The end of the road? Part 2 Fraser Island, Hervey Bay & Bundaberg

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

The Wreck Of The Maheno

Link to a few pictures here:

I am feeling somewhat relieved that I finally managed to post an update covering the first part of journey home, but the Fraser Coast region probably deserves a post all of its own, especially as Fraser Island is such an iconic destination for 4WD enthusiasts all over Australia

We woke to another bright, sunny day in Hervey Bay, full of nervous energy as we pack and get ready for the short ferry crossing from River Heads to Wanggoolba Creek on the west coast of Fraser Island. And although we had shopped the day before and bought a small mountain of food, we decided to just grab a few last minute items to ensure we had enough food for a small army for a week or two.

This was especially funny as both Steve and I had assured Helen and the girls that we would be catching enough fish for a decent feed. Of course this was to prove totally false as we caught virtually nothing and all our fishing credibility was totally shattered in five short days on Fraser.

The ferry arrived a little late and there was a moment of trepidation as realised I had to reverse the trailer onto the ferry in front of a small crowd of onlookers, never a good feeling but fortunately completed in one go and in reasonable time too.

The crossing gave us 45 minutes to reassure Helen that Steve & I were excellent fishermen and would catch fish, and reassure Kerri we were unlikely to have any close encounters with Dingos as she was a little worried by all the warning signs and documentation about the “Dingo Problem” on Fraser.

Arriving at Wanggoolba Creek we quickly disembarked and let down tyres for the sandy, rough tracks ahead, we had a quick 15 minutes fish but decided the tides were all wrong and there were no fish so close to the ferry landing point.

The track across the island was “rough as guts”, slow going but not overly difficult. We stopped for lunch at Central Station, an old logging encampment and currently used as one of the inland campgrounds. It was good to be out and amongst the forest, we enjoyed reading about the history of the island and discovering there was both sand mining and logging active on the island until relatively recently. There were plenty of other 4wds around a few mosquitoes and plenty of March flies, they turned out to be an almost constant companion during our time on Fraser and sometimes were in almost plague proportions. It took another 45 minutes to complete the next 10 kms over the eastern beaches at Eurong and our holiday house for the week.

We quickly unpacked, the girls excited at sleeping in real beds for a change and having toilets and running water on tap. The adults were trying to stow the mountain of food we had brought with us but with some shuffling around we were ready for our first visit to the beach for a quick afternoon fishing session.

We drove down to the beach and stopped just a kilometre or two along, near a likely looking gutter and set up to catch the first fish. Plenty of activity for Steve & I as we walked up and down the beach trying to find a fish, but all to no avail.

The real excitement happened where the girls were playing in the sand by the trucks, we had reminded them to be careful of passing traffic along the beach so they were digging enthusiastically just behind one of the trucks. Now Kerri had already been a little nervous about encounters with Dingos on Fraser so it was a real shock when she saw a Dingo standing very close (< 1m) to the girls.

Zoe and Sophie were so engrossed in their sand games they had not noticed the dingo at all, however Kerri quietly and calmly asked them to stand up and walk slowly backwards away from the dingo, the girls obeyed with military precision for once, and the dingo padded off along the beach and into the dunes. Kerri and Helen were relieved, Steve and I were oblivious to anything but our fishing. So no fish and a close encounter with a dingo made a very fine start to the Fraser adventure.

We made our way home, excited at the start of the trip, prepared dinner and planned the activities for the rest of the week. Of course Steve and & I determined the best course of action was a fishing expedition on day two to make sure we had enough fish for the week, we recommended McKenzie’s Jetty as the best place to catch a feed of flathead and enjoy some amazing scenery to boot.

McKenzie's Jetty. Stunning but no fish.

Next morning we headed off via Lake McKenzie, to the old Jetty on the western side of the island, we had both fished there before and caught good flathead. Not today though. One tiny, baby flattie that went back before any embarrassing photos could be taken was all we managed. The most bites we had all day were the ferocious March flies, they seemed to like Steve the best, but they were very, very pesky.

Fraser Island is a 4wd only destination, the inland tracks usually a bit harder to navigate and traverse than the beaches and this was certainly true at the moment. The tracks were in very poor condition and although we only covered about 50kms for the whole day it probably took 4 hours or more of driving. On the way back to our holiday house in the afternoon we both managed to get stuck in some really soft sand for a short time, both laughing at/with each other as we dropped tyre pressures again and put the “maxtrax” to good use.

The scenery though was spectacular all day and we were reminded about the beauty of Fraser Island both on the beach, the inland forest tracks and looking at the many fresh-water lakes around the island.

And fortunately there was enough food in the house to cover up the disappointment of not catching any fish, again. We ate a good dinner, washed down with a cold beer, a glass of wine and finished off a glass of Limoncello. This was to become a theme for the week until we had polished off the meagre Limoncello supplies.

Our plan for Tuesday was to avoid fishing and therefore the embarrassment of not catching anything. We went early to Lake McKenzie, one of the most beautiful freshwater lakes on the planet, then onto Kingfisher Bay and the plan was for an early afternoon and perhaps a late foray to our local beach at Eurong for a sneaky fishing session.

