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Have you been wondering about the K’Gari Explorer Tour from Herey Bay? Look no further, we had the best day and I can tell you all about it in my review.
Fraser Island, or K’gari as it is now known, is the largest sand island in the world and one of Australia‘s most popular tourist destinations. There are a variety of Fraser Island tours available to choose from, including day tours, multi-day trips, and overnight stay tours. Each tour offers a unique perspective on the island’s natural beauty and history.
The name K’gari means paradise in the local Butchulla language. It stems from the Dreamtime Story about the goddess K’gari who fell in love with the island and didn’t want to leave.
K’Gari Explorer Tour Review
Several day tours depart from Hervey Bay to Fraser Island. We took the K’gari Explorer Tour, but there are other options if that one doesn’t appeal to you.
K’gari Explorer Tours (formerly Fraser Explorer Tour)
Departs: 7 am – 7:40 am
Returns: 6 pm – 6:30 pm
The day started with an early morning collection from the Hervey Bay Marina Kiosk (look for the whale sculpture) at 7.30 am (you need to be there 10 minutes earlier). The bus takes pick-ups from some Hervey Bay accommodation, but you must arrange that when booking. You can buy a takeaway coffee from one of the cafes in the marina if you are there early.
We arrived at River Heads in time for our 8.30 am crossing to K’gari. The Fraser Island ferry has seating inside and out and a bar service selling light snacks and drinks. The journey was smooth, although too cold to be outside for the whole trip.
Upon arrival at K’gari, guides directed us to our bus for the day. Our tour guide was Warren, who has worked as a guide on K’gari for over twenty-two years and was highly knowledgeable. He entertained us the whole day with his stories, information, and jokes.
When we booked this tour, we were apprehensive that the bus wouldn’t provide a great 4wd experience and we’d miss out on parts of the island. However, we shouldn’t have worried! Our specialised 4×4 bus overtook all the 4wds traversing the challenging soft sand tracks throughout the island. All passengers must wear seatbelts, and a safety demonstration is given in case of the bus tipping over (not that it’s likely to happen!).
The first part of the track is extremely bumpy, but it evens out for a smoother ride afterward. The bus has large windows, so you can see the amazing scenery as you are transported around the island.
Our first stop was Lake McKenzie, now an Insta-famous crystal-clear lake in the middle of the island. It is also known as Boorangoora, the name given to it by the Butchulla people, the traditional owners of the land, meaning waters of wisdom.
From the car park, it’s a short, easy walk down a semi-sealed path through bushland to stairs descending to the lake.
This perched lake contains only rainwater – no groundwater, it is not fed by streams, and does not flow into the ocean. Sand and organic matter from around the lake form a waterproof layer that stops the rainwater from draining away.
The white silica sand here is soft and white and squeaks when you walk on it, much like the sand on Whitehaven Beach. Also, like this iconic Australian beach, don’t expect to have Lake McKenzie all to yourself. Depending on when you go, there will most likely be other tour groups and people travelling independently.
The lake is perfect for swimming as the water is so pure it can’t support any life, so you don’t have to worry about dangerous marine animals! However, please be mindful of chemicals polluting the lake – avoid chemical sunscreen, makeup, oils, insect repellent, etc.
The 5-metre deep lake has crystal-clear water with hues of turquoise and sapphire, which you can see best on a sunny day. It really is spectacular to see.
You have around 45 minutes at Lake McKenzie to enjoy the view or take a refreshing dip. There are bush toilets near the car park and a fenced picnic area (to deter dingoes).
Back on the bus, we headed to our next stop, Central Station rainforest, a former logging station. Here, you’ll take a guided walk along the Wanggoolba Creek boardwalk to discover king ferns, towering ghost gums, and pine trees. Feel the moist air as you wander along the easy 700 m loop walk, admiring the ancient king ferns and crystal-clear waterways.
K’gari is the only place in the world where rainforest grows in sand!
Lunch at K’gari Beach Resort
Buffet lunch at McKenzie’s 75 in the K’gari Beach Resort on the east coast was our next stop. It wasn’t the fanciest of foods, nor was there a huge selection, but it was satisfying and enough for us.
After lunch, we had some spare time to look around the resort and general store.
