Lake Wabby, Fraser Island, QLD

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When we went to Fraser Island in May, to be honest Lake Wabby wasn’t on our must-do list. The Champagne Pools, Indian Head, a return visit to Lake Mackenzie and Central Station were absolute certs, but other than hearing about people hurting themselves throwing themselves down the sand, I didn’t really know much about it.

We happened upon a couple of the other sandblows on a meandering 4WD through the middle of the island one day, and decided that while we were there, we may as well check it out.

We got to the lookout, and Matt hopped out of the car for a quick recce, as Harper was asleep and my number one rule of parenting is “Never wake a sleeping baby”. He was back in a flash though, and insisted the view was worth risking the fury of the overtired baby for.

He was right.

We wandered about a kilometre or so through some rainforest, the boys in their best safety boots (i.e barefoot) lifting up rocks and bits of bark hoping to spot a lizard or snake. Lake Wabby is accessible from the eastern beach, but this way was very pretty, although an exceptionally steep uphill climb for the last little while. Totally worth it though, when you get to the top of the hill and see this.

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Pretty sure Cai thought he was in Tatooine for a minute there. And the best bit was, we were almost the only ones there. Apart from an older couple, of which the gentleman was nude sunbathing which I didn’t realise when I set up not too far away with my 3 million children.I only noticed when he got up to move away down the beach, which he managed to do without a wang flash, and the kids were none the wiser.

Being May, it was pretty cold, but we braved a dip anyway. Lake Wabby is the deepest of Fraser’s lakes, but there’s still plenty of shallow water for the kids and/or less confident swimmers.

It was quite simply a breathtaking spot, one of the many on the island, and I can’t believe we nearly missed it. Make sure you don’t – Lake Wabby is definitely deserving of a spot on your Fraser Island Must Do List.

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What’s your favourite spot on Fraser Island?

Free Camp Friday – Babinda, QLD

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Babinda is located around 50km south of Cairns, and provides not one but two free camping areas. The 48 hour camp at The Boulders isn’t dog-friendly so that was out for us, however the 72 hour camp at the Rotary Park was a great place to stop for a few days.

The grassed area was pretty swampy when we arrived, but there’s plenty of space. It was pretty busy, but people tend to clear out by about 10 so if you get in before lunch you’re pretty right.

Facilities at the park include toilets, cold showers, drinking water, an RV dump point and hot showers for a fee ($2 for 4 minutes). A short walk into town gives you a bakery (who sometimes bring excess stock down to the park at night), laundromat, SPAR, couple of pubs and other assorted stores. Plus a great op shop – perfect for replacing the mysteriously vanished cutlery (is that just me?)

Regardless of which free camp you stop at (I’d suggest both if you’re not travelling with pets) a trip to The Boulders is a must do.

The Legend of the Boulders

Easy walks to the lookouts with absolutely spectacular views. We also took a dip in the swimming hole – it was bloody freezing when we were there – but incredibly calming and serene.

Babinda is definitely on our “must go back” list.

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Our Top Tips for a Top Tip Trip

Getting to Cape York really was the focus of the trip for us. It took a huge amount of planning and research, and even though we’re still travelling we did have that post-holiday low feeling as we left Cooktown. But we learned a lot, and had no major issues mechanical or otherwise other than a smashed trailer plug.

We learned a heap just from talking to other travellers, and so we thought we’d put our top bits of info together to share with anyone else who’s planning this amazing trip.

Our route
On the way up we stayed at
Cooktown – Endeavour River Escape
Laura – Quinkan Remote Community Campground
Coen – The Bend
Bramwell Station
Umagico – Alau Beach

We drove onto the Old Telegraph Track for a squiz, but drove up on the Bypass Road. The OTT we’ll do another time, without a trailer on.

On the way back
Moreton Telegraph Station
Weipa – Camp Weipa
Coen – The Bend
Cooktown – Endeavour River Escape.

