Coolangatta, Noosa and Fraser Island in 5 nights

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I flew from Queenstown, NZ into Gold Coast Airport

1 night in Coolangatta (aka “Coolie”):

Accommodation: The Greenmount Beach Hotel

Rental Car: Jucy Rentals

Rainbow Bay in Coolie

Coolangatta’s easygoing locals, casual old school vibe and warm weather really got me psyched for my first Australian coastal experience. It ended up being the perfect place to shift me into beach mode. The Greenmount Beach Hotel was in a wonderful location right off the beach and within walking distance to seemingly everything. I was even able to jog to my car rental the following day.

Dinner: Osushi: Unlimited pickled ginger, friendly servers, no issues with ordering extra sauces and outdoor seating made me really like this place.

Breakfast: The Black Sheep Espresso Bar. I just ordered an Acai smoothie, which was delicious, but I saw a few of their other hot meals on tables and they looked amazing. It all looked so good I almost decided to sit down to order, but I was too anxious to get on the road to Noosa Heads.

Coffee: Greenmount Kiosk: Nice local spot with outdoor seating right off the beach.

I watched the sunrise at Greenmount Beach. A local I met at Osushi told me that this is considered a spiritual meeting place at sunrise and sunset.

After the sunrise I grabbed coffee at Greenmount Kiosk (seemed like a local spot and was right off the beach. The owner was very friendly and happy to give advice on Australia). This is where I met the Coolie local legend “Johnny Utah” (pictured below) and I enjoyed my coffee while listening to him tell me stories. I have a gift for attracting entertaining people like Mr. Utah.

Johnny Utah was a total character and made my day. He lives in a van on the beach. He told me about a local brand called The Mad Hueys and how he was featured on their IG to promote an upcoming party they were having in the area.

2 nights in Noosa Heads:

Accommodation: Halse Lodge

This hostel had a bar and restaurant and was the best hostel experience I’ve had thus far. I decided to live large here and opted for a private room.

Halse Lodge

I was trying to re-charge before I ventured off to Fraser Island and Noosa happened to be the perfect place to wind down before the turn up. The town reminded me of a much smaller and more laid back version of Miami Beach. It was a tad pricey and very chic, but still had that casual beach vibe that I absolutely love.

Noosa’s main strip on Hastings Street

Where I went:

Miss Moneypenny’s – Fun and relaxed atmosphere. Great for grabbing a drink and appetizers. There are plenty of other great restaurants all around this restaurant as well. Everything I ate and drank here was very good.

Grill’d – I love a good veggie burger and this place had a menu filled with them. They also had many condiments to choose from. I later figured out that this is an Australian chain, but I still recommend it.

Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club – Enjoyed a glass of wine on a sunny day on their large outdoor patio that faces the beach.

Halse Lodge – I enjoyed a few drinks and appetizers here. It had a chill environment, great happy hour and plenty of outdoor seating.

Flannigan’s Irish Pub – I went here with people I met at the Fraser Island orientation for the $9 pint and pizza special they were offering that night. It was good and they had aioli.

What I did:

Like I mentioned, I was trying to remain low-key but I did manage to get up early one morning to do a hike along The Noosa Head’s Coastal Track and made it to the Noosa Fairy Pools. I didn’t realize how long of a trek it would be and how difficult the pools would be to find, so I suggest reading this guide before you go.

The Coastal Walk
Coastal Walk views
One of the two fairy pools I was able to find, (second one pictured below).
Could not spot any Fairies…

The two pictures below are some more views from around the pools…

After the hike, (which seemed much longer because I wore sandals thinking it would be something I could drive up to), I grabbed a latte at a cute little coffee shop at the beginning of The Coastal Walk called The Kiosk. This entire morning was the perfect start to my relaxing full day in Noosa Heads.

The Kiosk

2 Nights on Fraser Island:

Accommodation: 3-Day Tour with Nomads Fraser Island Tours

Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island. It is over 73 miles long, has over 100 fresh water lakes, is surrounded by hungry tiger sharks, is home to the second purest white silica sand in the world, has wild dingoes running wild all over the beaches and is straight-up the ultimate adventurous adult’s playground.

