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K'gari (Fraser Island) Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park

Maxime Coquard © Tourism and Events Queensland

K'gari (Fraser Island) Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park

Discover a dynamic landscape of hidden freshwater lakes, golden sandblows and dunes, and lush rainforest on the world's largest sand island.

Cool off in Lake McKenzie, a perched lake in a hollow in the older dunes.
Cool off in Lake McKenzie, a perched lake in a hollow in the older dunes. Briony Masters © Queensland Government
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Park Fraser
Traditional Owner Traditional Owners
Park Ranger Park Ranger
Fraser Island World Heritage Area

More than a million years in the making, World Heritage-listed K'gari (Fraser Island), in the Great Sandy National Park, is a place of incredible natural beauty.

Drive and walk through fragrant open woodlands, lush towering rainforests and colourful wallum banksia heathlands. You’ll discover magical perched and mirror lakes nestled in the dunes, climb creeping sandblows, relax in picturesque picnic areas and spend hours on long golden beaches flanking the Great Sandy Marine Park.

The island's rich forests, heaths and woodlands are a haven for wildlife—including the world-renowned Fraser Island dingoes. Possibly the purest dingo population in Australia, their conservation and continued welfare is of national significance.

The Great Sandy Marine Park is an adventure all of its own. Explore K'gari’s shoreline by boat, and slip your canoe or kayak into the calm waters of Pelican and Marloo bays. Try your hand at reeling in a fish for dinner—delicious table fish like whiting, bream, salmon, mangrove jack and flathead are yours for the taking.

The Butchulla (Badtjala) Aboriginal people have ancient connections with K’gari (Fraser Island). They have lived in harmony with the seasons, land and sea, maintaining a perfect balance between spiritual, social and family connections. Today the Butchulla people continue to walk in the footsteps of their ancestors.

This park is part of the Fraser Island World Heritage Area, famed for its exceptional natural beauty, outstanding examples of coastal dune landform development and evolutionary history.

K'gari (Fraser Island) is a natural environment and conditions are unpredictable. Keep you and your family happy and healthy by reading all the safety information on this website, in brochures and on signs. It’s up to you to make your visit to K'gari (Fraser Island) memorable for all the right reasons.

When planning your trip and before you head to the island, read how to:

Keep discovering

Top things to see and do

Camp in the shelter of steep sand dunes.

K'gari's camping areas

See Fraser's walkers' camps and camping areas.

Fraser Island Great Walk

K'gari's journeys

See Fraser's walks and scenic drives.

Absorb the stillness and the superb scenery.

K'gari's attractions

See Fraser's day-use areas.

Getting there and getting around

Getting there

K'gari (Fraser Island) is 15km off the coast of Hervey Bay, about 300km north of Brisbane. You can get to the island by high clearance 4WD, on foot, by plane or with a commercial tour.

By 4WD

  • Your high clearance 4WD must have low range functions.
  • Remember all vehicles must be registered, drivers must be licensed and all Queensland road rules apply, even on beaches.
  • Read 4WD with care for important information on 4WD safety and minimal impact driving.
  • A vehicle access permit must be purchased. Display the permit on your windscreen before driving in the recreation area.

From Inskip Point (15mins from Rainbow Beach)

  • At the end of the bitumen on Inskip Point Road, reduce tyre pressure, engage 4WD and drive 500m onto the beach.
  • Drive onto the Manta Ray barge for the 10–15min trip to Hook Point on the southern tip of K'gari (Fraser Island), and the start of the Eastern Beach scenic drive.
  • Bookings for this barge are not required.

From River Heads (east of Maryborough)

  • Travel 10.6km along River Heads Road to the Fraser Island Barges landing area.
  • The trip to Wanggoolba Creek on western K'gari (Fraser Island) takes 30–45min.
  • The trip to Kingfisher Bay on western K'gari (Fraser Island) takes 50mins–1hr.
  • These barges run at fixed time and bookings are essential.

On foot

  • Walkers can board a vehicle barge to the island (details above) or arrive by plane.

By plane

By private vessel

  • Access K'gari (Fraser Island)'s sheltered western coastline by private vessel. The eastern coastline of the island is extremely hazardous and exposed to very rough ocean conditions.
  • Launch your boat at one of the many boat ramps on the mainland between Tin Can Bay and Burnett Heads. There are no boat ramps on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • See Maritime Safety Queensland's Beacon to Beacon Guides for the Great Sandy Strait and Hervey Bay for detailed navigational maps.
  • The waters adjacent to Fraser Island are in the Great Sandy Marine Park.

Commercial tours

  • You can join a range of tours that leave from a variety of centres.
  • For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Getting around

  • You will need a high clearance 4WD with low range function to explore park.
  • Slower is safer. Maximum speed limits on K'gari (Fraser Island) are generally:
    • 80km/hr on the eastern beach
    • 30km/hr on inland roads
    • 40km/hr in beach pedestrian areas (including the Maheno shipwreck site)
    • 50km/hr on Hook Point inland road
    • 10km/hr in shared-use areas.
  • If you arrive on foot or by plane, the Fraser Island Taxi Service can transport you to trail heads and/or accommodation.
  • There is also a series of tracks from barge landing points to key areas.

