Going on a Rainbow Beach trip and want to know all the best things to do in Rainbow Beach? We have you covered! Below you will find our guide to exactly what to do in Rainbow Beach, Queensland to plan your ultimate trip.
Voted as one of the top five most incredible beaches in the world, plus also the third most colourful beach in the world, and featured on the front cover of “101 Best Beaches in Australia”, it’s pretty obvious this is going to be somewhere special!
Rainbow Beach is an adventure playground for fishing, camping, water sports and thrilling off-road 4WD-adventures at nearby Fraser Island.
If you enjoy rural living and back-to-nature ecotourism-style adventures, you’ve come to the right place. Sand blows, freshwater creeks, colourful sand dunes and cliffs, and some of Australia’s greatest treks await your exploration.
You’ll find unique flora and fauna at every turn, scenic views that will leave you breathless, and fairly often a heavy silence – as you feel the remoteness of where you are. Stretches of beaches that go beyond the horizon, great surfing waves, calm lagoons, creeks ripe for kayaks, not to mention dolphins and whales too! 4WD over sand dunes, hike rainforests filled with jurassic-style giant ferns and appreciate the prolific birdlife everywhere!
We’re pretty sure you’ll never be left wondering what to do Rainbow Beach, as the area is overflowing with natural wonders and so many scenic locations it’s hard to narrow down our select few!
Below, you will find everything you need to know about the best things to do at Rainbow Beach, Queensland, all the best Rainbow Beach activities as well as the top Rainbow Beach attractions for your ultimate holiday in Rainbow Beach!!
- 1 Top 10 Things To Do In Rainbow Beach
- 1.1 Stroll Along The Coloured Sands Of Rainbow Beach
- 1.2 Watch And Capture The Beautiful Sunset At Carlo Sand Blow
- 1.3 Walk Through A Rainforest And Reach Poona Lake
- 1.4 Spot Some Eels And Catfishes At Searys Creek
- 1.5 Explore Fraser Island
- 1.6 Take In The Amazing Views At Inskip Peninsula Recreation Area
- 1.7 Hop On A Rainbow Beach Horse Ride
- 1.8 Dive At Wolf Rock
- 1.9 Relax At Double Island Point
- 1.10 Discover Wildlife In The Cooloola Wilderness Trail
- 2 Things To Do Rainbow Beach Qld Map
- 3 Best Place To Stay In Rainbow Beach
- 4 How To Get To Rainbow Beach
- 5 Rainbow Beach With Kids
- 6 Final Words
Top 10 Things To Do In Rainbow Beach
Here are the best Rainbow Beach things to do. Read through and select the ones that fit your interests and timeframe.
Stroll Along The Coloured Sands Of Rainbow Beach
Is there a sweeter named beach? As the name alone implies a golden hue of sun rays falling across a coloured beach… being exactly what you get!
But it’s actually the mineral-rich coloured cliffs surrounding Rainbow Beach that have really helped put this small town on the tourist map. According to the legends of the Kabi people, these beautiful rainbow coloured cliffs appeared when Yiningie, the spirit of the gods who took the form of a rainbow, crashed onto them as a result of a heroic battle with an evil tribesman.
However, there’s a second more likely form of thought that the name comes from HMS Rainbow, a Royal Navy frigate built in 1823 that explored the Queensland and New South Wales coasts.
However the name came about, today the colourful layers of sand are most resplendent in the spectacular dunes – with colours from dark earthy brown through rustic reds to almost ginger, yellow and even white! Park up near the Surf Club, walk down a few steps and head north for about 2 kilometres to reach the “cliffs” of coloured sand.
It’s best to complete your walk at low tide although it’s still just passable at high tide.
It’s really no surprise that this idyllic Australian beach town on the Butchulla Land at the base of the Inskip Peninsula has become a firm favourite of backpacking Europeans. There’s a cool vibe here, with many visitors arriving dramatically by 4WD along the Great Beach Drive, part of the Great Sandy National Park reached via the Cooloola Section.
Alternatively – and more easily – you can access the beach along excellent roads from Gympie, 73km to the southwest.