We took Battle Camp Rd back from Musgrave Roadhouse which is a slightly longer route but takes you through the beautiful Lakefield National Park.

Bloody Corrugations

They were fierce on the way up. The worst stretches were between Laura and Coen, and just after the Jardine River Ferry Crossing. We found lowering the tyre pressures made a massive difference, however it did eat into our fuel consumption a little. We still averaged around 400km a tank though.

We dropped the front tyres to 25psi, the back to 30psi and 20psi on the trailer. We found 80km per hour pretty good going on most of the corrugations, until you got to the gnarly bits and then it didn’t matter what speed you were going. We tried 20, 5, 90…they were all terrible.

We saw quite a few cars who’d come a cropper, more than a few camper trailers who lost their drawbars, and parts are not easy or cheap to come by up there.

Fuel prices
Weipa was the cheapest at $1.659L (we use diesel). Jardine River was the most expensive at $2.459

Bamaga BP has cheap Thursday with a 15 cent per litre discount which brought them down to $2.139 from $2.289

Other prices we saw or paid were
Cooktown $1.729
Laura $1.819
Coen $1.889 or $1.909 depending on which side of the road you went to.
Bramwell Roadhouse $2.109

We didn’t carry a lot of extra fuel as we were concerned about weight. But if you had long range tanks etc and shopped smart you could avoid paying a completely outrageous amount for your fuel. We topped up every time we stopped – except for the Jardine River.

Food in the Cape
Grocery items come up on a barge and arrive Monday mornings, so Monday lunchtime/afternoon is a good time to hit one of the three supermarkets – or all of them. Seisia, Bamaga and Umagico all have supermarkets and their prices can vary pretty wildly. There was over a $2 difference on the exact same bag depending on where you shopped!

We found Bamaga was best for fresh fruit and veg, while Seisia was cheaper for meat and tinned products. Things like canned beans, cereal, cheese etc seemed to be the most inflated. Umagico had a good range of baby products.

There is also a butcher at Seisia, their prices aren’t much different to the supermarket.

If you are on any sort of restricted diet, like we are, take as much as you can with you. Things like rice milk and gluten free pasta were pretty much non-existent, although both Bamaga and Seisia stocked a good range of Orgran products.

Due to alcohol restrictions in the Northern Peninsula Area, alcohol is pretty pricey – $66 for XXXX Gold hurts a bit. There’s a lot of signage about stockpiling and sly grogging around, and there’s no alcohol consumption in public places, other than your campground.

Our picks
Before you get to the Jardine River, make sure to stop in at Fruit Bat Falls. The water here is absolutely beautiful, and even better, croc free so swim away!

The campground at Umagico was our pick of the bunch. Children under 12 free, $10pp for over 12 years, pay 6 stay 7. It’s not as flash as some of the other grounds, but it gets our vote for price and location.

We didn’t camp at Punsand Bay but we did stop in for lunch and a beer. They were awesome in the time they took to talk to us about Cai’s dietary restrictions and really made us feel like we weren’t the most difficult customers they’d ever had! So a big tick for great service.

One of our highlights was a day trip to Thursday Island. A beautiful place with vibrant culture. We travelled on Peddell’s Ferry and would pick the Gab Titui Cultural Centre as a must do.

And of course, walking to the tip of Australia itself was just amazing. It’s a rocky climb so wear sensible shoes, but the kids (and the dog) did it easily. Don’t forget to take your camera for the essential photo at the sign. And then, pull up a rock and sit for a moment. Take in the amazing view. And when you get back to your car ask yourself….

Where to next?

Bamaga : WW2 Aircraft Wreckage

In among the gum trees and the palms, located by a handpainted sign and some crossed fingers you’ll find some other pieces of Australian history. Two WWII aircraft, maintained by the Australian War Memorial are found in the scrub at Bamaga.

Between the two aircraft, 8 crew members perished. It’s quite an emotional experience to see these wrecks and to think about those who lost their lives.

Lest We Forget.