While Dan at i-centre in Queenstown, New Zealand was convincing me to book this tour I was a little resistant because I did not want to be booked on some teenager-tour, however, this ended up being one of the coolest things I did in Australia. While it was noting luxurious, I still HIGHLY recommend visiting Fraser Island and doing this tour, (if you’re under 35 and on somewhat of a budget it’s a great choice).

Once it was time for orientation at Nomads Noosa Hostel I was officially nervous. I have given presentations to rooms filled with MBAs and driven across a foreign country by myself so why the hell was I nervous for a group camping orientation? I’ll tell you why: Because I hadn’t hung out with a large group of 18 to early 20-somethings since college. I was told that the group size would be about 30 people in the age range of 18-35, but to expect it to be more in the 18-25 range. I am 28, so in order to not endure total disappointment I went in with the expectation that I would be the oldest one there. 

Once orientation began the guy giving the presentation asked us all to introduce ourselves to two people sitting by us. I was so lucky to have been sitting next to the two people who ended up becoming two of my favorites from the trip: Katie and Florian. Katie and Florian were brother and sister and were also there with their other sister, Julie. They were German, super friendly and my age/older. Woohoo – trip was already on track to be over my expectations. Update: I am going to be staying with them in Munich this Summer!

After orientation I went to dinner with Katie, Florian, Julie and two other Germans named Benno and Nina. Benno and Nina were cousins, but had just met Katie, Florian and Julie too. Even so, I felt like the only newbie when they would all unintentionally slide into a German conversation. That was okay with me though — I just started thinking of myself as an adopted American girl with vivacious German siblings.

Then next morning we were introduced to our very Aussie tour guide, Charge. Yes, he insisted on being called “Charge” and not by his real name (which was Tony). I immediately wished he didn’t tell us his real name because I could see myself letting it slip by accident. Charge was probably in his late-50s, full of energy (aka fully charged) and seemed to be doing this job solely because he enjoyed it. The rumor on the trip was that he used to be the CEO of some big sports league in Australia, but who knows.

Charge telling us about The Pinnacles

From Nomads we boarded a big coach bus that took us about 3 hours North where we all split up into four Land Cruisers. Once we got to our Cruisers everyone was ready to go, but there was one driver who had not signed one specific release paper. Charge could not figure out who it was and we could not leave for the island until he did. I had signed a million things it seemed like, so I assumed it couldn’t be me. Oh wait, yep, it was me and all of a sudden I was the first person to get scolded by Charge. I thought he overreacted a little, so I almost said, “Sorry Tony” but I’m glad I decided to bite my tongue. This exact moment is also when I figured out that I was the ONLY American in our group of 30 people.

Our group of 30 consisted of 21 Germans, 2 Irish, 3 Brits, 1 Australian guy, 1 Canadian girl, 1 Swedish guy and then me. Our age range was 18-32. I felt like I was a foreign high school where the cool kids were the Germans and you needed an in with one of the German cliques if you didn’t want to be a loner. Honestly though, all the Germans were super fun and I was grateful to have such a great group.

Group pic at The Pinnacles

After I signed the paper, everyone dispersed into four different Land Cruisers. I was in the same Cruiser as my German siblings with the addition of a British couple, Georgia and Chris. I loved our group’s dynamic and had no desire to be in a different car.

Chris (left) and Georgia (driving)
our cruiser crew
We saw wild dingoes within minutes of arriving on the island.
The evenings were filled with socializing over glasses of Fraser Island Sauv Blanc (well many others indulged in many other forms of alcohol as well)

Here is almost everything we did in just three days and two nights on the island:

Lake McKenzie:

This was a highlight for sure. This lake is crystal clear and filled with rainwater, also known as a ‘perched’ lake. It also has the second most pure white silica sand in the world (86.4% pure silica). Charge told us that if we rubbed the sand all over our skin, hair and teeth it would leave it all soft and clean. So, I did all of the above and he was right. After exfoliating with the silica sand my skin immediately felt baby skin soft and my teeth and hair felt super clean. The sand is so soft it can even clean jewelry. I wanted to take some back with me, but Charge let us know that you’d be given a $15,000 fine if you were caught taking any sand. I was happy to hear that this entire island is protected so that oil and gas companies cannot destroy it in order to make billions.