Road conditions

K'gari (Fraser Island)'s sandy beaches and tracks have dry powdery sand and all vehicles and trailers must have high clearance. Vehicles must also have 4WD and low range functions. The island is not suitable for caravans, campervans and motorhomes, and trailers cannot access all areas. We don't recommend all-wheel drive vehicles.

  • Tides control access to some beaches, creeks, creek crossings and facilities. We recommend you read all the access information before travelling on the island.
  • Beaches and creek crossing change daily. Deep washouts can form at any time, particularly after heavy rain and rough seas. Wave action can expose dangerous rocks, wash up debris and expose tree roots that are particularly hard to see at night.
  • The roads around the Kingfisher Bay and Eurong resorts are sealed.

Fuel and supplies

You will find fuel (no autogas), supplies, restaurants and takeaway food outlets in the towns on the island.

Wheelchair access

There are a range of wheelchair-accessible facilities on the island. Obstacles and sandy car parks and approaches at some of the facilities may mean that assistance is required.

Camping

Sample all the island has to offer at one of K'gari's camping areas. Watch the sunset from a beach-side camp, hike to one of the more remote parts of the park, or pack up your boat and head to camps that walkers and drivers can't reach. Facilities vary from toilets, tables, barbecues and showers to areas where you will need to be self-sufficient.

  • Some camping areas are surrounded by dingo-deterrent fences that have an electrified vehicle grid. Make sure that children are well supervised and that you use the pedestrian gates to access these areas. Ensure you store food in lockers, where provided, in your vehicle, or in strong, sealable containers with lockable lids.
  • Families with children up to the age of 16 should camp inside dingo-deterrent fences. If you're outside dingo fences, never leave children alone in tents or camper trailers.
  • There are camp sites for schools and large groups at Central Station, Dundubara and Waddy Point top camping areas, and Cornwells in Beach camping zone 2. Read the Teachers' and group leaders' package for planning hints and safety information.
  • Read more about camping with care in this park.

See camping areas

Be dingo-safe

  • NEVER feed dingoes.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of children, even small teenagers.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Do not run. Running or jogging can trigger a negative dingo interaction.
  • Camp in fenced areas when possible.
  • Lock up food stores and iceboxes (even on a boat).
  • Never store food or food containers in tents.
  • Secure all rubbish, fish and bait.
  • Plan carefully to be dingo-safe on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • Report negative or close encounters with dingoes to the nearest ranger, or by phoning 07 4127 9150 or emailing dingo.ranger@npsr.qld.gov.au.

Other accommodation

  • There is a range of privately-run accommodation in the townships on the island.

Walking

Discover ever-changing landscapes, stunning scenery and fascinating natural and cultural values on one of K'gari's walks. Choose from short, easy walks for beginners through to extensive, multi-day hikes for experienced walkers.

Map of walking tracks

Be dingo-safe

  • NEVER feed dingoes.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of children, even small teenagers.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Do not run. Running or jogging can trigger a negative dingo interaction.
  • Camp in fenced areas when possible.
  • Lock up food stores and iceboxes (even on a boat).
  • Never store food or food containers in tents.
  • Secure all rubbish, fish and bait.
  • Plan carefully to be dingo-safe on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • Report negative or close encounters with dingoes to the nearest ranger, or by phoning 07 4127 9150 or emailing dingo.ranger@npsr.qld.gov.au.

Picnicking

Stop for a picnic beside a shimmering lake, at a shaded beachside spot or among the central high dunes. All of K'gari (Fraser Island)'s many day use areas have picnic tables and most have toilets.

  • Some day-use areas are surrounded by dingo-deterrent fences that have an electrified vehicle grid. Make sure that children are well supervised and that you use the pedestrian gates to access these areas. Ensure you store food in lockers, where provided, in your vehicle, or in strong, sealable containers with lockable lids.

Map of picnic tables/facilities

Be dingo-safe

  • NEVER feed dingoes.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of children, even small teenagers.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Do not run. Running or jogging can trigger a negative dingo interaction.
  • Camp in fenced areas when possible.
  • Lock up food stores and iceboxes (even on a boat).
  • Never store food or food containers in tents.
  • Secure all rubbish, fish and bait.
  • Plan carefully to be dingo-safe on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • Report negative or close encounters with dingoes to the nearest ranger, or by phoning 07 4127 9150 or emailing dingo.ranger@npsr.qld.gov.au.

Viewing wildlife

K'gari (Fraser Island) is alive with wildlife! Make sure you take your camera and binoculars whenever you venture out so you don't miss any viewing opportunities.

  • Read more about the wildlife in this park.
  • Be dingo-safe

    • NEVER feed dingoes.
    • Always stay within arm’s reach of children, even small teenagers.
    • Walk in groups.
    • Do not run. Running or jogging can trigger a negative dingo interaction.
    • Camp in fenced areas when possible.
    • Lock up food stores and iceboxes (even on a boat).
    • Never store food or food containers in tents.
    • Secure all rubbish, fish and bait.
    • Plan carefully to be dingo-safe on K'gari (Fraser Island).
    • Report negative or close encounters with dingoes to the nearest ranger, or by phoning 07 4127 9150 or emailing dingo.ranger@npsr.qld.gov.au.

Cultural and historic sites

The Butchulla Aboriginal people have a deep connection with K'gari that can be traced back thousands of years. The island also has a rich and diverse history, with wartime, forestry and maritime sites just waiting to be explored.

