Fraser Island from Rainbow Beach
Rainbow Beach is the coastal town closest to Fraser Island, known for its array of coloured sands, having Australia’s longest surf-able wave, sandboarding on the Coola Sandblow, one of Australia’s best skydives, dolphin feeding in Tin Can Bay, and one of Australia’s top shark dives outside the Barrier Reef. It’s a quiet beach town, but insanely popular with backpackers who have the time to visit while travelling the East Coast, and who want to make the most of their Fraser Island experience.
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Why choose Rainbow Beach?
Rainbow Beach is not just off the beaten path, it’s also the closest town to Fraser Island, allowing you to stay longer on the island, with less commute time than if you went from Noosa or Hervey Bay. Tours from Rainbow Beach are also cheaper, again, as they don’t have to pay for the fuel driving along the highways/beach from Noosa, or the more expensive ferry from Hervey Bay.
Rainbow Beach is perfect for a few days to chill out, away from all the tourists, especially if you are a backpacker- you’ll only have people your age, and with only two hostels, it’ll never be overcrowded, although it still is a good place to party. While your waiting in Rainbow Beach for your tour to Fraser here are a few things to do:
A visit to Carlo Sandblow at sunset for sandboarding/beers is a must. It’s beautiful, and you can watch the sin sink behind the hinterlands of Tin Can Bay- and Tin Can Bay is also where you can hand feed dolphins.
If you’re an advanced diver, Wolf Rock Dive is a must do- it’s full of grey nurse sharks, and is one of the best places on the coast for them.
Surfers- check out Double Island Point- it’s Australia’s longest wave, and even good for beginners! You’ll need someone with a 4WD to get there though- or to book a tour.
Planning on going from Noosa instead? Check out of guide for Fraser Island Tours From Noosa
Why Visit Fraser island?
Apart from been the largest sand island in the world? One of the few where there’s rainforest growing on sand? The multitude of incredible freshwater lakes? The breathtaking scenery? The feeling when your singing your favourite songs while speeding down a 75 mile long beach, with clear blue water on one side, and rainforest growing on coloured sand dunes on the other, with wind blowing through your hair? The wildlife, including whale and shark spottings, and the only true wild dingoes left in the world? Looking up at night and seeing thousands of stars above you, because there’s no artificial light for once in your life? Making friends for life, experiencing these out of this world sights together? Driving a 4x4 on sand, flying over bumps and holes, pumping with adrenaline trying to make sure you don’t get stuck in the sand? Dodging the planes that land right beside you on the beach as you cruise down it?
In short: Amazing freshwater lakes, beach highways, and the adventure of a lifetime are the reasons why you should visit Fraser. In my opinion, it’s 100% better than the Whitsundays.
For detailed information about Fraser Island, be sure to check out our Exploring Fraser Island post.
Rainbow Beach is one of the top places to visit Fraser Island from, with tours focusing on different types of customers. For example, the tagalong tours are all incredibly fun.. but really focused on travellers under the age of 30, as they tend to turn the campsites into huge drinking sessions (the exception here is Dropbear, who are more the ‘beer around the campfire’ rather than, ‘two boxes of goon and lets see what happens’).
The overnight 4WD bus trips tend to be more mature, informative, with less focus on drinking and more on relaxing while on the island. The day trips are for those short on time, or money, and usually go as far as Lake Mckenzie, before turning back. There is always the option of also doing Fraser Island without a tour or guide, as a group (see below).
Fraser Island 4WD Rental Self Drive
If you’re a group of 3+ people who can all drive, and who like adventure, then taking a 4WD around Fraser is a great option. A few words of advice- it’s definitely better if at least one of you has driven a 4x4 before on sand, stick to the paths the other 4x4s have made, drop the gears and low revs, never stop, and when in doubt, put it on 4 wheel drive. Also, if renting, follow the advice of the person giving you the car- they will give you the tide schedule, and professional recommendations.
You can get to the island by catching the ferry from Inskip Point, a 10 minute drive north of Rainbow Beach, which drops you off on the southernmost tip of Fraser Island, leaving you with the entire beach highway ahead of you.
If you have your own 4x4, great! Get your vehicle and camping permits in order, book the ferry, prepare your supplies, and go ahead. Use your handbrake on the ferry, so you don’t end up like the video above.
If your renting: Most rental companies will organise everything for you- your return ferry, your camping passes, your vehicle permit, and will give you a detailed guide of where to go on Fraser Island, including maps, tide information, main sites, and free camping locations. You also have the option of renting camping gear from them, at extra costs, and will usually have to leave a bond to rent the 4x4. Along with this, you will need to bring a lot of water, food, and jerry cans full of fuel, as everything’s expensive to buy on the island.
