After postponing our trip to Rainbow Beach in June due to a lockdown, we were glad when we finally made it there in late August with no lockdown being announced before our departure.
With a name like Rainbow Beach, we expected something beautiful, and it did not disappoint! Years ago, Rainbow Beach was simply known as Back Beach. Not many people would stay there and instead, it was used as a quick stopover on the way to K’Gari (Fraser Island). Eventually the name was changed to Rainbow Beach to attract more visitors and of course, with a name like that, it worked!
Why Rainbow Beach? Well, the name was chosen due to the multi-coloured sand dunes that line the town’s nearby coastline. I don’t know about you, but I think changing the name was a great idea!
Where is Rainbow Beach?
Rainbow Beach is on Queensland’s Fraser Coast, just South of K’Gari (Fraser Island). It’s about an hour and a half North of the popular Sunshine Coast town of Noosa. If you’re travelling from Brisbane, it’s a 3-hour drive. Brisbane Airport is the nearest international airport.
How to get there?
Rainbow Beach is a little out of the way, so it’s best to drive there yourself. If you have a 4WD then take it or hire one if you feel comfortable driving them. You will need a 4WD if you plan to drive on the beach or combine your visit with a trip to Fraser Island (highly recommended!).
If you don’t have a 4WD, you can still reach Rainbow Beach by a 2WD as it is sealed roads all the way. Once there, you can walk on the beach for miles and/or book 4WD tours to take you further down the coast on the sand.
If you have a 4WD you can drive along the beach from Noosa, all the way to Rainbow Beach! However, you need to be very careful with the tides, so do your research first and drive only at low tide. You can check the tides here.
What to do in Rainbow Beach?
Head to the beach
Well, that’s right, first things first, with a beach as gorgeous as this, you need to have some beach time. There is a patrolled area near the surf lifesaving club. Be sure to swim between the flags if you are not a confident swimmer or if you have little ones. The water can certainly be a little rough, especially if you’re short like me! I swallowed sea water a few times playing in the surf.
If you have a boogie board, you’ll have a blast!
The water at Rainbow Beach is always warm enough to swim in, even in winter when it’s around 21 degrees. So, there’s no excuse not to take a dip.
Visit the coloured sands cliffs
As I mentioned above, the coloured sand cliffs gave Rainbow Beach its new name. The sand takes on many different colours. There are various shades and tints of white, black, yellow, red, pink, orange and brown. Apparently, there are over 70 different variations. The different colours are created by the iron and other minerals in the ground. It’s an impressive sight to see.
Some say you can only visit the coloured sands by 4WD but this is not true. You can access them on foot but only if you enjoy a decent walk.
We walked 4 kilometres South of the lifesaving club and saw them along the way. Yes, it was a long 8-kilometre return walk along the beach, but we had an amazing time. The views are spectacular, and we paddled in the waves along the way. The coloured sands were spectacular, so it was definitely worth doing and you don’t have to go as far as 4 kilometres to start seeing them. Once again, make sure the tides work with the time of your walk.
Of course, if you have a 4WD it would also be a lot of fun to drive it along the beach. But either way, don’t miss visiting the sands. There are daily 4WD tours that you can book at the information centre to take you to the coloured sands, if walking that distance is not possible.
The Carlo Sand Blow
This is a do-not-miss experience in Rainbow Beach. Just a short drive from town, the Carlo Sand Blow is best visited at either sunrise or sunset. While you can visit at any time, be warned that it gets hot up there, especially in summer. We visited during the day and at sunset. As gorgeous as it was during the day, sunset was even more spectacular.
It’s a short walk from the carpark to reach the sand dunes. Once there you will be amazed at the size of the dunes. The Carlo Sand Blow covers 15 hectares. It slopes down towards the beach on one side and towards the town centre on the other. From atop the dunes there are breathtaking views of the blue ocean set against the white sands of the dune.
