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

Things to do

    Camping and accommodation

    Camping

    Cooloola offers a variety of camping experiences from social and family camping areas to remote bush and river sites, all located in beautiful natural surroundings. Camper numbers in the more remote areas are limited, to provide a low key, high quality camping experience.

    View camping for more information on permits and campgrounds.

    Other accommodation

    There is a range of holiday accommodation in and around Rainbow Beach, Tewantin and Noosa. Private camping areas are located at Elanda Point and Boreen Point. For more information see tourism information.

    Cooloola Recreation Area offers many recreational opportunities for visitors to explore and enjoy the natural surrounds.

    Photo of two people crouched in front of a tent.
    Change the working week to a walking week and experience bush camping in Cooloola.

    Photo credit: Robert Ashdown, Queensland Government

    Two people bushwalking through a grassy area, carrying backpacks.
    Enjoy a large range of bushwalking opportunities from short 200m walks to the 102 km Cooloola Great Walk, a five-day long distance walk.

    Photo credit: Robert Ashdown, Queensland Government

    Multi-coloured sand swirls.
    The multi-coloured sand swirls are best observed along the eroded sand cliffs between Rainbow Beach and Double Island Point.

    Photo credit: Briony Masters, Queensland Government

    Photo of a beach, with an inset photo of the Middle Rocks cliffs and the warning signs.
    Middle Rocks—the northern boundary of the Cooloola Recreation Area. Vehicle access permits are required past this point.

    Photo credit: René Burgess, Queensland Government

    Two people canoing on a river.
    A range of minimal impact, nature-based recreational opportunities are available, including canoeing or kayaking on the upper Noosa River.

    Photo credit: Colin Lawton, Queensland Government

    Walking

    Walking is a good way to experience Cooloola. Tracks range from short circuits to overnight hikes and lead to some of the park's best features.

    Driving

    Roads through Cooloola allow visitors to explore its magnificent natural features.

    View the driving summary to find out where you can go and what rules apply.

    Picnic and day-use areas

    Day-use areas with toilets and picnic tables:

    • Bymien
    • Freshwater
    • Searys Creek
    • Harrys
    • Fig Tree Point.

    Water (untreated) is available at:

    • Freshwater
    • Harrys
    • Fig Tree Point.

    Also note:

    • Treat all water before drinking.
    • Bring a fuel stove or use barbecues if provided.
    • Open fires are not permitted.

    Also see: Cooloola visitor sites and facilities summary

    Swimming

    Swimming in lakes, the river and the ocean is not recommended. People have suffered serious injuries in water-related accidents in Cooloola. There are no patrolled swimming areas in Cooloola, except at certain times on a section of beachfront—clearly signed—slightly north of the Rainbow Beach township. Check local signs for patrol times.

    Be aware and avoid tragedy!

    • Always stay with children when near water.
    • Sharks are common in the river and ocean.
    • Rips occur frequently in the ocean.
    • Bluebottles (a species of marine stinger) are prevalent during spells of northerly winds.
    • Do not jump or dive into water. Serious injuries have occurred.

    Canoeing

    Canoeing is the best way to experience the upper Noosa River. Follow the guidelines below to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

    • Stay clear of power boats, as they have limited manoeuvrability.
    • Paddle close to the riverbanks.
    • Stay clear of channel markers to allow passage for power boats.
    • Ensure all gear is in waterproof containers.
    • Strong winds often occur in the afternoon, making the river and Lake Cootharaba rough to cross. Plan to travel in the morning when conditions are likely to be calm.
    • Take note of distances and travelling times and plan trips accordingly.
    • Never canoe or kayak alone.
    • Wear lifejackets at all times.
    • Observe the no-landing zone between Fig Tree Point and Harry's hut.
    • Consider others; leave enough space for others to tie up at jetties.
    • Store canoes in the racks (where provided) overnight.

    The area contains natural hazards. Take care and beware of submerged logs, overhanging branches and shallow water. Read water safety guidelines for further information.

