Chances are, if you’ve heard of Cooloola you might know it as the sandy beach highway between Rainbow Beach and Noosa, the mecca of four-wheel drivers and fishers.
But there’s a lesser-known side to Cooloola Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park. Get off the well-worn coastal track and you'll find a vast landscape of sand dunes, freshwater lakes, tall forests, paperbark swamps, wildflower heath and a pristine river system. And, for active families, tons of adventures of the boating, camping and fishing variety.
Think camping under the stars on idyllic riverbanks, paddling over glassy reflections on meandering waterways, cooling off in sand-filtered creek waters and cooking freshly-caught fish over the camp fire.
And the best thing about Cooloola? You’ll feel totally immersed in nature (and, dare we mention it, away from distractions of the digital variety) yet you are only a couple of hours’ drive from the Sunshine Coast. Perfect.
Here’s just a taste of the experiences your family can enjoy at Cooloola.
Upper Noosa River | © Queensland Government
Camping ‘by the dock of the bay’
You will find an old jetty at Poverty Point camping area (well, the remains of one!) that once might have been perfect for watching ‘the tide roll away’ but that’s about where the similarity ends with ‘Frisco Bay’…
Here, at the end of Poverty Point Road 4WD track, you’ll find a secluded camp site surrounded by mangroves on the tranquil sandy shores of Tin Can Inlet, with ample opportunities for boating and fishing…and, of course, just ‘sittin’ in the morning sun’.
Watch pelicans gliding on the sparkling waters while the kids pump yabbies on the sand flat and catch fish for dinner on the high tide, just a hop, step and jump from camp. Launch the family tinnie and explore the calm waters of the inlet or try your luck in the fishing holes. Sit around the camp fire at night to cook your catch—food somehow tastes better in the outdoors! Oh, and remember to pack the insect repellent!
Poverty Point camping area | © Chris Whitelaw
Splash, soak and swim at Searys creek—great for cooling off!
Near Poverty Point, and on the way to Rainbow Beach, is a detour that every family must take! Grab the towels and wander along a paperbark-lined boardwalk to discover nature’s perfect swimming pool.
The tea-coloured waters of Seary’s Creek have been filtered through Cooloola’s sandmass and the shallow sandy bottom makes this a great spot for kids to cool off and splash about. Can they spot red and blue flashes of ornate rainbowfish in the creek or hear the unmistakable laughter of kookaburras in the surrounding forest?
Seary’s Creek boardwalk | © Queensland Government
Sleep at heavenly Harrys—tranquil camping by the river bank
Bump and sway along Harrys Hut Road 4WD track, through pine trees, scribbly gums and rainforest to the tranquil shores of the Noosa River. Set up camp at Harrys camping area and put the kids to sleep under a million stars…and wonder how you’ll ever return to ‘civilisation’.
Explore the nearby historic Harry's Hut, a timber-getter's hut from the mid-1900s, or simply spend your days relaxing around the peaceful camp site. If you’re feeling really adventurous, you can reach Harrys by kayak or canoe from Elanda Point.
Harrys Hut | © Lachlan Gardiner
Paddle power—explore Noosa’s own Everglades by kayak or boat
If ‘Everglades’ conjures visions of swamps, mangroves and forests along a vast pristine waterway, you’re spot-on! Exploring Noosa’s ‘Everglades’, the upper reaches of the Noosa River and its creeks and lakes, is a family-sized adventure! Pack the kids and camping gear into your kayaks or canoes, or tinnie if the kids are too young to paddle, and launch from Elanda Point. If you’re not quite ready to camp, pack a picnic and explore just for the day.
Paddle close to shore on Lake Cootharaba then follow the meandering Upper Noosa River through 'The Narrows', where tannin-stained waters reflect forest and sky. Snap some family selfies along the way and compete to see who has the fastest kayak. Set the rules: Splashing in the face is off limits, while racing is mandatory—bumping craft out of the way is acceptable gamesmanship but be prepared to wear the consequences!
After paddling for around 3hrs, you’ll arrive at Harrys Hut where you can pitch a tent for a well-earned night’s rest. If you prefer a day trip, paddle only as far as Fig Tree point camping and day-use area to enjoy a picnic before paddling back again.
Upper Noosa River | © Queensland Government
Your family deserves to experience Cooloola! Our tip: Avoid the summer crowds and plan a trip for the cooler months. Check out Cooloola Recreation Area, Great Sandy National Park for more information and have a closer look at all Cooloola’s camping opportunities. Always check Park alerts and Cooloola’s Conditions Report before you go.