The usual way to discover K’gari (Fraser Island) is to join a 4WD tour. K’gari had been on my bucket list for over five years, so I wanted to make an extraordinary experience out of my trip to this amazing place. A Fraser Island hiking adventure was well aligned with my envies at that time.
Hiking Fraser Island is the best way to enjoy the rainforest, the crystal clear freshwater lakes and the amazing sand blows without the crowd.
There is a Great Walk on K’gari (Fraser Island) for a full week in the wild. It has some challenging parts that will take you to a very remote area. We did not have that much time and overnight hiking experience back then. We chose a formula that allowed us to hike for a bit more than two days to some of the must-sees of the island (Lake McKenzie, rainforest, Lake Wabby). Then we’d be picked up by a tour on our third day to explore the rest of the tourist spots in a 4WD and via a scenic flight.
As introduced in a post earlier on this blog, Fraser Island is my favourite place in Australia, and I prefer to name it by its native name K’gari. I visited the largest sand island in the world for the first time in August 2013.
Please always check the conditions report when planning a Fraser Island hiking trip and adapt your itinerary accordingly.
You can book a tour to hike Fraser Island.
If you don’t have overnight hiking experience or all the equipment required, you may be interested in this self-guided hike tour* from Hervey Bay. If you don’t want to carry a heavy backpack, check out this pack-free camping eco-hike tour*.
Fraser Island hiking itinerary: 2 days from the west coast to the east coast
Day 1: Wanggoolba Creek to Lake McKenzie
The three of us boarded the ferry from Hervey Bay as passengers, carrying our big backpacks for the hike. For the following three days, we needed to be totally autonomous for food and sleeping. We did not need to carry water for the entire hike as we could find some at the touristy stops of our hike and also had some pills to treat it if required. The company who organised our trip (transfers, booking barges and permits, etc.) advised us that although it is written not to drink the water, we could still drink it.
We had 14km to hike on this first day, from the west of the island to reach Lake McKenzie.
Walking on the sand was not as hard as we expected: we were mainly in the forest, and the ground was not soft at all. While walking, we felt isolated: we met no one on the path nor at the camps. Hiking is for sure a good way to avoid the crowd! We reached the Lake McKenzie hikers’ camp in the middle of the afternoon.
Lake McKenzie is one of the main tourist attractions of K’gari (Fraser Island). As it is closed to visitors after 4 pm, we had the most famous spot on Fraser Island just for ourselves. You can’t beat that mixed feeling of freedom and calm!
We were at the end of winter so the water was a bit chilly. Still, it was great to catch the opportunity to have a bath after hiking for a full day. We used the pure sand on our skin for a perfect natural wash and felt clean!
At night, the forest got busy and noisy. It was impressive and entertaining to listen to this constant noise.
Responsible travel tip: Do not apply sunscreen before going into a lake. It can pollute it. The most efficient and eco-friendly sun protection is a long-sleeve shirt. If you do want to use sunscreen, choose it carefully and apply it a long time before going for a swim.
Day 2: Lake McKenzie – Central Station – Lake Wabby
There were two possible tracks to reach Lake Wabby on the second day. I chose to explore the longest one that was going to Central Station. It took me about 4.5 hours to walk the 23km, with a short stop at Lake Birrabeen and in the rainforest. It is insane how nature grew on the sand: the forest is amazingly dense, and the trees are huge! Finding the path for the walk is easy. The only things to slow me down in addition to the hills were the holes dug by some rodents – watch where you step!
The hikers’ camp is located near the stunning lookout over the Lake Wabby and the dune. It took around 15mn to go down to the lake for a well-needed refreshment. This time with other groups of tourists, who were leaving one by one as we were getting close to the end of the afternoon. Lake Wabby and its surroundings were so different from Lake McKenzie. Adjacent to a beautiful sand blow, the lake has a dark green colour from the tea trees soaking into it.
A 4WD tour on the west coast of Fraser Island
Day 3: Lake Wabby – East Coast up to Indian’s Head
We started the day early to reach the eastern beach on time for our pickup by Dropbear Adventures*. We woke up just before the first lights of the day to get ready and started going down to Lake Wabby as soon as it got less obscure. The sun rose while we were hiking the sand blow near the lake, it was stunning. We did not see any dingo during our walk, but we could spot very recent marks on the dune next to Lake Wabby. They probably went to the lake for a drink before starting the day.
The walk from Lake Wabby to the 75 Mile Beach was easy compared to the length of the walk of the previous day.
