Complete Guide to Your First Fraser Island 4WD Trip

March 19, 2024 | By

Fraser Island (K’gari) is a four-wheel driver’s playground! It’s the perfect place to explore whether you’re a beginner looking for your first off-road adventure or an experienced four-wheel driver hoping to venture further off the beaten track.

I spent five epic days camping on Fraser Island with friends. It was my first 4WD trip and has since ignited a passion in me for off-road exploring. And there’s no better place to learn the ropes than on Fraser Island!

Here’s everything you need to know when planning your first Fraser Island 4WD holiday, including what permits you need, the type of car, what to pack and other tips for driving on Fraser.

A pink car driving on a sandy track on Fraser Island
Following the inland tracks on Fraser Island

What car do you need to drive on Fraser Island

Before you get too excited about planning your trip, you need to ensure you have the right car to explore the island. There are no paved roads, and a high-clearance 4WD designed for off-road driving is needed. Not an AWD (All-Wheel Drive).

There are many rental operators that offer 4WD rentals for Fraser Island. I used Fraser Dingo, and they were great. Others include Safari 4WD Hire and Rainbow Beach 4 x 4 Hire. If you’ve had a positive experience with any other 4WD rental companies, please let me know in the comments section of this post.

Carryn and Gary taking a selfie and driving on the beach
I spent 5 days camping on Fraser Island

How to get your 4WD to Fraser Island

There are two ways to get to Fraser Island from mainland Australia: Hervey Bay and Rainbow Beach. They’re a 1.5-hour drive apart and have different landing points on Fraser Island.

I went from Hervey Bay, which was where I picked up my 4WD hire. There’s an airport here, so it’s a convenient option if you’re flying in. However, the ferry from Rainbow Beach is the cheaper and quicker option.

Getting to Fraser Island from Hervey Bay

Best for: Travellers flying into Hervey Bay and those coming from northern Queensland

The ferry terminal is a 15-minute drive from Hervey Bay, at River Heads (Google Maps location here). This is known as the Kingfisher Bay Ferry, which arrives at Kingfisher Bay Resort on the west coast of Fraser Island.

It’s a 50-minute crossing from River Heads to Kingfisher Bay Resort, costing $205 to $230 per vehicle (return). This cost includes the driver, but you’ll need to pay $7 for every additional passenger.

The ferry departs from River Heads (Hervey Bay) for Fraser Island daily at 6:45 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. The return ferry is scheduled for 7:50 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.

There are limited spaces on this ferry, and bookings need to be made in advance, especially during peak periods.

Find out more here.

A 4WD car on a barge going to Fraser Island
Taking the Kingfisher Ferry from Hervery Bay to Fraser Island

Getting to Fraser Island from Rainbow Beach

Best for: Travellers with their own 4WD cars and those coming from Brisbane or Gold Coast

The ferry from Rainbow Beach is the preferred option if you’re taking your own 4WD to Fraser Island. It’s called The Mantaray Barge.

It departs from Inskip Point near Rainbow Beach (Google Maps location here), and arrives at Hook Point, south of Fraser Island.

The Mantaray Barge takes 10 minutes to cross from Inskip Point to Fraser, and the return trip costs $140. There is no additional charge for extra passengers.

This barge runs every 30 minutes between 6 am and 5 pm, and bookings don’t need to be made in advance.

What you need to drive on Fraser Island

Now that you know how to get your 4WD to Fraser Island, there are a few other things you need to note.

A vehicle access permit is required to drive on Fraser Island. It costs $92 and is valid for one month. This permit needs to be purchased before arriving on the island. Find out more here.

You’ll also need an air pressure gauge to deflate your tyres before driving on sand. Generally, tyres should be between 20 and 25 psi.

Also, remember to pack recovery gear in case you get bogged (stuck) – which is highly likely! There are no paved roads, and the tracks are sandy. From my experience, the vibe on Fraser Island is super friendly and relaxed. If you get stuck, other drivers are willing to help, so don’t stress too much about it. It’s part of the adventure!

I also recommend bringing walkie-talkies if you’re travelling in a group of two cars or more. Phone reception is not great on the island, and walkie-talkies are the best way to communicate with mates in your convoy.

Gary deflating his Fraser Island 4WD rental tires
Deflating the tires before going 4WDing on Fraser Island

Tides for driving on Fraser Island

Before departing for Fraser Island, download a tide chart with the daily forecast for your stay. This is because you’ll spend most of your time driving on the beach, and the tides will affect where you go and what you do.

