Fraser Island or The Whitsundays? Which Australian Excursion Should You Choose?
Our group on Fraser Island
The Crew at the Whitsundays
Cruising crystal clear sea water on a yacht, strolling down white sand beaches, driving a 4×4 down sandy island shores… these are bucket list items unique to Australia’s Fraser Island and the Whitsunday Islands that travelers dream of when they plan a trip to Australia.
While Fraser and the Whitsundays are both located in Queensland, there are many major similarities and differences between the two. They both cost quite a bit to fully experience: running about $450 for each tour. While it’s incredible to be able to visit both not everyone has the budget or the time for that.
It can be a tough choice deciding which experience you’d rather enjoy…here’s a post to help you make your decision.
Hammock chilling at Lake Mackenzie – Fraser Island
Fraser: There are many different companies to choose from for both Fraser and the Whitsundays. We went with the 3 day, 2 night 4×4 Nomads Tag-a-long Tours. It cost $499 AUD and included the car, fuel, 2 dinners, 2 lunches, and 2 breakfasts.
Whitsundays: We went with Southern Cross Sailing on the Boomerang boat for $429 AUD. This 2 day, 2 night tour included 2 dinners, 1 lunch and 2 breakfasts.
Fraser: For the Fraser tour it’s a drive-yourself tag-a-long tour meaning you drive your own 4×4 car in a caravan style with the rest of the group. Each car has 8 people in in and you take turns driving. Each car has a walky-talky in it so the guide will drive the first car and alert you of any stops or road blocks via the walky-talky. For most people this is their first driving on the beach experience which is really fun and exciting.
Even though I have a lot of driving on the beach experience from summers on Nantucket Island this was a whole different ballgame. You FLY down that beach, tearing through streams and over rocks, smashing over jellyfish and skimming the shore. It’s unlike anything else.
You can pump your own music in the car via provided AUX cables. You get to cover a lot of ground and see lots of different sights with the flexibility that driving brings you. Yeah, you do spend quite a bit of time in the car but the views are pretty epic.
Whitsundays: How many times in your life can you say you spent 2 days and 2 nights on an 85 foot racing yacht on the Coral Sea? It’s 100% a once in a lifetime, totally unforgettable bucket list experience. It’s not quite as glamorous of quarters as it may sound but it really is something amazing to wake up onboard a boat and climb to the deck and watch the sunrise over one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Dangling my feet off the edge of a sailboat and watching dolphins play beside the boat is something I’ll never forget!
Sailing away on the Whitsundays
Sailing on the Whitsundays
Fraser: So despite the fact that Fraser Island is, well, an island, surrounded by lush ocean there’s a major rip and a whole lotta sharks that like to call those waters their home so you aren’t actually able to swim or even hang out too close to the ocean there. That’s OK though because the main attractions at Fraser are actually the many freshwater lakes and creeks so there are still loads of opportunities for fun and scenic swimming. Lake Mackenzie is STUNNING and funny enough has a whole lot in common with Whitehaven Beach on the Whitsundays. Both boast snow-white sand and unbelievably crystal clear aquamarine colored water.
Hanging at Lake Mackenzie – Fraser Island
The crystal clear waters of Lake Mackenzie
Eli Creek is a personal favorite on Fraser Island. Powered by a waterfall the creek pumps out up to four million litres of clear, fresh water into the ocean every hour creating what is like a natural lazy river for you to float down at you leisure.
Tubing down Eli Creek
Whitsundays: Ok so Whitehaven Beach pretty much speaks for itself:
Full disclosure: We didn’t have the greatest weather on our trip to the Whitsundays so neither of these photos are my own. However this is what the Whitsundays USUALLY look like!
The beaches here are ranked as top 5 in the WORLD. You can’t beat it. The snorkeling is amazing and living and breathing the ocean for two days straight should be a life requirement for everyone in my opinion.
The food is pretty much the same for both experiences. One night of pasta bolognese and another night with a meat/veg/carb combo. Both accompanied by bread rolls and salad. Breakfasts on both trips were your standard (boring) cereal assortment and toast. Lunches were generally sandwiches and crisps. I thought the food on both trips was pretty good considering we were in remote areas with limited cooking equipment.
Tip: For both experiences make sure to buy and bring any snacks or alcohol you’ll want for the trip prior to getting on the trip. While there are places to buy snacks and alcohol on Fraser Island it is extortionately priced and honestly just not worth it. Neither experience really provides snacks so if you tend to get hungry in between meals definitely think ahead.
Fraser: Our tour for Fraser Island, Tim, was hands down the best tour guide I’ve ever had. He called himself “Mr. Fraser Island,” and honestly the title suited him. He knew that island like the back of his hand. He literally knew every single thing about that place, there was no question he couldn’t answer. No matter where we went he brought the party. Whether that meant setting up the speakers and playing music or whipping out a hammock to hang up by the lake. He had floats for Eli Creek, he was ready to take photos for anyone who asked, he knew just how much information to give about each destination to keep us entertained but not bored. He was fabulous. So good actually that my family hired him for a private tour when they visited in January.
Whitsundays: We had three crew members onboard our boat for the Whitsundays. They were all friendly and fun and could answer most questions about the Whitsunday Islands. However I felt they were more there for function rather than actual “guiding.” Meaning they didn’t provide much information abut the area. They did however safely get us from point A to point B and were fun to hang out and party with. They definitely got involved and were laid-back and entertaining people. But if you’re looking for a more informative style of guide this wasn’t that.
In the end, you really can’t go wrong with either of these excursions. Similar in price and concept it really comes down to if you’d rather have a chilled out yachting experience or have the adrenaline of zooming your own 4×4 down the shore. Both experiences have some incredible, once-in-a-lifetime level sights that are totally unique to Australia. So if you can only do one or the other don’t worry you’re going to have a great time no matter what… and it just gives you a reason to come back to this amazing country!
Have you experienced both the Whitsunday Islands and Fraser Island? Which did you prefer? Let me know in the comments!
Check out my Fraser Island video HERE
Read all about our trip to the Whitsundays HERE
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