75 Mile Beach
Next, the bus took us along the famous 75-mile beach, K’gari’s highway. It may be a beach but it has the same road rules as a highway, including speed limits and drink-driving. This coastal drive is considered one of the best beach drives in the world.
As you look at the huge waves crashing onto the beach, keep an eye out for birds of prey and whales if you are there from July to November (unfortunately, we didn’t see any, though). You’ll also notice that the beach is used as a runway for scenic flights over the island.
Swimming at this beach is unsafe due to strong currents and a large population of sharks. Instead, save your swimming for Lake McKenzie or Eli Creek.
One of my wish-list items was to see a wild dingo. We were fortunate enough to see lots of them on our journey up and down 75 Mile Beach from the safety of our bus. Dingoes are a real danger, they might look like cute dogs, but they have killed young children and have the potential to harm adults too. There are signs around the island advising what to do if a dingo approaches:
- stand up to your full height
- face the dingo and keep eye contact
- cross your arms
- calmly back away
- if in pairs, stand back to back
- do not run or wave your arms
- keep children close (even teenagers)
Children should always be within arms reach; dingoes can stay hidden watching their prey. They move fast, and children may panic and run, exciting dingo attention and triggering a negative interaction.
Never feed dingoes either. Dingoes that get their food from people may quickly become aggressive.
Unbelievably we witnessed a family at Eli Creek having a picnic and letting their children play by the bush 30 metres away. A dingo approached, sniffing their food and bags. The parents took none of the mentioned steps, and the children were more than an arm’s reach away. The dingo could have easily attacked a child or adult at any time.
This behaviour will end up in tragedy, and there will be calls for the dingoes to be culled. Let’s protect them – K’gari dingoes have rarely interbred with domestic or feral dogs meaning they are likely to become one of the purest breeds of wild dingo in the eastern states.
Read more about being dingo safe.
The treacherous Fraser coastline recorded twenty-three shipwrecks between 1856 and 1935. The most famous is the SS Maheno, meaning island in Maori.
Built in Scotland in 1905 for New Zealand’s Union Steam Ship Company, it was the first turbine steamer to have crossed the Pacific Ocean. She transported passengers between Auckland and Sydney until she was commissioned as a hospital ship in Europe during World War One.
The vessel was sold to a Japanese shipbreaker for scrap and left Sydney in July 1935 bound for Osaka, under tow by Oonah, a former Tasmanian ferry. When they reached Queensland waters, a cyclone snapped the tow chain, and the ship drifted away, washing up K’gari’s beach.
Today, the rusting Maheno Wreck is one of K’gari’s most recognisable attractions.
The Pinnacles Coloured Sands
My least favourite K’gari attraction was the Pinnacles, ancient coloured sand cliffs. Maybe it’s because we have Pinnacles in Western Australia or because we visited in the afternoon and the sun was behind the sand formations rather than casting light onto them.
The colour comes from iron-rich minerals in the clays that bind the sand grains, while the wind and water are responsible for sculpting the sand cliffs into what they are today.
Eli Creek is the largest freshwater creek on the eastern beach of Fraser Island. The tour bus drops you off to enjoy a walk or float down this lovely creek. So, kick off your shoes and wander beside the beautiful green ferns and tall pandanus trees.
It’s busy here as the creek is a popular swimming spot for families as children enjoy floating down the water on their boogie boards and floaties. You’ll see people having picnics beside the creek, but be dingo aware.
If you don’t want to get wet, there’s a wooden boardwalk along the creek.
There are toilets here too.
Our last stop on the tour was back at K’gari Beach Resort for a few minutes before the return journey to the other side of the island for the ferry back to Hervey Bay.
Note: Your itinerary could be different from this one due to tides – certain parts of 75 Mile Beach cannot be driven on at high tide, nor two hours before or two hours after.
This K’gari tour from Hervey Bay was the highlight of our Sunshine Coast road trip. We didn’t know what to expect, but it surpassed all our expectations.
If you’re short on time, this tour visited all the island’s highlights – from beaches to creeks to historical sites.
Not only was it a lot of fun, but it was informative too, and we leant a lot about the culture and history of K’gari.
We didn’t have to worry about planning an itinerary, researching, or investigating tide times. Nor did we have to stress about getting booged in the soft sand!
We booked our tour with Viator.
