There are two ways to enter Fraser Island. Harvey Bay, which is a bigger town but a long ferry ride to the island (and oddly, more popular) or Rainbow Beach, a tiny town that is like a 15 minute ferry ride to the island. When I was up in Airlie Beach, I picked a guided tour that was leaving from Rainbow Beach, so I bypassed Harvey Bay and went right on to Rainbow. There are three hostels right across the street from where the bus drops you off and I just picked the one that offered the VIP discount which ended up being Fraser’s on Rainbow. Since I was only staying one night on each end, I sucked up a dorm and it was fine. There isn’t much to do in town, so I just went to the beach with some people I had been hopscotching over all down the East Coast. This happens a lot and is actually kind of funny.
There are a few activities in Rainbow Beach and something they sell to backpackers is feeding wild dolphins. The Dolphin Ferry Cruise provides everything from return travel to your hostel, a quick ferry ride over to Tin Can Bay and dolphin feeding. It’s slightly over priced considering if you have a car, you can just drive over yourself and do it for free (a small donation for the fish is requested) but I love dolphins and this seemed pretty cool. No regrets from me!
I did Trail Blazer Tours to Fraser Island and since the tour originated in Noosa, they didn’t pick the Rainbow Beach people up until 10am, which was great! Rolled over to the island and then up the main highway on the island, by passing all the self drivers and just enjoying it all. We hit all the tourist spots on the east side of the island on the first day before settling into our hostel for the night.
We stayed at Base Camp Fraser Island and I loved it! Apparently most of the time, they just put the groups up in the normal dorms, but we slept in the tents and I loved it because it was different! 4 sets of bunks in each tent with an en-suite bathroom and outside had chairs and tables to relax on, plus we had full run of the half inside/half outside kitchen and huge tables. The first night we walked over to the Eurong Beach Resort and went to the bar at the upscale resort. Fun!
The next day was packed full of hikes through rain forests and lounging at crystal clear lakes. I didn’t feel rushed at all and enjoyed every moment of whatever we were doing, while all the self drivers around us, arrived after us to the lakes, jumped in, took some pictures and pack it up before we did and drove off to the next lake to check off their list. At the end of our full day on the island, we were back at base camp and the bar was closed, so most of the group just played card drinking games, while I watched and it was pretty funny. Some of us were reading through the brochure and we realized that we didn’t go to Lake Mackenzie and that the brochure actually didn’t say we would go there and some of the group was disappointed, but I wasn’t. Because we skipped the most popular (and probably the most crowded) of the lakes, we got to spend time at a similar (and probably less crowded) lake and I was fine with that. Even though I am guilty of even doing the East Coast backpackers bullshit tour, which in itself is a giant check-list, normally I just do the stuff I am interested in, not caring if I check off my list. This revelation didn’t effect me at all, because we had spent half day at this beautiful lake that was mostly empty. You can’t miss what you’ve never experienced.
On the third and final day, we hiked to the islands version of the Sahara and boarded down the dunes into the lake that was full of fish, which kind of creeps me out. It was so hot, that I got in, but not for very long. We then hiked back to the bus, ate a quick lunch and zoomed back to the dock for the ferry ride back to the mainland.
Pros: Loved the accommodation, bus and guide. At one point, we were riding around the island and there was a car that got stuck in the sand and was blocking “traffic”, so our driver got out and unstuck them. Awesome! I felt what we saw and the amount of time we spent at each place was great and it was a great mix of sitting on lakes and doing nothing while seeing stuff and going on hikes.
Cons: It’s been a while since I did this trip, but even in just writing about, I am having flashbacks about the food. If I never saw another sandwich again, it would have been too soon. I felt like for every meal, all we did was have sammies. And while it could have been worse, a little variety never hurt anyone.
Moral: For the price (which was even cheaper because I booked it with my Whitsundays trip) I couldn’t have gotten anything better. It was everything I wanted and nothing extra, which is perfect for me. I had a great time and would recommend this company. And of course, Fraser! My second favourite island in Australia. So different from anywhere else. Love it!