Cooloola Recreation Area – Great Sandy National Park & Rainbow Beach

We had intended to hit up Fraser Island during our trip to QLD, but the limited 4×4 capabilities of our SUV and the prohibitive cost of day tours meant a trip to the lower reaches of the Great Sandy National Park were a necessary alternative.

The drive from Noosa being 40 or so minutes longer than expected, our first stop at Rainbow Beach was to grab some welcomed fish and chips, fuel for an afternoon of exploration.

Our first stop was the Carlo Sand Blow, named after one of Captain Cook’s deck crew. A short (600m/1.2km return) walk through the forest leads to the spectacular moonscape-type spot. Upon arrival you are treated to 360 degree views across the ocean and into the interior of the park. Hangliders were preparing to make the leap off the edge of the sand blow upon our arrival, perfectly framed by the royal blue sky.

The Blow is essentially a geographical feature formed by the accumulation of blown sand. Grains are lifted from the bluffs on the coast by prevailing winds blowing from the Pacific, forming patterns across the dune.

We crossed the blow (sneakers ending up saturated by sand), to reach the marker for the entrance to the Cooloola great walk, which we tracked for a kilometre or so before doubling back to the car.

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Next up, we walked a few kilometres along Rainbow Beach itself, taking in the expansive views along the coast towards Double Island Point. Unfortunately, the allure of the location is spoiled to an extent by the thoroughfare of four-wheel-drives speeding along the beach (access is allowed to 4wd vehicles on this stretch). Nonetheless worth the stroll.

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With only a couple of hours of daylight ahead of us, we pushed on to our final task, a walk to Poona Lake from the Bymein Picnic area. It is a 4.2km return walk to the lake, but note that it seemed to feel a little longer than that (have to trust the signs though I suppose)!

The rainforest we passed through is absolutely glorious, complete with soaring trees (a bunch of kauri and hoop pines), piccabeen palms, strangler figs and an orchestra of insects sounding to accompany us at what seemed like 100 decibels.

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The track has one steeper section in the middle, but nothing a reasonably fit person couldn’t handle. In any case, all hills are forgiven upon arrival to the lake itself, which was perfectly dappled by the late afternoon sunlight for our arrival. The walk and it’s destination also provide some welcome respite from the 4×4 scene, as access is only by foot (and lucky for us, we were the only ones there)! The lake is very clean, and perfect for a swim (it is a reddish brown colour from all the tannins but nothing to be concerned about).

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In spite of human/4×4 intervention, the Cooloola Recreation Area retains its natural appeal, you just have to find the right spots to enjoy your day minus the fumes and hum of engines!

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