraser Island. I picked up the cheapest I could find for $69 from Anaconda.
Camp in Beach Camping Zones 2-6 or Dundubara Campsite
You will need to book a camping site or beach camping zone in advance of arriving on the island due to there being little to no signal there.
All beach camping zones are very similar so don’t worry too much about trying to pick the best one. You need to pick one in advance though so my advice is to roughly plan the sights you want to see off 75 Mile Beach during the day and then pick the stretch of beach you think you will be close to when it’s time to set up for the night. I camped in Zone 6 (Yurru) but it’s essentially the same beach and there are sheltered areas behind the dunes in each zone so you can’t go wrong.
You will find more facilities camping off the beach at Dundubara campsite. This campground has dingo fences and both showers and toilets.
Beach camping on Fraser Island
Beach camping on Fraser Island is a truly amazing experience not to be missed. However, there are a few things to consider in advance of deciding to do this.
Firstly, you have to forego access to toilets for the night. Therefore make sure you have a portable toilet with you in case you might need to use it and to avoid getting a fine. Otherwise, there are toilets at Dundubara campsite.
Secondly, you need to be aware of dingos on the beach. There are lots of posters on the island telling you how to be dingo aware but the main points are to never leave food out and don’t go for a run. So be sure to store all food in secure containers.
Where I camped the previous owners had left some pistachio nut shells a dingo ended up skulking around the rest of the night. It was great at first (lots of photos were taken) but then it just got annoying.
The interesting one, which I hadn’t thought about, is don’t go for a run. Basically, if you do, a dingo will chase you!
Things to do on Fraser Island
Most can be done on your first day or save some for the next morning before taking the tracks inland to explore the lakes in the middle of the island.
- Drive 75 Mile Beach a.k.a. the “Beach Highway” towards the Champagne Pools:
- Stop for a swim at Eli Creek
- Spot the Red Canyon
- Look out for The Pinnacles
- Stop off and see the Maheno Wreck
- Take in the views at Indian Head
- Swim in the frothy Champagne Pools
- Drive inland towards Central Station:
- Visit Lake Wabby
- Don’t miss Lake Mackenzie
- Visit Lake Birrabeen and Lake Boomanjin
Day 8: Fraser Island
When you’re ready 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. This is a must-do – don’t miss it!
Camp at Central Station
Day 9: Fraser Island to North Stradbroke Island – (276km) 3hr 15min without stops; 50 mins Sealink Barge; (19 km) 18 min drive to the North of the island
Drive along the South Lakes Scenic Drive route towards Dilli Village on your last day on the island to rejoin 75 Mile Beach and drive back to Hook Point where the car ferry leaves. You can stop at Lake Birrabeen and Lake Boomanjin along the way.
Once off Fraser Island it’s time to island hop over to North Stradbroke Island, a.k.a. Straddie.
This is an island I fell in love with and didn’t want to leave! It’s a beautiful place that feels off the beaten track (despite it being not far from Brisbane) and is full of wildlife. It’s a place with beaches, a few cafes and not much else in between but with a really lovely laid-back local vibe to soak up and enjoy.
To get to North Stradbroke Island, drive to Cleveland and take the Sealink ferry. It takes 50 minutes and ferries leave every 1-1.5 hours.
For more information on getting to the island, where to stay and what to do, read my more detailed post about things to do on North Stradbroke Island.
Camp at Cylinder Beach Campground
I didn’t camp here myself but out of the six campgrounds on the island, Cylinder Beach Camping Ground is in the best location, close to most of the main things to do on the island. Check out the island’s own website for all camping options here.
Day 10: North Stradbroke Island
Spend the day soaking up island life.
Things to do on North Stradbroke Island
- Make sure to complete the North Gorge Walk at Point Lookout at sunset.
- Visit one of many stunning beaches.
- Watch the sunset from Stradbroke Beach Hotel.
- Spot resident dolphins at Amity Point.
- Visit the Brown and Blue Lakes.
More on the best things to do on North Stradbroke Island.
Day 11: North Stradbroke Island to Byron Bay – (161 km) 2 hr drive after a 50 min ferry ride
It’s time to leave North Stradbroke Island and head south. You’re driving back to New South Wales border to spend time in Byron Bay for a couple of days. I’ve spent a lot of time in Byron Bay and every time I go I discover something new. I also leave loving it even more and that’s why it’s always included in any road trip north of Sydney!
