Cooloola Great Walk Sunshine Coast

Enjoy long landscape views from the Cooloola Great Walk, Cooloola Recreation Area. Photo credit: Robert Ashdown, Queensland Government

Visiting the Cooloola Great Walk safely

    Photo of two people studying a map.

    Planning your walk and having contingency plans is essential.

    Photo credit: Robert Ashdown, Queensland Government

    Photo of a satellite phone, compass and mobile phone sitting on top of a map.

    A mobile phone with spare battery, and a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) are highly recommended. Or consider a satellite phone.

    Photo credit: Robert Ashdown, Queensland Government

    Photo of two walkers reading a map and looking into the distance.

    Get your bearings before navigating across the Cooloola Sandpatch and Carlo Sandblow.

    Photo credit: Robert Ashdown, Queensland Government

    Photo of two people walking up the Carlo sandblow with the ocean and islands in the background.

    Spend a moment to take in the great view of Double Island Point from Carlo Sandblow.

    Photo credit: Robert Ashdown, Queensland Government

    Getting there and getting around

    The Cooloola Recreation Area lies between the coastal towns of Tewantin, near Noosa, and Rainbow Beach just south of Fraser Island. Tewantin is located approximately 155km—about 2 hours drive—north from Brisbane. Rainbow Beach is 240km north of Brisbane or about 3 hours drive.

    Bus and taxi services are readily available to and from:

    • Rainbow Beach
    • Tewantin
    • Brisbane
    • Sunshine Coast
    • Noosa
    • Gympie
    • Maryborough.

    Rainbow Beach and Tewantin townships have:

    • shops
    • fuel stations
    • accommodation including resorts, motels and caravan parks.

    Getting to the Cooloola Great Walk southern entrance

    The southern entrance at the Arthur Harrold Nature Refuge on the Noosa North Shore is approximately five kilometres from Tewantin CBD.

    • Taxi services are available: Ph: 131 008.
    • A public bus service runs seven days a week.
    • For more details contact Translink Ph: 13 12 30.

    Getting to the Cooloola Great Walk northern entrance

    The northern entrance of the Cooloola Great Walk is at the Carlo Sandblow carpark approximately 1.5km from the Rainbow Beach central business district.

    Staying safe

    The rocks in front of Rainbow Beach township may be impassable at times. Conditions change daily. Always check first.

    In an emergency

    Phone Triple Zero (000) for all life threatening, critical or serious emergencies, or for reporting a bushfire or acts of arson.

    Be prepared for disaster

    Tsunami, cyclones and extremely high tides may occur along coastal areas. The Noosa River is also susceptible to flooding, cutting off escape routes.

    For comprehensive information on preparing for floods, cyclones, tsunami and severe storms, visit Queensland Disaster Management Services.

    Check for park alerts

    For more information, check park alerts and read the guidelines on safety in parks and forests.

    Pack good communication gear


    Optional extra:

    • Handheld Global Positioning System (GPS) device and spare batteries
    • satellite phone.

    Prepare an emergency kit

    This could include:

    • portable transistor radio and spare batteries
    • torch and spare batteries
    • extra warm clothing
    • first-aid kit (and be trained in first aid)
    • list of emergency contact numbers.

    Safety is our concern, but your responsibility.

    Walking safety

    Water safety

    • The river system, lakes and coastal beaches are not patrolled and swimming is not recommended.
    • Sharks are common in the river system and ocean beaches.
    • Do not dive or jump into the water; submerged obstacles can be anywhere.
    • Do not dam or swim in creeks or soaks along Teewah Beach.
    • Be aware of and stay clear of power boats travelling along the river.
    • If fishing at night, wear a high visibility vest and use glow sticks to alert approaching vessels on the river, or vehicles on Teewah Beach.

    Sand safety

    Exposed sand dunes and sand cliffs along Teewah and Rainbow beaches are unstable and can collapse without warning. Climbing on, sliding down or digging into them is dangerous and can lead to serious injury or death. Do not park close to dunes. Never allow children to play near or on sand dunes and sand cliffs.

