Rainbow Beach is reputed for being the best access to the famous Fraser Island (K’gari). I love K’gari; it’s probably my favourite place in Australia. But if you have time, don’t be too impatient to reach the biggest sand island in the world. Stay a bit on the continent to check out some of these things to do in Rainbow Beach.
Is Rainbow Beach worth visiting?
Rainbow Beach is worth visiting. Although the town is quite small, it offers various activities and amazing nature all around. That makes it one of my favourite weekend destinations to escape from Brisbane for a weekend (it’s a three-hour drive). I keep coming back. It’s a lot more than just a small town with a lovely beach and relaxed atmosphere. Wondering what to do in Rainbow Beach? The list is long so I’ll stick to my favourite activities that will for sure seduce nature lovers!
What are the best things do in Rainbow Beach?
The list is in no particular order of preference. I found it too hard to compare activities in Rainbow Beach as they are all very different.
1. Admire the coloured sands
These fantastic cliffs are located on the beach, about 2km on the east side of Rainbow Beach Surf Club – which by the way offers a great view of the ocean.
At first sight, you may think you are looking at a rock. But the nature around Rainbow Beach will surprise you: these cliffs are made of sand of different shades. From white to black, with some yellow, red, pink, orange and brown… They list over 70 different tints of sand created by the iron and other minerals in the ground. Stunning. The colours are even better after a windy or rainy period as the top layer of the sand would have been removed.
The best way to enjoy the coloured sand? I’m not sure. From the beach, from a boat, from the air… I’ve tried them all, and it’s always beautiful. You’ll need to join a tour or have a 4WD to reach the coloured sands.
2. Have fun on the beach: 4WD & camping
Except for the swimming zone in front of the town centre and where the ground collapsed into the ocean (literally), all the beach from Noosa to Inskip Point is open to 4WD.
Low tide is the easiest time to do some 4WD on the beach and also the best to thoroughly enjoy the coloured sand scenery. If you’re driving at high tide, you can still reach the beach campsites, but you’ll have to consider the inland track instead.
Beach camping is very busy during weekends. Still, it’s “Australia’s busy”: from our experience at Teewah Beach, you should be able to find your spot at least 20m away from the neighbours (unless you’re there on a long weekend during school holidays). I love camping on the beach. Who wouldn’t dream of spending the evening around the fire with the moon lighting the ocean, being rocked by the waves as we fall asleep and opening the door tent to watch the sunrise without leaving your bed?
If you don’t have a 4WD, Inskip Point is one of the rare opportunities to go beach camping with a 2WD and without hiking! The bitumen road goes quite far into the Inskip Peninsula so you can park your car at the campsite and pitch your tent near the beach. If you’re there early, you should be able to find a spot within walking distance of your car.
Teewah Beach (towards Noosa) and Inskip Point (towards Fraser Island) are the two closest beach camping areas not too far from Rainbow Beach. Permits for driving and camping are required.
3. Check out the Inskip Peninsula
With the ocean on one side, the bay on the other, and great views of Fraser Island, the Inskip Peninsula is another jewel around Rainbow Beach. It is very busy with all the 4WD waiting for the barge at Inskip Point to go to Fraser Island, just a few metres away.
It became internationally famous a few years ago when the ground collapsed into the ocean. That’s the second time in four years that it occurs in the area, and another event of the same type just happened on North Stradbroke Island – a bit further south.
Be aware that, although people park their cars nearby and fish all around it, the sand is still unstable around the hole.
4. Check out Double Island Point Lighthouse
Double Island Point is about 30km south of the town of Rainbow Beach.
On the cliff where the lighthouse stands, you can get one of the best views ever of the ocean. From there, if you are patient enough, you will spot pods of dolphins, turtles, and maybe dugongs, sharks, or whales depending on the season!
You will need to have a 4WD to reach Double Island Point. If you don’t have a 4WD, you can book a tour from Rainbow Beach to go canoeing or surfing; it will take you there (see below for details).
Another option is to do an overnight hike (more info below too).
