Travelling up Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island brings plenty of opportunity to bask in the colour and beauty of this wild corner of the Sunshine Coast.
The Great Sandy National Park does just what it says on the packet; this impressively pristine biosphere connects Noosa and the Sunshine Coast to the south with the world’s most famous sand island, Fraser Island, to the north.
Forming the sandy spine of another ‘great’ – the Great Beach Drive, a 380-kilometre holy grail for 4WD fans – the many-tracked beach seems to unfurl endlessly between the World Heritage Marine Park on one side and the multihued, clay-and-stone cliffs on the other.
There are so many sights along the way – and not always well signposted – that a 4WD tour is a must for a newcomer. From expertly letting the tyres down once you’ve alighted the vehicle ferry on the ‘wild’ side of the Noosa River, to understanding the rules of visiting Aboriginal women’s business sites and demonstrating the artistic capabilities of the ubiquitous coloured rock, a tour guide makes the sometimes mysterious ways of such a specialised destination a lot more relaxing.
Heading north, the cliffs become craggier, the colours brighter, and that’s how you know you have found Rainbow Beach. There’s a particularly stunning section of beach here where vehicles can’t go, so you can swap four wheels for four hooves with Rainbow Beach Horse Rides. On a typically warm, sunny day here, the horses aren’t against having a splash about in the gentle surf, and slowing down your beach journey to one horsepower is balm for the soul.
Aside from Rainbow Beach itself, the adjacent eponymous town is a little spot of civilisation. The clean white lines of holiday rental apartments glow in the sun between swimming pools and travellers’ palms. When the sun begins to lower, families, locals, Instagram tragics and silver nomads emerge, blinking, and form a steady stream down the track to the best show in town: the almost too good-looking Carlo Sand Blow at sunset.
The easy path lands you atop what is effectively a giant dune; looking west, inland, the hinterland stretches out far beneath you, crowned by a sunset lit burnt orange with seaspray.
The barge crossing to Fraser Island awaits at nearby Inskip Point. Fraser Island is so much more than its famous driveable beaches, with a rich rainforest of satinay trees (once logged, now thankfully protected) providing a somewhat magical place to stop and breathe, and breathe some more.
The fresh, clear water of nearby Lake Mackenzie is as drinkable as it is swimmable. The sheer purity of experience here is breathtaking.
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This story first appeared in Vacations & Travel magazine, Autumn 2020, issue 114.