About three hours drive from Brisbane, Rainbow Beach is a laid-back, small beach-side settlement, with all the facilities, activities and treats needed for a wonderful holiday. Families have a great time on the beach, playgrounds and through the National Park. The beach is full of interest, from the patrolled surf area to fishing and exploring the coffee rocks, sand dunes and famous Coloured Sands. The town is very casual and easy to get around, while offering some pleasant luxuries.
Nature lovers have lots of interesting bush and beach walks with variety and spectacular scenery (see more details below on the walks). The Scribbly Gums house is a perfect setting for those seeking a relaxing break close to nature. Wake up to pretty native bird calls in the Banksia trees and finish your day watching the sun set over Tin Can Bay inlet.
The recently opened Rainbow Beach Hotel has brought a stylish new experience to the town. There are many other dining out options including Waterview Bistro (just a few minutes walk from Scribbly Gums) and Arco woodfired pizza.
For those with a 4WD you can venture over to Fraser Island and to Double Island Point. Thrill seekers and eco-experience lovers, can scuba dive at Wolf Rock, one of the world's top dive spots, paraglide and sea kayak.
Facilities & our recommendations
Shopping & groceries
- Two supermarkets (including an IGA), newsagent, bakery, butcher, hardware, fishing, camping/disposal, clothes & surf wear, bottle shop
- Pharmacy - only open until midday on Saturday, closed Sunday
- Post Office & Commonwealth Bank outlet
- Westpac ATM
- A new shopping centre with Woolworths supermarket recently opened in Cooloola Cove, 15 minutes drive from Rainbow Beach.
- Spectacular Waterview Bistro just a few minutes walk up the hill from Scribbly Gums - excellent value & delicious weekend breakfasts, lunch specials, evening dining and bar
- Arco woodfired pizza and coffee in the peaceful courtyard at the back of the Rainbow Beach Hotel - our favourite new dining out & coffee spot, lovely staff and scrummy pizzas, tapas
- New Rainbow Beach Hotel - stunning decor inside, open fire, excellent food at the bistro, plenty of dining room upstairs and down & don't miss the Rock Toll board at the back of the bar area.
- Surf Life Saving Club restaurant & Bowls Club restaurant
- Gelateria - absolutely delicious, made in Rainbow Beach with Cooloola milk
- Two seafood shops - Frying Fish cafe at the IGA with dine in and takeaway, and nearby Seafood with takeaway and fresh local seafood.
- Doctor at various times
- Rainbow Hair & Beauty Studio - lovely people
- Day Spa at the new Plantation resort
The beach is patrolled in front of the surf lifesaving hut during school holidays and weekends from September through March.
Things to do
- Walk to Carlo Sand Blow - we do this regularly from the house, as there is always lots to explore
- Dolphin feeding at Tin Cay Bay (drive or take the ferry across)
- Scuba Dive at Wolf Rock (grey nurse sharks, manta rays)
- Sea kayaking tours - see manta rays, dolphins, turtles
- Golf at Rainbow Shores
- Lawn Bowls
- Canoe and boat hire from Carlo Point (Rainbow Beach side of Tin Can Bay)
- Freshwater swim at Searys Creak - quite shallow, good for wading and exploring
- Sky diving, paragliding
- Surf School & surf board hire
- Whale watching from August to October
- Wildflowers in Spring
- Drive to Double Island Point and walk up to the lighthouse - quite achievable walk for children
- Day trip to Fraser Island from Inskip Point
The below exceprts from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald Travel section
Pleasant quiet holiday spot which also serves as a gateway to Fraser Island and Cooloola National Park
Originally known as Back Beach, Rainbow Beach was renamed after the coloured sands located near the town which lies to the south of Fraser Island. It was gazetted as late as 1969 when it was established to service the local sandmining industry. Until that time there was no road to Rainbow Beach, with the only access being via boat from Tin Can Bay.
Sandmining ceased in 1976 and it has since become a quiet and idyllic holiday, fishing and retirement getaway... It caters well to beach-orientated holiday-makers. Although it has a permanent population of only around 900, about 70,000 visitors blow through town each year.