5. Kayak with dolphins
I haven’t done this one myself yet, but I’ve seen several times a tour organising it. They take you to Double Island Point in a 4WD with the canoes, and you can explore the ocean from there. From the lighthouse, we could see the canoes surrounded by dolphins. It must be an awesome experience.
6. Surf Australia’s longest waves at Double Island Point
My travel buddies hired a surfboard and got a lift to Double Island Point to surf Australia’s longest waves. Unfortunately, I had a cold that day, so I opted for the option to try to spot marine life from the lighthouse. If the opportunity arises again, I’d be keen to try the Double Island Point waves: they are reputed to be easy for beginners! To be honest, my tentative to surf the main beach was ridiculous, so I wish we had started with Double Island Point!
7. Hike the Cooloola Great Walk, Double Island Point and/or Poona Lake
There are several hiking options around Rainbow Beach.
The short stroll to the top of Double Island Point is a must-do when visiting Rainbow Beach. Again, you’ll need a 4WD to reach it. You can also choose the hiking option, but it will take you a while!
That’s what we did in April when we were planning a trip to Kilimanjaro and looking for long hikes to test our endurance. The overnight walk from Rainbow Beach will take you from Carlo Sandblow to Double Island Point and Freshwater campground, where you can spend the night. The next day you can go back via the inland track to Carlo Sandblow, passing by Poona Lake. Read the full article here.
It is a part of the longest hike you can do in the area: the Cooloola Great Walk. It goes for about 100km from Rainbow Beach to Noosa. I haven’t done this one and chose to explore most of Cooloola National Park by kayaking the Noosa River instead. If you’ve done the walk, I’d love to hear your feedback!
9. Explore Carlo Sandblow near Rainbow Beach
I love Carlo Sandblow. A short stroll from the car park (less than 10 minutes) will take you to the top of the dune. From there, you can go right to have a great view of Tin Can Bay – a perfect spot for sunset. Or you can go left for a fantastic view of the coloured sands of Rainbow Beach, all the way from Fraser Island to Double Island point – a perfect spot for sunrise. If you play with the sand down on the right side of the dune, its colour changes (hence the rainbow name), it is quite unique.
We often see people sandboarding the dunes at Carlo Sandblow, simply using a cardboard box.
When the weather is good, people paragliding will add some touches of colours in the sky. So beautiful.
10. Go paragliding to enjoy a bird view of Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island
When I saw some people flying from the dune to get a bird’s view of the Rainbow Beach area, it immediately brought back awesome memories. I did paragliding in the French Alps when I was a young teenager, and I loved it – despite my fear of heights. On top of being a fantastic natural experience to get a new point of view of an area, I found it very relaxing and fun!
I discovered on the dune that my partner had never done paragliding. As I was sure he would love it, I booked him in for an intro lesson to learn how to fly. As advertised by the instructor, he was able to fly solo on this first day! Sensations are guaranteed!
I joined the fun for a tandem flight. The view from up there was fantastic. The water was very clear so we could see sharks and rays. We were flying with (and above) eagles and even spotted a kingfisher. It’s such a unique feeling. The landscape is stunning with K’gari (Fraser Island) in the background, the coloured sands just below us, Double Island Point a bit further, and Tin Can Bay on the side. The take-off and the landing are done on the soft sand of the dune which makes it effortless for beginners during a tandem!
Paragliding is highly weather dependent. If you are lucky enough to be there on a good day for it, or if you leave nearby and can plan a trip according to the weather, I highly recommend it!
Contact Jean-Luc to organise your flight: 0418 754 157 or www.paraglidingrainbow.com
11. Get an adrenaline rush: go skydiving in Rainbow Beach
I haven’t done this one (yet). Skydiving is on my bucket list, but since I’ve seen videos of a jump in a glacier in New Zealand, I’d like to do it there. However, I may one day succumb to the temptation of doing it in Rainbow Beach with a great landing on the beach and fantastic views of K’gari (Fraser Island).
Have you skydived before? In Rainbow Beach? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!