During high tide, the water comes right up to the sand dunes, making it impossible to cross certain sections. Some people take chances and get lucky, while others cause serious damage to their cars.

As a general rule, avoid driving on the beach for 2 hours on either side of high tide. Most 4WD rentals have strict policies regarding this.

There is limited phone reception on the island, so I suggest downloading the charts the day before you arrive. Or keep a printed-out copy in case your phone runs out of battery.

A car driving on a long stretch of beach on Fraser Island
Driving along 75 Mile Beach on Fraser Island during low tide

What it’s like self-driving on Fraser Island

Fraser Island has inland and beach tracks, some more gnarly than others. Coming off the ferry, you’ll need to deflate your tyres, and then the fun starts.

Most Fraser 4WD rental companies will not allow you to drive further than Indian Heads on the northeast side of the island (near Champagne Pools). The tracks are much more challenging from this point, and your likelihood of getting stuck and damaging the car is greater.

If you’re taking your own 4WD to Fraser Island, then go for it!

As you drive further north, you’ll reach Ngakala Rocks. This section is on every 4WDer’s bucket list – but it’s not for the faint-hearted! You need to know what you’re doing and have recovery gear.

What to pack for Fraser Island

If you’re going 4WDing on Fraser Island, it’s best to bring all your food and supplies with you. I spent four nights camping (here are my recommended camping sites), and this only added to the adventure.

There are a few stores on the island where you can stock up on ice, alcohol, and groceries. You’ll find them in Eurong, Happy Valley, and Cathedrals, but prices are much higher, and your options are limited.

Here are a few things to remember to bring

  • Printed-out vehicle access permit
  • Downloaded or printed maps of the island
  • Downloaded or printed tide charts
  • Recovery gear (Maxtraxs, shovel, snatch strap)
  • Camping gear
  • Tyre pressure gauge
  • Walkie-talkies
A car driving along a muddy track on Fraser Island (Kgari)
On our way to Lake Mckenzie on Fraser Island

When to visit Fraser Island

The best time to plan your 4WD trip to Fraser Island is between August and November. The temperatures are cooler during this time, and the days are sunny.

I went in August and had great weather – you can read all about my Fraser Island itinerary here. It was slightly chilly in the evenings, but I’d take that over the humidity and crowds any day.

QLD’s summer months (December to February) are extremely humid and hot. This is also the rainy season, so avoid this time if you can.

Keep in mind that there’s a surge of people during school holidays and over the easter long weekend.

Other tips for 4WDing on Fraser Island

  • There are speed limits for driving on Fraser. You’ll need to stick to 80 km/hr on the beach and 30 km/hr in towns and on inland tracks. Yes, there are police who monitor the speed limits!
  • The beach is considered the national highway, and standard road rules apply. Keep left and use indicators when overtaking.
  • When driving on the inland tracks, give way to vehicles driving downhill towards you.
4WDing Fraser Island
Checking out SS Maheno Shipwreck


Can you take your 4WD to Fraser Island?

Yes, Fraser Island is great for a 4×4 trip! It’s a short ferry crossing from Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach, and you’ll need to get a vehicle access permit to drive on the island.

Do you need a modified 4WD for Fraser Island?

No, you don’t need a modified 4WD for Fraser Island. But your car needs to be a Four-Wheel Drive (and not an AWD – All Wheel Drive)

How much does it cost to hire a 4WD on Fraser Island?

I paid AUD 1,000 for a 5-day 4WD rental hire for Fraser Island. This included the costs for the ferry from Hervey Bay to Fraser Island. Fuel, vehicle access permits and cleaning fees were additional costs.

How hard is driving on Fraser Island?

Driving on Fraser Island is not as difficult as you might expect it to be. Depending on the type of 4WD you have and your experience, you might find it tricky at first. But you’ll quickly get the hang of it!

Is Fraser Island 4wd only

Yes – Fraser Island is 4WD only. There are no paved roads, and you’ll mostly be driving on sandy tracks that require a high-clearance vehicle.

Do you have any questions 4WDing on Fraser Island? Drop me a message in the comments section below!

Looking for more Queensland travel information? Check out my other posts!

Carryn Beard Author Bio

About Me

Hi, I'm Carryn. Travel junkie. Nature enthusiast. Adventurer. I'm a South African expat living in Gold Coast, Australia. Join me as I explore the land down under and share stories of the best that Australia has to offer. Find out more about me here.

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