So, we left Noosa and headed for Hervey Bay (the gateway to Fraser Island). Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world and full of beautiful lakes, beaches, rainforests and wildlife. Through our Oz experience ticket, we had a pre-night of accommodation so caught the 6.45pm ferry, which meant we had some time to kill at the bus station – nothing a wander and a fro-yo can’t fix. Believe it or not, Australia gets pretty cold at night, so I was wrapped up in my blanket on the ferry. When we got to the resort, we thought we were in heaven! There were several pools and everything looked pretty flashy. On check in, we soon realised that our accommodation wasn’t the beachfront 5* studios, but dorm rooms located in lodges which were a 15 minute walk away (all up hill!) – they obviously want to keep the rabble out 😂. We had already introduced ourselves to our new roomies, Anna and Pete, (who we happen to still be travelling with now) and headed to dinner. Dinner, and the rest of the food over the following three days, was really great and tasted even better as it had already been paid for. The first evening was chilled apart from our new roomie with a peanut allergy accidentally eating chicken satay – luckily he avoided being airlifted to hospital and all was fine.
The next morning our tour started at 9.30am, where we met our guide Jarrad and the rest of our group. I think there were around 40 of us in total. Getting around the island involves driving on various terrains (including the beach which is treated as a highway) so our coach looked a bit different to normal coaches – apparently built specifically for the island.
Our first stop was a large freshwater lake called Lake McKenzie. The water was so clear and nobody wanted to get out. We then went on a couple of bush walks to try and spot some wildlife- we didn’t have much luck. Time flies when you are having fun, so we were surprised when it was already dinner time and that day 1 was already over!! Jack and I had bonded with the rest of the people in our lodge during the day, so we had a solid group of 9 when it came to evening activities. After stocking up in the most expensive bottle shop ever, we played beer pong and the funniest game of ring of fire with our new bezzies.
Day 2 was more beachy, although you can’t actually swim in the sea due to sharks and jelly fish. We visited a couple more sights in the morning, including a ship wreck and coloured sands, and then hiked up to a viewpoint. I love a viewpoint, and this one was no exception. Miles and miles of uninterrupted sand is just magical – would’ve been slightly better without the clouds though! We spotted some Dingoes on the beach during our drive, which apparently is very rare, so everyone was pleased. In the “arvo” we went to the Champagne pools which are rock pools separated from the sea. They get their name as bubbles emerge when the waves break over the rocks and fill the pools. The sea was pretty choppy so we couldn’t chill in the water for long – long enough to get some good GoPro vids 😉. We then went to Eli Creek which is basically a natural lazy river. Armed with inflatables, we all took turns riding the current (or just floating as the lads were doing) and chilling out which was a great way to end day 2’s tour. Jarrad dropped us at the beach to watch the sunset (one of the prettiest yet) which had the addition of another couple of dingoes 😍. That evening was more chilled as we were saving ourselves for day 3 which was rumoured to contain a number of highlights.
Day 3 commenced with a hearty breakfast and a short drive to Lake Birrabean (another freshwater lake). The lake wasn’t quite as pretty as Lake McKenzie but we practically had the whole lake to ourselves and the sun was shining. I pushed my way to the front when it was time to set up the stand up paddle boards and pumped a whole one up myself 😁- who knew you could get compact SUP boards! I had been pestering Jack the whole time about SUP boarding so was sooooo excited to have a go. It’s actually harder than it looks, but I picked it up pretty quickly, which was good as I was the first in the group to have a go (and didn’t embarrass myself). I did manage to cause a crash though – sorry Anna!
After spending a few hours boarding, playing photographer and watching the others play volleyball, it was time to move on and head to Lake Wabby – a lake which is hidden at the bottom of a sand dune. The emerald water was so tempting after the 45 minute trek in the 30 degree heat to get there. We were also told to wear “proper” shoes as the hand gets hot, but Jack decided flip flops were appropriate and found out exactly how hot the sand was the hard way 😂. The water was cold, but not as cold as we needed, but the addition of the resident “cleaning” fish which nibbled at our dead skin – like in the spas – meant the lake was a winner. We were sad to say goodbye to our tour group after Lake Wabby but the amazing memories (and photos) will stay with us forever.