Go kayaking with dolphins
Take a tour with Epic Ocean Adventure to Double Island Point where you can go kayaking with the dolphins that frequent the area. You may also spot turtles, rays and, in season, humpback whales. The tours start in town and your guide will drive you along the beach past the colourful sand cliffs. So, if you haven’t yet had a chance to see the sands, you will see them on this tour. However, they do not stop for pictures.
Sadly, for us, our kayaking trip was ruined by the weather which turned bad not long after we started paddling. Sadly, the dolphins also didn’t come to say hello (maybe they don’t like the bad weather either!). However, next time we are in Rainbow Beach, we’ll be keen to give it another go.
Walk to the Poona Lake
The Poona Lake can be accessed via a couple of walking tracks. One starts in Rainbow Beach itself but is a 7-kilometre, one-way walk. You can also drive to the Bymien day use area which is about 10 minutes outside of town. From there, it’s a 4-kilometre return to the Poona Lake, walking through beautiful rainforest with Strangler Figs, towering Kauri, hoop pines and more.
Like some of the lakes we saw on North Stradbroke and Bribie Islands, the Poona Lake is brown from the Tannin leaching out of the nearby trees. It is a beautiful spot. Try getting there early to have the place for yourself.
Take a dip in Searys Creek
Also a few minutes out of time, Searys Creek is a great place to visit on a hot day. You can take a dip in the crystal-clear water to cool down. Bring your snorkelling gear to check out the fish. Early morning or late afternoon is the best time to visit.
Drive to Tin Can Bay
If you have time, Tin Can Bay is another stunning town nearby that’s worth a look. It’s about half an hour from Rainbow Beach town centre. There, you can hand feed wild Humpback dolphins every morning at Barnacles. Get there early as they have daily quotas on how many fish they can feed each dolphin so that they don’t become reliant on humans for their diet. Feeding is currently between 7am and 8am.
There are also many beautiful picnic spots with views of the bay in Tin Can Bay. Norman Point was our favourite.
Check out Inskip Point
Inskip Point is 7 kilometres North of Rainbow. Here you can catch a barge to K’Gari (Fraser Island )(4WD only). If you have time to visit K’Gari, we highly recommend it. If you don’t have a 4WD, there are many tours to the island from Rainbow Beach or, if you carry on driving North, from Hervey Bay.
Inskip Point offers beautiful views of the island as well as the bay and has more stunning beaches to take long walks along.
Watch the sunset
The best place for sunset in Rainbow Beach is either on the top of the Carlo Sand Blow or from Carlo Point. If you have more than one night in town, I recommend you do both.
There are many more things to do in Rainbow, including horse riding on the beach and (if you’re a bit of a dare devil) paragliding.
Where to eat in Rainbow Beach?
The Surf and Life Saving Club: For amazing views of the beach.
The Deck @ Sea Salt: Good tapas, great cocktails, more beautiful views.
Arcobaleno on the Beach: Yummy pizza and pasta
Little Parliament: Best place for breakfast
Where to stay on Rainbow Beach?
Rainbow Getaway Holiday Apartments
Centrally located and a 5-minute walk to all restaurants and the beach. They offer 1, 2 and 3-bedroom self-contained accommodation with full kitchen and laundry facilities. It features an outdoor heated pool, a fitness centre, an onsite playground and free on-site parking. Find their latest prices here.
Also centrally located and walking distance to town, it offers free covered parking and air-conditioned rooms with free Wi-Fi and a patio. Find their latest prices here.
The Plantation at Rainbow
The Plantation at Rainbow is a luxury resort and the only beachside resort with direct access to the patrolled Rainbow Beach in the heart of town. All apartments feature a balcony and a spa bath. Find their latest prices here.
If none of those are suitable, you can search across all major accommodation providers using the HotelsCombined search box below.
How long should you stay?
Although you can get a taste of Rainbow Beach with just a day visit, you will probably fall in love with it and wish you’d stayed longer. We visited for 4 days and left wishing we had longer. So, I’d recommend at least a weekend there and more if you have the time.