PICK THE ODD one out: wilderness coastline; beach driving; spectacular dunes; a national park with bush camps and numerous 4WD-only trails; a regular on-road caravan.
Yep, it was the last one. The tyranny of distance on rough or remote tracks often limits getting close to some of the most spectacular parts of Australia to specialised offroad vans or camper trailers. But not everyone has, or wants, such a rig, unless they are planning one of the big trips, like the Kimberley or Cape York.
But my wife and I have found a place just 30 minutes by bitumen from the bright lights, chic shops and great restaurants of Noosa Heads, Qld, where you can enjoy a wilderness lifestyle and all of the attractions that go with it – all from the comfort of a regular van. It’s called Noosa North Shore, but don’t tell everyone!
The best route to this secret hideaway is to follow the signs for Coory from Noosa Heads, turn right and follow the ferry signs at neighbouring Tewantin, take the ferry across the Noosa River and in less than 10 minutes you’ll find yourself in a large, accessible camping area perched on a low sand dune, just 50m from the South Pacific Ocean. The only thing further east is the North Island of New Zealand.
The Noosa North Shore Beach Campground (formerly known as the Beachfront Caravan Park-Noosa North Shore) has pole position on Teewah Beach, with the twinkle of Noosa’s lights by night and great surf by day. However, there are only eight powered sites, so if you need 240V you may want to try the Noosa North Shore Retreat, around 2km back towards the ferry.
ON THE SAND
Unhitch your 4WD, drop your tyre pressures and hit the beach at the access point just north of the campground to experience one of the joys of Australia’s east coast. How far you travel up the sand is really up to you. It’s a 35km straight run north to Double Island Point, watching whales blow in the surf as you pass spectacular ochre-coloured sandy cliffs on your left.
Beyond the point is the popular holiday spot of Rainbow Beach, which has some low-key resort facilities. You can get a little more adventurous and catch the vehicle barge at Inskip Point and travel 123km all the way up World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, Australia’s sixth largest island.
Alternatively, head inland into the Great Sandy National Park, which has been incorporated into the larger Cooloola Recreation Area that stretches from Noosa to Tin Can Bay. There you will find a network of 4WD trails linking lakes, creeks and remote camping spots, and even a fascinating pub at Boreen Point.
No need to rush, though. Why not just relax at the campground?
NOOSA NORTH SHORE BEACH CAMPGROUND
This is not a flashy place. If you want a manicured caravan park you’re better off staying in Noosa or Noosaville and making a day trip. But if hot showers, a laundry, a small convenience store and rubbish bins are all you need outside your rig, then the park’s location makes up for a lot.
There’s a wide choice of parking spots within the campground, which sprawls along the beachfront behind a low dune and heathland. The beachfront spots give you great views but are exposed to the regular south-easterly breezes that can blow quite briskly at different times of the year.
You can choose to sacrifice the view and camp under shady pandanus palms further back in the park, with numerous private areas ideally suited to families and groups of friends.
Until recently, the final kilometre to the North Shore campground was a pot-holed horror stretch, but since September 2010 the Noosa Wilderness Track has been “bitumenised” in order to guide beach travellers to the third cutting just beyond, which is now the only access point for north-bound beach traffic.
The first cutting off Maximillian Road is restricted to south-bound beach traffic, and the area past the campground is out of bounds to vehicular beach traffic.
With these changes have come beach access permit fees and some other regulations, so get online to check out the changes that have occurred since the Cooloola Recreation Area was created.
If you drive 15km north on Teewah Beach from the cutting just past the beachfront campground you’ll find your first section of intensely colourful sandy cliffs. Similarly impressive cliffs up to 200m high can be found 2km eastward of the township of Rainbow Beach, located a further 40km up the Teewah Beach.
Erosion has exposed a palette of as many as 72 different coloured sands produced by combinations of iron oxide and leached vegetable dyes. It is likely that the sands have been forming since the last ice age.
Rather more poetically, an Aboriginal legend tells of a spirit that took the form of a rainbow. Entering into a fight over a woman, the spirit fell onto the cliffs, infusing the sands with its polychromatic splendor.
Encompassing the hinterland between the Noosa North Shore and Tin Can Bay to the north, around 240km north of Brisbane, the Great Sandy National Park consists of 56,000ha.
Long beaches backed by high sand dunes, wildflower heaths, freshwater lakes, woodlands and forests make it a great place to explore from your base at Noosa North Shore.
The Great Sandy National Park is criss-crossed by creeks and a range of interesting 4WD-only tracks linking a number of camping spots with minimal facilities.
The most popular 4WD campground is Freshwater Camp, located just off the Teewah Beach approximately 8km south of Double Island Point, or 14km by the inland track from Rainbow Beach along the Freshwater Road. There you will find such luxuries as (paid) hot showers, free gas barbecues and a garbage disposal area.
Beach camping (no facilities) is also allowed on a 15km zone between Noosa Shire boundary and Little Freshwater Creek, and at an undeveloped site at Poverty Point, 6km from Rainbow Beach Road. There are four other camping areas on the Inskip Peninsula.
Source: Caravan World Jun 2011.