The Fraser Island Shipwreck, S.S Maheno, is one of many shipwrecks claimed by the Island but is probably the most famous.
The Maheno was one of the first turbine-driven steamers cruising the seas from Sydney to Auckland. However, it is now one of Fraser Islands most sort-after landmarks. It sits on the 75 Mile Beach attracting tourist from around the world.
S.S Maheno History
The Maheno was built in 1905 weighing 5,000 tons and able to carry up to 420 passengers. As you can imagine, it was an absolute beast! It was also one of the world’s first turbine-driven steamers providing a regular route between Sydney and Auckland in the Tasman Sea.
Things changed dramatically during World War I, as the Maheno got transformed into a hospital ship. Impressively, the Maheno had a capacity of 8 wards, 2 operating theatres and just under 100 medical staff.
The S.S Maheno shipwreck story
The Maheno had served it’s time well and was ready to be sold on. On July 3rd, 1935, the Maheno was being transferred to Osaka in Japan, as it was sold for scrap. It left Sydney but was never to reach its destination.
During some time in the afternoon of July 7th, there was a cyclone in the sea and the Maheno broke from its towline, drifting off and disappearing without sight. Unfortunately, the Maheno had to helplessly drift away due to its propellers being removed with 8 crew members on board.
The Maheno was found on July 10th off the coast of Fraser Island on 75 Mile Beach, where it sits today. Fortunately, the crew on board survived and were found camping out near the site.
How to get to the Fraser Island shipwreck
Since the shipwreck is on Fraser Island you will have to travel by sea or air. However, you will need to take into consideration that to travel around on Fraser Island you’ll also need a 4WD.
Most of the Island is covered in sand so normal vehicles just won’t cut it. You can bring your own 4WD, rent one or go on a tour.
Read on for our recommended tour options.
Fraser Island by Ferry/Barge
The most common way to get to Fraser Island is by Ferry. You can get a ferry from either Hervey Bay or Rainbow Beach and you can go on with your 4WD.
If you prefer to depart from Hervey bay then you will need to drive south, 20 min to River Heads. Your destination on Fraser Island will be at the Kingfisher Bay Resort.
If you’re interested in staying there, check out their latest prices.
From here it will take you on an adventurous 2 hour drive through the inland forests of Fraser Island and onto the 75 Mile Beach to reach S.S Maheno.
If you are departing from Rainbow Beach then you will have to drive to the Inskip Peninsula, a short 10 min away from the centre. The Manta Ray Barge will take you across to the most southern part of Fraser Island.
Unfortunately you probably won’t get chance to see the Fraser Island shipwreck on your first dy on Fraser Island, because it’s quick far. Most tours see it on the second day, we would recommend visiting it on the 2nd day too. This is because it will take you around 4 hours drive / sliding over sand and bouncing through forests to get to it from where you land on Fraser Island.
Instead, we suggest checking out other places such as Lake McKenzie to break up the day. Nobody wants to have their brain swirling around in their head from a 4 hours bumpy car ride. Especially if you are a family with kids in the back seats!
Flying on Fraser Island
Probably an option for the thrill seekers.
If you decide to go by plane… it would be worth it. You will have some amazing views of Fraser Island and would be able to see the shipwreck from above.
Just remember, once you land on the Island you will need a 4WD to get around to other places too. There may be some tours that offer a complete package.
On the Tag-along tour that we were on, we were given the option to fly on the plane too!
Our recommended Fraser Island tour
There are a few tours you can book on Fraser Island but there are 2 main categories. A guided tour and a tag-along tour.
If you are near Hervey Bay then take a look at Fraser Island tours from Hervey Bay.
Guided Fraser Island Tour
This usually involves someone else driving you around the island, stopping off at hotspots such as the Champagne Pools, Lake McKenzie and the Shipwreck. We saw tourist and backpackers on big buses, which are built to drive on the sand with ridiculously large wheels easing its way through the sand.
Tag-along Fraser Island tour
In our opinion, this is the most adventurous and exciting way to explore Fraser Island.
You get to take it in turns with fellow backpackers driving a 4WD on the golden sands. You will go off track into the forest, winding through muddy terrain. It’s an adrenaline rush and a once in a lifetime opportunity.
We booked a 3-day, 2-night tag-along tour with Pippies Beach House in Rainbow Beach and would 100% recommend anyone to do the same. It involves camping overnight in your own camp area, eating and drinking with fellow backpackers exchanging travel stories and having a good time.
What to expect at Fraser Island shipwreck
The S.S Maheno is perfectly situated on the sand of 75 Mile Beach. With it being on Fraser Island you are also guaranteed some unspoilt lush greenery and golden sand scenery.
As it has sat there since 1935 you can see how it has gracefully rusted away due to the weather conditions brought about by the sand and sea.
Unfortunately, you can’t get inside the ship and have a nosey around because it’s deemed dangerous. I mean come on, it’s been sat there slowly deteriorating for nearly 100 years.
Lucky for us though, the ship is conveniently still sitting upon the beach. This means you can pull up from driving on the 75 Mile Beach and get fairly close to get some good photos and see it with your own 2 eyeballs.
The Maheno shipwreck is an unfortunate yet beautiful natural event which we can appreciate today.
The shipwreck is a short drive away from other great landmarks on Fraser Island. Don’t miss the Champagne Pools; the only place you can swim in saltwater on the Island whilst having a jacuzzi experience.
You can also spot whales and turtles if you hike up to Indian Head.
It is said the name ‘Maheno’ means ‘island’ in the native language of New Zealand, Maori. Thus, this is where the name comes from.
The Maheno failed to refloat and was abandoned on Fraser Island in 1935.