Cooloola Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park Sunshine Coast

Four-wheel drive past towering coastal sand cliffs and coloured sands in the paradise of Cooloola Recreation Area. Photo credit: © Tomek Z Genek

About Cooloola Recreation Area

    Park features

    Sand, wind and water have sculpted a varied landscape at Cooloola, the largest remnant of coastal vegetation on the southern Queensland's mainland. High sand dunes, coloured sand cliffs, sweeping beaches, sandblows, freshwater lakes, tall forests, paperbark swamps and wildflower heath make this a spectacular part of the Cooloola Recreation Area in the Great Sandy National Park.

    Cooloola is a refuge for plants and animals whose habitats have dwindled with coastal development. Some of the animals living here, such as the Cooloola acid frogs and ground parrot, are rare or threatened with extinction. The park also has one of the few remaining emu populations in coastal Queensland.

    The scenic waterways of the upper Noosa River and its tributaries form part of the Noosa River catchment with two-thirds of this catchment being protected within the national park. The dark tannin-stained waters offer spectacular reflections of the twisted paperbarks and bloodwoods that line the riverbanks. The surrounding wetlands of the upper Noosa River also provide extensive nurseries for juvenile fish and other aquatic life.

    For thousands of years, Cooloola has been a special place for Indigenous people. Through timber-getting, agriculture and sandmining, Cooloola has undergone many changes in the past 150 years. Today, Cooloola protects valuable coastal ecosystem remnants and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Queensland.

    Looking after the park

    The following guidelines will help to care for Cooloola so it can be enjoyed now and in the future. Read walk softly guidelines for further information.

    Everything is protected

    Leave flowers, ferns and all other plant material undamaged. What is easy to take may take years to replace. The coloured sand cliffs on Cooloola's beaches, which are sculpted by natural erosion, are highly susceptible to damage. Never climb up, slide down or carve into cliff faces. They may collapse without warning. Sand tobogganing is prohibited.

    Keep forests free of pests

    Clean all camping and personal gear before entering the recreation area. Insects, weed seeds and soil pathogens can stick to boots and camping equipment and can quickly spread through the area, sometimes killing native species.

    Leave your pets at home

    Domestic animals are not permitted in the Cooloola Recreation Area, except under permit or authority, including travelling in vehicles, vessels and trailers through the recreation area.

    • See before you visit for further information on permitted access areas for pets.

    Keep our waterways clean

    Never use soap or shampoo in creeks or rivers. Soaps, detergents, sunscreens, toothpaste and urine all pollute waterways. They promote algae growth and affect the purity of the water. Scatter washing water 100m from waterways. Bring non-greasy foods, so dishes can be cleaned without detergents.

    On the upper Noosa River, use only defined canoe landing sites or jetties, and observe the no-landing zone. Sedges and reeds on the riverbanks are fragile. In areas without facilities, tie canoes or kayaks rather than dragging them ashore.

    Do not release unwanted aquarium fish or plants into creeks or rivers. Introduced pest fish and plants can kill native fish and make the river an unpleasant place to visit. They can reduce water quality and limit recreational opportunities.

    Carry it in – carry it out

    Take all rubbish out of the recreation area. Bins are not generally provided except in the Teewah Beach camping zones or near the entrance to Freshwater camping area. Don't burn, bury or leave anything. Carry out sanitary products, disposable nappies and cigarette butts. Do not put these in the toilet facilities. Remove excess food packaging at home and take strong sealable bags or containers to store food and rubbish. Avoid bringing glass as it can’t be crushed and if broken glass can harm other visitors and wildlife. Do not hang rubbish bags from trees or tents.

    Bring a portable toilet

    All campers in the Teewah Beach camping zones are required to bring and use a portable toilet during their stay. Even if you are only camping for one night you still must bring and use a portable toilet.

    For campers, portable toilet waste disposal facilities are located at:

    • Second cutting, Noosa North Shore
    • Freshwater day-use-area (beach camper service bay)
    • Clarkson Drive, Rainbow Beach.

    Portable toilets must have a sealed waste holding tank and must be transportable and suitable for emptying into a portable toilet waste facility.

    Bag and bucket style toilets are not permitted.

    Minimum of one portable toilet per camping permit holder is required.

    Let native animals find their own food

    Do not feed or leave scraps for wildlife. Animals that are fed can become aggressive to humans. They become reliant on the food source, suffer from disease or over-populate to an extent that they dominate an area and aggressively exclude other wildlife.

    Use a fuel stove

    Bring a gas or fuel stove for cooking and heating. Campfires are prohibited in all camping areas in Cooloola except for the Poverty Point camping area.

    For campfires at Poverty Point, always use the QPWS provided fire rings and remember to bring clean milled firewood as it is illegal to collect bush wood from the recreation area and national park. Do not dispose of non-combustible or toxic material (e.g. glass, cans, plastics) in a campfire. Penalties apply.

    For all other camping areas in Cooloola including Teewah Beach, ensure your cooking and heating appliances meet the below requirements.

    • The appliance must use gas or manufactured fuel (heat beads, briquettes). Manufactured fuel does not include timber or wood.
    • It must be used only for cooking and/or heating.
    • It must be a minimum of 20cm off the ground and more than 2m from flammable materials, which includes vegetation.
    • It must not have the potential to generate airborne embers, or possibly ignite nearby ground fuels.
    • It must be fully self-contained (heat source enclosed and no exposed flame) and never left unattended when in use.
    • Appliances that are not fully self-contained, such as braziers, are not permitted.
    • All appliances, materials and burnt fuel must be removed from the recreation area on your departure.

    Check for any fire bans or prohibitions before going.

    Generator use

    Generators are prohibited in Cooloola except in the Teewah Beach camping area where only low decibel generators (up to 2.0 Kva) are permitted between 7am and 9pm.

    Bush toileting

    If bush toileting is unavoidable, bury all faecal matter and toilet paper at least 50cm deep and at least 100m from waterways. Cover the spot well. Bag and remove all sanitary items, including disposable nappies, from the recreation area.

    Stay on the tracks

    Stay on designated tracks to avoid getting lost. Shortcuts damage plants and cause erosion. If walkers get lost, help can be hours away.

    See the guidelines on caring for parks for more information about protecting the environment and heritage in parks.

    Park management

    The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) manages the Cooloola Recreation Area, to conserve its natural and cultural resources. The area is protected to the low water mark under the Recreation Areas Management Act 2006.

    The Great Sandy Region Management Plan guides the management of the area.

    Tourism information links

    Destination Gympie Region
    24 Bruce Highway, Lake Alford, Gympie QLD 4570
    ph 1800 444 222

    Noosa Visitor Information Centre
    61 Hastings Street (opposite the roundabout), Noosa Heads Qld 4567
    ph (07) 5430 5000 or 13000 NOOSA (66672)

    For tourism information for all regions in Queensland see Queensland Holidays.