Think road trips can’t get any different? Introducing the Great Beach Drive, where sealed roads are swapped with sand and traffic lights are replaced with an awe-inspiring coastline. These vistas will tempt you to pause and enjoy the ocean breeze.
By Sarah Merchant
What to expect
- Marvel at the multi-coloured cliffs at Rainbow Beach
- Explore the UNESCO World Heritage-listed island Fraser Island (K’Gari)
- Spot the migratory humpback whales at Hervey Bay
- Time: 4 days
- Distance: 419 kilometres (260 miles)
- Transport: 4WD
- Nearest major city: Brisbane
- Price: $$
Covering Rainbow Beach, Fraser Island and Hervey Bay, the Great Beach Drive is full of nature’s wonders, beachside culture, adorable permanent and migratory residents, and bucket loads of sun and sand.
Day 1: Noosa Heads to Rainbow Beach
Time to bid farewell to the Sunshine Coast and embark on a road trip like no other. Hire a 4WD vehicle and make your way towards Noosa North Shore. Along the way, cross the Noosa River via a vehicle ferry at Tewantin and take the third beach access road to officially commence your drive. One of the very first regions that you encounter is the Great Sandy Biosphere and it warrants multiple pit-stops. The first one should be Teewah, where you can picnic under the shadows of multi-coloured sand cliffs. Continue north via Leisha Track to Rainbow Beach, a picturesque seaside town overlooked by colourful, towering sand cliffs that exhibit over 70 different colours. Stay overnight at Plantation Resort, Rainbow Beach.
Day 2: Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island
After checking-out of your accommodation, jump in the car for your next pit stop - Fraser Island. Referred as K’Gari (meaning ‘paradise’) by the local Butchulla people, the island is famous for being the largest sand island in the world and the only spot where rainforest grows on sand. To reach this UNESCO World Heritage-listed island, drive to Inskip Point and take the vehicle barge to the southern end of the island. Once here, enjoy the thrill of driving along one of Australia’s most famous sand roads, 75 Mile Beach. Feel the excitement of navigating the beach all the way up to the township of Eurong.
If your heart is singing for more sun and sand, then drive further north along the beach and make stops at Lake Wabby, Eli Creek, the SS Maheno shipwreck, Indian Head and Champagne Pools. While on 75 Mile Beach, take the opportunity to see some of Fraser Island’s more remote inland lakes and sand blows from the air with a scenic flight. Airplanes on Fraser Island use 75 Mile Beach as their runway, allowing you to experience the thrill of taking off and landing on the sand. Stay overnight at Fraser Island Retreat.
Day 3: Fraser Island to Hervey Bay
It’s time to continue your Great Beach Drive adventure. Take the inland track west towards Kingfisher Bay and stop at Central Station, which was once home to a community of more than 100 people in the 1920s logging era. Here, you’ll explore the majestic Fraser Island rainforest that fringes the flowing and crystal clear waters of Wanggoolba Creek. Next, make your way towards Lake McKenzie, one of Fraser Island’s most popular and well recognised freshwater lakes. The powder white sand and crystal clear waters make this lake one of the most Instagrammable swimming spots in the world.
After a refreshing swim, continue onwards to Kingfisher Bay then catch the Fraser Island Barge across to River Heads. It’s a 20-minute drive to the town of Hervey Bay, which is a popular base for seeing the thousands of migrating humpback whales that make their way along the coast between July and November. Other than whale watching, you can also try out a number of adventure activities. The calm coastal waters are perfect for surf lessons, paddle boating, jet ski tours, kayaking and sailing. Stay overnight at Ramada Hervey Bay.
Day 4: Hervey Bay to Noosa
The drive from Hervey Bay to Noosa may be back on sealed roads, but it’s still a lovely trip through farmland and forest. At Noosa, hang up your driving boots and relax on one of the many Noosa River sunset cruises, or visit nearby Australia Zoo - made famous by the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin. Here, you can cuddle a koala, hand-feed kangaroos, meet cockatoos and wombats, and learn all about Australia’s crocodiles.
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