South East Queensland is home to some stunning beaches and the world’s largest sand islands, so it’s not a surprise that there are plenty of incredible places to drive on the beach close to Brisbane.
Just north of the café-steeped cultural climes of Noosa is an untouched coastal paradise that’s made for four-wheel driving: the Cooloola Coast. Accessible by ferry from Tewantin or further north towards Rainbow Beach, Cooloola feels a world away from the string of seaside towns that sit below it – especially while you drive up the beach unhindered for over 50km (until you reach the headland of Double Island Point).
While Cooloola’s inland camping areas and 4WD tracks are also noteworthy, the region’s coastline is the jewel that sparkles brightest. The visually-entrancing sand cliffs that stretch for kilometres along the coast, called the Coloured Sands, have been eroded into rippled sculptures that seamlessly morph in colour from yellow to red (due to varying concentrations of iron oxide and other particulates), making for a brilliant spectacle as you whirr past. Take a walk through Red Canyon for a closer look at this natural phenomenon, before ending up at the outstretched peninsula of Double Island for a swim and a walk to the lighthouse.
2. Bribie Island
Close to Brisbane and easy to access, Bribie Island is a perfect starting point for four-wheel drivers looking to get some sand under-tread. While much of southern Bribie is suburban, the drive along the eastern beach is within Bribie Island National Park, which thankfully gives it some separation from civilisation.
The Ocean Beach Camping Area arrives after 16km on the sand, giving travellers a sterling option for an overnight stay on this island playground. For a visceral historical lesson, spend some time at the site of Fort Bribie in the north, which is a remnant from WWII that was once a key part of the systems of defence within South East Queensland during the war. A trip to the western beach, which forms one side of Pumicestone Passage, is another opportunity to go swimming and enjoy the sun in the more sheltered (compared to the eastern side) surrounds of the channel.
To the uninitiated, Moreton Island is a tourist hub; to the discerning off-roader, it’s a legitimate island escape. Despite its size, Moreton feels remote, which is augmented by its bounty of natural attractions that can occupy travellers for days: Blue Lagoon, The Desert, Mount Tempest and its heights, the Rous Battery walking track, Cape Moreton Lighthouse, Champagne Pools and more.
Even better, outside of Tangalooma Resort the island is pure sand driving, which means getting around is always an adventure. The island’s camping areas are all within walking distance of the beach too, so you never have to lose sight of the crystalline waters that fringe Moreton in an arresting gradient of blue hues.
At first blush, Straddie’s mix of civilisation and wilderness can seem counterintuitive, but in practice it’s an endearing combination. Most importantly, the island has almost 40km of beach across its northern and eastern sides to cruise on at your leisure.
The drive from Flinders Beach to Adder Rock can have some tannin-stained creek crossings with which to contend, while the drive along Main Beach is a straight run down the island’s eastern beach. Both journeys are regularly dotted with bush camping sites hidden behind the foredunes, which imbue both passers-by and campers with a feeling of seclusion in their corner of Straddie. Away from the beach drives are plenty of things to see and do, including a walk to Blue Lake, a soak in Brown Lake, a stroll along the Point Lookout walk and much more.
5. 75 Mile Beach
South East Queensland is home to the world’s four largest sand islands, but none can quite compare to the largest of them: Fraser Island. Think about the fact that Fraser is almost seven-times larger than North Stradbroke Island – its closest competitor – and you will begin to appreciate how unique it is as a natural icon and an off-road prospect (with plenty of underrated attractions).
Running the entire length of the eastern side of the island, 75 Mile Beach is more than just an amazing beach drive; it also puts you in touch with some of the island's best features: the Maheno Wreck, Eli Creek, Happy Valley and its small slice of civilisation, Poyungan Valley's lush rainforest, Cathedral Beach, Orchid Beach, the remote northern point of Sandy Cape, Eurong Resort and countless bush camps that sit behind the foredunes. In that sense, 75 Mile Beach is the most action-packed 4WD track on all of Fraser Island.