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Fraser Island: An Annual Pilgrimage

Written by David Chesterman

For many years fishermen and fisherwomen between May and October have made an annual pilgrimage to Fraser Island to chase Tailor.

 They pack up their wheel drives, dust off their beach fishing gear, stock up on bait ( and maybe a visit to the bottleshop) in preparation for this annual event…

The tides are checked and the travel plans are made – the rendezvous time and place are arranged for the group to meet for the travel to the island… as has been done for many years – the military would be impressed with some of the planning and detail that goes into these annual events.

Fishing groups come from far and wide including interstate, most will approach the island via Rainbow beach, alternatively, you can travel to Hervey Bay and get on a barge which will take you to the western side of the island to Kingfisher Bay.

Rainbow beach is to the South of Fraser and is the last township on the mainland where you can top up your fuel and freshwater, grab last-minute supplies including fresh bread – and of course a hot Pie and a tasty pastry from one of the bakeries.

It is also a good idea to purchase your barge ticket from the servo while at Rainbow Beach.

With everyone keen to escape the “rat race” it is time to head to Inskip point to catch the barge for the 15 minute trip across to paradise.

Prior to leaving the dirt track and hitting the beach it is a good idea to reduce your tyre pressures .. it can prevent some very embarrassing moments being unceremoniously snatched (towed) out of the way after blocking the track down onto the sand…  

During busy times several barges will be operating and work efficiently to get everyone to and from the island – so don’t stress if you are in a long line waiting for your turn.

Once on the barge, it’s time to take a breath and enjoy the salt air and magnificent scenery. As the barge approaches the Island the loading ramp begins to lower ready for the unloading of the vehicles.

As you drive off of the barge you will turn right and begin making your way around the bottom of the island to the eastern surf beach. This can be a little tricky depending on the tide as the drivable beach can be tight, once on the eastern beach, the drive becomes easier. If you do time the tide incorrectly (eg the tide is already well on its way in) you can take the inland road which will take you further north and out onto the Eastern Surf Beach.

It’s time to relax and enjoy the drive as you head for your campsite or accommodation. As you drive along the beaching heading North you will pass others heading in the opposite direction – sadly for most of them, their annual pilgrimage is over as they head home.

Although the drive is relaxing, care must be taken when crossing the creeks running down out to the ocean – Qld road rules and speed limits do apply even though you are on a beach.

And I should mention that the beach doubles as a landing strip for the tourist light aircraft… so if you see a plane coming towards you – No you’re not dreaming!

Depending on how far North you travel along the beach you will pass the access tracks for several townships – Eurong, Happy Valley and The Cathedrals and cross the famous Eli creek and pass the Maheno wreck.

As an aging member of one of these Fishing Groups, we have progressively changed from camping on the Beach to now staying in the “House” at Indian Head.

The Indian Head bypass track can be a great source of entertainment and a challenge for those attempting to tow caravans and boats towards Waddy Point and Orchid Beach which is the most Northerly township on the island.

You can continue traveling further north past Orchid Beach up to Sandy Cape which is the northerly tip of the island where you can visit the Light House. There is of course a slightly challenging bypass behind Ngkala Rocks which can test both 4WD and it’s driver.

There is a lot to see on the Island and normally on a “Bad Weather day” we will head off to the Western side of the island or explore some of the inland lakes.

For us, 2020 proved to be a week of great weather and good Tailor fishing year, with good size fish compared to recent years and the bagging of a couple of good size Jewfish.

We were lucky that we didn’t have to travel very far south of Indian Head to find some decent gutters with little or no seaweed. 

 Unfortunately, this year’s visit to the island is over but as always we are already counting down the days for our 2021 fishing week.

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