Camp at First Sun Holiday Park
First Sun Holiday Park is a real hidden gem. Located bang in the centre of town it also has private access to Belongil Beach.
For more information, you can read my more detailed post on camping in Byron Bay.
Day 12: Byron Bay
Enjoy everything Byron Bay has to offer. Here’s a list of top things to do during your stay.
Top things to do in Byron Bay
- Cape Byron Walking Track: The 3.7km loop track takes about 2 hours to complete and takes you past Wategos and Little Wategos Beaches, and Byron Bay Lighthouse. Start the walk from the Captain Cook Lookout Car Park. If you have a National Parks pass, parking here at Captain Cook Lookout is free.
- Check out The Fisherman’s Lookout at The Pass: A viewing platform great for spotting dolphins and watching the surfers and the kayak tours which operate in the bay. The Pass is also a famous surfing spot in Byron Bay with continuous right-hand waves perfect for longboarding. It gets very busy but if you enjoy surfing, it’s worth checking out.
- Spend time at Wategos Beach: Popular with surfers and sunbakers, this is a favourite of mine. It’s further away in Cape Byron State Conservation Area and really feels like you’re miles away from the bars and cafes.
- Watch the sunrise from Cape Byron Lighthouse: To really see Byron Bay at its best, get up early to watch the sunrise from Cape Byron Lighthouse. It will be worth it, honestly. Either drive up and park up early, walk up or even run up.
More on the best things to do in Byron Bay including where to eat and where all the good happy hours are.
Day 13: Byron to Bellingen – (269km) 2hr 50 min without stops
You’re now on your way back to Sydney but the last stop is a good one. Just beyond Coffs Harbour, turn off the A1 and drive 10 mins inland to the bohemian town of Bellingen. This heritage stop-off is a delight to discover. It’s the only place on the suggested route away from the coast, but it’s worth the diversion. With all the cafes, restaurants and a great local brewery; it’s the perfect base for exploring the nearby World Heritage-listed, Gondwana Rainforest.
Top tip: For a slightly longer route that’s worth the diversion, take the inland route along Armidale Road via Grafton. It takes 4 hrs (303km) without stops but means you get to drive a section of the Waterfall Way. Time it so you can stop off at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre for a couple of walks in the subtropical Gondwana Rainforest, before heading into Bellingen for the evening.
Here are the walks I recommend:
- The Skywalk: A viewing platform that takes you to the edge of the rainforest with views over Dorrigo National Park.
- Crystal Shower Falls walk: If you’re going to do any walk from the Rainforest Centre, do this one. You get to walk through the rainforest and actually walk behind the waterfall. It’s a beautiful 4.4km walk and took me just over an hour to return.
- Lyrebird Link track: A shorter walk (0.8 km) through the rainforest. It took me 20mins return and I spotted my first Lyrebird here, which was pretty darn cool.
Camp at Bellingen Showground
Bellingen Showground is the best place to camp in town. Prices from $10/night per adult (unpowered).
Things to do in and around Bellingen
There isn’t too much to do in Bellingen, or ‘Bello’ to the locals, except enjoy the cafes, restaurants and potter around the shops. So an afternoon and evening stop here is a good one. These are my recommendations:
- HYDE Bellingen: Great for coffee
- People of Coffee: A friendly cafe set in the old petrol station, selling the work of local artists.
- Black Bear: Great for breakfast.
- Diggers Tavern: One of the local pubs, nicely refurbished.
- Bellingen Brewing Co: If you like breweries then your evening is sorted. It’s the most picturesque brewery I’ve been to serving up phenomenal pizzas alongside the local brew, in a rainforest setting. You feel like you’re actually enjoying your hazy IPA in the rainforest. Book ahead if you can. It’s small and popular.
Day 14: Bellingen to Sydney – (516km) 5hr 37min without stops
Time to drive back to Sydney after what has hopefully been an epic road trip. Perhaps after having breakfast and a coffee in Bellingen.
So when are you heading to Fraser Island? If you are in real need of a relaxing holiday but also can’t help seeking adventure on your road trips like me, then this itinerary is for you. It remains one of my favourite routes from Sydney so I hope this guide helps you prepare for your awesome road trip up and down the East Coast of Australia.
If you’re looking for more camping itineraries then you may find my other guides useful: