FORGET Victoria's Great Ocean Road, there is nothing like experiencing the Sunshine Coast's Great Beach Drive.
It is a surreal feeling to drive along pristine beaches at 80kmh with barely another traveller in sight.
With hardly any man-made structures to be seen for hours as we traversed rainforests, beaches and stunning wonders of nature it was made as clear as the ocean water why this place is called Australia's Nature Coast.
Having travelled through Thai rainforests, New Mexican deserts, the national parks of Wyoming and the Alps of Switzerland, I can honestly say none of those places have been able to offer such diversity as the Sunshine Coast drive.
And for those with no four-wheel drive, Surf and Sand Safari Tours has travellers covered. The company offers groups and individuals half- and full-day tours. Their four-wheel drivers first take you on the tracks through the Great Sandy National Park and Cooloola Recreational Park, where visitors may see birds of prey, exotic reptiles and the unique fauna that are found only in that reserve. The added bonus of a guided tour is that a guide can explain the sights and sounds of the parks.
They say travel where the locals travel. Good thing our tour guide Glenn Wiggins knew the tracks like the back of his hand and lives just down the road in the coastal town of Rainbow Beach.
Glenn has been operating tours every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day for the past 15 years.
Our small full-day tour group was able to get off the not so beaten path in the recreational park to find spots of pure serenity surrounded by tropical rainforest, while Glenn informed us of the history of the indigenous people, the Gubbi Gubbi, and the history of the Europeans who settled in the region.
A few minutes' drive further into the forest we came across an opening and the booming sound of waves crashing could be heard. We had found the beach.
Passing the odd four-wheel drive full of surfers or families, we made our way along the coast towards Double Island Point, as the waves crept towards the car and then receded, before climbing towards the Double Island Point Conservation Park lighthouse.
We were treated to breathtaking 360-degree views of the coastlines stretching off into the distance, the Great Sandy National Park tucked behind the beaches, the waves crashing on the rocks below and a stunning view of the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island to the north.
As we made our way to Rainbow Beach the coastal landscape quickly transformed to massive dunes of red, brown and orange sand rising from the beach.
We parked at Coloured Sands and the view made the experience essential for anyone visiting the Noosa region. The views and contrast of colours against the gold sands of the beach were not to be missed and no photo could capture the true beauty of seeing them in real life.
A result of natural chemicals in the soil, these towering cliffs of 72 different earthly colours have long been a special spot for both the First People living here, European settlers and now holiday-makers.
We found some orange rocks from Coloured Sands lying amongst the waves and it was the perfect time to reflect on the amazing things we had seen in just eight hours.
Without hesitation we rubbed bits of the wet rock between our hands to try some traditional hand painting. Kneeling in the surf and painting ochre-coloured handprints in the sand, with the gold- and orange-coloured cliffs in front of us, had to be the highlight of my weekend in Noosa.
After a swim in the clear water at Honeymoon Bay Point we began our 80km drive along the untouched coastal wilderness of the Great Beach Drive back to Noosa.
Though our handprints on the beach were gone forever as the tide came in, the memories we made from Noosa to Double Island Point to Rainbow Beach that day will never be forgotten.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.