I’ll admit, I’m not the best when it comes to organized tours. My attention span doesn’t allow for them and somehow, someway I inevitably end up lost. Like that time in Prague when I thought I had enough time to quickly purchase those shiny blue crystal champagne glasses in the shop window – only to find that my tour group had gone MIA by the time I resurfaced onto the cobblestone alleyway. I still have never made it to the Sedlec Ossuary or Prague Castle (however I did manage to find the coolest hidden beer garden ever).
So when visiting my friend Tricia in Australia earlier this year, I jumped on the choice of renting a jeep on Fraser Island over taking tours from the resort. Besides, we had already survived one harrowing escape from some butcher birds on the way from Hervey Bay the day before so why end the swashbuckling (so excited I finally got to use this word in a post) adventure there?
10 Reasons to Rent a Jeep on Fraser Island
1. The renting process is pretty much hassle free.
We stayed at the Kingfisher Bay Resort and their friendly concierge set everything up for us the day before which worked out perfectly as I tend to be governed by flighty whims which makes planning ahead nearly impossible. All we had to do was show up around the corner at Aussie Trax at 8 in the morning, watch a safety video straight out of the 80’s and follow these carefully crafted rules…
2. They provide you with a highly sophisticated map marking the most interesting areas and routes.
After a quick lesson on which gears to use in specific terrains, we were slipped this map and told ‘good luck’. It didn’t take us long to figure out that ‘X’ in fact did NOT mark the spot but rather crossed off a forbidden land in which vehicles were unwelcome (talk about your mixed signals).
3. The entrance to the interior roads look like something out of Jurassic Park which kicks your adventurous spirit into full gear.
With our not-so-trusted map in our laps, we set off down the perfectly paved gravel road to the gate separating us from the unknown – which turned out to be a bunch of one-way bumpy sand paths surrounded by rain forests, sand dunes, lakes, and the occasional confusing markers attempting to point us in some sort of ‘right’ direction.
Our little Suzuki Jiminey (yes of course we named our jeep) bounced and jerked along, all the while being battered by a barrage of branches, leaves, and oncoming traffic. Every few kilometers, there’d be something slightly resembling a ‘shoulder’ where we could pull over to narrowly avoid a head-on-collision.
I sent up a silent prayer of thanks for my terrible driving skills which got me roped into being the navigator instead of the one behind the wheel (though my map skills were also severely lacking which later almost caused us to have a nighttime sleepover inside Suzuki Jiminey).
4. After winding through one of the only places in the world where rainforests grow in sand, you arrive at the clear and vivid blue waters of Lake McKenzie.
Ok so yes, you can also get to Lake McKenzie via a tour bus. But what’s the point of being relegated to a strict timetable in paradise with a busload of other people? Tricia and I were able to miss the tour groups and relax with only a smattering of other Australian families on holiday.
5. There’s no one around except you and the open road on Seventy-Five Mile Beach.
After a morning spent lounging by the lake, we once again braved the interior roads to try and find a way out to Seventy-Five Mile Beach (which by the use of deductive reasoning I’m sure you’ve figured out is a 75 mile stretch of beach).
This is when the full force of freedom really hit home. There was no one around. Just us, Suzuki Jiminey, and miles and miles of coastline left to cruise…
6. You come up close and personal with the wildlife.
Ok. So maybe we weren’t the only ones on the beach. Lesson learned from all the ‘Be dingo-safe’ posters at the resort – “If attacked, defend yourself aggressively.” (somehow that didn’t reassure me)…
7. It’s the perfect place for a natural ‘lazy river’ and a picnic.
Along our coastal drive, we came across Eli’s Creek and decided to stroll along the winding brook to stretch our legs. The resort had kindly packed us a full picnic basket lunch (it would all of been very romantic if Tricia’s name was Travis) and the atmosphere provided for an excellent people-watching platform as couples, families, and friends played in and around the freshwater.
8. You get an exciting rush when you realize you may get swept out to sea or smash against the rocks.
Where and when you can drive is also partially determined by the tides. Aussie Trax gave us the tidal schedule before we departed because much of the beach consists of rocks and cliffs fairly close to the shoreline making certain areas impassable during high tide.
Well, we were determined to get to the Champagne Pools before sundown and since we still had a ways to go we tried our hand at speeding through the narrow sand path before the waves came. Yeah….that didn’t work out so well. The waves battered Tricia’s side of the jeep while I had images of us washing out into the Coral Sea and being pulled to the ocean floor by venomous jelly-fish. But when I opened my eyes, we were safe except for a semi-flooded car. Damned if it wasn’t heart-stopping fun though…
9. Coming across the Maheno Shipwreck
The Maheno was built in 1904 and then was destroyed in a cyclone in July of 1935. It has rusted away on Fraser Island ever since…
10. Frolicking in the Champagne Pools
Towards the end of the stretch you can legally drive on, we reached the natural rock pools filled daily with water from the crashing waves…
BONUS – Why you should NOT take a self-driven jeep tour…
…if you’re not good at being a time management savvy navigator. Why? Because there are zero lights and driving is illegal come night time. So when you’re coming up on sunset but you’re (and by you, I mean me) convinced you have time for one more interior stop before returning the jeep which causes you and your friend to get lost on an unmarked road with steep drops on either side and with shadows creeping in and you’re trying to remain calm but you’re not doing a good job of it so you’re turning to a god you may not even believe in to ask him to return you safely – that’s when you know you should never be allowed to self-drive a jeep. Then as if to cement that fact, you’re normally level-headed friend is so frazzled that when you make it back slightly after dark by some miracle from a god you now most certainly believe in, she puts the wrong gas in the car and it’s not entirely delivered in the same condition as when it was picked up. Oops. Oh well – we got the adventure we were looking for!
Where was your favorite self-given tour? Did you like the experience? Let me know in the comments below!
Why Suffer From FOMO When You Don’t Have To?
Taking on the classic “round-the-world” route, the next Travel Dispatch journey kicks off Nov 15 as I travel east to west, looping the globe over a period of 12 months with $25,000. Now’s your chance to get in on it from the very beginning!