Arriving early at Lake McKenzie was a great pleasure, it is a stunning location and with the sun shining and everyone enjoying a swim in the crystal clear water, somewhat idyllic. Then the crowds start turning up, and relatively quickly the place starts to fill up with back-packers and adventure bus tourists on a day trip from the mainland.

We left for an early lunch before driving down to Kingfisher Bay and wandering up and down the jetty before succumbing to the requests for ice creams and adult cold drinks at the resort bar. It started raining, just a quick tropical shower but made great sense to be sitting out of the rain with a drink in hand.

Our journey home took us in much the same direction as the day before, and although we didn’t get bogged, we helped out a number of other 4wds that were stuck or confused by the myriad of tracks around the island. Everyone was in good spirits and had a great time helping people while chatting to find out about their travels and adventures.

Overseas tourists bogged to the axle in their rental 4WD - Maxtrax in action

A fantastic day and topped off with a good meal, good company and some serious planning for a trip up the beach the next day to see the Maheno wreck, swim at Eli Creek and maybe walk into Lake Wabby.

Lake Wabby from the lookout on the inland track

The eastern beach of Fraser is the main island highway, speed limit is mostly 80km/h although you need to be aware of tides, wash outs and soft patches of sand. Our planned day trip was to meander gently up past Eli Creek early on to take advantage of the low tide in the morning, then visit the wreck of the Maheno before heading on to Indian Heads and the Champagne Pool on the northern side of the headland.

The main beach was in much better shape than the inland tracks but with all the stop/start to avoid obstacles it is still quite slow going. We passed Eli Creek, stopped off at the Maheno, took heaps of pictures, had a cartwheel competition between the girls and listened as Steve regaled us with tales of fishing here as a youngster from the back deck and catching loads of fish (fisherman’s tales).

We drove north up the beach with the intention of getting up and over Indian Heads but stopped to have a fish along the way, and then we couldn’t be bothered driving any further up the beach that day so had an extended fishing session, lunch and once again came up empty handed in the fish department. We had to wait a while for the tides to be a little better for driving back down the beach (high tide means driving up in the very soft sand, this takes a heap more power and uses lots more fuel), and so somewhere around mid-afternoon we were back at Eli Creek for a play and swim, along with a horde of others as this is one of Fraser’s main attractions.

Steve & Kerri headed back early to prepare another fish-less meal for dinner and prepare for a late afternoon fish along the beach at Eurong. I joined Steve down the beach, the fishing was slow but the sunset was spectacular and with a cold beer in hand I could happily forget I had not caught a single fish despite a good deal of endeavour.

Another awesone sunset over Eurong Beach, Fraser Island

Next day was a day trip south along the beach and then follow some inland tracks to some more freshwater lakes, Lake Boomanjin and Birrabeen, both fantastic places and without any of the crowds from Lake McKenzie a few days earlier. The tracks were slow and bumpy but not overly tricky. A fabulous day exploring and swimming in some new water holes for all of us before heading back to the house for our last supper. Still no fish. But no other dingo sightings either.

During afternoon I had a call from the Queensland Health Service, asking when we could be back at Hervey Bay so we could change anti-biotics for Zoe, so our time on Fraser came to an end a few days earlier than planned but it meant we could leave at the same time as Steve & Kerri early next day.

With no Limoncello left in the house we did our best to finish the beer and wine but failed by a narrow margin. The cars were re-packed, fishing rods put away and credibility in tatters, we prepared to tackle the track back to the ferry at Wanggoolba Creek.

Up and out early next morning, we said goodbye to our holiday house and real beds, and made our way across the inland track, strangely it didn’t seem as bad as I remembered, maybe the small rain showers had helped the track conditions. We arrived in time to re-inflate tyres, have a fresh cup of coffee and chat to some local guys about places to try fishing in Hervey Bay.

Steve and Kerri had to head off almost directly we landed back on the mainland, they had a couple of longs days ahead to get back to Sydney.

After some emotional farewells, and promises to catch up in Sydney and fish together again, we were off on our separate ways. We had a date with the health service and Steve had a date with the Bruce Highway.

We were pleased to find people waiting for us at the hospital but we still spent the rest of the day hanging around Hervey Bay hospital, and would have to be in the area for more test results for a few more days into the next week.

So we went back to our previous caravan park and paid for 3 nights that became a week as we explored around Harvey Bay.

Urangan Jetty.

We fished the famous Urangan Jetty, 850m long and with a number of allegedly good fishing spots along the way. I pretty much fished for donuts or fed the small pesky fish a number of times without hooking a decent fish. I tried the rock wall at the marina, another sure fire location but with the same, disappointing results.

Fiery sunset after the storms in Hervey Bay

There was some funny moments during the week, especially when the Dell technician came to replace the laptop motherboard again, and a huge thunderstorm erupted overhead with fierce winds pushing the rain horizontal and soaking both of us and the inner workings of the laptop. Somewhat unsurprisingly the replacement motherboard was faulty and despite the technician’s best efforts we ended up with a laptop even worse for wear. I used all of my extensive industry experience and persuaded Dell to send me a new replacement laptop while also sending a further set of spares to fix the offending laptop in the meantime. It took a few days (over the weekend of course) but it all got sorted out in the end.

