South East Queensland may be famous for its patrolled beaches and coastal towns, but the beach drives around it are probably even more memorable.
75 Mile Beach, K’gari (Fraser Island)
Let’s get straight into it – the drive up K’gari can’t be beaten. It’s a literal 75-mile cruise on the world’s biggest sand island, and one that’s peppered with things to see and do. To lay it out, from Hook Point at the bottom of the island to the remote Sandy Cape at the top, you can enjoy the following: a top-tier pie from the bakery at Eurong, a dip in the glassy waters of Eli Creek (which comes from an underground aquifer that’s been filtering the water for a century or more), a happy snap at the jagged wreck of the SS Maheno, a gawk at the ochre cliffs of Red Canyon, a white-knuckle charge through Ngkala Rocks and more – and that’s all before you head inland to bulging rainforests and surreal lakes you won’t find anywhere else in Australia.
Bundjalung National Park, North Coast NSW
Just a three-hour drive from Brisbane (and admittedly not in QLD), this left-field gem is tiny but mighty. The drive from the Shark Bay turnoff to Black Rock along Ten Mile Beach is generally quiet and feels remote, and at the end you’re treated to a highly satisfying campground. Aside from a peaceful roll up the beach, Bundjalung also has a ton of wildlife to spy while you whittle down the hours, as well as a gang of walking tracks to meander along. Bundjalung is home to wetlands, lagoons, NSW’s longest undisturbed coastal river system and ancient Gondwana rainforest – all of which you can treat yourself to while you’re there.
Amity Point to Main Beach, Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island)
Straddie is an obvious, cliché, overdone choice, but that doesn’t mean the drive from Flinders Beach down to the southern end of Main Beach is any less magnificent. Skipping across the top of the island along Flinders from Amity towards Cylinder Beach, you can stop in for a hot meal and to grab some supplies at Point Lookout, before wending your way past the spectacular North Gorge and South Gorge and back onto the beach. The drive down to the bottom of Minjerribah feels wilder than it probably should, which is a nice contrast to the public beaches, sealed roads and holiday town vibes you get just a few clicks north.
Teewah Beach, Cooloola Recreation Area
The one-two punch of Teewah Beach on the mainland and 75 Mile Beach just north of it is a proper knockout combo. After getting the brief ferry from Noosa North Shore to cross the river towards Cooloola, you can gun it to the sand and enjoy the wide-open shoreline with careless abandon – rolling surf on one side and burnt orange cliffs on the other. The 60km drive to Rainbow Beach is a salt-drenched dream, which you can enjoy with windows down, wind whipping and hand waving to the anglers, drivers and campers that pass by as you sally forth towards Double Island Point and beyond. Campers can set up on the beach or head inland to Freshwater’s paperbark-strewn sites, while there are plenty of inland 4WD tracks to fill your boots with too. Either way, you can spend more than a few days exploring Cooloola with the sounds of crashing waves a constant backing track.
Island Loop, Mulgumpin (Moreton Island)
You’ll be hard-pressed to find bitumen outside of Tangalooma, which means most of Moreton is wild and free to explore by 4WD. Smaller than its northern cousins, Mulgumpin (meaning ‘place of sandhills’) has a deserted island feel to it, which makes sense since K’gari is almost 9x larger than it. Despite this – or maybe because of it – the figure-eight loop that guides you through the island is a nice change of pace from more kilometre-heavy treks. With lakes to visit, giant sandhills to climb and glittering beaches on every side, Mulgumpin is a gift that keeps on giving.