Cooloola Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park Sunshine Coast

Peer through the trees that frame the edges of the lake to catch picture perfect views along the Freshwater Lake circuit track. Photo credit: © Robert Ashdown

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

Freshwater Lake circuit

Delight in this easy amble around the lake, as you discover open forest, woodland and surprising patches of rainforest.

Journey type
Walk
Distance
5km circuit The same start and finish point, but the traveller doesn’t return along the same path
Time suggested
Allow 2hrs walking time.
Grade
Grade 2 walking track
Where
View map

Accessible by

  • High clearance 4WD
  • Trail bike

Journey facilities

  • Toilets (flush)
  • Walking

Explore Cooloola’s different habitats on this perfect family walk. From Freshwater camping area, meander through low woodlands featuring prickly broom heath (monotoca) and bracken ferns around the northern side of the lake. Be surprised by pockets of rainforest, dotted with colourful fungi. Halfway through your circuit, cool off in Freshwater Lake, before walking on through coastal woodland back to the camping area.

In spring, enjoy flowering acacias and banksias that attract honeyeaters and native bees, and soak up the sweet aroma of nectar. Listen for chattering honeyeaters and singing grey shrike-thrushes and glimpse bright green emerald doves fluttering off the track.

Getting there and getting around

Freshwater Lake circuit is in Cooloola Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park, on the Sunshine Coast between Noosa Heads and Rainbow Beach (155–240km north of Brisbane).

Via Freshwater Road access

  • From Brisbane, drive about 160km north on the Bruce Highway towards Gympie. At the southern edge of Gympie, turn onto Tin Can Bay Road and drive 42km, then turn right onto Rainbow Beach Road.
  • From Maryborough, drive 57km south on the Cooloola Coast Road, then turn left onto Tin Can Bay Road and drive 3.5km, then turn right onto Rainbow Beach Road.
  • Drive 25km on Rainbow Beach Road towards Rainbow Beach township, then turn right into Freshwater Road, drive 3km to Bymien day-use area and continue 11.5km on the sand road to the Freshwater camping area and start of the circuit walk.

Via Cooloola Beach drive

  • Remember all vehicles must be registered, drivers must be licensed and all Queensland road rules apply, even on beaches.
  • A vehicle access permit must be purchased. Display the permit on your windscreen before driving in the recreation area.
  • There are two main entrances to Cooloola beach drive—the southern beach entrance on Noosa North Shore brings you onto Teewah Beach, and the northern beach entrance allows access onto Rainbow Beach.
  • At the northern beach access, visit the Manta Ray barge office, Shell service station, Rainbow Beach caravan park (BP service station) or the Rainbow Beach Tourist Information Centre for vehicle access permits, also camping permits and other information (business hours only).
  • At the southern beach access, visit the Great Sandy Information Centre, located near the Noosa River ferry on Moorindil Street for vehicle access permits, also camping permits and other information (business hours only).

From the south

  • From Brisbane drive 135km north on the Bruce Highway or the Sunshine Motorway to Tewantin; or from Gympie drive 58km south and east on the Bruce Highway to Tewantin.
  • In Tewantin, follow Moorindil Street to the Noosa River ferry, cross the river to Noosa North Shore, and drive 2.2km on Maximillian Road.
  • Turn right onto Beach Road and drive 2.1km on the bitumen road, then turn sharply to the left (past the first beach access cutting) and head north on the Wilderness Track.
  • Drive 2.8km to the end of the bitumen road and turn onto the 4WD-accessible third beach cutting sand track . You must enter and exit the beach via this track.
  • Drive 37.5km north along the Cooloola beach drive to the Freshwater Road entrance and drive 500m to the camping area and start of the circuit walk.

From the north

  • From Brisbane, drive about 160km north on the Bruce Highway towards Gympie. At the southern edge of Gympie, turn onto Tin Can Bay Road and drive 42km, then turn right onto Rainbow Beach Road.
  • From Maryborough, drive 57km south on the Cooloola Coast Road, then turn left onto Tin Can Bay Road and drive 3.5km, then turn right onto Rainbow Beach Road.
  • Drive 29km on Rainbow beach Road into Rainbow Beach township, then turn left onto Kirchner Avenue.
  • After 300m, turn right onto Griffin Esplanade and follow this road to the council car park and vehicle access ramp to access the beach.
  • Drive south along the Cooloola beach drive for 10km, drive 1km inland on the Leisha track, the travel a further 3km south on the beach to the Freshwater Road entrance and drive 500m to the camping area and start of the circuit walk.

Wheelchair access

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities.

Drinking water

Water taps are available at the start of the walk, in the Freshwater camping area.

Before you visit

Opening hours

Freshwater Lake circuit is open 24 hours a day.

Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

Visiting safely

For more safety information see Visiting Cooloola Recreation Area safely and Walk with care.