  • Read about the slowly deteriorating shipwreck of the Maheno on the Eastern beach scenic drive.
  • Learn about the maritime and wartime history of the area on the Sandy Cape Lighthouse walk including World War II bunkers and the heritage-registered lighthouse precinct.
  • The historic hub of the island, the Central Station day-use area, is at the site of the Forestry Department headquarters, established in 1920. Read about the history of the industry and the surrounding plantations.
  • See the World War II Z Force commando training area on the McKenzie's historical walk.
  • Connect with the Butchulla Aboriginal people at the Lake McKenzie day-use area and learn more about their connection with Boorangoora (Lake McKenzie), their beliefs and customs.
  • Pay your respects at the Clinton Gage memorial in the Waddy Point day-use area.
  • These sites are easily damaged and are irreplaceable. Look at them, enjoy them, but please do not touch or damage them.

  • Read more about the park's cultural history.

Be dingo-safe

  • NEVER feed dingoes.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of children, even small teenagers.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Do not run. Running or jogging can trigger a negative dingo interaction.
  • Camp in fenced areas when possible.
  • Lock up food stores and iceboxes (even on a boat).
  • Never store food or food containers in tents.
  • Secure all rubbish, fish and bait.
  • Plan carefully to be dingo-safe on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • Report negative or close encounters with dingoes to the nearest ranger, or by phoning 07 4127 9150 or emailing dingo.ranger@npsr.qld.gov.au.

Four-wheel driving and scenic driving

High-clearance 4WDs with low range capabilities can spend days exploring the island's scenic drives and sand tracks. Stop at secluded picnic areas, swim in hidden lakes and seek out the quieter parts of the island.

  • Check the K'gari (Fraser Island) conditions report for the latest information on access, closures and conditions within the recreation area.

  • Subscribe to the RSS feed to receive automated updates. (About RSS feeds).
  • Serious injuries and deaths from vehicle accidents have occurred on K'gari (Fraser Island). Reckless and risky driving, pranks and speed have all contributed to vehicle rollovers and crashes.
  • Read more about 4WDing with care in this park.

Map of four-wheel drives

Be dingo-safe

  • NEVER feed dingoes.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of children, even small teenagers.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Do not run. Running or jogging can trigger a negative dingo interaction.
  • Camp in fenced areas when possible.
  • Lock up food stores and iceboxes (even on a boat).
  • Never store food or food containers in tents.
  • Secure all rubbish, fish and bait.
  • Plan carefully to be dingo-safe on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • Report negative or close encounters with dingoes to the nearest ranger, or by phoning 07 4127 9150 or emailing dingo.ranger@npsr.qld.gov.au.

Trail-bike riding

Pack up your gear and explore the beaches and sandy tracks of K'gari (Fraser Island) from the back of a trail bike.

Canoeing and kayaking

Slip your canoe or kayak onto the clear water of one of K'gari (Fraser Island)'s famous lakes, or explore the coastline at Platypus and Marloo bays.

Swimming

Enjoy a cool dip in one of the creeks on the eastern beach or head inland to one of the clear blue lakes. There are no patrolled beaches, lakes or creeks on K'gari (Fraser Island) and we don't recommend swimming in unpatrolled waters. If you decide to swim, you enter the water at your own risk. The nearest patrolled beaches are on the mainland at Rainbow Beach Inskip Point and Hervey Bay.

  • Strong rips and sharks may be present in the ocean.
  • Do not dive or jump into the water, or run, roll or slide down the sand dune at Lake Wabby. Serious injuries have occurred here.
  • Stay away from the deeper waters of lakes as they are colder and may cause you to cramp.
  • Wanggoolba Creek has great cultural significance for the Butchulla Aboriginal people. To respect their culture and protect the fragile banks, swimming is not allowed. Lake Bowarrady, and Coomboo and Hidden lakes also have fragile banks and swimming is not encouraged.
  • At Champagne Pools, keep well away from and do not climb the sharp rocks surrounding the pools as you can be hit be waves.
  • Beware marine stingers.
  • There have been credible sightings of estuarine crocodiles in waters of the Great Sandy Straits.

  • Be croc-wise in croc country.
  • Read more about swimming with care in this park.

Be dingo-safe

  • NEVER feed dingoes.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of children, even small teenagers.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Do not run. Running or jogging can trigger a negative dingo interaction.
  • Camp in fenced areas when possible.
  • Lock up food stores and iceboxes (even on a boat).
  • Never store food or food containers in tents.
  • Secure all rubbish, fish and bait.
  • Plan carefully to be dingo-safe on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • Report negative or close encounters with dingoes to the nearest ranger, or by phoning 07 4127 9150 or emailing dingo.ranger@npsr.qld.gov.au.

Fishing

Drop in a line from the beach or boat and try your luck for whiting, dart, bream, tailor, flathead and other table species.

Be dingo-safe

  • NEVER feed dingoes.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of children, even small teenagers.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Do not run. Running or jogging can trigger a negative dingo interaction.
  • Camp in fenced areas when possible.
  • Lock up food stores and iceboxes (even on a boat).
  • Never store food or food containers in tents.
  • Secure all rubbish, fish and bait.
  • Plan carefully to be dingo-safe on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • Report negative or close encounters with dingoes to the nearest ranger, or by phoning 07 4127 9150 or emailing dingo.ranger@npsr.qld.gov.au.

