Explore the Great Sandy National Park

11 mins read

Great Sandy National Park is a natural masterpiece, split into two distinct sections: Cooloola and K’gari (Fraser Island). Each offers a unique gateway to explore the wonders of nature, with paths that cater to both the leisurely walker and the adventurous driver.

With options of walking or driving, a terrain of rolling sand dunes in pastel hues awaits you amongst intriguing forests and wetlands coupled with long stretches of beaches. Ideal for camping, the Great Sandy National Park is a place to get away truly.

Cooloola: A Kaleidoscope of Nature

In Cooloola, a palette of soft-hued coloured sands sets the backdrop for dense forests and serene wetlands, creating a mosaic of ecosystems. This area is accessible to 4WD vehicles from Noosa. To drive up Teewah Beach, you must catch the vehicle ferry from Tewantin to Noosa North Shore.

Double Island Point, Cooloola
Double Island Point, Cooloola

Cooloola Recreation Area runs from Noosa to Inskip Point, which passes Rainbow Beach. If you don’t have a 4WD; you can access the park with a 2WD vehicle in sections like Elanda Point, Boreen Point, and Bymien.

Find a useful map of Cooloola here.

K’gari: An Island of Discovery

K’gari, better known as Fraser Island, stands as a marvel of nature, being the world’s largest sand island. It’s a realm where ancient rainforests miraculously rise from sandy soils, and endless beaches stretch into the horizon. K’gari shows how nature can bounce back and be beautiful. It has different landscapes to see, like clear freshwater lakes and coloured sand cliffs called The Cathedrals.

Cathedral Cliffs of coloured sand K'gari (Fraser) Island
The Cathedrals, K’gari

Useful Map of K’gari here.

4WD The Great Sandy National Park

The more adventurous option for exploring The Great Sandy National Park is using a 4WD vehicle with high clearance. You can access tracks through Teewah Beach, Freshwater Road, Cooloola Way, and Poverty Point Road. In most cases, you’ll need a driving permit issued, so check before heading out.

Going on a 4WD trip in Great Sandy National Park is exciting. However, it requires more preparation than a regular road trip. Here’s our checklist to ensure your sandy escapades are more “Wow, look at that view!” and less “Oops, we’re stuck.”

Epic Ocean Adventure
Epic Ocean Adventure 4wd

The Essentials:

  • Tire Deflators and Pressure Gauge: Soft sand and full tires are like oil and water—they don’t mix. Deflate your tires to a lower pressure to increase their footprint for better traction. Don’t forget to bring them back to normal pressure once you’re back on firmer ground!
  • Recovery Tracks: These are like the superhero sidekicks of sand driving. If you encounter a sandy situation, place these tracks under your wheels to gain the grip needed for escape.
  • Shovel: Sometimes, you’ve got to dig your way out of a situation—literally. A sturdy shovel can be your best friend if your wheels bury themselves in the sand.
  • 4WD Recovery Kit: This should include snatch straps, D-shackles, and gloves. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of 4WD recovery: versatile and essential.

Just in Case:

  • Air Compressor: After deflating your tires for the sand, you’ll need to pump them back up for regular roads. It’s either this or a very bumpy and possibly damaging ride home.
  • Extra Water and Fuel: Sand driving is thirsty work, for both you and your vehicle. Keep extra supplies to avoid being stranded without the essentials.
  • First Aid Kit: For those unexpected “oops” moments. Safety first, adventure second.

Don’t Forget:

  • Permits and Maps: Ensure you have permission to be in your current location and know how to reach your destination. Losing your way in the park’s vastness can really dampen your adventure.
  • Communication Device: In many remote areas, your phone’s signal might decide to take a vacation too. Satellite phones or a reliable GPS device can be crucial in emergencies.

The Extras:

  • Sun Protection: The sun can be relentless, and there’s not much shade out on the dunes. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun’s enthusiastic rays.
  • Snacks and Entertainment: Because, let’s face it, what’s an adventure without some good munchies and tunes?

