Driving on Fraser Island is one of the best ways to experience this natural wonder, from traversing the inland soft tracks to fully immersing yourself in the vastness of 75-mile beach, it's no wonder why this is a preferred option to explore the largest sand island in the world! If you're self-driving or driving on a tag-along tour, you might be a little nervous if you haven't driven a 4WD on the sand before, but rest assured-We've got 20 helpful tips to give you the confidence you need to make the most of your time on Fraser Island!
1. An all-wheel-drive (AWD) is not a four-wheel-drive (4WD)
Don’t be confused by the ‘WD’ on the end, all-wheel-drives and four-wheel-drives are not the same things. AWDs are well suited for road usage as they automatically send power to the wheel(s) that need it most, however, this feature makes them unsuitable for low-traction situations. A 4WD, on the other hand, is designed for off-road use and evenly distributes power across all four wheels to provide the traction needed to prevent the vehicle from getting stuck. Typically, a 4WD will also have the advantage of low-range gears and larger height clearance. 4WDs are the only vehicles permitted to drive on Fraser Island, so if you're planning on driving your own vehicle, then you should double-check your vehicle meets the requirements. Alternatively, you can opt to hire your own 4WD for your time on the island!
2. Read the Fine Print
Even if you have a comprehensive insurance policy for your 4WD it is important to read the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully to make sure you will be covered while driving your vehicle off-road. Levels of cover can vary greatly and some insurers will consider your policy void if you travel off-road, especially on the beach. This could be an expensive mistake in the event that something goes wrong! Going through companies like Fraser Dingo to hire your 4WD or joining a tag-along tour will include your liability insurance, so going with this option may take some of the hassles out of your trip and give you more peace of mind!
3. Carry a Recovery Kit
Let’s be honest, getting bogged is pretty common on Fraser Island, and there is a chance you may get bogged on Fraser Island no matter how well you prepare. Embrace it, it’s all part of the fun! A recovery kit containing a shovel, snatch strap (read the safety warnings) and recovery tracks will help you get yourself out of trouble when you do and is a vital thing to pack when heading to Fraser Island. Most hire companies include these in your package, so ask us at the time of booking if your kit is included.
4. Bring a Friend
If you are self-driving to Fraser Island with a group why not talk a mate into bringing their own vehicle along? If you travel in a convoy there will always be someone there to tow you out of a pickle and to back up your stories of misadventure with the folks back home. This won't be a problem if you're joining a tag-along tour, as your guide will head the convoy and are extremely experienced in assisting with bogged vehicles!
5. Check the Tides
Always, always, always check the tides before driving on the beach on Fraser Island - this is probably the most important bit of advice we can give you. It's easy to get bogged or stranded somewhere if the tide comes in when you're not expecting it and you do not want the saltwater lapping at your car, as insurance policies have strict rules about not getting too close to the edge of the shore. Plan your beach drives as close to low tide as possible and avoid exposed areas two hours before and two hours after high tide. Phone service generally won't be available, so plan accordingly before heading over to the island, or if you are staying in a resort or have a tour guide they will also be able to help you plan your day around the tides.
6. Reduce your Tyre Pressure
The soft sand on Fraser Island can be hazardous for overinflated tyres so unless you are keen to get the shovel out, it’s best to reduce your tyre pressure before driving on the sand. This will spread your tyre’s footprint and give you more grip making it much easier to navigate through the sand. You will also have a more comfortable and less bouncy ride!
The average recommended tyre pressure for driving on sand is 18-20 psi however this may not be suitable for all vehicles so do your research first. Once you know your ideal pressure, invest in a good tyre deflator with built-in pressure gauge and you will be good to go. Another benefit of hiring a 4WD or joining a tag-along tour: they will have clear guidelines and instructions in your vehicle so you don't have to worry about figuring it out on your own!
7. Engage 4WD
Ok, this sounds pretty obvious but you would be surprised just how many people forget to physically engage 4wd on their vehicles! Without 4wd mode engaged you're going to get stuck in the sand pretty quickly and you will have to find someone to tow you out. If you're driving around resorts like Kingfisher and Eurong resort, you can drive in 2 wheel drive, but as soon as your tyres hit the sand, make sure you switch to 4WD - Ask your companions to help keep an eye on this as back up!