Boating

Head out on the water to explore the waters surrounding K'gari (Fraser Island). Try your luck with a spot of fishing, or just explore the amazing western coastline and the Great Sandy Strait.

  • The waters adjacent to the island are in the Great Sandy Marine Park.
  • Launch your boat at one of the many boat ramps on the mainland between Tin Can Bay and Burnett Heads. There are no boat ramps on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • Read more about boating with care in this park.

Be dingo-safe

  • NEVER feed dingoes.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of children, even small teenagers.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Do not run. Running or jogging can trigger a negative dingo interaction.
  • Camp in fenced areas when possible.
  • Lock up food stores and iceboxes (even on a boat).
  • Never store food or food containers in tents.
  • Secure all rubbish, fish and bait.
  • Plan carefully to be dingo-safe on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • Report negative or close encounters with dingoes to the nearest ranger, or by phoning 07 4127 9150 or emailing dingo.ranger@npsr.qld.gov.au.

When to visit

Opening hours

K'gari (Fraser Island) Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park is open 24 hours a day.

Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

Seasonal closures

To protect nesting and hatching sea turtles, you can only drive north of Ngkala Rocks on the Eastern Beach scenic drive, between 6am and 6pm from 15 November to 30 March.

Climate and weather

K'gari (Fraser Island) has a subtropical climate with temperatures moderated by proximity to the sea. Average coastal temperatures range from 22°C to 28°C in December and 14°C to 21°C in July. Annual rainfall varies across the island, from 1200mm on the coast to 1800mm inland. The wettest months are January to March, with about 160mm rainfall per month. The drier months are winter and early spring. Moderate winds predominate from the south-east. Storms—occasionally quite severe—are common in spring and early summer.

Permits and fees

Vehicle access permits

  • A vehicle access permit must be purchased. Display the permit on your windscreen before driving in the recreation area.

Camping permits

  • To book a group camp site you need to apply for a special account by:
    • logging onto www.qld.gov.au/camping
    • selecting ‘Create account’
    • following instructions to create a group account
    • using this group account to book your group camp site.

Organised events

  • If you are planning a school excursion or organising a group event such as a wedding or large gathering, you may need an organised event permit. Maximum group sizes and other conditions apply depending on location and activity type.
  • To protect dingoes and participants, running events like fun runs and marathons are not allowed on K'gari (Fraser Island).

Pets

Domestic animals are not allowed here.

Staying in touch

Mobile phone coverage

Unreliable. Check with your service provider for more information.

Tourism information

Brochure

Download this brochure and take it with you:

Information provided in this guide is correct at the time of printing. Check park alerts for the latest details.

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Be prepared

  • Parks are natural environments and conditions can be unpredictable. You are responsible for your own safety and for looking after the park.
  • Serious injuries have occurred from climbing; running, sliding or tobogganing down; and digging into sand dunes and sand cliffs.
  • Wear protective clothing and insect repellent to protect yourself from bites and stings.
  • If you're travelling or staying in areas without reliable mobile service, consider bringing a personal locator beacon (PLB).
  • Some camping and day-use areas are surrounded by dingo-deterrent fences that have an electrified vehicle grid. Make sure that children are well supervised and that you use the pedestrian gates to access these areas. At all camping and day-use areas ensure you store food in lockers, where provided, in your vehicle, or in strong containers with lockable lids.

  • Check the K'gari (Fraser Island) conditions report for the latest information on access, closures and conditions within the recreation area.

  • Subscribe to the RSS feed to receive automated updates. (About RSS feeds).
  • Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.
  • Read stay safe and visit with care for important general information about safety, caring for parks and essentials to bring when you visit Queensland’s national parks.

  • Read safety during extreme weather for important information about what to do during floods, bushfires and cyclones.

Be dingo-safe

  • NEVER feed dingoes.
  • Always stay within arm’s reach of children, even small teenagers.
  • Walk in groups.
  • Do not run. Running or jogging can trigger a negative dingo interaction.
  • Camp in fenced areas when possible.
  • Lock up food stores and iceboxes (even on a boat).
  • Never store food or food containers in tents.
  • Secure all rubbish, fish and bait.
  • Plan carefully to be dingo-safe on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • Report negative or close encounters with dingoes to the nearest ranger, or by phoning 07 4127 9150 or emailing dingo.ranger@npsr.qld.gov.au.

Open fires

  • Open fires are not allowed at most locations and penalties apply. Bring a fuel stove for cooking and heating. The stove must be at least 20cm off the ground and use manufactured fuel (not timber). Fully enclosed stoves are not allowed. Take the stove and used fuel when you leave.
  • Open fires are permitted in the fire rings at Waddy Point day-use area, Dundubara camping area, Waddy Point top camping area and Waddy Point beachfront camping area. Bring your own clean, milled and untreated timber from outside the recreation area and do not throw rubbish and non-combustible items into your fire. Thoroughly extinguish your fire with water before you leave.
  • Read camp with care for tips on camping safely and camping softly.

Rubbish

  • There are bins at the Kingfisher Bay Resort, Eurong township, Middle Rocks bypass road (across from the junction with Waddy Point Road), Central Station camping area, and beach camping zones 2, 5 and 7.
  • There are no bins on the western side of the island.