So, what to do at Rainbow Beach, Qld? Well, you’ll find the beach a hive of activity for fishing enthusiasts, campers, ecotourists and many just simply looking for an epic spot for a stroll in fresh air!
This sprawling beach means it rarely feels busy with you often having stretches all to yourself. Enjoy the colourful scenes!
Watch And Capture The Beautiful Sunset At Carlo Sand Blow
Named in 1770 by no other than Captain Cook, Carlo Sandblow is named after one of his deck crew. And from this area you can enjoy excellent views east to Double Island Point and west to Tin Can Bay.
You’ll find a 600-metres walking track which takes around 10 minutes each way. It’s really well maintained so this is an easy trek (albeit with some stairs) through the bush from Rainbow Beach water tower. It passes through woodland to a viewing platform above the “blow”, from which you can take time out to watch adventurers enjoying hang gliding or parasailing from this gentle slope.
Once here, you can also branch out across the sand and explore more. I recommend walking to the cliffs and seeing their multi colours for yourself. One of the best views in the region, this is a highlight of things to do around Rainbow Beach.
Visit here in June or through August to October and you might be lucky enough to see whales in the local waters. So remember to grab some binoculars to maximise your sightings! Although we were there in early May and were lucky enough to spot one even then!
The sand walking is a bit harder but I explored all of this with my four year old without a problem.
Walk Through A Rainforest And Reach Poona Lake
Want in on a secret? Poona Lake is one of those idyllic places that you’re only lucky enough to find if someone local lets you in on the location…
A short drive from Rainbow Beach, aim to park up at Bymien day-use area, part of the Cooloola Recreation Area. Come well prepared with your picnic to make a day of this, as it’s a magical rainforest setting under towering piccabeen palms – bringing to mind Jurassic Park!
There’s a couple of hiking options to choose from. There’s the Dundathu circuit, which is a simple 30-minutes walk that starts and ends at the Bymien day-use area, but returns you along a different path. The Poona Lake Walk is longer, taking around 1 hour, 30 minutes to complete, but is also an easy Grade 2 track.
On this, you explore the cool rainforest hiking up a high dune, before heading down to the secluded paperbark-fringed lake. Take a close look at the tea-coloured waters and white sandy beaches of this hidden Cooloola’s lake before diving back again under the rainforest canopy for the same route back.
As you meander the pathways, the rainforest’s canopy closes in keeping you cool and free of the usual coastal humidity. There’s moss and fungi galore in bright orange and reds, glowing on the thick tree roots, entangled with vines and strangler figs. There’s towering kauri pines and blue quandongs. Look upwards to admire elkhorns and staghorn ferns sprouting from the trees. Visitors in summer can admire a forest carpet floor full of white Christmas orchids.
Birdsong is poetic, engulfing you from left and right, and they provide brief flashes of colour as they zoom around the green forest. Listen for catbirds and wompoo pigeons and enjoy the variety of plants that grow in the Cooloola sandmass. A visit here is definitely one of the top free things to do in Rainbow Beach, Australia.
From Rainbow Beach township drive about 5km back along Rainbow Beach Road, turning left onto Freshwater Road. Drive a further 3km to the day-use area.
Spot Some Eels And Catfishes At Searys Creek
Time for a picnic and a spot of line fishing as you head out today to Searys Creek day-use area, one of the more calming things to do near Rainbow Beach. From here, park up and stroll through a woodland of paperbarks to a gorgeous sandy-bottomed creek that’s surrounded by coral ferns.
This scenic area is ripe for spreading out a picnic blanket in the shade of the lush vegetation, and setting up for a few hours whilst you try your luck at catching rainbowfish, long-finned eels and freshwater catfish. Or perhaps you prefer to take a dip in the refreshing and clean water, ideal for a relaxing float! Don’t be put off by the oddly orange sheen to the water – that’s just natural tannin which comes from the local plant life.
Wildflowers randomly poke through the woodland grass, mostly in bloom from late winter to early summer. There’s pink flowering boronias, white blueberry ashes and golden banksias. Stunning! And there’s abundant birdlife too, with friarbirds, kookaburras, honeyeaters and willy wagtails. Ensure you pack your binoculars.
