Rainbow Beach is a summer lovers dream. The air is warm, the sun feels like it’s always shining and everything just starts to get more tropical here! Strangely, when James and I visited Rainbow Beach for the first time we didn’t love it straight away. It wasn’t until our second visit here we discovered we hadn’t stayed long enough the first time to really experience everything it had to offer. Discovering Rainbow Beach was one of the best things we have done!
We really fell in love with this beachside town. On our second trip to Tropical North Queensland in 2018, we couldn’t stop ourselves pulling off the highway whenever we were near the Rainbow Beach turnoff. In total, we’ve probably spent 2 months here across multiple visits, giving us time to really explore and discover all of Rainbow Beach’s little treasures.
So, where is Rainbow Beach?
If you’re wondering where Rainbow Beach is situated, it’s a little over an hour and a half north from Noosa in Queensland. It’s that sweet spot in Queensland where the palm trees start multiplying but you’re still blessed with (little) waves at the beach. Rainbow Beach is also 10 minutes away from the first access point to Fraser Island (K’gari).
When to visit
Rainbow Beach experiences tropical weather, meaning it also gets affected by tropical cyclones. We experienced the best weather from September to October. The middle of summer (after November) is when the weather is almost too hot, and it begins to get quite humid.
When the warmer weather rolls around (nice and early in the year) it’s not long before the sun is rising at 5.00am and it’s already 25 degrees by 9am. I love that feeling. You can feel the exciting anticipation in the air of what the day ahead holds. For a summer chaser like myself, this is one of my favourite aspects of a warm climate.
The best things to do in Rainbow Beach
Rainbow Beach has an incredible amount of things to do! There are so many amazing experiences and adventures to be had completely unique to the area. I was blown away we never discovered some of these on our first trip.
The rainbow coloured sands
Rainbow Beach is full of natural beauty. The first and most striking is the rainbow coloured cliffside sand dunes. They are 80 meters high and consist of over 72 different colours. It’s an incredible sight to witness in person and one of the many characteristics that set Rainbow Beach apart from any other destination.
Carlo Sand Blow
The best way I have heard the Carlo Sand Blow described is a “unique moonscape sand mass”. Without seeing a photo, it can be hard to imagine. The view from up here is beautiful. James and I also experienced one of the best sunsets we saw on our trip here. The afternoon was warm and we decided to go up to the sand blow specifically for the sunrise. And it didn’t disappoint!
It takes 10 minutes to walk to the Carlo Sand Blow from the Carlo Carpark off Cooloola Drive.
Crystal clear water
The water here is insanely vibrant and so clear. It’s like swimming in a giant pool. Rainbow Beach is one of the last beaches that has any waves before they are blocked by The Great Barrier Reef. Although, they are very small. This does make it perfect for swimming or learning to surf, especially on a longboard.
While you’re at the beach look out for skydivers jumping out of a plane. They land in a sectioned off area on the beach.
(You can organise to do a jump yourself! Book in next to the IGA supermarket at the local shops).
The drive into Rainbow Beach takes you through a pine tree plantation at Toolara Forest. It’s amazing to see as you almost think you’re on the way to a snowboarding holiday up in the mountains! We stopped here and wandered down one of the roads. The ground here is covered in pine cones and I was actually so disappointed I couldn’t bring any of them with us in our van for future Christmas decorations!
See if you can catch a glimpse of the humpback dolphins at Carlo Point Marina. They are usually fed at Barnacles Dolphin Centre in Tin Can Bay at 8am before they swim over to the Marina. James and I had no idea what humpback dolphins were before we came to Rainbow Beach so you can imagine we were extremely confused when we saw a “miniature humpback whale” in the water here!
Freshwater tea tree lake
Most people are surprised to learn there is a freshwater tea tree lake hiding in the Great Sandy National Park. It is called Poona Lake. Poona Lake is a perched lake, meaning it forms in sand dunes. Organic matter such as tree leaves and debris have formed a layer on the sand over time, acting as a “plug” which slows the water from draining out. You’ll also be amazed at how white the sand is here!
Our time at Poona Lake was nice and peaceful as we were there by ourselves. We had the birds chirping in the background and we could have sworn we saw a little turtle in the water here.
You can reach Poona Lake with a 2WD and walk from the Bymien Picnic area. It’s an easy walk in around 2km long.
Double island point
If you’ve reached this far in my article you’ll be happy to know I’ve saved the best spot for my third last point of things to do in Rainbow Beach.
Double Island Point HAS to be on your list for when you are discovering Rainbow Beach yourself. It is one of my most FAVOURITE places in the whole of Queensland. There is a nice little surf break at the point here which we actually had no idea about. Luckily we brought our surfboards so were able to spend our time here enjoying the quiet surf break.
