I’d driven past and through Rainbow Beach in Southeast Queensland on my way back from my Fraser Island adventure about a year and a half ago. Since then however, I’d never paid much attention to this tiny town. Sure it’s got a nice beach, but so we have in Noosa, so how different could it be? On a sunny Wednesday however, when were both miraculously off work, the boy decided we should take a drive to enjoy a day at Rainbow Beach.
From Noosa we headed inland through the cute hinterland towns of Pomona and Cooran. Even 30 minutes from the sea in Australia, and things start to feel different – places are more sparsely populated, the pace of life is slower and towns have a distinct country feel to them. I love all the older buildings and heritage of these non-coastal areas (something to do with being European I guess) and really liked this classic pub and hotel that we saw in the tiny village of Kin Kin. Sadly it was too early in the morning to have stop and have a drink, so we took a few snaps and then motored on northwards.
Lucky enough to be driving a Land Rover, we try to take 4wd tracks wherever possible. Coming out the back of Kin Kin, we discovered there was a track and shortcut we could take to get to Rainbow Beach, instead of the highway. As with all the best adventures, we got a bit lost with no maps or Google to help us, but had fun bumping through the forest and eventually found our way back out onto the main road not far from Rainbow Beach.
Driving into the one-street town of Rainbow Beach, I had a really good feeling about the place. I love remote tucked-away communities (see my posts on Little Corn Island!) and totally fell for the little pot of gold Rainbow Beach turned out to be. We’d picked a stunning day to visit, so that always helps, but regardless it’s hard to argue that the setting is anything less than idyllic.
Hungry on arrival, we headed straight to the Rainbow Beach Surf Club to enjoy some lunch. The food was good, but it’s really the view that sells this place, perched, as it is, on a hill above the beach.
After this we headed down to the beach, to enjoy the brilliant sunshine, glorious waters and white sand. The beach was really busy for a weekday and there seemed to be loads of tourists around, which I was surprised about until I remembered it was the Easter School Holidays! Swimming seemed to be a lot safer than our beach in Noosa, with less currents and big waves, which I really enjoyed! Although the boy did miss the bodysurfing! The beach is also fully patrolled, which makes it a big hit with families and scaredy swimmers like me!
As well as families, Rainbow Beach is a popular spot for those adventuring to or from Fraser Island, so can get pretty busy despite its size. However, there is plenty of accommodation to choose from. For budget backpackers, there are 3 hostels located just back from the main street; all can be booked through hostelbookers.com. All seemed to be popular with rows of hired 4wd parked outside them, although we liked the look of Fraser’s on Rainbow Beach the best. Rainbow also boasts a campsite, as well as a range of more upmarket accommodation. The newly refurbished Plantation Resort looked lovely and occupied a prime site on the main street. It boasts direct beach access.
One of the top attractions at Rainbow Beach is the coloured sands, which extend along the beach from the sand dune cliffs down to the ocean below. They are formed by layers of sediment in the sand becoming exposed due to coastal winds. In order to visit these cliffs, you need to walk a fair distance along the beach. Otherwise you can just enjoy them from afar where the colours really stand out. If you pick a sunny, clear day at Rainbow Beach, the blue sky, white sand and purple layers of the dunes is a really stunning combination. Its definitely one of the prettiest places in Queensland I’ve visited.
The other way to see the Coloured Sands is to drive to them. Yes, that’s right drive along the beach! No you haven’t gone back in time to the 1950’s, at Rainbow the beach is a veritable highway! In part this is because lots of people are heading to Fraser Island and have to hire 4wd fit for sand-driving as a result. The other reason is that the beach at Rainbow actually extends south all the way towards Noosa and because there is no land road through these parts, driving on the beach is the quickest and best option for shuttling up to Rainbow from down south.
We would have taken this route up for our day at Rainbow Beach, but the tide wouldn’t allow us, so do be careful! If you decide to drive up this way, be aware that you can (and people do) get trapped by the rising tide. No one wants to see their car being washed out to sea, so always check tide timetables and plan your journey accordingly. You also want to be careful driving on the beach as regular road rules still apply and police do conduct speed and breathalyser tests!
After the sands, we ventured along to check out the “town” of Rainbow Beach, which has clearly had some refurbishment recently. Everything is very clean, very safe and friendly. We got a yummy coffee from a great little café and also enjoyed a bit of shopping! The town is very laidback with a great vibe; it’s definitely a no-shoe affair (our favourite!) and of course, surf culture abounds. Being in South Queensland, temperatures are pretty good all year round and swimming in the sea is possible most days!
Tourism is certainly the main industry here and because of its location and nearby Fraser Island, I would guess Rainbow Beach is pretty busy most times of the year. Well, as busy as any one-street town can get!
Getting to Rainbow is the hardest part and probably the only thing that keeps tourist numbers down. There is a Greyhound public bus service, but I really think you would be best hiring a car and driving yourself there. Bear in mind, any vehicle needs to be a 4wd if you’re heading onto Fraser. The nearest international airport is Brisbane, so check for flights there if you’re coming from overseas. Otherwise Hervey Bay Airport or Sunshine Coast Airport provide nearby domestic flight services.
After checking out the town of Rainbow, we then drove about 5 minutes out of town to the highlight of our day at Rainbow Beach. I was already talking about moving to the town – I mean who doesn’t want to live in a place called Rainbow?! – and that was before we visited the Carlo Sandblow!
After following the signs, parking the car and making the short walk, we were greeted by a gigantic sand dune of the most beautiful colours. It’s that fantastic spectrum of brilliant blue against brilliant white that Australia does to perfection and that never fails to amaze me.
The sandblow slopes right down to the beach on one side and leafy green of the town on the other. It would make the most killer sunset-watching spot and during whale season I couldn’t think of any better place to try and spot them!
We spent a good hour or so there watching the colours change, the sand blow, the waves roll and taking a million photos! Kids were rolling down the sides of the dune and teenagers were surfing them on adapted snowboards too.
Carlo Sandblow really sealed it for me and topped off a great day at Rainbow Beach. I’d definitely recommend visiting the town to anyone traveling in Australia, particularly if you’re driving between Cairns and Sydney – only a short detour, its well worth it!