Leaving the High Country, make your way north to enjoy the warmth and sunshine in Queensland but before you get your sand in between your tread there’s plenty to see and do. In fact, the only plan for our 13 month trip around Australia was ‘don’t get stranded in the wet’
The NSW south coast and hinterland has a huge amount of 4WDing and pristine camping so you’ll be spending your days lazing on beaches or getting lost in the Deua National Park. A fantastic reminder to always have paper maps as backup – our GPS gave us a total bum steer along fire trails 100km from where we had wanted to be. Try and get yourself to Mongamula Firetrail where you’ll find one of the best campsites in the area.
One thing that you’ll notice if you’re doing the big lap is how quickly you’ll adapt to not seeing other people and 4WDers for days at a time – it’s a big shock coming from Tassie, the Vic High Country and south coast of NSW into the Blue Mountains but it’s worth it if you’ve never been. The views are stunning and there are some amazing river-side camps to be found.
MECHANICAL REPAIRS ON THE GO
Undertaking any 4WDing trip you need to be prepared for anything and we experienced our first mechanical dramas in the New England National Park. Exploring the area for hours we were unlucky that a massive stick punctured the radiator. If you’re carrying epoxy putty you might be able to stem the flow, but still we limped into Armidale for proper repairs.
We pulled into town on a Saturday arvo and nothing was open so we wrote a quick note that we were stranded in town, slid it under TJM’s door and waited. First thing Monday morning they managed to replace our radiator and called every mechanic in town to help us with our leaking headgasket till they found someone who could squeeze us in. Total champions, we were so appreciative. By and large the 4WD community will do anything to help you out while you’re on your lap, it’s awesome.
THE SUNSHINE STATE
Finally over the Queensland border, you have to head straight to the beach and set up camp at Inskip Point. Having a fire on a warm night, eating fresh pineapple and looking out to Fraser Island to see 4WD headlights as they drive the beach will etch memories into your mind that you’ll never forget. Get up early and get the ferry to maximise the time you’ll get to drive up and down the beach, it’s a fantastic feeling.
If Fraser is your first time camping near dingoes, make sure you keep all food and dishes in the car, you’ll quickly realise that dingoes will steal damn near anything including empty water bottles, thongs and everything that looks remotely interesting to them. Feeding the dingoes is a big no-no on Fraser and you can get fined for doing so. Most of them may look tame, but don’t be fooled as they are wild predators. Don’t be like the backpackers we saw that tried to bait dingoes into posing for selfies with them…
FUN ON FRASER
Coongul Creek and Awinya Creek are both awesome camping spots on the west beach. You can drive along the beach from one to the other, or you can take the inland track from Coongul to Awinya, which has a deep water crossing through Awinya Creek to get to the camping area.
Now we have a snorkel and we’d done plenty of river crossings in the High Country. Nothing to worry about, right? Wrong. The engine died in the middle of the creek, the water was over the bonnet and quickly rising around our feet. The trees are scrubby and too small to winch from so luckily a bloke came around the corner in his HiLux and offered to get us out.
After any problems it’s worth getting your 4WD professionally checked out so we stopped in Gympie to make sure there was no damage from the salt water drowning. After that it’s back in the driver’s seat to head towards the desert. The Simmo and particularly Munga-Thirri is by far one of the best places you’ll ever camp at. The sunsets, silence, the beauty of the desert and of course the awesome 4WDing up and down the dunes. You’ll be hooked by the red dirt and in the Simmo you’ll be planning your next trip as soon as you leave. Dean was pretty stoked to drive up Big Red, the tallest dune in the Simpson, in one go. We just won’t tell anyone it took five goes to get up Little Red then!
Birdsville is the closest town to Big Red and the eastern side of the Simpson and you’ve no doubt heard a lot about the iconic pub and bakery. Both are definitely worth checking out! The bakery is famous for its curried camel pies, scoff one down then buy the sticker to prove it.
WHERE TO NEXT
Leaving the Simpson, we’re heading down to check out South Australia and the south of Western Australia finding some epic river side camping and plenty of 4WDing!
This trip begins at Jindabyne and takes a mostly coastal route through NSW to the QLD border. From there, it heads to Fraser Island. Back on the mainland we headed directly west towards the Simpson Desert Munga-Thirri via Cameron Corner.
Fraser Island is Australia’s largest sand island and also has freshwater inland lakes, rainforest areas and the purest breed of dingoes. Vehicle and passenger ferries leave from Inskip Point and River Heads on the QLD coast. Located about 30kms out of Birdsville, the Simpson Desert Munga-Thirri is a large, dune desert. Driving up the iconic Big Red, the highest sand dune in the desert, is an absolute must. UHF channel 10 is recommended for use through the Simpson.
On Fraser, we camped at Wongai, Awinya Creek and Coongul Creek. Camping on the western side of the island is quieter and less windy than the eastern side. The beach camping on Fraser has no amenities and fires are prohibited. Camps at Dundubara and Waddy Point have amenities and do allow fires. There are no designated camp spots in the Simpson Desert. All national park camping areas in QLD have the same fee of $5.95 per night per adult. Camping must be booked online, over the phone or at parks office – reception is non-existent in the Simpson and much of Fraser, so it’s best to organise camping permits at parks offices. In between Fraser and the Simpson, we also camped at Inskip Point.
WHAT TO TAKE:
We always carry enough food and water for at least a week, as well as two spare jerries of diesel. It’s recommended to allow seven litres of water per person per day in the desert. Tyre deflators and inflators and mechanical spares are vital pieces of equipment tobe carrying.
BEST TIME TO TRAVEL:
Travel on Fraser is comfortable all year round. In the Simpson and outback, travel is best during the winter months as this is the dry season and the temperatures are mostly comfortable. There is no access into the Simpson between December and March due to extreme temperatures.
FUEL & SUPPLIES:
Stocking up on food, water and fuel is best done at Gympie before heading to Fraser. Water, food and fuel are available on Fraser, but it’s expensive. Birdsville has all supplies available, but we stocked up as we passed through Cunnamulla and St George along the way there.
Overall this trip rates as C to B level – moderately difficult 4WDing that shouldn’t cause any problem if you’re prepared and familiar with 4WDing techniques. Driving along the beaches on Fraser is tide-dependent and tide charts are widely available from parks offices. Simpson Desert and Munga-Thirri National Park requires high clearance. Lowering tyre pressures is vital for a successful crossing- 18-20psi is recommended. Birdsville Roadhouse and Mt Dare Hotel websites keep up to date information on track conditions and closures.
RESTRICTIONS AND PERMITS:
A Desert Parks Pass is required for driving in the SA section of the Simpson, these are available online and from Mt Dare Hotel. Sand flags are now required for all desert driving. It’s recommended to take a sat phone – these are available for hire from the Birdsville info office and Mt Dare Hotel. A driving permit is required for Fraser Island and can be purchased from parks offices. There are speed limits of 80kms along the beach and 30kms along inland tracks. Feeding the dingoes on Fraser is a serious offence that attracts fines and/or jail time. It’s worth noting that RACQ do not service off-shore islands like Fraser (as we found out when we called them for help!)
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