From Rainbow Beach QPWS Information Centre, drive 7.5km on the Rainbow Beach Road before turning off into Searys Creek day-use area car park.
Explore Fraser Island
The world’s largest sandbank, Fraser Island stretches over 120km and is 22km at its widest point. Filled with famed panoramic viewpoints and cliffs of sculpted ribbons of coloured sand, this is an outrageously beautiful ecotourism destination.
Known locally as K’gari (meaning paradise), this is a get-back-to-nature unique experience. World Heritage listed due to its diverse landscapes and unique wildlife, the island pulls in thousands of tourists every year.
Formed across hundreds of thousands of years, K’gari’s ancient sand dunes and stunning beaches are dotted with crystal clear freshwater lakes and creeks, lush rainforests and an explosion of native flora and fauna.
Accommodation is available in the shape of camping sites, cabins and even resort-style hotels. Eco-adventures on the island include cruises to the remote western side of the island and a 90km Great Walk adventure along with various guided or self-drive tours.
Some of the highlights include:
- Boorangoora (Lake McKenzie) – a favourite for many visitors, this crystal clear lake is surrounded by white silica sand.
- Eli Creek – on the eastern beach of the island every hour around 4 million litres of clear, freshwater is pumped from Eli Creek into the ocean. Walk the boardwalk alongside the creek or grab yourself a tire and float serenely along.
- Maheno Shipwreck – possibly the most famous of the Fraser Island wrecks, found on 75 Mile Beach.
- Lake Wabby – near the ocean side of Fraser Island, have your camera at the ready to capture the giant sand dune that borders this lake’s deep green waters.
- Central Station – a picnic area that has an interesting education display about the development of the island and an overview of the flora and fauna you’ll be seeing. Check out some of the world’s largest ferns along the winding boardwalk here.
- The Cathedrals – on 75 Mile Beach, south of Indian Head, these are nothing short of spectacular! Sculpted by the wind and rain blowing in off the Pacific, the Cathedrals are multi-coloured sand cliffs with hues of red, brown, yellow and orange all mixed together.
- Takky Wooroo (Indian Head) – perfect headland spot to capture panoramic views of the island’s beaches and look out to sea for dolphins or humpback whales.
- Champagne Pools – probably the most popular spot on the island, these naturally formed rock pools are calm at low tide but full of fun frothy bubbles at high tide!
- 75 Mile Beach – running along the eastern side of the island, this beach is fabulous for 4WD (tide dependent) and even doubles as a landing strip for light aircraft.
- Awinya Creek – a freshwater creek that becomes a maze of waterways through the inaccessible areas of the island. Kayak and enjoy the astounding peace, surrounded by prolific birdlife (kingfishers, white bellied sea eagles and whistling kites) or cast your rod for bream, mullet, eels and mangrove jacks.
- The Fraser Island Great Walk – a 90-kilometre hiking track that winds past most of the island’s notable sites. Usually taking around 6 days to complete, make sure you book campsites along the way.
Altogether the combination of shifting sand-dunes, tropical rainforests and lakes makes this one of the world’s most unusual islands, plus a destination of exceptional natural beauty. Its World Heritage listing ranks it with Australia’s Uluru, Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef.
Always keep in mind that Fraser Island is remote. There are no medical facilities on the island and it is home to some of our least favoured wildlife such as packs of dingoes, great white sharks, jellyfish and poisonous stingrays. It’s best to stick to the freshwater lakes and creeks for swimming, and take care driving as the shifting sand can be hazardous.
Fraser Island is accessible by 4WD by taking the barge at Inskip Point on the northern end of Rainbow Beach.
Take In The Amazing Views At Inskip Peninsula Recreation Area
Built up over the years by wind and waves, Inskip Peninsula is a narrow, sandy finger of land. Forming a natural breakwater at the entrance to Tin Can Inlet and Great Sandy Strait, Inskip is the gateway to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.
Stunning beach she-oaks, cypress pine and other coastal trees shade the area – full of popular camping sites. Ocean beaches and sheltered estuary shores await exploration and are all within a 15 minute drive of Rainbow Beach.
