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March 05, 2019, Australia

Sun, sand and sea Down Under

Rachel Tan goes on a road trip to explore beautiful beaches and make interesting discoveries at Sunshine Coast

Rachel Tan

Expressways lined with lush greenery are a familiar sight in Singapore. But a highway on a white sandy beach?

Not unless you are in Australia, at least.

Sunshine Coast’s 40 Mile Beach is a designated government sand highway that runs from lovely seaside suburb Noosa Heads to the quiet charming coastal town of Rainbow Beach, where highway and road rules apply.

It is ideal for a road trip on a four-wheel drive (4WD).

If you cannot drive, or prefer to relax and leave the hard work of driving for a full day to someone else, I would recommend the Great Beach Drive 4WD Tours. I knew I was in good hands with my guide Glenn Wiggins, an expert driver who is adept at manoeuvring the sandy terrain in this region.

As we began our journey, Glenn pointed out several birds and sea creatures, such as the striking blue blubber jellyfish and adorable oystercatchers affectionately called pipi birds. The latter feed on pipis, which are mollusks found just a few centimetres below the surface of a sandy beach.

I also learnt how to do the “pipi dance” — a little twist that you do barefooted. This action creates a little hole in the sand to bring the pipis to the surface when water washes over the indents. We picked out the pipis, then placed them “feet” down onto the sand and watched them slowly burrow back underground.

Along the 40 Mile Beach at Sunshine Coast are some great camping points, especially during summer. A truck makes regular deliveries of ice and basic food items along the beach, so you have fewer things to pack.

1. Double Island Point
This is the place to be if you love marine life. You will find plenty of them, from dolphins to turtles and manta rays. Even humpback whales, if you are there from June to October. When I was there last November, I spotted pods of dolphins, including a rare white one.

When viewed from a distance, Double Island Point looks like two separate islands in the sea, which explains its name by Captain James Cook in 1770. It is also home to an iconic lighthouse that offers breathtaking panoramic views from Noosa to Fraser Island.

Anyone can get to the lighthouse on foot, but why walk when you can drive?

Only Great Beach Drive 4WD Tours has licensed key access to drive up to the lighthouse.

2. Honeymoon Bay
After watching many others swim and surf along the beach, it was finally time for me to take a dip here.

Swim in the sea, or dip in the beautiful shallow saltwater lagoon — perfect for those who may not be confident to tackle big waves. The best part? You are able to swim in it all year round, without having to don a wetsuit at all.

I enjoyed the amazing scenic views while wading through the lagoon and even saw some soldier crabs scurrying across the sand. If you are lucky, you can even spy turtles and fish as some sea creatures can get trapped in the lagoon at low tide.

3. Rainbow Beach
We stopped for a late lunch at the final stop of our tour at this small coastal town with a population of about 1,100. Fun fact: movie star Chris Hemsworth frequents Rainbow Beach. Too bad I did not get to meet him here.

On our way back, we checked out the famous coloured sands of Australia.

This attraction is exactly as its name describes: a picturesque vibrant sand dune system with over 40 different shades of colour. It is a natural phenomenon that occurred over thousands of years due to leached vegetation and the oxidation of iron-ore minerals.

Interestingly, this was when I got to know more about Aboriginal culture.

I learnt that the Indigenous Australian Gubbi Gubbi people use the sands to make paints in different hues for decorating their didgeridoos and artwork.

And of course, I had to have a go at playing and painting with the different colours. It was fun and I was once again awed by nature’s marvellous offerings.

GETTING THERE
I took a direct flight with Singapore Airlines to Brisbane from Singapore, before going on a
two-hour drive to Noosa Heads. The latter can also be reached by train or bus, which costs between A$20 (S$19) to A$40.

Traveller’s tips
• You can only drive on 40 Mile Beach with a 4WD. Otherwise you risk getting your car stuck in sand and being washed away by the currents. You can engage experienced guides from the Great Beach Drive 4WD Tours (www.greatbeachdrive4wdtours.com) for peace of mind.

• The heat can get quite intense at the beach. Make sure you apply adequate sunscreen and bring along a wide brimmed, floppy sun hat when you hit the beach.

 

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