  • If the bin is full, please use another. Never leave rubbish lying around the rubbish bins.
  • In all other locations you will need to take your rubbish with you when you leave.

Drinking water

Dump points

  • There are toilets at many camping and day-use areas. Where toilets aren't provided, use portable toilets or human toilet waste kits.
  • There are dump points for portable toilets and human toilet waste kits at Cornwells camping area in Beach camping zone 2, Wanggoolba Creek barge landing, Hook Point inland road, Dundubara camping area, Orchid Beach township, and the northern end of the Northern Forest scenic drive on the Eastern Beach.

  • Do not empty portable toilets or dispose of kits in camping area toilets.
  • If you aren't near a toilet, use a human waste disposal kit, or move well away from camp sites, walking tracks and creeks, and use a trowel to bury waste at least 15cm deep. Bag all personal hygiene products including disposable nappies and take them away for appropriate disposal in rubbish bins

Driving

  • High-clearance 4WDs with low range capabilities are needed to explore the island.
  • If you're travelling or staying in areas without reliable mobile service, consider bringing a personal locator beacon (PLB).
  • Remember all vehicles must be registered, drivers must be licensed and all Queensland road rules apply, even on beaches.
  • You need to be aware of the driving conditions and ensure your vehicle is in good mechanical condition.
  • Slower is safer and a safe driving speed may be lower than the signed speed limit. Speed limits on K'gari (Fraser Island) are generally:
    • 80km/hr on the eastern beach
    • 30km/hr on inland roads
    • 40km/hr in beach pedestrian areas (including the Maheno shipwreck site)
    • 50km/hr on Hook Point inland road
    • 10km/hr in shared-use areas.
  • The Central Lakes, Southern Lakes, Lake Garawongera and Northern Forests scenic drives are not suitable for trailers.
  • Drivers heading north of Ngkala Rocks on the Eastern beach scenic drive must travel in groups and have the necessary experience and recovery gear.
  • The Western Beach is also not suitable for trailers except for Woralie Creek beach camping area.
  • Serious injuries and deaths from vehicle accidents have occurred on K'gari (Fraser Island). Reckless and risky driving, pranks and speed have all contributed to vehicle rollovers and crashes.
  • If you're hiring a 4WD make sure you are familiar with the specific laws.
  • Do not drive on the beach 2hrs either side of high tide.
  • Beach conditions change daily. Deep washouts can form at any time, particularly after heavy rain and rough seas. Wave action can expose dangerous rocks, wash up debris and expose tree roots. Approach washouts, rocks and debris slowly, and use bypass roads if necessary. Avoid travelling at night as these hazards can be difficult to see.
  • Cross Eli, Wyuna and Coongul creeks 2hrs either side of low tide (under normal conditions). The creeks on the western beach should only be crossed on the low tide. If it's safe, walk beach creek crossings before you drive across. Never stop your vehicle midstream as your vehicle may sink or stall. Never attempt to cross Wathumba Creek or Moon Point estuaries.
  • To protect environmentally sensitive areas, you aren't allowed to drive on beaches between:
    • Towoi Creek and Sandy Cape lighthouse.
    • Moon Point and Hook Point.
    • Middle Rocks and Waddy Point.
  • Stay on the formed tracks and do not drive or park on the fragile foredunes. The dunes may be soft and unstable, collapsing under the weight of a vehicle.
  • Authorised aircraft have signposted landing zones on the eastern beach and you must heed the instructions of the air traffic controllers.
  • When driving on inland roads give way to buses, trucks and to vehicles travelling downhill or towing trailers. Make use of passing bays and try to drive forward (not reverse) into them.
  • Read 4WD with care for important information on 4WD safety and minimal impact driving.

Camping

  • Some camping areas are surrounded by dingo-deterrent fences that have an electrified vehicle grid. Make sure that children are well supervised and that you use the pedestrian gates to access these areas. Ensure you store food in lockers, where provided, in your vehicle, or in strong, sealable containers with lockable lids.
  • Families with children up to the age of 16 should camp inside dingo-deterrent fences. If you're outside dingo fences, never leave children alone in tents or camper trailers.
  • All camping structures within a single camp must be within 3m of each other.
  • Keep your camp small in shared camping areas.
  • You aren't allowed to reserve or rope off areas.
  • You can use generators at some camping areas between 9am and 9pm if less than 65dB(A) at 7m from the generator. In all other areas the use of generators is not allowed.
  • Tall blackbutts and scribbly gums readily drop branches in windy conditions. Never camp under these trees in windy weather. Beware of falling pine cones in rainforest areas.
  • Set up your camp away from the dune-stabilising plants.
  • Read camp with care for tips on camping safely and camping softly.

Walking

  • It is safer to walk during daylight hours. Beware of vehicles when walking on the beach.
  • At the Champagne Pools boardwalk, do not climb over the hand railings at the steps down to the beach and rock pools.
  • Do not dive or jump into the water, or run, roll or slide down the sand dune at Lake Wabby. Serious injuries have occurred here.
  • Tall blackbutts and scribbly gums readily drop branches in windy conditions. Never linger under these trees in windy weather. Beware of falling pine cones in rainforest areas.
  • If you are planning to walk the Fraser Island Great Walk, ensure you purchase a topographic map before setting out. Make sure you also have enough water and containers, a personal locator beacon (PLB), and correct gear in good working order.
  • Read walk with care for tips on walking safely and walking lightly.

