The western side of Fraser Island holds many treasures, especially for boaties and one of my favourites to visit is Wathumba Creek. With miles of pristine white sandy beaches running north and south, crystal clear water and an abundance of marine life and fishing options, it truly is paradise. In fact, when friends or family ask why we never seem to leave Hervey Bay and go on holiday I am instantly reminded of how pristine Wathumba Creek is and no matter how I might describe it to people, nor how many photos I show, no one can ever truly appreciate it until they have visited this jewel of Fraser Island.
You can access Wathumba Creek via 4x4 by taking the inland track from Orchid Beach, this can take approximately 1 to 2 hours depending on track conditions and will provide access to the island (eastern side) of the creek. There you will find a small tent and campervan camping ground, some old neglected toilets, running non-potable water and most likely, loads of sand flies.
Or, you can access Wathumba Creek via boat, launching from the Urangan marina. Wathumba Creek is approximately 26 nautical miles or 48 kilometres away, it can take about an hour to reach Wathumba Creek depending on tides, weather and cargo. The beauty of boating to Wathumba Creek is not just the reduced travel time when compared to driving a 4x4 onto the island, up the eastern side and then across. But it allows you access to Teebing (Wathumba Spit) on the western side of Wathumba Creek, and while there are no neglected toilets nor running non-potable water supply on Teebing, it is quieter, looks straight out into Platypus Bay and lacks sand flies.
Getting into Wathumba Creek
Negotiating the entrance to Wathumba Creek can be tricky as there are several large shallow sand bars across the creek entrance and these are constantly moving. Unless you have sound local knowledge, it is recommended that you only attempt to enter or exit the creek from 2 hours either side of low tide. Many of the locals have placed a couple of helpful markers to assist in finding the creek channel. Tide times for Wathumba Creek are approximately half an hour prior to the tide times for Urangan. While Wathumba Creek mostly drains out on a low tide there is a nice deep hole, perfect for anchoring, which hugs the eastern side of Teebing (Wathumba Spit), this offers excellent protection from any wild weather, you can see this in the satellite image below.
Sleeping 2 adults and 2 kids on a 4.4m boat is not practical, nor is only two adults when the other happens to snore. So, we prefer to roll out the swags or pitch the tent along with a gazebo, table and chairs in a make shift kitchen / storage area of sorts. If you do decide to camp you will need a permit, available through the Department of National Parks, Sport & Racing website, it only costs a few dollars and is far better value than being on the receiving end of an infringement notice as the park rangers do occasionally drop in to say g’day. Regardless, if I am by myself or the whole family camping we take plenty of water, usually a slab (24x600ml) of bottled water for drinking and a 20-litre water jerry. Depending on our usage after using the water in our 20-litre jerry we refill this from the creek itself, throw in some puro-tabs, boil it and only use it for washing up etc. Toilets are the dig your own option or if you really need, a short boat trip across to the island camp ground, just remember to take your own toilet paper.
Things to Do
As a father of two young boys I really enjoy the fact that Wathumba Creek offers a world of adventure for kids, especially when the tide runs out, just be conscious of dingo safety, as there are a couple of dingoes in the area. The water inside the creek is quite shallow in many places, which makes it great for swimming, canoeing, paddle boarding etc and when the tide runs out there are all the normal things which kids like to do. Explore and chase, soldier crabs, pumping yabbies, netting small bait fish and of course just getting dirty having fun
Wathumba Creek itself offers excellent fishing opportunities with large bream, flathead and monster whiting moving in and out of the creek with the tide. There are loads of yabby beds inside the creek for pumping fresh bait although if you can get your hands on some blood worms prior to your trip, these will certainly be the bait of choice. Many people head up into the creek and set crab pots with success, just remember to watch the tides.
Out the front of Wathumba Creek is Platypus Bay, there are so many options for fishing it truly is ridiculous. Gravel patches, coffee rock and shallow reef are all a short boat ride away and easily located with a basic sounder. Rooney’s Point is located approximately 13 nautical miles or 24 kms north of Wathumba Creek and is famous for its tuna and baby black marlin. Just be conscious of your fuel usage as it is very easy to get carried away chasing long tail tuna schools and before you know it you have burnt another 100 km’s of fuel.
Whales, whales and more whales. During July to October each year hundreds of humpback whales stop in Platypus Bay. Local boaties refer to them as ‘speed bumps’ as there are that many out there and you are constantly having to slow down for them, you need to be cautious. As a bonus, they play, breach and lounge around just outside of Wathumba creek, it is not uncommon to sit on Teebing and watch the whales play as the sun goes down.
Make no mistake, while Wathumba Creek is only an hour’s boat ride away, it is isolated. If you are poorly prepared it can turn into a very expensive, nightmare of a trip. Communication is vital and while I completely agree and lust after those locations from which no mobile reception can be achieved, I am also thankful to arrive home safely and see my family. Volunteer marine rescue Hervey Bay monitor VHF channels 16, 73 (local area) and channel 22 (north of Fairway Beacon) ie Wathumba Creek. Their Radio Room is manned daily from 0600 to 1800 hours, and after hours VTS Gladstone monitor channel 16 for emergencies only. They provide weather updates 3 times a day. It pays to log on with them as you leave the Urangan Marina and to give them a position update each day, just in case!
Carry extra fuel, as a rule I always carry an extra 20% on top of what I calculate what I will use. If you are camping for a few days, simply store your extra fuel at your camp site. Tidal movement coming in and out of the Great Sandy Straits should not be under estimated and can add a significant amount of time to your trip and fuel usage. This leads nicely into my last essential tip, watch the tides and wind while crossing from the Uranganmarina to Moon Point. The channels which lie between the mainland, Big Woody Island and Moon Point are deep and fast moving. When the wind is pushing against the tide the water in these channels can really stand up un-expectantly and make the crossing quite dangerous for smaller boats. As a rule, anything from 15knots winds upwards should be approached with caution.
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