When you start to plan your East Coast trip you'll start hearing all these names bounded about by other backpackers you meet along the way - things like Whitsundays, Fraser Island and Magnetic Island. It will go straight over your head most likely, that it did with me and I didn't know much about what the trips would actually entail. If you do like me and Mark and book your whole trip as a whole, the number of different trips on offer will baffle you and often leave you unsure of what you want to book. First tip, do your research. For each of these locations there are countless different trips on offer and you don't want to end up on the wrong one. From party cruises to camping outdoors and driving trips, there's loads to choose from and it's important to choose one you think you will enjoy as they are all aimed at different types of groups. For me and Mark, our absolute hands-down favourite trip was Fraser Island, and it's definitely the one East Coast trip I would go back to do all over again.
What is Fraser Island?
Fraser Island is actually the largest sand Island in the world - sitting just off the East Coast at Noosa the Island covered a huge area of 184,000 hectares which span a length of 123km and a width of 22km. Big right? Well trust me, it feels that big, you can drive for hours up and down the sandy beaches and only cover part of one side of the island. Further inland, the Island is full of lush rain forests, gorgeous sandy beaches and don't get me started on those crystal clear lakes that are hidden away in the centre. Bursting at the seams with natural beauty and amazing animals, the Island is a world heritage listed paradise just waiting to be explored and those who book on to exciting four wheel drive trips might be lucky enough to stumble across Australia's most pure dingo blood line as well as a range of creatures including whales, dolphins, turtles, goannas and more.
What trip should I do?
We chose the three day, two night Nomads Fraser Island Tag-Along Tour which is advertised here for $459 and includes all food/accommodation on the Island (in a hostel type setting and is the only one that doesn't leave you camping on the beach) but it also gives you a night in Nomads included in the price both before and after the trip. Just to point out, we also paid significantly less for this trip by booking a huge package deal at the beginning of the trip because we were given bigger discounts but even at this price it is worth it. During the trip you are separated off into cars of about seven or eight people, with drivers and passengers in each - if you have a licence you can take it in turns to take the wheel which is the best bit of the trip! The tour leader drives the first vehicle and then we had one automatic and one manual vehicle so it's suitable for all types of drivers. The guide will take you off roading for the three days with plenty of time exploring incredible locations including "the fresh waters of Lake McKenzie, the shipwrecked remains of the ‘Maheno' and the spectacular views from Indian Head. Relax in the 'Champagne Pools' or take a trek to the Hammerstone Sandblow. Abundant in native flora and fauna, explore the tropical rainforests of Central Station, the coloured sands of the Cathedrals and at Lake Allom see fresh water turtles. Drive 4×4 along 75 mile beach, explore the sand dunes and swim in Lake Wabby. Picnic at Lake Garawongera or float down Eli Creek." Despite being organised by Nomads - who you guys will know I have been less than impressed with before - it was a great and well organised trip.
What was the trip actually like?
It was absolutely bloody amazing. From start to finish I don't think I laughed as hard anywhere else on the East Coast, nor did I meet funnier or more amazing people. It always comes down to the people you meet - it doesn't matter how awesome the place is, if you don't have great people with you it will only ever be an average experience. The people on my Fraser Island trip made it for us, they made our East Coast experience because two different groups of them met up with us later on for other trips. We were actually lucky enough to have two of the girls on our Whitsundays trip and three of the boys were with us in both Airlie Beach and Cairns which was an amazing reunion! We were lucky and our whole gang bonded pretty much instantly which set us up for an amazing time playing in the lakes, driving like maniacs along the beach and whale spotting. The accommodation was brilliant and we really appreciated not camping because it did get cold at night there, we were staying in four bed dorms must metres from the beach where we were stargazing at night and dingo spotting in the day.As you can see from the pictures, Fraser Island truly needs no filter - but I love them so hey. During the few days we visited Mackenzie Lake and the Champagne Pools which were both absolutely beautiful, the lake was filled with crystal clear waters and the pools were perfect for an afternoon dip and trying to catch fish. Indian Head was worth a stop-off because this was the first place I spotted whales on the East Coast - the whole horizon was filled with water spurting from their blowholes and below us sharks circled. As you're driving along the beach keep your eyes peeled because there are whales swimming alongside the Island and they always wave a fin to say hello. Swimming at Eli Creek is a refreshing way to spend the last few hours of the trip and don't forget to check out the Maheno - a huge shipwreck on the beach. My favourite part was definitely Mackenzie Lake and the driving around the island - I was the only girl in the car and definitely gave the boys a fright with my driving.
What to pack?
Pack light - just a small bag with one or two changes of clothes, swimmers, mosquito repellent if you get bitten a lot, warm clothes for nighttime, lots of goon and a towel. You seriously don't need much and you probably won't bother to shower when you're there, none of us did. Make sure you take your camera and even better if it's a waterproof one!
Have you been to Fraser Island - what did you think? What tour did you choose? Which was your favourite East Coast tour?