Roads? Who needs ‘em! From Rainbow Beach to K’gari (Fraser Island), through Hervey Bay and onto Noosa, the Great Beach Drive combines off‑road adventure and coastal nirvana.
Day one: Noosa North Shore to Rainbow Beach
There are two ways to get to Rainbow Beach from Noosa North Shore. You can either take the vehicle ferry across the Noosa River at Tewantin (there is a small charge; but, beware, it’s cash only!), then snake your way up to Tin Can Bay Road and onto Rainbow Beach Road. By no means is this a terrible drive; it’s quite the opposite, passing through Goomboorian National Park, Toolara State Forest and Great Sandy National Park.
Day two: Rainbow Beach to K’gari (Fraser Island)
K’gari (Fraser Island), meaning ‘paradise’ in the language of the local Butchulla people, is the world’s largest sand island (123 kilometres long), and is the only sand island where rainforest grows from its sand. K’gari is a great spot for a day or more of driving and camping. There are plenty of attractive towns on the mainland to moor a caravan in if you’re not confident towing on the island. Access to the island is via the ferry from Rainbow Beach, which allows off-road vehicles only. Several off-road companies operate tours on K’gari, but it is fine to trek alone.
Day three: K’gari to Hervey Bay
Take the Fraser Island Barge across to River Heads. From here, it’s a 20-minute drive to the town of Hervey Bay, the main jump‑off point for K’gari. Hervey Bay was once a big pull with retirees and caravanners (and still is), but is now also gaining popularity among younger travellers, morphing into something of a Gold Coast lite, with its long esplanade fronting the water. It has always been a popular base for whale watchers, with thousands of migrating humpback whales making their way along the coast between July and November.
Day four: Hervey Bay to Noosa
Once again, for the drive from Hervey Bay to Noosa you’re faced with two options. The direct route is via the mighty Bruce Highway, running alongside farmland and forest. Or, you can take the more picturesque, meandering route past Tuan State Forest, Toolara State Forest and Goomboorian National Park. If you’ve got some offline maps, you might even want to shoot further east into the wilderness, deep into a network of forestry roads.
At Noosa, you can enjoy the more luxurious, manicured coastal life. It’s attracting a growing throng of millionaires for a reason, and you don’t have to look far to figure out why: a splash in the waves, a hike around Noosa National Park and out via the headland, and back into a pub along the main street is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.
To find out more, read the Summer 2022–2023 edition of Caravanning Australia.
Image: Epic Ocean Adventures, Sunshine Coast (C) Tourism and Events Queensland