    Campfire safety

    Campfires are prohibited in Cooloola, except in the camping areas at Teewah Beach and Poverty Point or in QPWS-provided fire rings. Fires are not permitted anywhere during periods of fire prohibitions. Check the Cooloola conditions report (PDF, 668.6KB) before going. Penalties apply.

    Always be vigilant with fuel stoves, gas lights and lanterns.

    Never leave a campfire unattended and extinguish all campfires completely with water, not sand, before leaving the area. Embers under sand stay extremely hot for hours and can cause serious burns. Campfires that are covered with sand not only keep their heat for longer, but are also disguised and can look like a sand-pit or sandcastle to small children. Do not dispose of non-combustible or toxic material (e.g. glass, cans, plastics) in a campfire. Penalties apply.


    Bushfires can pose a threat to walkers and remote campers. They can occur without warning, so be aware of, and prepare for the dangers.

    Walkers stay alert! If there is a bushfire, follow the walking track to the nearest set-down or pick-up point (generally an intersection between the walking track and a road), road, beach, lake or creek for refuge. Large logs, a ditch or burnt ground can also provide protection. Avoid areas of heavy fuel, such as deep leaf litter, and stay low to the ground where the air is coolest and contains the least smoke.

    In extreme conditions, the walking track and camping areas may be closed at short notice for safety reasons.

    Planned fires

    Rangers carry out planned fuel-reduction burning. Please observe all signs. Report a fire by calling Triple Zero (000) as soon as possible and try to alert rangers in the area.

    Report suspected arson

    Help stop arson by reporting the time, location and description of the suspected arsonist/s or the vehicle (including registration number) they are in. Early reporting can save lives and property.

    In all emergencies dial Triple Zero (000).

    For more information, please read the QPWS Fire management safety information.

    Before you visit

    Plan your walk carefully

    The Cooloola Great Walk passes through remote areas and some rugged terrain. Forward planning is essential. Allow at least five full days to complete the five sections of the Cooloola Great Walk, and include extra time if you intend walking the side trips.

    Purchase a topographic map

    Topographic map brochures contain vital orientation information and are essential for your safety. They can be purchased from a number of Great Walks topographic map sales outlets.

    Be prepared

    Most of the Cooloola Great Walk is remote and only suitable for properly equipped and experienced bushwalkers. As each day's walk varies between 14.8 and 29.1 kilometres they are not recommended for children.

    • Do not walk in remote areas unless you are well prepared.
    • A moderate level of navigation skills is required—know how to use a topographic map and compass.
    • Be trained in remote area first aid.
    • Be weather-wise and know what to do if there is a storm, flood or fire.
    • Pack good communication gear and know how to use it.

    Assess your groups’ abilities

    • Never walk alone.
    • Form a Great Walk group.
    • Small groups of four people are ideal.
    • Consider everyone’s bushwalking experience, fitness levels and special needs.
    • Plan to share equipment so everyone packs light and comfortable.
    • Talk through contingencies—bad weather, illness, injury—compile an emergency plan in case something goes wrong.

    Inform someone who cares

    • Go through your emergency plans with a reliable friend or family member.
    • Keep them updated if you change your plans.
    • Ensure you call them when you have completed the walk.
    • If you are overdue from the completion of your walk, your contact person should ring the Queensland Police Service.

    Stay informed! Stay safe!

