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A local’s guide to the hidden paradise of Rainbow Beach

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Many a holidaymaker has made the drive from Brisbane to Noosa to try their luck at stand-up paddle boarding along the river or to relax on the secluded sands of Little Cove. The most discerning tourists know, however, that Noosa is not the end destination; the real adventure starts here.

A generous slice of Australian paradise awaits just a short, 15-minute drive from Noosa’s main attractions. I’m talking about the sandy shoreline which stretches from Noosa’s North Shore up to Fraser Island, and some of the lesser-known wonders that lie in between.

Noosa North Shore | A local's guide to Rainbow Beach

The Great Beach Drive is the quintessential Australian road trip, integrating deserted beaches with stunning rainforest. This 380km-long journey is as beautiful as it is fun and is a great way to witness wildlife like whales, dugongs, kangaroos and dingoes.

If you embark on this breathtaking adventure, you’re destined to pass through a stunning coastal town called Rainbow Beach – and yes, it’s as alluring as it sounds. Once you get a taste of Rainbow Beach’s unique, homely charm you’ll be left wanting more and it’s not uncommon to overhear visitors exclaiming, “I wish I could live here!”

I acted on that wish some years back and started a new, dream life in Rainbow Beach. Allow me to paint a picture of this unspoilt part of the world that will have you jet-setting to Queensland faster than you can say ‘great escape’.

EAT

Noosa Beach House | A local's guide to Rainbow Beach

You’re probably starting out in Noosa, so savour a hearty breakfast and steaming hot cup of coffee at Noosa Beach House on Hasting Street before making your way to the vehicle ferry in Tewantin.

Believe it or not, once you access the beach from Noosa’s North Shore, there’s no cafe in sight for 100kms or more. Hardly a drawback though, this just proves how pristine this part of the land really is.

Pack a picnic that can be enjoyed later at one of the many beautiful locations along the way from Noosa up to Rainbow (Belmondos in Noosa is a great place to stock up before you go).

Noosa National Park | A local's guide to Rainbow Beach

Photo by @jarradseng

It’s a stunning drive and there’s much to explore, so my best piece of advice is: don’t rush it. Pull over at Double Island Point, a popular day-trip destination for Sunshine Coast locals. Roll out that picnic blanket and soak up some sunshine then walk off your meal with a stroll to the headland to enjoy an incredible 360-degree view.

Once you reach Rainbow Beach you’ll be starving. Arcobaleno On The Beach is a local town favourite. This gorgeous Italian restaurant offers up a great courtyard and lovely atmosphere. The staff are all locals and do a great job of serving crispy wood-fired pizzas and delicious pasta every day of the week.

DRINK

Rainbow Beach

The township of Rainbow Beach has many distinctive features but perhaps its most endearing characteristic is that it revolves around one main street and at the end of that street, is the ocean. That might explain why the majority of this close-knit community ends up at the Rainbow Beach Surf Club as the sun begins to set. Like any great surf club, it lures the locals with its spectacular views and warm, inviting atmosphere.

If you visit between July and September, you can sometimes see humpback whales swimming directly in front of you, as you sit and enjoy a cold drink and warm company.

If it’s good coffee you’re after, pay a visit to Cafe Jilarty. The owner of the cafe is an artist and you immediately get a feel for her passions when you lay eyes on the gorgeous space she has created. In addition to offering a tasty breakfast menu, this cafe showcases photographs from locals and sells some cute, local homewares.

STAY

Rainbow Ocean Palms | A local's guide to Rainbow Beach

Rainbow Beach offers a diverse range of accommodation options for all kinds of visitors, from camping through to holiday houses and resorts to apartments.

Rainbow Ocean Palms Resort is positioned on the edge of Great Sandy National Park, with beautiful forest running alongside it. The luxury apartments are perched atop a hill, granting unparalleled, panoramic views of the beach and sea. There’s a great sense of peace and tranquillity here as it’s removed from the rest of ‘town life’.

As a property manager of the resort, I’m proud to say we hold an Advanced Eco Certification, which recognises our commitment to sustainable tourism practices. We’re a particularly popular choice for nature lovers and bird watchers, given the direct access our accommodation offers to bushwalks and birdlife.

Rainbow Sea Resort and Rainbow Getaway Holiday Apartments also offer quality accommodation and are located in the centre of the township.

PLAY

A visit to the Carlo Sand Blow is a must for everyone staying at Rainbow Beach. This iconic sand mass provides great views of the coloured sands, Double Island Lighthouse and Inskip Peninsula. Visit at sunrise or sunset to capture some amazing photographs.

If you feel like exploring more of Great Sandy National Park, make Seary’s Creek your final resting point. The creek is beautifully clear, with subtle orange, tea-tree tannins. You can float or play in the water, read a book in the shade, or stroll along the picturesque boardwalk.

Experience something truly unique and ride a horse along Rainbow Beach. All riding experience levels can be catered to and you can choose between a beach ride, country ride – even a full moon ride!

From Rainbow Beach, you’re in prime position to explore the world’s largest sand island – Fraser Island. There are many great day tours on offer, like the Fraser Island Discovery Tour, which will take you on an adventurous 4WD excursion up the beach to Inskip Point where you’ll board a barge and cross over to the iconic island.

Spend the afternoon walking through cool, towering rainforest, swimming in freshwater lakes or watching dingoes explore their native habitat.

LOCAL’S TIP

The people of Rainbow Beach are proud to be a part of a tight and supportive community. All the business owners here work very cooperatively because we know that together, we can showcase the very best of this destination.

For the best local fresh fruit, go to Rainbow Beach Fruit Shop. For delicious deli items, small goods and high-quality meats, you want to head to Rainbow Beach Meats. Ocean Breeze Seafoods is also worth mentioning. It sells only locally-caught seafood; straight from the trawlers at Tin Can Bay. It’s very popular with Rainbow Beach residents, for obvious reasons.

WHEN TO GO

Humpback whale | A local's guide to Rainbow Beach

When you hear the word ‘beach’ or ‘coast’ you might immediately conjure up thoughts of summer.  And yet, winter is an ideal time to explore Noosa and Rainbow Beach and do the Great Beach Drive. Not only because temperatures are more forgiving but humpback whales are also on their annual holiday, making their migration along the coast and you might see them jumping and playing offshore along the way.

GETTING THERE

If you want to point your GPS straight for Rainbow Beach, it’s about 2.5 hours drive north of Brisbane Airport. From Brisbane, follow the Bruce Highway north and keep your eye out for a right-hand turn once you reach Gympie.

The more scenic option is to take a vehicle ferry from Tewantin in Noosa which will carry you across the Noosa river and from there, you can 4WD up the beach. Note that this drive is sand only. It calls for the tyres to be let down, and a low-tide departure.

Have you been to Rainbow Beach or done the Great Beach Drive? Share your experiences with us below.