A first-timer hits up the world’s largest sand island with the crew from Zone RV. But is Fraser Island all it’s cracked up to be?
It was possibly after the fifth battered fourby unapologetically hooned up the inside of where our convoy was waiting its turn for the ferry at Inskip Point that I started to have my doubts about Fraser Island. Short of giving us the finger out the window, these evident ‘regulars’ certainly had some top notch, sunburnt, Bintang singlet attitude about them. When I mentioned to my best mate I was headed there for a few days for work, she replied, rather aptly, “Fraser Island? Isn’t that all just 4WDs busting over sand dunes and dingos chewing on discarded Woolies sausage trays?”
I started to think she wasn’t far off the money as we cruised up that east coast mega highway, and waiting for two hours to pass Ngkala Rocks as a throng of beer-bellied bogans scrutineered the many boggings while smashing the morning’s fifth XXXX Gold seemed to seal the deal when it came to my impression of this ‘4WD Mecca’. I don’t know about you, but I like my camping trips to be peaceful and, ideally, devoid of people.
ON SECOND THOUGHTS
But I couldn’t argue with the beauty of the azure waters of Sandy Cape on the island’s remote northernmost tip, where the Breaksea Spit sandbar stretches 30km north towards Lady Elliot Island, creating 50 shades of vibrant blue waters, teeming with big fish smashing smaller fish as the shadows of giant stingrays lurk.
And by the time I was watching the sun sink into Hervey Bay a couple of days later, having weaved through beautiful rainforest dotted with giant kauri pines, past freshwater lakes and creeks fringed with paperbark trees and through thick banksia scrublands to reach the island’s quieter west coast, my view had shifted. Fraser Island is beautiful – but make no mistake about it, it’s best to visit mid-week and outside school holidays.
IN THE ZONE
I’d been invited to join the team from Zone RV on their mission to Fraser to create a suite of video content showcasing what their vans and campers are capable of. The blokes from Zone are known for pushing the limits of where you can take a caravan, and the Fraser trip was no exception. Let me tell you, this was some serious 4WDing, and I’d be lying if I said my own inner sunburnt hoon didn’t come out more than once as I followed instructions to “go like the clappers” over weaving, undulating and very soft sandy tracks. Cue adrenalin-fuelled giggling from the driver’s seat of the RV Daily Isuzu MU-X, which handled it all like an absolute champ, getting mildly bogged only once on account of a sudden stop to avoid running over Dave Biggar, Zone RV’s co-director, as he industriously dug to find a Maxtrax buried deep in the piping hot sand.
There were three trailers in the convoy, along with Zone’s prototype tray-back camper sitting on a 79 Series LandCruiser. We had two variants of the brand’s smallest, hybrid-style camper, the Expedition Series, being towed by Volkswagen Amaroks, and one top-of-the-range Summit Series carbon fibre caravan behind a 200 Series LandCruiser.
The Expedition Series is pitched by Zone RV as a hybrid-style camper-trailer, offering zero
set-up time and comfortable internal sleeping quarters within an innovative composite fibreglass hard shell supplying great insulation and durability. Kitchen and shower areas are external, providing simple functionality for fuss-free camping. With a focus on self-sufficiency, the Expedition Series offers massive water capacity and an external creek draw system, plus a lithium battery and solar as standard. Their diminutive dimensions and low towing weight meant they handled the worst of what we could throw at them on Fraser, including the tight pass at Ngkala Rocks. Sure, they got bogged a few times, but if you don’t get bogged while towing on sand, are you even really trying?
The Summit Series was in a different league altogether. Optioned up with carbon fibre construction and all the fruit you could imagine, this $200K van cut a domineering figure as it trailed along faithfully up Orchid Beach. Its remote-powered airbag suspension came in handy as we traversed the tighter tracks through the island’s leafy interior, allowing Matt Johns, Zone RV co-director, to help navigate it around overhanging branches from the driver’s seat. Needless to say it was a slow slog, many hours, in fact, but we eventually made it to the other side in time for a swim in the fresh water of Woralie Creek. I hosed off at the van’s external shower as it drew water from the creek and heated it instantaneously for my shampooing pleasure. A van such as this is a truly reliable partner in remote, isolated travel to our continent’s most far-flung corners.
See the nitty gritty of how the vans performed by watching the full video on page 141.
SINKING SUNS & TINNIES
As the sun went down on our adventure, I sat with my clean hair and a cold beer and gathered my thoughts on Fraser Island. Had my best friend been right in her perception of this great sandy, Sunshine State institution? Well, you’re not allowed to drive on the dunes, thankfully, and while our dingo tally stood (to my delight) at around 12 sightings, not one was gnawing on a polystyrene tray. And while I don’t consider four days long enough to make a full assessment, I would happily return to Fraser to continue this important research.