Rainbow Beach Adventure Company: 1 day rental (without/with camping equipment): $445
2 day rental: $760/$860
3 day rental: $1120/$1220
4 day rental: $1495/$1595
5 day rental: $1890/ $1990
Fraser Island Day Tours From Rainbow Beach
Discovery Fraser Island
Discovery Fraser Island is a professional, well respected tour operator based in Noosa, which also operates tours of the Noosa Everglades. They have professional guides, and their clientele is a mix of backpackers, students, and mature travellers. They bring 24 people at a time to Fraser Island on their comfortable 4WD buses, with a guide on board. Discovery Fraser’s day trip includes lunch and all the fees, and picks you up at 8am from the centre of Rainbow Beach visiting 75 Mile Beach, Lake McKenzie, and passes through the rainforests of Satinay and Brushbox, while also including a guided rainforest walk. Discovery Fraser Island is great for those short on money, or who just want to see Lake McKenzie. Fraser Explorer (See below) is a better trip if you want a longer day trip on Fraser, as they leave exclusively from Rainbow Beach, giving you longer on Fraser Island, but at a higher cost.
Departs: Everyday, with pickups before 7am from anywhere between Sunshine Beach and Noosa. Also offers a pick up from Rainbow Beach at 8am at a reduced rate. Drop off is between 4:30pm and 6pm, early enough to catch the Premier or Greyhound bus northbound.
Price: $185 adult, $135 child (From Noosa), $165 (Rainbow Beach). Use the discount code FRASER to get 10% off at Tripfarm.
Fraser Explorer is the more mature 4WD bus tour to Fraser Island, usually attracting adults, with some families. This isn’t to say it’s not fun, it’s just a different set of people to backpacker trips! Their 4WD buses are comfortable, they will pick you up directly from your accommodation, and they offer guides in multiple languages during the tour, along with a buffet lunch at Eurong Resort. They cover more than most two day tours in one day, visiting Lake McKenzie, the Maheno Shipwreck, Eli Creek, The Pinnacles Coloured Sands, and 75 Mile Beach all in one day, tide and weather dependant!
Departs: Everyday, with pick ups at 7:30am, departs from Inskip Point at 8am, and they drop you back to Rainbow Beach between 5pm and 6pm, meaning you have time to catch the overnight bus to Airlie Beach if you’re short on time.
Price: High Season: $219 adult/$140 child, Low Season: $199/$135. Use the discount code FRASER on checkout to get 10% off at Tripfarm.
Fraser Island 2 Day Tour From Rainbow Beach
Cool Dingo is the backpackers 4x4 bus trip, and it’s a funky trip that’s great if you don’t fancy sharing a 4x4 jeep with backpackers, and prefer more comfort, and a guide with them at all times. On Cool Dingos two day tours, they depart Rainbow Beach and drop you off in Hervey Bay, allowing you to get to Hervey Bay without having to return to Rainbow Beach. In a way, this is swapping two hours of sitting on a boring public bus with two days of sitting on an action packed, 4WD adventure bus.
Cool Dingo has an age range of 18-35 years old, so expect a younger crowd than Fraser Explorer, and the tour takes you to Basin Lake (Where there are wild freshwater turtles), Wanggoolba Creek, Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek, The Maheno Shipwreck, and up as far as Indian Head and the Champagne Pools before taking the late ferry to Hervey Bay, at 8:30pm. The night in the middle of all this is spent in one of Cool Dingo’s wilderness lodges- with a max of 4 to a room. The reason it’s more expensive than the 4x4 tagalong tours? It includes an extra dinner on the second day, and you stay on Fraser for longer.
Departs: 7:30am, Rainbow Beach, drop off in Hervey Bay at 9pm.
Price: $385, get 10% off at Tripfarm with our discount code FRASER
Fraser Explorer’s overnight trip sees more of Fraser than it’s one day tour, and spends the night in the luxurious Eurong Beach Resort. Having an extra day allows you to go further north and inland on Fraser Island, visiting Indian Head, The Champagne Pools, and Lake Wabby in addition to every thing the one day trip covers. The accommodation is normally in 4 share rooms, but there are twin and doubles available, and it has a bar on site for those who want a schooner or two to unwind, after a long hard day of sitting down and been guided around one of the worlds most beautiful places.
Great for a family trip to Fraser, or for more mature travellers who want to really experience the island.
Departs: Daily, at 8am from Rainbow Beach, returns at 4:30/5pm.
Price: Quad share, High Season: $385 Adult, $260 Child. Low Season: $355 Adult, $250 Child. Use the discount code FRASER to get 10% off at Tripfarm.