The park area has many facilities, including picnic tables, canoeing and kayaking. You’ll find some idyllic fishing spots, great hikes and a plethora of nesting birds thanks to the protected Wetlands in the region.
For thousands of years Inskip and Cooloola have been special places for Aboriginal people. These days, the protected areas of valuable coastal ecosystem remnants are amongst the most popular tourist destinations in Queensland. Everything is protected – from flowers to the ferns.
Bring your own binoculars to check out the birds but also watch for dugong, turtles and dolphins in the bay.
Immerse yourself for the day at this iconic slice of Aussie coastline.
Hop On A Rainbow Beach Horse Ride
Rainbow Beach Horse Rides operate rides along this famous beach, full day country rides and even full-moon atmospheric rides!
You don’t need to be an expert with basic instruction provided, and photos are taken for free by the trail guides at picturesque spots along your route.
All levels are catered for, with no riding experience necessary to enjoy this special beach experience. Riding hats are provided and guests from 10 years (unless experienced riders) are allowed on the standard rides with special 10-minute rides for those younger.
So stick on some long trousers or jeans, grab enclosed shoes or boots, and a water bottle… and sign up for this unforgettable Rainbow Beach experience. Go for the “Beach Ride” as it includes a swim (on the horse) in the stunning clear water.
Dive At Wolf Rock
If scuba’s your thing don’t miss a chance whilst at Rainbow Beach, Queensland, to dive at the infamous Wolf Rock! Possibly named by Captain Cook after his Lieutenant Wolfe onboard the HMS Endeavour, Wolf Rock is located 2km off Double Island Point.
This stunning marine sanctuary is known to be one of only a handful of gestation sites for the critically endangered Grey Nurse Shark on the East Coast of Australia and is regarded as Australia’s best shark and ray diving spot!
You’re guaranteed that on every dive at Wolf Rock you’ll spot both sharks and rays with the consistency of sightings so reliable there are research and science projects regularly undertaken here.
Nicknamed the land of giants, you’re in for a massive treat! Leopard sharks, manta rays, giant Queensland grouper, sea turtles, the grey nurse sharks (found throughout the year), and in winter the added excitement of humpback whales!
Close to the Great Barrier Reef, there’s also a vast array of tropical and subtropical fish too. And if the smaller critters are your thing, check out nudibranchs, pipefish, frogfish, eels, octopus and so much more!
The tip of a large site made up of a series of volcanic pinnacles, gutters and gulley’s (some as deep as 38-metres), animals come here to be cleaned, to breed, to seek shelter and to eat! With strong currents – especially in summer – you can bet you’re in for an exciting dive!
It’s fair to say that a dive at Wolf Rock is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed!
Relax At Double Island Point
Yet another iconic point within the Cooloola Recreation Area in Great Sandy National Park, Double Island Point is a scenic headland that provides amazing beach and ocean views.
Despite the odd name – given by Captain Cook – there are no islands (or doubles!) here. Rather this is a long sand spit that dramatically frames a massive bay filled with white sugary sands.
With no road access to the point, it’s reachable by 4WD along Cooloola’s beach drive between Noosa North Shore and Rainbow Beach. There’s a couple of camping areas here if you fancy extending your stay overnight.
You can simply relax and enjoy the area, or perhaps check out the Double Island Point lighthouse for panoramic views up and down the coast. Choose to launch a canoe from one of the sheltered northern beaches of the region or just enjoy a great swim.
But if hiking’s your thing, why not take the full day hike from Rainbow Beach – the Double Island Point Lighthouse Walk. You’ll pass high coastal dunes as you follow alongside the historic lighthouse telegraph line, before heading down to the lagoon at the base of Double Island Point headland.
Catch a swim here and perhaps watch the surfers performing on the rolling waves on the northern side of the point. It’s back up now, a steep track to the active lighthouse for epic views across to Fraser Island and down to Rainbow Beach – before returning back the same route.
A little over 2km, this roundtrip trek takes the best part of an hour. Carry binoculars and keep an eye on the ocean as you can spot dolphins, marine turtles and even manta rays in the waters directly off the headland.