Lake McKenzie
My turn to drive was when we went off-roading on the drive back from Lake McKenzie. The drive to McKenzie and the drive back from McKenzie were by far the most intense drives of the trip (and I swear I’m not just saying that because I drove one of those).

SS Maheno:

“Maheno” means “island” in Maori. This ship was first used by the New Zealand Naval Forces as a hospital ship. It was eventually purchased by the Japanese for scrap, but on it’s way to Japan in 1935 it got caught in a cyclone and washed ashore Fraser Island. After failed attempts to get the boat off the island, the Japanese left the ship abandoned. This shipwreck is now a major tourist attraction on the island.

SS Maheno Shipwreck

The Pinnacles:

Honestly, I could not hear much of what Charge was saying at this sight, but I did hear him say that this is considered a sacred sight by the natives. It is believed to bring luck and good fortune and there is a tale about this sight that can be read by clicking on the link above.

Eli Creek:

We spent an hour, or two at this creek. It was really refreshing and you could even drink the water. I was a little nervous to drink it, but I did anyways and was totally fine. It even tasted pretty good.

Eli Creek

Air Fraser:

While the group was at Eli Creek we had the option to take a 15 minute plane ride around the island with Air Fraser for $60 AUD. I love prop planes and thought this was a good deal, so I signed up. There were two planes and only six of us decided to go, so we only had three people in each plane. It was definitely worth the money.

My plane: 1 British pilot + me + 1 Swede + 1 Aussie

Champagne Pools:

Swimming in the ocean on Fraser Island is highly discouraged, as there are tiger shark feeding frenzies surrounding the entire island. However, places like the Champagne Pools are safe from sharks thanks to the rock barricade between the pool and the ocean. These pools got their name because whenever the waves hit just right it looks like champagne flowing over the rocks. I tried to get a picture of the champagne-esk splash in the third picture below.

view from the walk to the Champagne Pools

Indian Head:

This sight was gorgeous, but it has a very dark history and (warning) it was pretty disturbing. Charge educated us about the aboriginal massacre that occurred here about 160 years ago and I am surprised at how difficult it is to find anything about this online, but I found some information to back up Charge’s tour information here. Charge told us that when European settlers came to the island the natives did not welcome them because they did not want change. Why would they? They were living in peacec and harmony in paradise. These settlers were in search of the Island’s native men in order to subdue them, but these native men hid from them in the Champagne Pools. The European settlers then spotted aboriginal women and children and in order to drive the native men out of hiding they forced these women and children to choose between being shot, or jumping off of the edge of the Indian Head cliff, (picture 3 below).

one viewpoint from Indian Head
Indian Head
the very top of Indian Head where the native women and children were forced to jump
another viewpoint from Indian Head

Lake Wabby:

Lake Wabby was nothing too special in my opinion, but the walk there was pretty cool. There were some pretty steep hills and the highlight of that lake trip was when some of the people from our group decided to roll down the hill into the lake.

Pictured here is Marco and two others rolling down the hill
The walk to Lake Wabby

Stargazing on the beach:

If you’re brave enough to chance running into a few dingoes, you should check out the stars from the beach. Fraser’s beach had the most stunning star views I had ever seen in my entire life. This picture does it no justice.

This experience was an adventure and I wouldn’t change a single thing about it. Except for the daily lunch sandwich cheese – we could have used some nice vintage cheddar instead of that processed plastic wrapped cheese. Just sayin’. Anyways, I was happy that I wasn’t the oldest one in the group, but even if I had been it wouldn’t have mattered. In fact, one of my favorite people on the trip was Marco, an 18 year old German social butterfly who had the maturity of someone my age and a contagious fun-loving energy. If you didn’t know Marco, or he didn’t know you, then you probably never made it into a German clique. I made friends that I hope to have for life and they live all over the world. Well, mostly in Germany, but still pretty cool!

Cheers to Nomads and Charge for an unforgettable Fraser Island experience!

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