Fraser Experience Tours
Fraser Experience Tours, a family-owned and operated business, offers three K’gari tours – K’gari Exclusive Tour, Experience Tour, and Fantastic Tour.
The K’gari Exclusive Tour has a maximum of 4 guests in a Landrover Discovery, visiting the same attractions as the tour above with all meals and beverages included.
Their Experience Tour leaves from Hervey Bay at 8.30 am with a maximum of 17 guests and returns to Hervey Bay at 6.00 pm.
The Lake McKenzie tour departs at 10:30 am on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from the Boat Club Marina, but you must meet at 10:10 am.
The Sea Explorer transfers you to the Kingfisher Resort on K’gari, where you have the morning at leisure, including lunch. At 12.45 pm, you’ll meet your guide and board the 4WD bus. Arrive at Lake McKenzie at 1.45 pm, where you’ll have two hours to relax and enjoy the views before returning to Kingfisher Bay Resort in time for your 5 pm ferry transfer to River Heads, Hervey Bay.
This is a good option if you only want to see Lake McKenzie. However, I think the K’Gari Explorer Tour is better.
K’gari Multi-Day Tours from Hervey Bay
2 Day K’gari Explorer
This two-day K’gari tour includes overnight accommodation at K’gari Beach Resort, by Seventy-Five Mile Beach. You can choose quad, triple, twin, and single rooms or a 2-bedroom apartment. The resort has two swimming pools, and breakfast, two lunches, and dinner are included in the tour.
Over two days, you will visit Lake Wabby, Lake McKenzie, Central Station rainforest, Eli Creek, Maheno shipwreck, the Pinnacles Coloured Sands, Indian Head, and Champagne Pools.
3 Day K’gari Explorer
Enjoy a mixture of guided tours and relaxation on this 3-day K’gari tour. The price includes two nights’ accommodation at Kingfisher Bay Resort, two breakfasts, and a lunch.
Day one includes a guided tour stopping at Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek, Maheno Shipwreck, Pile Valley, and Central Station rainforest.
Days two and three allow you to relax and enjoy the facilities at your resort.
What to Bring on your K’gari Day Tour
- Insect repellent
- Swim wear
- Beach Towel
- Bottled water
Why change the name from Fraser Island to K’gari?
Fraser Island changed its name back to its original Butchulla name in 2021, a wonderful idea, in my opinion. The island was named after Eliza Fraser, whose lies led to the massacre and dispossession of the Butchulla people.
In 1836, Eliza and her husband, Captain James Fraser, were on board the ship Stirling Castle when it struck a reef. Eliza was the only survivor when the local Butchulla people found her and they nursed her back to health and took her into their community.
Eliza spent several weeks with the Butchulla people until help arrived, and she was transported back to England, where she concocted stories of how badly she was treated.
K’gari, pronounced ‘gurri,’ is a Dreamtime story about a beautiful white spirit called Princess K’gari who helped Yindingie (messenger of the great god Beeral) create the land. She fell so in love with the land that she wanted to rest there forever.
Eventually, Yindingie agreed, but as she couldn’t stay as a spirit form, he transformed her into an island. He created flowers, trees, and lakes that provided a mirror so K’gari could see into the sky, along with birds and animals to keep her company.
Lastly, Yindingie created the Butchulla people to protect K’gari forever.
K’gari means paradise; I think that’s a fitting description for this stunning island.
Where is K’gari?
K’gari lies off the east coast of Australia, 300 km north of Brisbane and 15 km off the coast of Hervey Bay.
Best Time to Visit K’gari
The best time to visit K’gari is anytime! We went in July (winter) and had a beautiful sunny day, although it was too cold to swim in the lakes. However, the day before, it rained all day!
The average maximum temperatures are around 21°C in winter (June to August) and 29°C in summer (December to February).
The warm summer months have high humidity, with January to March having the most rainfall.
The driest month is September.
For more information, see the Bureau of Meteorology.
Where to Next?
Heading down to Brisbane? Check out these guides:
- Things To Do in Noosa
- Things To Do in Coolum
- Things To Do in Maroochydore
- Things To Do in Mooloolaba
- Things To Do in Caloundra
- Things To Do on Bribie Island
Travel Tips and Information
To help plan your holiday, use this Queensland Travel Guide which includes helpful information.
Feature image is an aerial view of Lake McKenzie on K’gari by Tourism and Events Queensland.