While I was busy trying to get the laptop fixed during the thunderstorm, Helen and the girls were busy holding down the tent and bailing water out from the kitchen area as the heavens opened and we had about 35mm of rain in an hour, causing the roads to flood and the park opposite to become a lake.

Unfortunately there are no pictures but we were to have repeated thunderstorms over the next few weeks with heavy summer rain, some gale force winds and hail at times, not much fun in a tent.

About a week later we left Hervey Bay for a short trip a little further north to camp at the beach in Eurimbula National Park. It was a nice drive through some rolling hills, and eventually out towards the coast near the town of Seventeen Seventy (named after the 1770 landings in the area by Capt. Cook.).

There was a huge plume of smoke from a bush fire burning about 50 kms south of our camping location but with northerly winds forecast we were pretty sure we were in no danger. There was a fair wind blowing at Eurimbula so we camped back in the tree line away from the beach but were able to get out and fish a little, the girls explored and played in the sand.

Eurimbula Beach Camping area, note the smoke from the bushfire in he background

My fishing hadn’t improved although I did have several decent hook ups but only landed a Stone Fish, not only the most venomous fish in the sea, but probably the ugliest. Needless to say it went back into the water with a note to all around us not to swim in that location. I think next day I upgraded and caught a catfish, only the second most despised fish in the ocean.

Sunset through the smoke from the bushfires at Eurimbula

We stayed a couple of days before heading out as the winds had changed and there was smoke all around, it was a narrow, slow track to drive out and we didn’t want to be caught there is the bush fires came that way. Over the coming days the bushfires intensified and were uncontrolled, burning several thousand hectares of bush and destroying housing and livestock in the region in one of the worst bushfires for some time.

We made our way back to Bundaberg to do some sightseeing and visit the Mon Repos turtle centre. We stayed out of town at Burnett Heads in a quiet caravan park, spent a couple of days exploring around town, fished of a jetty in Bundaberg along the Burnett river and finally caught some fish, although not big enough for a feed.

We booked in to the Turtle Experience at Mon Repos and arrived at 7pm to start a waiting game, we were pretty expert at waiting around by this stage but this time it was for the rangers to spot turtles coming up the beach to lay their eggs in the sand dunes. Eventually there were enough turtles on the beach that we were able to go down to the beach and watch a turtle finish off her digging her nesting site and then sit close by as she laid 120+ eggs. Truly a memorable and emotional experience seeing these ancient creatures nest along a stretch of beach they have used for ever.

If you are ever in the area, please do not miss either the opportunity to see these turtles lay their eggs or watch the hatchlings break out of the sand and race down to the water. Nature is incredible.

We didn’t get back until almost 2am so we stayed another day and went over to the local historical museums to learn about the history of the sugar industry in the region, and incredibly it was the home of Bert Hinkler, one of Australia’s very earliest aviators, he was the first man to fly in Australia and has a string of records and crazy deeds to his name.

While we were in the Aviation museum the heavens opened again, the winds whipped around furiously and we wondered if the tent would be ok back at the campground. There was also some hail later that afternoon before we got back to the tent, we arrived at the campsite to find the canopy had been blown over but been rescued by some local guys. All they could do was stop the canvas flying off into the distance by putting heavy rocks all around – so we had an afternoon re-building the tent and then surviving the next few hours as more storms raced through, more wind than rain but somewhat terrifying all the same.

slightly battered tent canopy after short, sharp thunderstorm

Fortunately the winds eased off by 10pm and were fine for the rest of the night, but it did encourage us to pack early the next morning and head back towards Hervey Bay and then onto Maryborough and Tin Can Bay for a couple of nights.

We used Tin Can Bay as a base to visit Rainbow Beach and Inskip Point, gateways to the southernmost point of Fraser Island via the barge operating across the narrow straits there.

We drove down on Rainbow beach and fished for a couple of hours, fortunately the scenery and weather were magnificent, the fishing was slow and we only managed a couple of small Dart.

Rainbow Beach

After lunch we drove down to Inskip Point to watch some fun in the notoriously soft sand there, found a 4wd bogged to the axles and spent a couple of happy hours getting him out of his sandy hole. We also got bogged helping but it was good fun, and hard work in the sun and hot sand and wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

After helping out we finally managed to get down the water and have another quick fish, there seemed to be good fish about but I was having trouble landing anything decent. I was really happy and enjoying the fishing, the location and scenery when Zoe got stung by another Jellyfish. Zoe certainly seemed to be having a run of bad luck and as she cried out in pain and shock, it was clear my fishing day was done.

It took about an hour and a litre of Calamine lotion to ease the pain for poor Zoe, but eventually she was comfortable enough we could head back to camp.

We were due to head south towards Noosa the next day and our time around the Fraser Coast region was coming to a close. It is a truly beautiful area and I know we will be back at some stage, maybe sooner rather than later

Regards Roy, Helen, Sophie and Zoe

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