8. Buckle Up!
Just because you are on a tropical island doesn’t mean you don’t have to wear your seatbelt! Buckle up - this could save your life in a serious accident or rollover which are unfortunately more common than you may think. Plus, it’s illegal not to wear your seatbelt and the law is heavily enforced by the police on Fraser Island so avoid getting yourself a fine. While it may not seem like it, the same road rules apply to the largest sand highway in the world as they do on the mainland. Safety first!
9. Never Drive Drunk or Tired
Driving on Fraser Island is fun, but also full of potential hazards and requires your full attention and concentration even in the best conditions. Never drive when you are tired or under the influence of alcohol - this can put your life and the lives of others at risk and is never ok.
10. Take Your Time
When people rush, accidents happen! Always drive the speed limit (80kmph on inland tracks and 30kmph on the beach) and mind other vehicles, especially around corners on the single-lane inland tracks. Slow down, (you’re on holidays!) plus, you don't want to plough past all the beauty the island has to offer!
11. Avoid Driving at Night
There are a lot of native animals that call Fraser Island home and many are nocturnal meaning that they are most active at night and during the dawn and dusk hours. Avoid driving at night to protect the local wildlife and yourself - many accidents are caused by an animal that crosses in front of a car without notice or by a deep rut or tight corner that was misjudged in the shadowy light.
12. Stick to the Track
When travelling on Fraser Island, always drive on the existing tracks and avoid driving on sand dunes or other off-road places as much as humanly possible. Areas such as the sand dunes have delicate ecosystems that are easily damaged by car tyres and the erosion and habitat loss ruin the landscape for everyone. Not to mention you may find yourself in a sticky situation if you get stuck!
13. Follow the Leader
One of the best ways to navigate through the tricky bits on Fraser Island is to follow the vehicle in front of you. You can reduce your risk of trouble by watching how the other car handles the obstacle and adapting your approach to suit. Always leave plenty of space between you and the car in front of you, as they may stop abruptly do to a passing bus or having to pull to the side to allow for another vehicle to pass on narrow roads. You may also need to 'gun it' up a hill in order to make it through soft sand on an uphill slant, so allowing for the extra room will ensure you can make it up safely.
14. Seek Hard Sand
Hard sand is your friend when driving on Fraser Island. Always try to drive on the hardest part of the beach between the high tide mark and the waterline to avoid becoming bogged and swamped by an incoming tide. Keep an eye out for rain - sand tracks are much firmer when they are wet and compacted which will make your journey much easier. Ask the locals how the rainfall has been recently, as this will affect how you handle the inland tracks.
15. Use a Low Gear in Soft Sand
Soft sand will be impossible to avoid on Fraser Island but don’t worry, that’s what a 4WD is built for! Make sure you select a low gear before entering the soft sand and try to follow another vehicles tyre tracks. Moving your wheel back and forth can also help you gain traction again if you start to lose your grip on the trail.
16. Momentum is Key
If you come across an unexpected patch of soft sand, try to keep your vehicle speed and engine revs consistent. As long as you don’t panic and overcorrect or stop, you should be able to make it through without getting stuck.
17. Avoid Sharp Turns
Try to avoid sharp turns in soft sand when in 4wd on Fraser Island as this will dig the tyres in and potentially cause the vehicle to roll. It will also put more strain on the axels and potentially cause damage to the driveline.
18. Watch for Pedestrians
Fraser Island attracts large amounts of visitors every year and many forget to look left and right before walking over unmarked roads. Always keep a sharp eye out for pedestrians crossing your path, particularly children and fishermen, which can be hard to see coming through the dense bush.
19. Talk to the Locals
Nothing can beat local advice when it comes to driving on Fraser Island. The locals know all the secrets for avoiding trouble hotspots and are always up for a chat!
20. Don’t Hesitate to Hire
Are you completely sold on the idea of a 4wd adventure on Fraser Island but worried about the potential damage to your vehicle? Hiring a 4wd is the perfect option for those hoping to drive on the largest sand island in the world and have the freedom to explore without the worry of a potentially expensive repair hanging over their head. Another great option is to join a tag-along tour and travel in a convoy of hire vehicles lead by a guide - you will have the option of being a driver or sitting back and relaxing as someone else takes the wheel.
You should now know enough to start planning the adventure of a lifetime on Fraser Island! Chat to our friendly Fraser Island experts about how we can help you save on your 4WD hire or tag-along tour by chatting to us live online!