Cooloola National Park
Cooloola National Park forms the southern portion of Great Sandy National. Stretching south from Rainbow Beach to the Noosa River at Tewantin, it provides a haven for indigenous flora and fauna threatened by urban development and is characterised by open heathland, banksia woodlands, dry sclerophyll forest of scribbly gum and blackbutt, rainforest, coloured sand cliffs, attractive and extensive beaches, a plenitude of birdlife, including sea eagles, and the freshwater lakes, mangrove wetlands and tributaries associated with the Noosa River.
Great Sandy National Park incorporates and preserves the largest tract of natural land on Queensland¹s southern coast and the largest intact sand dune system in the world (around Teewah Beach). Visitors can enjoy bushwalking, picnicking, scenic drives, boating, fishing, lake and surf swimming, although the beaches are unpatrolled, sharks are common and bluebottles are present during northerly winds. Whales can be seen offshore between August and October, while dolphins and manta rays are more regular visitors.
Cooloola offers many bushwalking opportunities which are best enjoyed when the wildflowers bloom on the heathlands in Spring.
Cooloola National Park (Hang-Gliding/Carlo Sand Blow)
Rainbow Beach is popular with hang-gliders who use Carlo Sand Blow to launch out over Wide Bay. The 15-ha Blow was named by Captain Cook after one of his deck crew, named Carlo. It offers excellent views south-east to Double Island Point and the coloured sands, west to Tin Can Bay and the Great Sandy Straits, and north to Inskip Point and Fraser Island. Whales can sometimes be seen offshore between August and October.
A 600-metre walking track (one way) departs from Rainbow Beach water tower, at the top of Cooloola Drive, and passes through woodland to the Blow.
Cooloola National Park (Coloured Sands)
If visitors walk eastwards along the beach from the township of Rainbow Beach they will see enormous, impressive sandy cliffs, which can be up to 200 metres in height. Erosion has exposed a palette of as many as 72 different coloured sands which have been produced by combinations of iron oxide and leached vegetable dyes. It is likely that the sands have been forming since the last ice age.
Cooloola National Park (Telegraph Track and Murrawar Lookout)
From the end of Double Island Drive (which runs off Rainbow Beach Rd) walkers can commence along the Telegraph Track which follows the old telegraph line for 7 km to Bymien Picnic Area in Cooloola National Park. A 2-km detour leads to Murrawar Lookout which affords excellent views over Wide Bay, Double Island Point (which forms the eastern edge of Wide Bay) and Fraser Island.
Cooloola National Park (Double Island Point)
8 km north of Freshwater is Double Island Point which extends out to form the eastern arm of Wide Bay. It can be accessed via 4WD along the beach from either Freshwater or, at low tide, from Rainbow Beach (if coming from the latter check with a ranger regarding access past Mudlo Rocks). There is 1.1-km walking track from the very end of the Teewah Beach to the lighthouse.
Cooloola National Park (Searys Creek Walk) 7.5 km south of Rainbow Beach, along Rainbow Beach Road, there is a roadside carpark which is the start of a 100-metre walk to Searys Creek, amid heath and woodland environs.
Cooloola National Park (Bymien Picnic Area and Associated Walks)
4 km south of Rainbow Beach, along Rainbow Beach Rd, there is a turnoff on the left into Freshwater Road (unsealed but navigable in a 2WD) which passes through woodlands, climbing a steep hill to lead, after 3 km, to the rainforest environs of Bymien Picnic Area, which has small free gas barbecues, picnic tables, toilets, fireplaces and disabled access. The Dandathu Circuit (250 metres) is a pleasant rainforest amble witha 2-km return sidetrack which climbs a high, rainforest-clad dune, before descending through scrub to Poona Lake. The more ambitious can continue on through scribbly gum, blackbutt and rainforest to Freshwater Camping Area - a walk of 7.3 km.
Cooloola National Park (Freshwater Camping and Day Use Area)
From Bymien it is only possible to continue along Freshwater Road in a 4WD. It is13 km to Freshwater Camping Area, which is located adjacent Teewah Beach. Free gas barbecues are available. There is a 1.3-km walk from the campground to Freshwater Lake (one way), a 2.7-km circuit walk around the lake, and the 7.3-km walk back to Bymien.