Great Sandy National Park: Cooloola Section

Top choice in Sunshine Coast

Extending from Lake Cootharaba north to Rainbow Beach, this 54,000 hectare section of national park offers wide ocean beaches, soaring cliffs of richly coloured sands, pristine bushland, heathland, mangroves and rainforest, all of which are rich in bird life, including rarities such as the red goshawk and the grass owl. One of the most extraordinary experiences here is driving along the beach from Noosa North Shore to Double Island Point, around 50km to the north.

The route is only accessible to 4WDs with a vehicle permit (available from and forms part of the Great Beach Drive, a spectacular coastal touring route linking Noosa and Hervey Bay. At Double Island Point, a 1.1km-long walking trail leads up to spectacular ocean views and a lighthouse dating back to 1884. From June to October, it's also a prime place for spotting majestic humpback whales.

From the Double Island Point section of the beach, a 4WD track cuts across the point to the edge of a large tidal lake (perfect for kids and less confident swimmers) and then along Rainbow Beach to the town of Rainbow Beach, passing along the way spectacular coloured cliffs made of ancient, richly oxidised sands in over 70 earthy shades. According to local Indigenous legend, the sands obtained their hues when Yiningie (a spirit represented by a rainbow) plunged into the cliffs after fighting an evil tribesman. The black sand is rutile, once locally mined to make titanium for American space technology.

Great Beach Drive aside, another memorable way to explore the national park is by boat or canoe along the numerous tributaries of the Noosa River. Boats can be hired from Tewantin and Noosa (along Gympie Tce), Boreen Point and Elanda Point on Lake Cootharaba.

There are also some fantastic walking trails starting from Elanda Point on the shore of Lake Cootharaba, including the 46km Cooloola Wilderness Trail to Rainbow Beach and a 7km trail to Kinaba.

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