Fraser Island Tagalong Tours
Tagalong Tours vs Bus Tours: Tagalong tours are when you are in a convoy of 4x4s, with a guide in the first 4x4, and you have the option of driving the 4x4 yourself (Provided you are over 21 with a full license, or the tour guide doesn’t see you). Bus tours are in a 4x4 bus, with no option to drive, but more comfort, and a guide on the bus with you at all times.
On tagalong tours, there are a maximum of 7 people per 4WD, and you are free to blare your own music- while communicating with others through the radio. Tagalong tours are better than renting your own 4WD if you are less than 4 people, don’t want to spend hours planning your itinerary, and want a guide to explain things to you. All overnight tours will allow you to store your big backpacks/luggage for free, as you’ll only have space for a day bag on Fraser.
Of course, the bus tours are great if you’re planning on going for a single day, if you don’t like the idea of guests driving, or if you want a more comfortable ride, and renting gives you total freedom on Fraser Island.
For tagalong tours, you need to do a safety briefing for Fraser Island, the evening before you depart and you must have a physical copy of your full licence. But, if your really short on time you can do the safety briefing early the morning of departure, you’ll just need to get up earlier.
Bring swimwear, towels, a change of clothes, suncream, sunglasses, a hat, water, and alcohol during your tour- things on the island are very expensive.
Dingos is Rainbow Beaches most popular tagalong tour, starting from the hostel of the same name. Formerly split into two separate brand names, Frasers on Rainbow and Dingos, they were combined in 2018 to one brand.
It is an awesome trip- With the two day tour hitting up Lake Mckenzie, The Maheno Shipwreck, Eli Creek, 75 Mile Beach, Indian Head, and the Champagne Pools, you’ll see a ton of Fraser Island. And one night in a motel style room in the Eurong Beach Resort is a good deal. Dingos tends to be more lively than Dropbear’s overnight tour, with a focus on really getting to know the other guests- by getting wildly drunk of course. The 4x4s are all manual though, so get practising America.
Departs: Daily, 7:30am from Dingos hostel, Returns around 6pm the following day.
Price: $355, Use the discount code FRASER to get 10% off at Tripfarm.
The Dropbear, well known as Australia’s most dangerous animal, on this continent of dangerous animals. And for good reason. This tour however, not dangerous, and incredibly popular. Dropbear Adventures is family owned company with passionate guides, and is Fraser Islands only eco-friendly tagalong tour. They stay in their own beachside hostel during their one night tour, in 8 bed dorms and tend to attract a more alternative crowd. Their one night tour visits Lake Birrabeen, Lake Boomanjin, the Maheno Shipwreck, the Pinnacles, Tea Tree Lake, and 75 Mile Beach. There’s didgeridoo playing after dinner, boomerang throwing on 75 Mile Beach, and guitar songs around the campfire each night, and best of all- the 4WDs are automatic, great for the Americans out there who can only gokart!
This is a tour that definitely needs to be booked in advance, as Dropbear is usually full 2-3 weeks beforehand, especially the 2 day trip.
Departs: Tuesdays and Thursdays, Rainbow Beach.
Price: $399, Use the discount code FRASER to get 10% off at Tripfarm.
Fraser Island 3 Day Tours
Cool Dingo’s 3 day 2 night tour is the only 3 day bus tour you can do to Fraser- so if you want to stay as long as possible, and always have a experienced driver, this is the way to do it. Cool Dingo departs from Rainbow Beach daily, follows the same itinerary as the 2 day 1 night tour, but, on the third day, heads deeper into the rain forests of Fraser and visits the dune lakes of Lake Wabby, does a trek to the eastern side of the island to visit Hammerstone Sandblow, and stops off at Lake Birrabeen- Lake McKenzie’s untouched cousin, that’s just as good, if not better! You can then head to Hervey Bay and catch the 5PM ferry, dropping you in Hervey Bay in time for the bus to Airlie Beach, or get a transfer back down Fraser Island to return to Rainbow Beach.
Recommended for anyone with more time, and who wants to experience Fraser Island fully, on a 4WD bus with a young crowd.
Departs: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, 7:30am, Rainbow Beach hostels
Price: $510 for a quad share. Use the discount code FRASER to get 10% off at Tripfarm.
Dingos Fraser Island three day tour, is a tour I’m a little biased towards- I’ve done this tour twice, having the time of my life, both times. It’s run by Dingos hostel in Rainbow Beach, the only hostel in Rainbow Beach with a bar, and it’s a lively one. The hostel itself is a little dinghy, but you can opt to stay in the nicer, Frasers on Rainbow side if that bothers you. The tour departs from the courtyard of the hostel, and, uniquely, as the owners of a bar Dingos can order you discounted drinks for your Fraser Island trip- including cans of beer and bags of goon cheaper than if you went to the bottle shop.