Trail bike riding

  • The trail bike must be registered and the rider licensed.
  • Keep trail bikes on vehicle roads and tracks—they aren't allowed on walking tracks.
  • Read trail bike ride with care for tips on riding safely and riding with care.

Canoeing and kayaking

  • K'gari (Fraser Island)'s eastern coastline is extremely hazardous and exposed to very rough ocean conditions. The sheltered western coastline, Marloo Bay, and the lakes of the island are better for canoeing and kayaking.
  • Check the signs at the lake to make sure you can canoe and kayak.
  • Take care when launching your canoe/kayak at the lakes as there are no formal facilities.
  • Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.

Boating and fishing

  • The waters adjacent to the island are in the Great Sandy Marine Park.
  • If you're heading out on the water make sure you know your zones so you can follow the rules.
  • Launch your boat at one of the many boat ramps on the mainland between Tin Can Bay and Burnett Heads. There are no boat ramps on K'gari (Fraser Island).
  • You can only get to Wathumba camping area by boat during high tides.
  • The island's eastern coastline is extremely hazardous and exposed to very rough ocean conditions. The sheltered western coastline of the island is better for boating.
  • See Maritime Safety Queensland's Beacon to Beacon Guides for the Great Sandy Strait and Hervey Bay for detailed navigational maps.
  • Fisheries regulations apply. You can obtain information on bag and size limits, restricted species and seasonal closures from Fisheries Queensland.
  • You can't fish in freshwater lakes or streams on the island.
  • Wear high-visibility vests and use glow sticks when fishing at night.
  • Fish cleaning is prohibited in camping areas and on some sections of the beach—heed all signs. Where you are allowed to clean fish, ensure no dingoes are nearby and bury frames and offal in a 50cm deep hole, just below the high tide mark.
  • There have been credible sightings of estuarine crocodiles in waters of the Great Sandy Straits.

  • Be croc-wise in croc country.
  • Beware marine stingers.
  • Read boat and fish with care for tips on boating and fishing safety and caring for parks.

Around water

  • There are no patrolled beaches, lakes or creeks on K'gari (Fraser Island) and we don't recommend swimming in unpatrolled waters. If you decide to swim, you enter the water at your own risk. The nearest patrolled beaches are on the mainland at Rainbow Beach Inskip Point and Hervey Bay.
  • Strong rips and sharks may be present in the ocean.

  • Do not dive or jump into the water, or run, roll or slide down the sand dune at Lake Wabby. Serious injuries have occurred here.
  • Stay away from the deeper waters of lakes as they are colder and may cause you to cramp.
  • Wanggoolba Creek has great cultural significance for the Butchulla Aboriginal people. To respect their culture and protect the fragile banks, swimming is not allowed. Lake Bowarrady, and Coomboo and Hidden lakes also have fragile banks and swimming is not encouraged.
  • At Champagne Pools, keep well away from and do not climb the sharp rocks surrounding the pools as you can be hit be waves.
  • Beware marine stingers.
  • There have been credible sightings of estuarine crocodiles in waters of the Great Sandy Straits.

  • Be croc-wise in croc country.
  • Read water safety for important information about staying safe in and near water and caring for parks.

Restricted access

Indian Head restricted access area

Maheno shipwreck regulatory notice

Lake McKenzie food and drink restrictions regulatory notice

  • Taking, preparing and consuming food and drinks, except water, is prohibited in the car park and on the lake shore.
  • To be dingo-safe, food and drinks must only be prepared and consumed in the fenced picnic areas.
  • Penalties apply.

Natural environment

Building the sandmass—wind, waves and changing sea levels

Over the past two million years, ocean currents and waves have swept sand north from the continental shelf of New South Wales and Southern Queensland. This sand accumulates and covers the bedrock to form dunes parallel to the coast, leaving only peaks uncovered—today's headlands.

Strong onshore winds blow some loose sand inland into high parabolic (hairpin-shaped) dunes, which spread to engulf everything in their paths and form a sequence of overlapping dunes.

K'gari (Fraser Island) and Cooloola are remnants of old sandmasses that once stretched 30km east. Major dune-building has continued in episodes as sea levels rose and fell, forming a sequence of at least eight overlapping dune systems of different ages. Some are more than 700,000 years old—the world's oldest recorded sequence. These processes continue shaping the sandmasses.

Sandblows

Sandblows form when strong onshore winds break through the vegetation cover, driving sand from the eroding dunes. Sandblows engulf forests in their path, at a rate of up to 1m each year. New sandblows can also form when the stabilising plant cover is damaged by fire and wind, walkers or vehicles.

Coffee rock

Scattered along the beaches are outcrops of soft, dark-brown 'coffee rock', made up of sand grains weakly cemented together by organic matter (plant remains). Coffee rock is a remnant of a time when the sandmass stretched further to sea—and the currently exposed coffee rock was further inland and a part of the sandmass soil layers.

Coloured sands

Underlying parts of the windblown sandmasses of K'gari (Fraser Island) and Cooloola are coloured sands—the visible parts of older sand that has bound with clay into a weakly-consolidated mass. These yellow, brown and red colours were created as iron-rich minerals stained the sand a complex array of tones and hues over thousands of years. Spectacular sculptures emerge where wind and rain erode the sandmass, exposing this soft, older core. The Pinnacles and Red Canyon are striking examples.