The water here is crystal clear, the sand is incredibly soft and if you look close enough you’ll see turtles and sting rays swimming in the shallows. If you feel like exploring a little, there is a walk which takes you up to a lighthouse. You’ll get a 360-degree view from the top spanning from Fraser Island and Rainbow Beach, all the way to Noosa!
If you go during the week or in off season you’ll likely have this place to yourself, or with a few others which is crazy to imagine as it’s one of the most amazing places in Australia. It was only us and about 6 others here when we visited. However, beware! This spot is usually a car park on days like Australia Day as it is a well known spot to locals in this area of Queensland.
It’s important to mention Double Island Point is only accessible at low tide. We stayed here for the whole day, during high tide, which meant we had to wait for the tide to drop to get to our camping spot for the night. We planned to do this so brought plenty of food and water along with us.
You can drive out to Double Island Point along Rainbow Beach in a 4WD. The drive is also one of the best ways to see the rainbow coloured sands.
Check the tide times before heading out to Double Island Point. You’ll want to reach the point when the tide is at its lowest. If you don’t want to stay out at Double Island Point all day, make sure you head back before the tide starts rising again.
Hiring a 4WD
If you are looking to hire a 4WD visit our friends at Rainbow Beach Adventure Centre. Their cars have so much power and were the only ones not getting stuck in the soft sand when you entered the beach. We loved driving the car we borrowed!
Beach camping under the stars at Teewah Beach
One thing James and I had never done before was beach camping. Having our van means we are lucky enough to pull up anywhere and sleep, but never on the sand! So having the 4WD meant we had the chance to beach camp.
Teewah Beach has a long stretch of area designated to camping. We stayed at the Teewah Camping Zone. The campaign zone is 15km long and is located on the other side of the headland from Double Island Point. The area is really beautiful and in some spots even has a little bit of grass. Each night we had an area to ourselves with no one else in sight. It was pretty amazing.
The first night was spent sleeping in the back of the 4WD. We had our mattress set up and got cosy with some fairy lights strung across the roof.
The second night we decided to set up our little tent. The tent we have is one that we can easily bring on hikes with us, so it’s small and not waterproof. Luckily, we didn’t need to worry about the rain here!
Inskip is the gateway to Fraser Island. It is where the barge leaves daily to take visitors over to the island. It is also another great spot for camping. We stayed at the S.S. Dorrigo Campground for a couple of nights when we were here. However, there are a lot of other recreational areas in Inskip. Just make sure you book ahead!
We had some beautiful afternoons at Inskip. The sunset always seemed to light up here! It was extra special because you could look across the ocean and see Fraser Island.
National Park Camping
If you want to stay in any of the National Park campsites, book via the Queensland National Parks Booking Service.
You can pick up National Park and camping permits from most of the stores in Rainbow Beach but it’s easier to go to the Rainbow Beach QPWS Information Centre which is on Rainbow Beach Road just up from the IGA. It’s well sign posted. You will need these for the drive out to Double Island Point as well.
A caution on sandflies
Sandflies are a common occurrence around Rainbow Beach and Inskip. It’s easy to tell who the campers are when you are at the local shops as they will be the ones covered in bites. James and I included. Don’t be fooled by using fly screen. We found out the hard way it doesn’t work.
If you do get bitten and are finding you can’t handle it (the bites are incredibly itchy), get straight into some cool water or turn the air conditioner on. As soon as your body temperature drops, the itching stops. (A well received tip from our friends at Cape Hillsborough). You will notice though as soon as you step back out into the heat the itching will start again almost instantly. If you’ve been bitten hundreds of times, go straight to the doctor and get a prescription cream. The over the counter creams do not work. Getting bitten hundreds of times also isn’t an exaggeration. I had over 230 bites on one leg!
Rainbow Beach Accomodation
James and I were lucky enough to experience a whole different range of accomodation while we were here. We stayed in holiday parks, beach camped, free camped and also spent a few lovely nights in a house.
We stayed in the Rainbow Beach Holiday Park. There is also the Rainbow Beach Holiday Village which is closer to the centre of town. We preferred the Rainbow Beach Holiday Park as it was much quieter and had so much more space to spread out.
The house we booked via Stayz was an awesome 3 bedroom surf shack. It was so nice to check in here. We had the luxuries of air con, a big fridge, lots of room to walk around, a lounge room and a nice, big comfy bed! It was a great little break from van life. Book the house here.
Where to eat
Eateries in Rainbow Beach are limited compared to other busier destinations in Queensland. However, one place we returned to time and time again was The Deck @ Sea Salt. They do the best oysters and always have nice cocktails on offer. If you’re not a fan of seafood they also do amazing burgers and the breakfast there is not one to pass up!
A place for adventure
Rainbow Beach is the ultimate playground for outdoor adventures. I promise you it is not a place to be missed! Both James and I are so in awe of this place and always talk about going back.
Have you been to Rainbow Beach before? If so, what was your favourite adventure there?!