If you plan on visiting from Rainbow Beach town, simply drive down to the beach and cruise along the shoreline – passing by the iconic coloured sand dunes at Rainbow Beach. But don’t forget to obtain your Double island permit online before you go.
Stunning all year long, this remote strip of beach is a feast of gorgeous Aussie scenery.
Discover Wildlife In The Cooloola Wilderness Trail
This epic trail is perhaps the epitome of Aussie adventures! Stretching 48km, usually taking 3-5 days to complete, the Cooloola Wilderness Trail takes you through remote serene landscapes of wetlands and river systems on a long inland hike. You’ll cross flat sandy landscapes through rainforests and trek around freshwater pools, which altogether make this one of the prettiest regions in Queensland.
Camp at any of the five campsites along the route, under night skies that will blow your mind. And revel in remote waterholes and forests where you feel you’re miles from anyone, only you’re not alone as abundant wildlife joins you along the route.
You’ll hear noisy friar birds and ‘popping corn’ sounds of yellow-tailed black cockatoos as they crunch seeds. Mornings and evenings are filled with a chorus of frog calls from the reed-lined riverbanks, and busy buzzing bees dive bomb wildflowers, whilst bats come out to play at dusk.
You can, of course, choose to drop in/out of the Trail, if you don’t fancy such a long trek. Perhaps the easiest is to start from Elanda Point in the southern end, with the trek to Harry’s Hut around 17.5km. Taking you past a lake, this is a lovely walk, done in either direction, as tall eucalypt and banksia forests surround you, and the trail passes through remnant rainforest, paperbark and cabbage palm wetlands.
The best seasons to come are any time outside of the wet season (ie. don’t visit from December to March), and always remember to apply for permits for bush camping.
If nature, solitude and beautiful waterways are your thing, the Cooloola Wilderness Trail won’t disappoint!
Things To Do Rainbow Beach Qld Map
Best Place To Stay In Rainbow Beach
There’s a diverse range of accommodation options at Rainbow Beach – fitting your budget, your group size or your luxury desires. Whether you want to camp under the stars, relax in hammocks poolside, or feel at one with nature, there’s something for everyone.
Below I’ve listed a few different places to consider including a budget, mid-range and more expensive option.
Location is sometimes everything, and in Rainbow Beach you can’t beat Debbie’s Place! Less than 150 metres from the Great Sandy National Park, and 500 metres from the famed Rainbow Beach, this is our top pick of where to stay in Rainbow Beach.
Air-conditioned guest rooms come with a microwave, refrigerator and TV. You’ll enjoy an ensuite bathroom with shower and hairdryer, and decor is bright whites and blues.
There’s budget-style motel-type queen rooms or 1-Bedroom self-contained with a queen bed option that includes cooking and dining facilities, plus a lovely veranda.
For larger groups, try their self-contained king suite, ideal for families or 4 people. There’s also 2-bedroom or 3-bedroom kings which sleep 6 or 7 people respectively.
All guests have access to laundry facilities and a shared BBQ area, plus luggage storage is provided at the 24-hour front desk. There’s free covered parking and most bookings come with free WiFi too.
The hotel is within walking distance of the main shopping area at Rainbow Beach and directly opposite some take-away outlets. Debbie is more than happy to help arrange all your tours and activities.
Clean, comfortable and ideally located, make Debbie’s Place your home-away-from-home at Rainbow Beach!
MID-RANGE – BIG4 Breeze Holiday Park, Rainbow Beach Review
Just minutes from the centre of town, BIG4 Breeze Holiday Parks is a perfect venue for a family or couples stay.
There’s a myriad of accommodation options, including a two-bedroom spa villa (which sleeps 4 or 6 guests), two-bedroom superior villas (sleeping 4 or 5), and one-bedroom cabins or budget cabins, ideal for 4 guests. Ensuite cabins and studio cabins are also available.
Cabins and villas are standalone with simple yet modern furnishings. They come with double beds, tri-bunks or single beds, and there are small separate living areas with a television and sofa. The majority come with basic kitchen setup, such as microwave, stove top and fridge.
