It’s a long weekend here in the Sunny Coast and naturally that means adventure time. With so many new places surrounding us it can be hard to narrow our choices down to just one place. So we settled on the Great Beach Drive from Noosa to Rainbow Beach.
This long stretch of beach is only accessible by 4WD and it takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in Australia.
From gorgeous lakes and rivers, to pristine beaches and forests, and the stunning Great Sandy National Park with all it’s glorious sand formations.
Where do you begin?
We live in Caloundra, about 40 minutes down from Noosa so we just took the motorway there. Once you’re in Noosa the fun really begins. If you’ve got time you can check out the gorgeous Hastings Street, Noosa Main Beach, Noosa River and the National Park, but getting through all that is a couple of days in itself.
So I would recommend driving straight on and heading towards Tewantin.
Ferrys and permits
When you hit Tewantin you’ll notice an Information/Tourist centre. Make sure you stop there and get a permit as you’ll need this to enter the beach tracks. A little way on from there you’ll hit a river, and I hope your car has a snorkel as you’ll need to drive across.
Just kidding… there’s a car ferry to get you to the other side. This costs $7 per car each way. Once you’re safely across you’ll pass through a little town and after that you’ll notice lots of cars pulling over on the side of the road. This is where you’ll want to let your tyres down ready for the beach.
The actual beach drive
Soon after you’ll hit the Cooloola beach entry. The drive stretches for 50 kms and is a remote strip of beach backed by the Great Sandy National Park. To the one side you have the vast ocean, to the other side you have sandy mountains.
When you get off the beach you end up in a gorgeous forest. It still amazes me how quickly the landscapes can change here in Australia and I’m so grateful to live in such a diverse and beautiful country.
If you have the time, there’s plenty of spots to stop and camp along the beach which I would recommend if you want to make the most of your experience. And it would definitely be worth checking out the national park. We were only going for a last minute adventure so were not prepared for anything like that.
It may sound obvious, but make sure you don’t exit the beach track too early. Either the lady who directed us wasn’t clear on what we wanted, or we misunderstood what she said. But we ended up back on the normal road and missed the best part of driving on Rainbow Beach and just saw the town instead.
Thankfully we live here and can go back. You might not get that same opportunity so be sure to take the right exit.
The town is super cute though and true to its name you can find lots of rainbow colours. Including my favourite spot, these rainbow stairs.
Inskip and the Fraser Island Barge
From the town of Rainbow Beach, if you wanted to go across to Fraser Island you just need to follow the signs towards Inskip. I assume you can also just continue on the beach (if you don’t get off at the wrong exit like us) as we ended up back on the beach after a short drive.
If you’re wanting to go across to Fraser Island you’ll be jumping on the Manta Ray Barge at this point. This is a bigger water ferry to get your car across to the island.
If you’re not planning to go to Fraser Island, then spending a few chilled hours at the beach is still worth it. The views are stunning, the water is super calm since it’s kind of in a protected zone with the island directly across. And it’s a great spot for snorkelling and fishing.
Avoiding the tide…
If you are just going for the day, make sure you find out when the low and high tide is before setting off on your 4WD adventure. Generally speaking, you only want to be driving along this stretch 2-2.5 hours either side of LOW tide! Any other times could mean a very stuck car and not a very nice way to spend your day. So this usually gives you about a 4-6 hour safe driving window.
This Sunshine Coast tide table might be useful.
On this particular day we were told the tide would be coming in at 5pm and we thought we had to drive home along the beach as well so we kind of rushed through the day.
Turns out you can take the Bruce Highway from Rainbow Beach through Gympie to get back home. But we still had a pretty exciting day, and at least we know for next time.
Need some more inspiration… here’s a little snippet of our awesome drive.
Like most of the best places in Australia, this route is only accessible with a 4WD. Don’t have your own?
For more information on tours or car hire check out the Visit Sunshine Coast site. There’s plenty of ways to make sure you don’t miss out on this incredible experience.
Have you done this drive? If so I’d love to know about your experience and if you have any more tips. Thinking of going and needing advice? Just let us know in the comments.
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