    Essentials to bring

    Facilities are limited, so you must be fully self-sufficient. Your equipment should, at least, include the following:

    • navigation equipment, topographic map, compass and whistle.
    • a valid camping permit.
    • strong, lightweight tent—shelters are not provided at walkers’ camps.
    • lightweight sleeping bag—temperatures can drop to minus 2°C on some winter night.
    • sleeping mat.
    • pack for all seasons—include warm clothes and a raincoat.
    • reflective vests and backpack strips for beach walking.
    • sturdy boots and gaiters.
    • first-aid kit.
    • water containers capable of holding enough water for a full day’s walk.
    • nourishing lightweight food and high-energy snacks, but take extra food in case the walk takes longer than expected.
    • hat, sunscreen and insect repellent.
    • waterproof bags to keep clothing and bedding dry.
    • torch, extra batteries.
    • small, battery-operated transistor radio for weather warnings.
    • lightweight cooking and eating utensils and a washing up container.
    • reliable fuel stove and fuel and a lighter or waterproof matches—fires are not permitted anywhere along the great walk.
    • sealable containers or bags for food and rubbish—rubbish bins are not provided at walkers’ camps, so all rubbish must be carried out.
    • human waste disposal kit and toilet paper or a trowel or spade for bush toileting.
    • a reliable communication device, at least a mobile phone.

    A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is the ideal device for emergencies. Buy or hire one for your trip.

    Keep in mind:

    • A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) is not a telephone.
    • PLBs should only be used in emergency situations.
    • When activated, PLBs emits a signal, which helps rescuers locate your position.
    • For more information visit Maritime Safety Queensland.
    • Mobile phone reception is very limited and non-existent in most sections.
    • Consider that batteries cannot be recharged at the walkers' camps.
    • A satellite phone works best in remote areas, but also needs battery power.

    For further information on how to obtain and register a PLB contact the Australian Maritime Safety Authority 1800 406 406 (business hours),
    PLB’s and satellite phones can be hired from various outlets.

    Permits and fees

    • Camping permits are required and fees apply.
    • Walkers’ camp sites must be booked and paid for in advance.
    • Bookings can be made up to 12 months in advance.
    • The maximum group size is six people camping overnight on the Cooloola Great Walk.
    • Maximum stay at each camp site is one night.
    • Book your camp site online.
    • If you cannot book online, see camping bookings for other options
    • Vehicle permits are required for traversing through designated areas in the Cooloola Recreation Area.

    Climate and weather

    Mean annual rainfall for the area is approximately 1400 millimetres, with the driest times between July and September. Always check weather warnings at least a day before you start your walk, as the area can be affected by cyclones or days of torrential rain.

    Also see: Bureau of Meteorology.

    • Expect sections of damp to very wet track conditions between December and March, with generally drier times in all other months.
    • Walking tracks are closed during periods of scheduled maintenance, flood, wildfires, high fire danger or other severe weather events such as cyclones and strong winds.
    • Check the latest Cooloola conditions report (PDF, 668.6KB) before you go.

    Severe weather

    When booking, leave enough best-contact details, so rangers can contact you about sudden closures.

    • For safety, QPWS has to close walking tracks, roads and camping areas during extreme weather events.
    • As much notice as possible is given to Great Walkers who have booked their camping.
    • Never enter areas that have been closed.
    • Check weather forecasts from the Bureau of Meteorology and cancel your trip rather than walk into dangerous situations.
    • Check park alerts for any extreme weather or fire alerts.

    Facilities and supplies

    • Fill your drinking water containers before you get to the Cooloola Great Walk entry points.
    • There are no facilities, water taps, or overnight parking available at either track entrance.

    See table below for facilities close by.

    Local facilities
    Facility typeFacilityTewantin Noosa North Shore Rainbow Beach
    General Water Yes No Yes
    Public toilets Yes No Yes
    Public telephone Yes Yes Yes
    Overnight parking Yes No Yes
    Accommodation Backpacker Yes No Yes
    Camping/caravan parks Yes Yes Yes
    Hotel/motel Yes Yes Yes
    Guesthouse Yes No Yes
    Supplies Restaurants Yes Yes Yes
    Take-away food Yes Yes Yes
    General store Yes Yes Yes
    Fuel (petrol, diesel, gas) Yes No Yes
    Money (ATM and EFTPOS) Yes No Yes
    Transport Public transport (bus/taxi) Yes No Yes

    For more detailed accommodation and tourism information in Queensland, visit Queensland Holidays.

    • There are currently no park alerts for this park.