The tour takes you to Inskip Point, up along 75 Mile Beach, to Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek, Indian Head, the Maheno Shipwreck, and the Champagne Pools, and also stops by two of Lake Wabby, Lake Birrabeen, and a Tea Tree Lake. The other main difference between Dingo’s and the competition? With Dingos you stay in an aboriginal campsite, and get a cultural experience one night (If the locals like you).
Recommended for those who want to party, who want cheaper drinks, and who want the cultural experience, along with a campground 2 minutes from the beach.
Departs: Daily, 8:30am from Dingos Hostel. Returns between 2pm and 4pm to Rainbow Beach.
Price: $499 ($179 +$20 insurance and levy to be paid on the day), Use the discount code FRASER to get 10% off at Tripfarm.
Pippies are the owners of the other hostel in Rainbow Beach, and run a very similar tour to Dingos (Or Dingos run a very similar tour to them!). Their hostel has the advantage of not having a bar- meaning you can bring your own beer. The tour itself leaves Rainbow Beach and heads to Inskip Point, up along 75 Mile Beach, to Lake McKenzie, Eli Creek, Indian Head, the Maheno Shipwreck, and the Champagne Pools, and also stops by two of Lake Wabby, Lake Birrabeen, and a Tea Tree Lake. But has a campsite in the centre of the island, in one of the only privately owned campsites, with a bottle shop on site! The main advantage of Pippies is that it’s cheaper than Dingos, and it also has roll out mats included in it’s tent, along with the option of $3 pillow rentals- something Dingos doesn’t.
Departs: Daily, 7am from Pippies. Returns between 1pm and 4:30pm (Tide dependent)
Price: $469 ($459 + $10 insurance), Use the discount code FRASER on checkout for a 10% discount on Tripfarm.
Dropbear’s 3 day 2 night tour is insanely popular- it’s the top rated Fraser Island tour on TripAdvisor, with amazing guides, a family owned business. The differences between Dropbear’s 2 day tour and 3 day tour is that their 3 day tour is wilderness camping, which makes it a little wilder, and a little more rugged than the dorm accommodation. Secondly, the 3 day tour also goes to Lake Mckenzie, Indian Head, and the Champagne Pools, where the 2 day tour simply doesn’t have time. They also have Jumbo Jenga, beach games, and cards at the campsite.
At their campsite, you can hear the waves of the ocean (And also go down at night, the stars are only better in the outback than here). The camp is already set up, with 2 people to a tent, sleeping bags, pillows, a dustpan and brush, and the campsite also has hot showers and a kitchen for food. Be prepared for singing around the campfire, and a nice chilled out camping trip. And there is an option of a double bed in a tent for all you lovebirds out there! The 4WDs are automatic, and we definitely advise to book in advance, as Dropbear is usually full 2-3 weeks beforehand.
Departs: Mondays and Fridays, Noosa and Rainbow Beach
Price: $499 all inclusive, Use the discount code FRASER to get 10% off at Tripfarm.
Picking Your Fraser Island Tour
Still don’t know what tour is for you? Ask yourself the following questions:
Are you short on time but want to do a camping tagalong tour? There are two day options from Noosa (Nomads Fraser and Dropbear), This depends on availability, as they get booked out weeks in advance. Nomads Fraser is for more partiers, Dropbear is for those who prefer a few quiet drinks around the campfire. Nomads Fraser is only December-April. From Rainbow Beach, do Dingos.
Do you want a camping tagalong 4WD tour with a party atmosphere? This is the toughest to choose- Dingos is the classic one, from Rainbow Beach- and it’s excellent. Pippies is the same, and cheaper (The only difference is different campsites). Nomads Fraser is further from the island, as they depart from Noosa, but you can save time by going from Noosa. However, it’s also more expensive as it’s longer driving. Nomads Fraser also have dorm sleeping options,not just camping like the others, but is not BYOB as it’s located on a bar premises. However, they do have up to 60% off drinks at the bar.
Do you want a 4WD tagalong without the excessive partying? Dropbear is the one for you- From Rainbow Beach or Noosa.
Do you want to go from Hervey Bay? Go for Fraser Dingo if you want a cheap 2 day tagalong tour, Cool Dingo if you want a 4WD bus, or Palace Adventures for longer tagalong tours.
To summarise- Go from Noosa if your short on time, don’t want to stop in Rainbow Beach/Hervey Bay, or if you’re in Brisbane and want to go to Fraser for a long weekend. Go from Rainbow Beach for the most time on the island.
Planning on going from Noosa instead? Check out of guide for Fraser Island Tours From Noosa.
For the Ultimate East Coast Guide: We’ve written it here.
Have you been to Fraser Island? What tour did you choose? Let us know in the comments!