    Canoeing details
    From–toDistanceTime
    Boreen Point to Kinaba 7km 1hr 30mins
    Elanda to Kinaba 4.5km 1hr
    Kinaba to Fig Tree Point 2km 20mins
    Fig Tree Point to Harry’s hut 5km 1hr
    Harry’s hut to camp site 1 3.5km 35 mins
    Camp site 1–2 1.7km 15mins
    Camp site 2–3 2.5km 30mins
    Camp site 3–4 1km 10mins
    Camp site 4–5 1km 10 mins
    Camp site 5–8 5 km 1hr
    Camp site 8–9 1km 10mins
    Camp site 9–13 2km 20mins
    Camp site 13–15 3 km 30mins

    Boating

    All Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) regulations apply within Cooloola, including the Noosa River, all adjacent coastal waters and the Great Sandy Marine Park. Refer to the MSQ general safety obligations for a safe and enjoyable day out on the water. Read water safety guidelines for further information.

    Upper Noosa River:

    • A six-knot and no-wash speed limit applies upstream from the Kinaba Information Centre. This protects the riverbanks from erosion. If vessels generate wash, please slow down. Penalties apply.
    • Motorised vessels are permitted only to Camp site 3. Electric motors and non-motorised vessels are permitted past Camp site 3.
    • Observe the no-landing zone between Fig Tree Point and Harrys hut.
    • Sail boat mast should be lowered before entering the upper Noosa River due to overhanging branches.
    • Releasing effluent from boats is prohibited.

    The area contains natural hazards. Take care and beware of submerged logs, overhanging branches and shallow water.

    Boating details
    From-toDistanceTime Speed limit
    Boreen Point to Kinaba 7km 15mins 40 knots
    Kinaba to Fig Tree Point 2km 15mins 6 knots
    Fig Tree Point to Harrys hut 5km 30mins 6 knots
    Harrys hut to Camp site 3 7.7km 45mins 6 knots

    Note:

    • Slow down if your vessel still creates wash in the 6 knot speed limit areas!
    • Motorised vessels are prohibited upstream of Camp site 3.

    Coastal waterways:

    • Coastal waters north of Double Island Point (including the headland) and the Tin Can Inlet are protected within the Great Sandy Marine Park and regulations apply.
    • There are no boat launching facilities within Cooloola. Nearby council-managed boat ramps are located in Boreen Point, Tewantin and Noosaville (Noosa River), Carlo Point (north of Rainbow Beach) and Norman Point (Tin Can Bay).

    Fishing

    Recreational fishing is popular along Teewah Beach and the upper Noosa River. Bag limits, size and seasonal restrictions apply to some fish species. For more information visit Fisheries Queensland, Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for rules and guidelines.

    Beach landscope with a solo person fishing at the shore.
    Enjoy fishing on Teewah Beach. Be aware of recreational fishing rules and stay well out of traffic lanes.

    Photo credit: Queensland Government

    On Cooloola’s coastal beaches:

    • The coastal waters from Double Island Point to Inskip Peninsula, including the Tin Can Inlet, are protected within the Great Sandy Marine Park and restrictions apply.
    • All rubbish from fish cleaning, including offal, scales and unused bait, should be buried at least 30cm deep just below the high tide line.
    • If fishing at night, wear high-visibility vests and use glow sticks to alert approaching drivers.

    On the upper Noosa River:

    • All rubbish from fish cleaning, including offal, scales and unused bait, should be treated as rubbish and be removed from the area.
    • In Queensland, the annual closed season for Australian bass is 1 June to 31 August.
    • Commercial netting is not permitted in the upper Noosa River and Kin Kin Creek.
    • Use lures rather than live bait to reduce the chance of harming freshwater turtles or eels.
    • Be mindful when using crab pots and bait traps.
    • Turtles can become trapped and drown in wire collapsible traps that have wider entrances than the round mesh crab pots—consider using more turtle-friendly crab pots and methods.
    • Use appropriate length of float line for depth and tide, and weight pots to reduce amount of loose line that can entangle turles.

    Viewing wildlife

    Cooloola offers excellent opportunities for viewing wildlife. With more than 350 bird, 75 mammal, 21 frog and 80 reptile species, visitors to Cooloola are guaranteed to experience a close encounter of a natural kind. Listen for choruses of frog calls along the upper Noosa River and lake systems. View flocks of migratory birds along the coastal beaches. These birds are often tired from long flights so please drive around the resting flocks, not towards them. Request a species list for more information.

    To report wildlife emergencies or marine strandings contact the Wildlife Hotline on 1300 130 372.