Whether it's by plane, train, automobile, bus, Uber or bicycle, these days we're used to being able to go pretty much wherever we want. When you have a set of wheels, nowhere is off-limits – or so it seems. In a country as vast as Australia, there are still plenty of places that require a little more forward planning than simply opening the Uber app on your phone.
One of them is Fraser Island off the Queensland coast, the world's largest sand island and a World Heritage site since 1992. With its rough sand roads, a 4WD vehicle is compulsory for landing on and travelling around the island. Don't have one? That's where a hire car comes in – the perfect way to explore this tropical paradise without having to fork out thousands for a brand new car you're only going to use a couple of times a year (and that's going to be impossible to find parking for the rest of the time).
We did some research and found that it's easier to hire one from a capital city, so we've put together a fun Queensland road trip full of things to see and do on your way up the coast from Brisbane to Fraser Island. Happy 4WDing!
Day 1: Brisbane to Caloundra (1 hour 15 minutes)
After picking up your 4WD, head north from the capital and just over an hour later you’ll hit Caloundra, the southernmost town of the Sunshine Coast. Stretch your legs and walk along the boardwalk, where the city meets crashing waves. It won’t be long until you come across the Pumicestone Passage, 35 kilometres of waterways, beaches and wildlife. The shallow waters allow for a smooth paddleboard or, if you've got the need for speed, you can shoot across the passage on a jet ski. If you're there over Easter, check out Caloundra's Twilight Markets on Friday 25 March and 1 April. Held on the Bulcock Beach Esplanade, you can enjoy market stalls, street food, local performances and great family fun.
Day 2: Caloundra to Noosaville (55 minutes)
With less than an hour's driving to get there from your Caloundra accommodation, today you'll have plenty of time to explore Noosa National Park. Whether you prefer an invigorating early-morning start or a mid-afternoon stroll, you can clear your head on one of the many walking trails that head deep into the forest greenery, with steep sandy traps for those looking for an extra challenge. Keep your eyes peeled for koalas and other local animals. If you don’t mind a bit of extra driving, 20 minutes from Noosa is Eumundi Winery and Brewery, where you can sample some local and international flavours. By late afternoon, you may be brave enough to check out Alexandria Bay, the area's unofficial ‘clothing optional’ beach. If you're looking for a more traditional way to wind down at the end of the day, the many cafes and restaurants of Hastings Street in Noosa offer everything from pre-dinner drink to fine dining menus and after-dinner cocktails.
Day 3: Noosaville to Rainbow Beach (1 hour 50 minutes)
When it comes to stunning coastal views, Rainbow Beach can more than hold its own against its Sunshine Coast cousins. Enormous sandy cliffs guard the coastline, comprised of unique coloured sands. The colours come from natural erosion from the tides and eastern winds, which have revealed different minerals of the earth's surface. More than 100,000 years in the making, this site is home to Aboriginal legends and history. All this sight-seeing can really work up an appetite, so when you start to get peckish head to the award-winning Waterview Bistro. Hidden within a five-star resort, they offer a casual atmosphere with a million dollar waterfront view.
Day 4: Rainbow Beach to Fraser Island (1 hour 25 minutes)
This is your 4WD's time to shine. From Rainbow Beach, head north-west to Inskip Point, where you can jump on the ferry to Fraser Island. A return trip will cost you about $120 per vehicle, and it's probably a good idea to make sure you've filled the tank before you hit the island, where fuel can be much more expensive. Your time on Fraser can be as action-packed or as relaxing as you like. Join a deep ocean fishing tour and catch a trophy-size fish (some as big as 190cm), or go off-road on some of Australia’s whitest sand dunes. But with more than 100 freshwater lakes to choose from on the island, the idea of simply escaping the Queensland heat with a dip in their crystal blue waters might be pretty hard to beat.
Day 5: Fraser Island to Brisbane (4 hours 5 minutes)
After breakfast, you have two choices – continue your action-packed adventure on Fraser, or pack up the car and make your way back to the ferry terminal (just a warning: it's going to be very difficult to leave this tranquil paradise). If you can manage to tear yourself away, you can either continue north to explore Hervey Bay and the central Queensland coast, or head back to Brisbane to return your 4WD. Getting back will take you around four hours, which is plenty of time to plan your next road trip!
This post is brought to you by Budget Rent A Car. Please note that you must have authorisation in writing from Budget to take a rental vehicle to Fraser Island.