WiFi is freely available, and there are powered slab sites for those bringing their own caravan.
The park is a terrific base for water lovers as it’s right next door to the marina and the beach is only a couple of minutes drive away.
Facilities include a jumping pillow, a playground, kayak and pedal kart hire, camp kitchen and plenty of barbecues, making this a top budget accommodation option for Rainbow Beach!
BUDGET – Pippies Beachhouse Review
Another ideally located accommodation option is Pippies Beachhouse, on Rainbow Beach. A chilled hostel, there’s free WiFi, a communal kitchen, laundry facilities and a shared bbq area.
Rooms come with shared bathroom facilities, and air-conditioning, whilst some rooms come with a veranda and have pool views. There’s a standard double bed room (with shared bathroom) or a 4-bed mixed dorm (with shared bathroom). Plus there are two-bedroom beachside apartments available, located off the property which are perfect for families or a larger group of friends.
You can relax at the onsite small swimming pool, enjoy a game of pool or catch-up with Netflix at the chill-lounge. Luggage can be stored at the reception (available 7am-7pm) and parking is freely available.
Only a 5-minute walk to Rainbow Beach Main Town, the Great Sandy National Park is just a 5-minutes drive away. Plus the famed Rainbow Beach, with horse riding, 4WD beach drives and dolphins is also only a 5-minute walk from the hotel.
How To Get To Rainbow Beach
It’s easy to get to Rainbow Beach by bus, train or car. If you have your own car or even a 4WD, great! You are good to go and it’ll take you around 3 hours.
Coming from Brisbane, drive the Bruce Highway up north and make a right-hand turn upon reaching Gympie.
Buses via Greyhound Australia and Premier Motor Service from Brisbane to Cairns via Rainbow Beach are also available (2 buses a day). A train ride is also possible coming from Brisbane to Cooroy then hop on a bus to Rainbow Beach.
However, getting here by public transport will be limited once you arrive if you want to visit a variety of things to do in Rainbow Beach Qld so I recommend you take your own car.
We hired one at the Sunshine Coast Airport and drove up. It takes about 1.75 hours.
You can hire a car to get you there by clicking here.
Rainbow Beach With Kids
We’re planning a trip to Rainbow Beach, Queensland. Now, you might not have heard of this but hey, doesn’t even the name sound fab?
So what’s in store for you? We can start at Rainbow Beach itself, where we’ll try to count how many different coloured sands go into forming this remarkable beach, definitely top of our list of things at Rainbow Beach to do!
Next up, how about a horse ride along the beach – yes, you older kids can even take the horses in the sea – or we can try out boogie boarding and have a snorkel here. There’s also talk of dolphins and even humpback whales sometimes!
We’ll be spending time at the Carlo Sand Blow – sounds fun – and we can watch the paragliders here – no, you can’t try that! We’ll spend two or three days at Fraser Island where we’ll kayak the creeks, float in Champagne Pools, and generally spend most of the two days swimming and playing in the massive sand dunes!
We’ll visit Double Island Point to take a surfing lesson, and then we’re going to pick up a 4WD and explore the coastal beaches here, where I heard you can also try stand up paddleboarding. And we can perhaps trek up to the lighthouse, with views of dolphins again…
And one lunchtime we’ll take a picnic to Searys Creek, where you can bring your floaties and drift along the stream, or we can try to catch some eels. Oh, and add in an overnight camp at Inskip Point, where you can – guess what – swim some more, and we’ll make a BBQ and stargaze!
Finally, we can pay a visit to Tin Can Bay and the Barnacles Dolphin Centre. You’ll be hand feeding dolphins here (fabulous!) and then we’ll walk the Foreshore Bird Walk, see if we can tick off even half of the 143 species of birds that call this area home.
So kids, how does that sound for a vacation?
Rainbow Beach and the surrounding areas are astoundingly beautiful, unsurprisingly World-Heritage listed, and should be high on your list of places to visit in Queensland.
Sharon is a proud Melbournian mum of 3 who blogs for a living in between parenting and satiating her travel addition.