Fraser Island: worthy of Australia’s must-do checklist?
Updated: Jul 24, 2020
My summer backpacking in Australia was the result of spending my first year of university waiting tables around Birmingham so that I could afford to see, well, everything I MUST see on my first solo adventure abroad in Australia. Australia, it turns out, is not the cheapest place to travel in the world. Especially when it comes to group tours. Uluru, Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef? Totally worth it. The Whitsundays and Fraser Island? I'm not so sure.
When planning my trip to Australia in summer of 2010, I was excited. In fact, excited is an understatement. I had travelled with a boyfriend (now ex... ahem) to Thailand the summer before university, but this was the first trip I had organised myself. My first big student backpacking trip! The only advice I took the time to absorb was the advice of my STA travel agent. Somewhat naively, I booked on to everything she recommended as a ‘must-see’ of Australia – specifically down the East Coast. To name but a few, there was snorkelling and/or diving the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns, white water rafting, sailing the famously dreamy Whitsunday Islands and a weekend of beach camping on Fraser Island.
Expectation vs Reality
Embarking on a two-month backpacking experience with my university housemate, both of our expectations were high. And, to be perfectly honest, our financial anxiety was high. A lot of the activities that make Australia's top 10 travel lists are expensive and, as I found out with Fraser Island, unfortunately absolutely overrated. It's beautiful - absolutely. But after paying hundreds of dollars for a 3 day, 2-night camping organised tour, my bruised bank account and I definitely expected... more.
Debauchery and dodgy driving
We met our large group of 18 - 30-somethings and were given a briefing. We were provided with a big 4×4, one tank of fuel, a big hamper of food supplies (which wasn’t too fantastically catered to a vegetarian diet – but hey, I was in Australia. I had learned by this point to be happy with being remembered as a vegetarian in Australia at all), and a tent. A tent which my friend and I had to share with a very strange Canadian man. I SHIT YOU NOT. We had to share with a stranger. It was a 3-person tent. We were two 20-year old girls and one 30+-year-old man.
We had to accept it. It was accept or don't go on the trip. So we went on the trip. Once we arrived on Fraser Island, two strangers took control of the 4x4 and panicked about driving it the entire way. We got stick in the forest. We got stuck on the beach. I was scared and intimidated at least 80% of the time - I did not want to crash and have to pay for the damn thing, but all of these hardcore backpackers were so much older and cooler than us! AGH! My life or my ego?
Australia: land of Brits abroad
Upon arrival at our spot, the trip quickly turned away from reckless driving and devolved into a massive BBQ and party. I mean, literally that's all it was. A bunch of European people hanging out and drinking way too much shit alcohol and hooking up. Luckily for my travel companion, after a few glasses of goon, the Australian backpacker's beverage of choice, the strange Canadian man that we were forced to share a tent with didn't seem too strange after all. In fact, he looked kinda cute. Unluckily for me, WE WERE STILL SHARING A TENT.
The next day we explored the island. Everyone was hungover and it was... awkward being in this big group. But the sights were amazing, the marine life was incredible and if I was there solo... or just in a smaller group, I would have had a much better time.
As I said, the island itself is beautiful. It really is an amazing place to visit if you want to see some of Australia's backpacking highlights. And if you're looking to party and have a great time making out on a deserted island in Australia, this is your trip. But if I was going to do it again, I would make sure I could afford to rent a 4x4 with a group of people I actually want to hang out with and make it an intimate trip instead of just a typical European backpacker party... Ha. Critical of group touring much?