12. Ride a horse on the beach or in the countryside
Riding a horse on the beach may sound a bit cliché, but it also sounds awesome, doesn’t it? It’s a great way to spend a few hours on the beach with an activity you’ll remember for a long time. Beginners will also enjoy the experience as the horses are very calm and well-trained. You won’t get to swim in the ocean with the horse (it is for advanced riders only with a lot of experience, unless you sign for a multi-day adventure). But your horse will be happy to get its legs wet (and maybe yours a little bit!). It’s not an experience for those on a budget, but it’s fun especially if you’ve never ridden a horse on a beach. You can read more about our horse riding experience in Rainbow Beach here.
You can book tours online from a 90-minute experience to 6 hours or even at night, on the beach or in the countryside or the ocean… It’s hard to choose!
13. Dive an Australia’s top 10 spot: Wolf Rock
Wolf Rock is a reputed dive spot to see Grey Nurse Sharks and many other biggies. You will need to get the advanced diver certification to go there as it is about 30m deep. We always have fantastic dives at Wolf Rock where we saw Grey Nurse Sharks, Leopard Sharks, Bull Rays, Giant Queensland Groupers, Turtles… One of these dives where you need two extra pairs of eyes to see all the life around you! It’s amazing to have such a fantastic dive site near Brisbane and it’s surely one of my favourite scuba diving spots in Australia.
The diving shop in Rainbow Beach organises double dives. As the boat trip takes about 45mn and you need to stay out of the water for 1 hour between the two dives, don’t expect to be back before 2.30 pm.
The boat trip will treat you to one of the best views of the coloured sands. If you’re lucky, you may spot dolphins and even dugongs in the bay from where the boat leaves.
That’s it for now about the things to do in Rainbow Beach, but if you still have more time in the area, you can check the town nearby Tin Can Bay. I’ve noted below a few additional tips to help you prepare for your visit to Rainbow Beach: when to go, where to stay and where to eat.
When is the best time to visit Rainbow Beach?
Rainbow Beach is a great destination all year round. I like visiting when the water is warmer (from November to May). But it does get hot and sticky in summer, early in the year. Winter is a good time to visit if you want to spot the whales from Double Island Point and avoid the heat.
Where to stay in Rainbow Beach?
The cheapest option to stay in Rainbow Beach is to camp. Camping at Inskip Point only cost $6.75 per person. However, we got attacked by biting midges all night long once. They were small enough to go through our mosquito nets. So if you go camping at Inskip Point and are sensitive to midges, make sure you wear long sleeves, long pants and socks, and bring insect repellent.
The second cheap option is to stay at a hostel. Rainbow Beach is a popular destination for backpackers so you’ll find a few options. We stayed in a double room with a shared bathroom at Pippies Beachhouse* and found it really convenient. If you want a private bathroom, Freedom Rainbow Beach* next door offers one of the cheapest options for a couple.
There are so many things to do in Rainbow Beach that we usually keep our accommodation budget low to join tours, so we haven’t tried these accommodations. But if you’re looking for accommodation with something special, I recommend having a look at Rainbow Ocean Palm Resort* (apartments with sea views and a spa bath) and Rainbow Sea Resort* (ensuite room with sea views and a spa bath). They’d be my go-to.
Where to eat in Rainbow Beach?
We haven’t tried all the places to have lunch or dinner in Rainbow Beach, but we have one favourite we visit every time we go to Rainbow Beach: the surfclub. It offers stunning views of the ocean and the food is tasty. If you’re going to Rainbow Beach during the weekend or school holidays, make sure you book in advance to get a table with a view.
We also enjoyed our drinks at The Deck @ Sea Salt; we didn’t have time to try their food. The rooftop has views of the ocean. Arcobaleno is a good Italian restaurant in a pedestrian lane, but you won’t get sea views there. We also loved the gelatos at Creme de la Creme.
Have you been to Rainbow Beach? What did you do there? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is Rainbow Beach?
Rainbow Beach is in Queensland, about three hours north of Brisbane, just in front of K’gari (Fraser Island). You don’t need a 4WD to drive from Brisbane to Rainbow Beach. But if you have one, you can go from Noosa to Rainbow Beach via the beach which is very scenic. Check the tide time to plan your trip!
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