Lakes in porous sands

Amazingly, each of the freshwater dune lakes in the Great Sandy National Park is unique in shape and colour. More than 40 dune lakes occur here—over half of the known world total. Lake Boomanjin is the world's largest perched lake at 200ha, and the Boomerang Lakes are some of the world's highest at 120m above sea level.

Perched lakes, such as Birrabeen and Lake McKenzie, are the most common type of lake in Great Sandy National Park. These lakes develop when a saucer-shaped 'hard pan' of organic debris, sand and peat forms in a depression between dunes. This enables run-off and rainwater to collect and slowly filter to the water table below.

Barrage lakes form when a mobile sand dune dams a watercourse, usually in younger dunes close to the coast.

Window lakes, generally found at low elevations, form where the ground surface drops below the watertable level and fills with groundwater. Some window lakes are barraged by sand dunes.

All the freshwater lakes are low in nutrients and support few plants and animals. Most lakes have only two or three fish species.

Eli and Wanggoolba creeks are noted for their flow of crystal-clear water—mainly localised outflows of groundwater from the sandmass. They contrast with the golden-brown, tannin-stained creeks and seepages that flow into Lake Booomanjin.

Forests on bare sand

Most plants growing on sand draw mineral nourishment from two unlikely sources. They strip the fine mineral coating from grains of beach sand, turning the yellowish grains white, and they also absorb small amounts of atmospheric trace minerals, washed into the sand by rain.

Decaying plants return these minerals to the sand. Over time, minerals are concentrated in the sandmass, providing nutrients to support a succession of forest types, from coastal pioneers and shrubby woodlands, to tall rainforests.

As each successive dune forms, a thicker, deeper nutrient layer develops, able to support taller, more complex forest.

On Great Sandy's older dunes, the nutrient layer has been leached by water beyond the reach of even deep tree roots. The tall forests are replaced by stunted woodlands, shrubs and low heaths. This phenomenon—'retrogressive succession'—is of international scientific interest.

Older dunes generally lie to the west on K'gari (Fraser Island), overlaid partly by progressively younger dunes to the east.

Beaches—home in shifting sand

Life is abundant—pipis (shellfish) and moon snails live in the shifting intertidal sand, sand-bubbler crab colonies leave patterns of tiny sand balls, and ghost crabs scuttle across the sand at night.

Watch out for bluebottles with long blue stingers, sometimes washed ashore following strong winds. Flotsam, such as jellyfish, is food for scavenging crabs and birds, adding nutrients to the sand.

Pioneers and coastal forest—holding dunes together

Holding the coastal foredunes together are salt-tolerant pioneer plants such as: pigface, with fleshy angular leaves and purple flowers; goatsfoot vine, with purple trumpet flowers; and beach spinifex, that creeps over the dunes and traps sand swept from the beach by the wind.

Pioneer plant species begin nutrient and soil development. Their roots host bacteria that convert airborne nitrogen into nitrates, which enrich the soil. Small, hardy trees, such as beach casuarina, coastal banksia and pandanus, are a more permanent stabilising force on the foredunes. They protect the wattles, hopbush, tuckeroo and stunted eucalyptus trees from harsh, salt-laden winds.

Abundant banksia flowers provide plentiful food for the insects and nectar-feeding birds in these coastal forests.

Mixed forest

Protected from the harshest salt-laden winds, and growing where richer sand begins to develop, trees in the mixed forests and woodlands are larger than those of the coastal forests, although more stunted than the same species in the tall eucalypt forests.

Fires clear the understorey of foxtail sedge, bracken, blady grass, and fallen leaves and twigs, and provide an ashbed for new seedling growth. Over time, trees develop hollows that shelter nesting birds and nocturnal gliding possums. Ant nests are conspicuous on the forest floor, and more than 300 species of ants have been recorded in the Great Sandy.

Tall eucalypts

Protecting the forest core are tall eucalypt trees, including smooth-barked forest red gums and scribbly gums. These tall trees contrast with tessellated barked bloodwoods, string-barked satinays, and blackbutts, with their rough-barked bases and smooth, light upper limbs.

Tall eucalypt forest grows on the ridges on the high middle dunes in the centre of the sandmass. It surrounds the central forest core, protecting the rainforest from the drying winds and salt.

After fire, eucalypts of the tall forest regenerate from seeds released into the ash bed. The burnt trees also sprout new leaves from special buds protected under thick bark, and from lignotubers—woody tissue attached to the root system—below the ground.

Blackbutt trees were the mainstay of the timber industry on K'gari (Fraser Island). Visitors can see remnant stumps of former giants and large, shield-shaped scars near the base of some trees, where Indigenous people removed the bark for their gunyahs (shelters).

Rainforests

The slopes and valleys of the middle, high dunes have the best protection from winds, receive the highest rainfall, and have the deepest accessible soils. They are dominated by huge brush box, with bark 'stockings' on their lower trunks and smooth red limbs, and the tall, straight-trunked, stringy-barked satinay, whose long roots reach rich nutrients buried deep in the dunes.

In other areas, lichen-covered trunks of giant kauri and hoop pine emerge above lilly-pilly, quandong, brush box, and strangler figs, draped in vines, orchids, ferns and mosses. Walk slowly to see colourful fungi sprouting on rotting trees, their fine threads slowly decomposing the wood.