After the tour ended, we spent a very unexciting evening in Hervey Bay – although we did have fish and chips by the sea and a private room which was lush – we then made our way to Airlie Beach on the greyhound the following evening.
Airlie beach was quite the contrast to Hervey Bay, with a man made lagoon (again as you can’t swim in the sea due to jellyfish) and lots of shops/ bars. We met up again with Anna and Pete to prepare for our trip the next day to the Whitsunday’s and then went for Mexican food on the main strip followed by a pint in the famous Magnums Hotel (a favourite with backpackers). After a good nights sleep, we were excited for our trip to the Whitsunday’s which involved spending 2 days/2 nights on a sailing boat and exploring the islands. We got to the marina and checked in at 2pm with our one soft bag of luggage (the rest had to be left in storage) which I way overpacked and ended up wearing the same thing the whole time. It’s fine as no one showered anyway in fear of running out of water – it also didn’t look very nice! We were told that the boats get boozy so stocked up on goon (boxed wine) on the way. Everyone says how disgusting goon is, but I actually liked it. When it comes to wine, I’m really not fussy. We also made the mistake of telling a random guy what trip we were on and ended up being lumbered with him for the majority of the time – I’m not even sure how he made it on the boat as I’m sure it was meant for 18-35 year olds and he was almost 50!
Our first afternoon on the boat was spent sailing, as in proper sailing with sails not motors. The crew also encouraged people to get involved (probably because they physically couldn’t do it by themselves) which added to the experience. We dropped anchor around 5pm and watched the sunset from the boat. Some people had a swim, but it involved too much effort for me as we had to wear stinger suits (which I have now learnt to love) and it was getting chilly with the sea breeze. As on Fraser Island, the food was really good. We had chicken, mash and veg for the first night, although Jack wasn’t impressed with potato skin in his mash 😂. That night was pretty mellow, we had a few drinks and went to bed. The sleeping situation was my idea of a nightmare. The bunks were tiny and really didn’t help my claustrophobia – I ended up sleeping on the padded bench which was just about the width of my shoulders.
The next morning everyone was up at 5.30am (breakfast at 6am) as it seems that boats do not have curtains. We then sailed to Whitehaven beach which is one of the most famous things on the east coast – from a backpackers perspective anyway. The beach had the whitest sand that I’ve ever seen. We swam with stingrays (in our stinger suits) and watched out for sharks (not man eating ones) but sadly didn’t spot any. After spending a bit of time by the beach, we wandered up to the lookout point. The view was spectacular. You can see why everyone loves it there.
In the afternoon we went snorkelling near a pretty little cove. The amount of fish was ridiculous, everything from small pretty nemos to fish half the size of me. I’m so happy I bought a GoPro for the trip! My first mask nearly drowned me, but after switching it for a non cracked one I loved every minute.
We watched the sunset from the boat again that evening (was better than the night before) and had steak for dinner. I also got involved with a few drinking games and drank more goon than I wanted, but it was such a laugh. My drunk self was stubborn and slept on the deck by myself, but it was the best decision I made on that boat. The stars were amazing and there is something about waking up as the sun is also waking up. Jack and Anna joined me a couple of hours after I went to sleep so it was nice to not wake up alone.
Day 3 started early again, luckily without a hangover (that set in around lunchtime), with the activity I was most looking forward too – swimming with turtles!! We spotted so many and swam after them as they left the sea bed and came up for air. I was expecting turtles the size of a side plate, but some of them were more like the size of two serving platters stuck together. They are such amazing creatures!! The visibility wasn’t amazing so my pics aren’t the best, but the memories will always be there.
We left the boat at 11am and chilled by the lagoon that afternoon whilst we were waiting for our greyhound up to Magnetic Island. Again, we had an amazing time, but in future I’m only going to sleep on yachts *snob*. Anna and Pete had an extra night in Airlie beach so we said bye to them and arranged to meet up the following day.
Magnetic Island next! Love as always xx