impromptu trip
View from the Sandy Cape dunes.

Impromptu trip to Fraser with the fam

impromptu trip
The author’s camp setup.
The author landed a dart.
impromptu trip
A southern pygmy leatherjacket washed up on the beach.
A longhorn cowfish washed up on the beach.

HI, it’s Craig Tomkinson here.

Before we get into my pre-COVID-19 impromptu trip to Fraser Island with the family… how was the late rain season? It turned up like it does most years, when school starts back for first term.

We had fantastic soaking rain as well as some very heavy downpours. About 200-400mm has fallen around the area so far. We only needed a cyclone or tropical low to come down the coast and we’d get a cracker flood.impromptu trip

I have not really been fishing but have done a lot of crabbing. Before the December school holidays, over a two-week period my wife and I caught about 30 lovely full crabs from the upper Noosa River. Once the school holidays start we take our pots out because there are too many share farmers for us. When school starts again I put the pots back in.impromptu trip

I took our old 1HZ 80 Series LandCruiser to work towing our 5m tinnie, did my first shift as a school cleaner from 5-9am and then after work drove to Boreen Point, changed into crabbing clothes and launched the boat to check and rebait the pots. Some days I would catch two or three good full bucks but even without success it was great to be on the water checking the pots and getting the salt air in my face again – I love it.

For bait, once my reef fish frames run out, I buy raw boned-out chicken carcasses from the local supermarket. You can usually get them from your local butcher lots cheaper if you ask or order them. It takes about two hours from the time I leave work to get home, then I clean and cook the crabs, have a shower and have a spare hour before the arvo shift from 1.30-6pm. I was crabbing for a couple of weeks before the rain came in, so I took the pots out in case it flooded and cut the roads off.impromptu trip

Over the school break I saw a post on Facebook with a chap saying not many people were at Waddy Point on Fraser Island. It had been 24 years since Donna was up there, many years for me and our four kids had never been. So I called the 7th Wave Surf Shop in Rainbow Beach because it is a tourist information shop as well, and the staff said there were no campsites at Waddy Point campground left for camper trailer or vans, but heaps of campsites were available at Ocean Lake.

The next day we headed off on our impromptu trip to Fraser Island with our kids and wind-up Jayco van in tow. We got our barge ticket for $230 return, our beach driving permit and camping permit for $200 for three nights from 7th Wave and tucker and diesel for another $250. Fraser is not a cheap place to visit, that’s for sure.impromptu trip

Low tide was around 10.30am, so at 9am we pulled up at Inskip Point and let down the tyres. We let down the four-wheel-drive tyres to 12psi and the van tyres to 10psi, because it was very dry and the sand had been dug up for weeks thanks to 4WDs towing boats, camper trailer and vans. Many got bogged going out to the barge.

We left the blacktop, drove onto the sand, and immediately found a new 4WD towing a camper trailer in the left lane and bogged to the guts. Nothing was coming down the right lane and I was in low-range third gear, so I just drove out in the right lane like the 4WD was not there and headed to the barge.

Why didn’t I stop and help? Well the 4WD was not in danger – it was above the high tide line and I could see its tyres were fully inflated. From my experience, people who do not let their tyres down right from the word go will argue with you about it. So nowadays if they are not in danger of losing their 4WD I leave them there. If I was not towing my van and no one was around, sure I would have offered our help.impromptu trip 

Once on the barge, the kids loved the crossing and we were met by a local dingo just off the barge on K’gari (Fraser). The drive up the beach was great because it was a full moon with big high and low tides, so no waterholes anywhere.

The Indian Head sand blow was no problem because the van has a tracking wheelbase the same as the 80, which helps it tow on the beach. I was told the road to Orchid Beach was dug up and we might have trouble towing the van through, but it was no worries, just a bit slow on the big humpty-doos.impromptu trip

Once at Waddy Point we drove around before heading to Ocean Lake. We found a sort of shady spot high up on the bank, set up the van and had a feed. Then we drove back to Waddy and walked up to the headland. We preferred it over Indian Head where there were just too many people for us – an impromptu trip with crowds is not our cup of tea.

That night, refreshed by a lovely cool breeze, we looked on as the moon rose over the ocean. The next day I was up and had brekkie watching the sun rise over the water. We drove back to Orchid Beach and I showed the kids the lovely little town overlooking the water, then we headed out to Wathumba Creek. We did not let our kids swim because someone was stung by an irukandji jellyfish a few days earlier.

We drove back to camp, had dinner and drove to the tip of Fraser. Ngkala Rocks was a non-event and I could have towed the van through easily. As we came through we found a V8 Cruiser bogged to the guts in the middle of the track. We just drove around him because he was with a heap of other 4WDs and they were giving him crap for getting bogged.

On the drive we saw dozens of turtle nests in the sand dunes, which was great to see. As we came around the top to where you go up to the Sandy Cape Lighthouse, we came across 4WDs and people everywhere. We drove back up the beach, walked up a not terribly steep dune and the view from the top was great.

It was hot as hell on that side out of the southeasterly wind, so we came back down the beach and had a swim in Ocean Lake. It was OK but not as clean as the other very busy lakes.impromptu trip

That arvo while the rest of my family relaxed in the shade of the camp I went and caught a few beach worms, then rigged up a small whiting rod and cast out. Bang, I was straight onto a good dart.

Our son Gavin came down, so I cast out and gave him the rod and he was onto another dart. Then our daughter Lauren came down, so I rigged up another rod and cast it out and she was on. It was great fishing for an hour or so and we kept about a dozen of the better fish.

The next day the plan was to pack up and head down the beach to central station. Well the first bit was OK and the drive from Waddy through to Middle Rocks was good. We were going to have a swim in the Champagne Pools but the sand was too hot to walk on so we kept going.

The further we went, the more people were on the beach – too many people on impromptu trips. Eli Creek was full with not one more spot to park our 4WD. Instead, we just drove down the beach, got on the barge and crossed, then pulled up at Inskip near the lead lights and had a swim.impromptu trip 

It was great to take the kids to K’gari but would we go back again? Yes, but just for a day trip on a Sunday to do the bottom end of the island, which we did not see this trip. One year when we are camped at Inskip we will go over again with the empty 4WD. Other than that I would not bother going back, our next impromptu trip will be to Cape York where there are fewer restrictions.

‘Til next month, be safe on the roads and water.

About Craig Tomkinson

Craig has been fishing for 45 years and specialises in using bait. Fishing off Double Island Point is his favourite, followed by beach fishing. He also loves fishing Cape York around the Pennefather River.

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