These rainforests are known as vine forests. Along their drier margins, the low vine forests of small-leafed grey myrtle (carrol scrubs) can be seen on walks from Central Station.

Hollows in older trees offer nesting sites for mammals and for birds including king parrots, yellow-tailed black cockatoos and sulphur-crested cockatoos, often heard screeching from treetops. Brushtail possums are active at night, as are sugar gliders and flying-foxes.

Woodlands

Wallum communities dominate the older western dune systems, where the main nutrient layer has leached down beyond the reach of tree roots. Only shrubs and smaller trees can grow on this relatively infertile upper sand layer. In seasonally waterlogged areas, paperbark and wet heathlands grow in dense stands.

Scribbly gum, pink bloodwood, wallum banksia (with serrated leaves) and black casuarinas (with needle-like leaf stems) grow as low trees above the heathy understorey.

Look closely at the hard wallum banksia seed cases, which will only open after the heat and smoke of fire, releasing seeds that take advantage of the lack of competition after a fire. Most of Great Sandy's plant communities respond to the frequency, season and intensity of fires.

Heaths and swamps

Swampy, treeless, grassy plains, fringed by paperbarks, colourful heath and swamp banksias, feed tea-coloured water to creeks and lakes. These are wallum heathlands.

Frequent fire maintains grassy heathlands by inhibiting tree growth. This preserves habitat and food for fairy wrens and ground-dwelling birds such as quails and ground parrots. Heaths and swamps are home to 'acid' frogs, which are able to tolerate the mildly acidic waters, the harmless freshwater snake, and several crustaceans.

Mangroves—forests on intertidal mudflats

Swarms of biting insects and the occasional waft of decomposition mean mangroves are not always pleasant places to visit. But the shelter of their roots and the deep layers of decomposing leaf litter make mangroves ideal nurseries and feeding grounds for much marine life in Great Sandy. Mangroves are also important in the food webs of nearby heathlands. Great Sandy's mudflats and sandflats are major feeding grounds for migratory shorebirds such as bar-tailed godwits on their flights from the northern to southern hemispheres.

Request a species list to see what plants and animals have been recorded here.

Culture and history

People of Great Sandy—first inhabitants

Archaeological evidence suggests Aboriginal people have lived in the Great Sandy area for at least 5000 years, but they may have been here far longer. Butchulla people inhabited K'gari (Fraser Island) and the adjacent mainland, living a complex, self-sufficient way of life intimately connected with the seasons, land, and life on it. The abundance of marine life along the coast provided the Butchulla with many foods, including fish and shellfish. Food also came from the forests, along with bark for canoes and shelters, vines for nets, and grasses and piccabeen palm fronds for baskets.

Today, K'gari contains heritage sites of spiritual, social and archaeological significance. Middens, artefact scatters, scarred trees and camp sites bear witness to the lifestyle of the Butchulla people.

Aboriginal life was disrupted soon after European settlement in the 1840s. Dispossession of land and reduced access to native plants and animals caused disruption to beliefs and practices, and disease, alcohol and opium destroyed the traditional way of life. Clearing of land for pasture and the advent of timber harvesting in the 1860s hastened the demise of local lifestyles. By the late 1800s, most remaining Aboriginal people from the region were relocated to a mission settlement on K'gari. A succession of missions followed until the final K'gari mission was disbanded in 1904, when most Aboriginal inhabitants were sent to other Queensland missions, including Yarrabah near Cairns. Today descendants live in the area and are striving to share their knowledge of a once widespread way of life.

Changing European uses

The first written record of the region is from Cook's discovery voyage of Australia's east coast in 1770. However, references to the area in old Portuguese navigation charts, and lead weights mined in France between 1410 and 1627AD, found on one of K'gari (Fraser Island)'s beaches, suggest Europeans may have visited the region well before Cook.

Early impressions of the region were not positive. Matthew Flinders, the first English explorer to set foot on Fraser Island in 1802, noted:

Nothing can be imagined more barren than this peninsula.

That perception changed in 1842, when pioneer Andrew Petrie reported good pastoral lands and excellent forests in the area. This attracted settlers, who grazed horses, sheep and cattle.

Logging of valuable kauri pines began on the Island in 1863. After the Gympie gold rush of 1867, demand for timber boomed and logging expanded to become the region's major industry for more than a century.

Small-scale mining for heavy minerals, mainly rutile and zircon, began with mining leases granted on K'gari (Fraser Island) in 1949. Sandmining exploration increased in the 1960s, attracting opposition from conservation-minded individuals and community groups. Their efforts eventually ended sandmining in Great Sandy in 1976, while logging stopped in late 1991. National parks were declared in the northern part of Fraser Island in 1971 with more additions in later years. The island was subsequently listed as a world heritage area in 1992.

Residents have used the area for recreation since the 1870s and tourism slowly grew. The first commercial tours and accommodation on K'gari (Fraser Island) started until the 1930s. The controversies surrounding sandmining in the 1970s and cessation of logging in the early 1990s dramatically increased visitor interest. The world heritage listing of Fraser Island increased international visitation.

The challenge for today's management is to balance the conservation of the region's natural and cultural assets with increasing opportunities for people to enjoy the magnificent values of the Fraser Island World Heritage Area.

Last updated: 07 September 2017
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