Fraser Island by 4WD

When I was in my 20s, I was lucky enough to visit Fraser Island. For those of you that don’t know about Fraser, it’s a World Heritage area and is the earth’s largest sand island. Interestingly, its Indigenous names – K’gari or Gari – which means ‘beautiful place’ have recently been ‘made official’ by the Government.

Sunrise across the sea

During that late spring trip (in my 20s), I spent 3 days on a 4WD bus tour with 15 other travellers. It was a beautiful and busy adventure with dingo and brumby encounters, sizzling sand dune hikes and cooling fresh water swims. Lake Wabby was a curious highlight as there were little fish that nibbled on your skin.

This time around, we decided to hire our own 4WD and tour the island. It was a completely different experience. We used Hervey Bay as our base and organised to pick up the car on the island. Catching the earliest ferry over to Fraser was fascinating as many of the island’s workers were doing the crossing too.

The beauty of leaving so early in the morning and going to Fraser in the winter months is LESS PEOPLE. It was so quiet and peaceful – like the whole island was just waking up itself. We bounced up and down over hills and gullies as the sun rose higher than those towering eucalypts.

Eucalytus trees

Fraser Island isn’t just beaches and lakes. There is a diverse array of flora that grows here. Above is the Eucalyptus haemastoma, known as the scribbly gum, it’s an Australian eucalyptus that looks like it has scribbles written all over it.

There’s a lot to explore on Fraser. Once we got to Seventy-mile beach – yes a beach highway – we drove as far as permitted, all the way to Champagne Springs. Just around the corner is Indian Head, where the views are breathtaking.

Fraser Island coastline

You can’t miss the Maheno Shipwreck – literally – it’s right on the (sand) highway.  The Maheno ocean liner is Fraser Island’s most photographed long term resident. What is left is a shell of its former engineering mastery, its opulence and its saving grace as a WWI hospital rescue ship.

Taj searched for ghosts that are said to haunt the Maheno, but he found none. He was caught up in the former majesty of the ship, and its history. It’s my second visit (after 17 years) and my feelings remain the same – who wouldn’t want to run aground and rest in this piece of paradise.

The Maheno on Fraser Island

We gazed up the coloured sands of The Pinnacles and followed the crystal clear waters of Eli Creek which weaves its way down to the ocean. I didn’t brave the cold waters of Lake McKenzie this time around but instead watched the rippling waters that were a deeper blue than the sky above.

We had to pull over as a plane came in to land on the beach, saw very experienced drivers get bogged and marvelled at how a sand island can sustain such life. But it does and it’s extraordinary.

Lake McKenzie on Fraser Island, Australia

I still loved the trip in my 20s but this one was so special because it was just the 3 of us and we didn’t have to follow an itinerary. If you do one day find yourself stranded on a desert island, this ‘beautiful place’ is where you’d want to be.

 

Yamba and Wooloweya

So we came to be at a place that offered an embracing calm. Wooloweya, just a 5 minute drive out of Yamba (Northern NSW), is a watery land full of lush national park forests, glistening inland lakes and pounding ocean surf.

View from the Yamba Hotel

Is it any wonder our friends chose to live here? What a reprieve from the camping life! We were welcomed with open arms and hearts into their home. After the bright lights and big city festivities of Sydney’s Vivid, Wooloweyah’s chilled energy was just beautiful.

Inland lakes at Wooloweyah National Park

It also just so happened that it was Cam’s 40th birthday the following day so celebrations were on the agenda. Think seafood feasts, beach jaunts, laughing children (and adults) and drinks at the Pacific Hotel which takes in beautiful coastal vistas – and a world renown surf break which has seen the likes of many local and international surfing heroes. It is also home to the Yamba Surf Life Saving Club, the second oldest in Australia (founded in 1908).

There is a more sobering story to this place and its people (like many areas in Australia). The Yaegl and Gumbaingirr people who come from this land are said to be some of the last to be ‘discovered’ by the white man. I’m certainly not the authority on all of the details, as I haven’t had a chance to do much research being on the road and all, but I think it’s a story that is worth sharing. If you want to learn more please go to the NSW government website.

Sparkling waters of Wooloweyah's inland lake systems

After we’d experienced just a taste of beautiful Wooloweya, the road was ready to meet us. So we packed up and returned to the highway that goes on and on, and to those dreams of adventure – until the moment we chose to stop again and take it all in – all of it. That’s when we are really travelling.

Sydney salutations

It’s been just over a week since we escaped Melbourne’s winter. Our east coast odyssey began with a stop over in Gundagai. The following afternoon we arrived in sunny Sydney. Luckily we had just missed days of unusually heavy rain.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House during sunset

 

We set up our camper trailer at the Sydney Lakeside Holiday Park for 4 nights. What a beautiful spot. I love the northern beaches and the caravan park is also located on the banks of the Narebeen lakes.

Being in Sydney for the Vivid celebrations was a massive bonus. I can’t begin to describe the creative atmosphere. There were so many installations to immerse yourself in but just not enough time to see it all. We bought opal public transport tickets and caught ferries everywhere. Basically we had to travel from Manly to Circular Quay every day, but it was never a drag. The night ferry home, watching Sydney lit up by Vivid, was so exciting.

 

Taronga zoo during Vivid with Sydney lit up over the harbour

Having an 8 year old with us often dictated the activities we experienced. Taj loved the Sealife Aquarium and the Taronga Zoo. Cam (the big kid) had his heart set on the National Maritime museum, which I actually really enjoyed. If you get there, make sure you walk up the lighthouse. The view is breathtaking.

Giraffe at Sydney's Taronga zoo with the city skyscrapers in the distance

 

On the first day out we really pounded the pavement. We visited the Opera House and walked from Circular Quay through the Rocks and over to Darling Harbour. We finished off a delicious seafood meal at Cockle Bay just as the lights of Vivid commenced. Taj and I watched it all come alive, above the water, in the Ferris wheel.

 

The carousel lit up during Vivid Sydney

On day 2, we meandered through Sydney’s busy streets as office workers dodged and weaved. For once that wasn’t me rushing around on my lunch break in Melbourne! We drank in the view from The Eye tower and stayed until the lights twinkled all around.

Our final day was spent at Taronga zoo where we stayed for the Lights for the Wild attraction which was so mesmerising.

Our time in Sydney was certainly jam packed, was full of new experiences, belly laughs and family adventures. With everything packed up (finally) it was time for our next stop – Yamba, well Wooloweyah to be exact.

Huge shark at Vivid Sydney at Taronga Zoo

So, we’re hitting the road

In early June, we are hitting the road. We’re taking our 8 year old son out of school and taking leave from work for 2 whole months! This is something we always said we would do but as the years flew by with a quickening intensity and an impending holiday to the Whitsundays drew closer, we decided to take the leap.

Ocean sunset at Wilsons Prom National Park

I travelled the Australian east coast in my 20s, after my first trip to Europe. I stayed in backpacker digs and used the bus as my main mode of transportation. This time we will have our much loved, old school Jayco pop-top caravan as our home base with family caravan parks on the agenda.

Young boy jumping for joy at Sorrento back beach

So, freedom from the routine of work, school and home life. The travelling life. To quote the venerable master of imaginative adventures – Dr Seuss – Oh the places we’ll go!