Get the sand beneath the tyres and toes with a 4WD journey from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast to Fraser Coast.
The Great Beach Drive is a 380 km (236 miles) adventure driving on expansive beaches and sealed roads, connecting Queensland’s stunning Sunshine Coast to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island and the Fraser Coast.
At a Glance
Kick-start the adventure with fresh air, a cool breeze and nature experiences at every turn on the first day of this journey from Noosa Heads to Rainbow Beach. Start with a morning walk-through Noosa National Park, followed by breakfast and world class shopping along Hastings Street in Noosa Heads. From there, head north to enjoy the calm waters and tea-tree infused air of Noosa Everglades by kayak, canoe or boat.
Continue north via Ferry to Tewantin. Once on Teewah Beach, it’s a glorious run of about 50 wave-washed kilometres to Double Island Point. Hike to the lighthouse at the top of the hill to possibly spot a whale (July – November). Back in the 4WD, follow the track to skirt the edge of a large tidal lake and then to the seaside town of Rainbow Beach.
There is plenty to see and do on day two, so for today, live like a local and experience the very best of Rainbow Beach and beyond. Start with a surf at Double Island Point’s longest right-hand break. If starting out, Epic Ocean Adventures offer a great learn to surf experience, making this a top location to tick off those bucket list activities.
From there, explore nearby Cooloola National Park – the 5km circuit around Freshwater Lake has some stunning rainforest sections. For sheer wind-in-the-hair fun, saddle up with Rainbow Beach Horse Rides for a thrilling ride along the beach – they cater for all riding abilities, even first-timers.
Finish the day watching the sunset from the top of Carlo Sand Blow, one of the largest piles of windblown sand along Queensland’s coast. Pack a picnic blanket as this is also a great vantage point to take in the stunning night sky.
The sand-beneath-the-wheels excitement continues on day three. Head north of Rainbow Beach to Inskip Point, ready to board the barge to World Heritage Listed Fraser Island – the world’s largest sand island.
The barge trip takes about 10 minutes to the southern tip of Fraser Island. From there, head north along the famous Fraser Island Beach Track. Spend the day stopping in at some of the island’s famous attractions including Lake Wabby – the deepest lake on the island; Eli Creek, to walk the boardwalk then float with the current through the rainforest back to the beach; the wreck of the SS Maheno and swim in the crystalline waters of Lake McKenzie.
As the sun goes down, get to know the local aboriginal history a little more with a Bush Tucker Talk & Taste experience at Kingfisher Bay Resort.
The epic beachside adventure continues, heading back to the mainland to Hervey Bay. Prepare to meet some of the region’s favourite locals, namely Hervey Bay’s iconic humpback whales.
Farewell Fraser Island (for now) onboard the Kingfisher Bay Ferry back to the mainland and drive north to Hervey Bay. Visit the Fraser Coast Discovery Sphere for an underwater encounter with humpbacks and see a full-sized reproduction of a whale skeleton. If the visit has been timed well, and it’s between mid-July and November, see thousands of whales migrate south, stopping in to rest in the sheltered waters of Hervey Bay. There are many whale-watching operators that run cruises in the bay and if up for a real thrill, many operators offer a swim with whales experience. Then, with feet back on solid ground, enjoy a leisurely stroll along Charlton Esplanade and take in the iconic Urangan Pier.
Today’s drive may be back on the bitumen, but it’s still a lovely trip through farmland and forest. If a fan of Mary Poppins, follow the Magical Mary Discovery Trail in Maryborough. Author P.L. Travers grew up here. Even if not a fan, there are some wonderful historic buildings in town. Maryborough is one of Queensland’s oldest cities and the wharf area and Portside Precinct looks much the same as it did when it was one of the country’s largest immigration ports in the late 1800s.
Tonight’s destination, Tin Can Bay, is a smaller waterside village, renowned for fishing and home to sea turtles, dugongs and rare Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins. This is one of the few places in Australia to hand-feed wild dolphins in their natural environment, so set the alarm and head down to the Barnacles Dolphin Centre before 8am.