With this gear and a dash of common sense, you’re all set for a thrilling 4WD experience in the sands. To drive on sand successfully, go slow, maintain momentum, and appreciate the beautiful scenery of Great Sandy National Park.

Rainbow Beach Queensland
Rainbow Beach by S. Newrick

Check out our Article Noosa North Shore to Double Island Point for the 4wd Novice.


Embarking on the trails of Great Sandy National Park is an adventure requiring some planning. Here’s a closer look at some key trails, including details on start points, parking, and distances to help you prepare for your journey.

Melaleuca Circuit: A Serene Stroll

  • Start Point: The trail begins at the Fig Tree Point day-use area, within the Cooloola section.
  • Parking: Ample parking is available at Fig Tree Point, making it convenient to start your walk.
  • Length: This circuit is about 400 metres long, ideal for a casual walk in the afternoon.
  • Duration: 30 minutes

Cooloola Great Walk: Into the Wild

  • Start Point: The walk traditionally starts at the Noosa North Shore, accessible via the Noosa River Ferry at Tewantin. This entry point immerses you in the park’s beauty right from the beginning.
  • Parking: Near the ferry landing on the Noosa North Shore for those starting from the southern end. It’s a convenient option, allowing you to park your vehicle safely before you head into the wilderness.
  • Distance: The Cooloola Great Walk stretches approximately 102 kilometres, weaving through a diverse tapestry of landscapes, including rainforests, heathlands, and expansive sand dunes.
  • Duration: Typically, it takes about 5 days to complete the entire trek, with designated camping areas along the route for overnight stays.

The Great Walk : A Path Less Travelled

  • Start Point: Dilli Village on K’gari (Fraser Island). You can reach the island by ferry from Rainbow Beach or Hervey Bay.
  • Parking: Dilli Village provides parking for Great Walk trekkers. Given the remote location, arranging your parking and permits in advance is advisable.
  • Distance: This trail is about 90 kilometres long and takes several days to complete. It goes through different landscapes on the island, showing off its natural beauty.
  • Duration: It takes approximately 6 to 8 days to complete the entire 90-kilometre trail.

Lake Wabby Walk: A Hidden Gem

  • Start Point: The walk starts at the Lake Wabby car park, offering a stunning overview before you begin.
  • Parking: Convenient parking is available at the lookout, making it easy to access the trailhead.
  • Distance: The trail is short, about 3.1 kilometres one way, but it’s harder because of the sandy ground. It takes you to the amazing Lake Wabby.
  • Duration: 1.5 hours
Lake Wabby, Fraser Island
Lake Wabby by Brian W. Schaller

Each trail in Great Sandy National Park offers its unique set of wonders, from serene lakes to expansive sand dunes and dense rainforests. Know where to start, park, and how far the trail is to choose the best one for your adventure and schedule. Remember, preparation is key to enjoying these natural wonders to the fullest!

A Haven for Camping Enthusiasts

When looking for a place to camp, consider the beautiful areas found at Harry’s, Freshwater, and Fig Tree Point. Information centres at Tewantin and Rainbow Beach can provide campers with various trails and permit requirements.

Great Sandy National Park, with its dual realms of Cooloola and K’gari, presents a sanctuary for those longing to escape the bustle of daily life. It’s more than just a park; it’s a destination where camping under the stars becomes an unforgettable experience, allowing you to connect with the raw beauty of the Sunshine Coast.

Whether you’re meandering through the forested pathways of Cooloola or traversing the sandy stretches of K’gari, Great Sandy National Park invites you to immerse yourself in its natural splendour. It’s a place where every turn reveals a new wonder, making it a quintessential escape for nature lovers and adventurers alike. For camping travel guides, check out Camps Australia.

Lake Mackenzie, K'gari Island
Lake Mackenzie, K’gari Island by Lucas·G

To escape it all, spend a day or several in the Great Sandy National Park. Its undisturbed waters and awe-inspiring views will have you paying more attention to the fish, birds, whales and wildlife. Solo travellers, families, and couples alike will find it impressive.