We had not been in the 4WD longer than 2mn when our guide already spotted for us a whale on the horizon. Although the camp was about 5mn away, we could see a couple of them. A great start for the second part of our adventure on K’gari!
We loved the wilderness of our trip so far, but when our guide announced that the rest of the group was preparing breakfast, we were happy to join them! We packed as light as possible for the hike and – even if it had only been three days – we were already missing fruits and veggies a lot!
After this excellent breakfast at the camp, we visited the tourist attractions of the 75 Mile Beach. I loved every single one. As we were driving on the beach, we could spot many whales cruising north.
As part of our package, we had a scenic flight included. I would probably not have done it if it had been extra, so I am glad I did not get the choice: the views of K’gari (Fraser Island) from above are stunning. We also had the chance to fly above a whale: what a great opportunity to realise the size of the mammal!
The sand formations are beautiful. We did not have much time there as part of the group was waiting for us to come back from our scenic flight.
Although the water is a bit chilly during winter, it is a very beautiful creek for a swim along the light current taking us down to the beach without any effort. I put a note in my mind to come back with floaties for even more fun next time!
Champagne Pools are fun. They describe it as a relaxing natural jacuzzi. Well, they probably forgot a spa is heated over 30°! Anyway, the place is beautiful, and it is the only opportunity to have a swim in the salted water of the ocean on the eastern coast. Indeed, it is forbidden to swim all along the eastern beach because of strong rips, stingers, and sharks (oh Australia…).
If you are camping on the beach, it is better to plan Eli Creek (or another freshwater lake) after Champagne Pool to clean the salt from your skin!
In my opinion, the best views we had on the island during that trip were from Indian’s Head. In addition to the stunning landscape, we could also spot turtles, dolphins and rays down the cliff… What a fantastic place…!
Day 4: Central Station – Lake McKenzie
For our last day on K’gari (Fraser Island), we came back to the places where we hiked a couple of days earlier. It was initially not part of our package that was over three days only, but as we had one extra day we asked if we could spend more time with the group!
Visiting these places with a guide was interesting. It was fantastic to have them just for us when we were hiking, but the guide shared information and stories that gave another dimension to the place. He also knew how to find the animals whereas we probably just walked passed them… (which was probably better as we are talking about big snakes here, I prefer to see them with someone experienced!)
We left K’gari to go back to Hervey Bay in the afternoon. I swore I would be back soon. It did not take long for me to organise my next trip to the island with the goal to reach the lighthouse at the top north end!
Must have equipment for a Fraser Island hiking overnight experience
The Fraser Island hike we did was not particularly difficult. But you will need to be able to walk a long distance and carry your equipment with you. Here is some equipment I recommend for your hike.
This map can help you plan your trip, but you will need to purchase a real topographic map for the hike.
A good pair of hiking shoes
Some people can hike barefoot. I wouldn’t. I love my good pair of hiking shoes. Not only does it provide great support (which I find essential especially when I carry a lot of weight), but it also protects you from bites and rain! I twisted my ankle and would have had a difficult time finishing the hike if my hiking shoes didn’t stop the bad movement in the first place and maintain my ankle for the rest of the hike. Click here to view my hiking shoes*.
A hiking tent
If you already own a tent, you may not want to buy a new one just for an overnight hike. But if you need to purchase a tent for this hike, opt for a small and light one. Remember you have to carry it on your back! Make sure it’s waterproof. Click here to view an example of a great tent for hiking*.
A sleeping bag
It gets cold at night on Fraser Island during winter (we experienced as low as 7 degrees), so you will need a warm and light sleeping bag like this one*. If you already own a sleeping bag, you may opt for just adding a sleeping bag liner* to it to make it a bit warmer.
It’s not very fashionable, but a headlamp is the most practical thing to have when you are camping! Click here to view a hybrid model* that can recharge with a solar panel.
It would be almost impossible to complete the overnight hike safely by carrying all the water you’d need for the trip. You will see creeks and find water when you reach a popular destination and the walkers’ camps. So you’d still need to carry a few litres of water with you while you are hiking.
Did you opt for a Fraser Island hiking adventure? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is K’gari (Fraser Island)?
K’gari (Fraser Island) is Queensland largest island, located in the south of the region. It can be reached by ferry from Hervey Bay (domestic airport / 3h30 by car from Brisbane) and Rainbow Beach (2h45 by car from Brisbane). If you’re wondering if it better to go to Fraser Island from Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay, read this.
If you are not hiking, a 4WD vehicle and permits are required to drive on the island. Check out these itineraries for more information.
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