Great Sandy National Park is located along the coast in Queensland. It is divided into two sections, one on the coast and Fraser Island, just off the coast. The Cooloola section is on the coastal side covering 18,400 hectares between Noosa Head and Rainbow Beach. Mother nature has been creating this area, which has now become a popular vacation spot with many different features including the world’s largest sand dune island (Fraser Island), inlets, fresh waterways, rare birds as well as other flora and fauna. We recently featured a blog post all about Fraser Island and the variety of things you can do on the island’s beaches lakes, and forest, so now we are covering what you can do on the mainland side of Great Sandy National Park. It is such a beautiful area, if is a popular destination for tourists and locals as well.

Budget Blog - Great Sandy Strait

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Budget Blog - Fraser Island

Photo Credit: Google Maps

Getting to Great Sandy National Park

Budget Blog - Great Sandy National Park

Photo Credit: Google Maps

Budget Blog - great-sandy-national-park-map

As you can see, there are plenty of car hire locations in Queensland and along the coast, making it very easy to get to Great Sandy National Park. You can hire a car in Brisbane, which is about 160 kilometres to the southwest of the park, making it about a 2 hour drive. If you are coming from the north, there are car rental locations in Hervey Bay or the Maryborough Airport. Great Sandy National Park is located north of the Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast, so there are other destinations that you can always add onto your road trip or hire a car from the airports there. Having access to your rental car allows you to see the sights at your own leisure and get to the accommodation in or near Great Sandy National Park. Remember to check with your car rental agent about safety regulations and restrictions for this area. We ask that you do not take your car rental on the ferry to Fraser Island or any other offshore locations. Use caution driving near the coast or on the beach, even some 4WD vehicles should not be near the beach at high tide.

Things to do in Great Sandy National Park

Budget Blog - Great Sandy Activities

Photo Credit:

This area has been sculpted over the last 2 million years and the result is a beautiful blend of beach, ocean, a sand dune island, inlets, fresh water lakes, and plenty of unique plants, land animals, and marine life. The unique geography is not the only history in the area, there is much culture and history that can be learned from the different groups of aboriginal people that are the original care takers of the Great Sandy National Park. In addition, European settlers started colonising this area in the 1800’s but it is mentioned in documents as far back as May of 1770 and the explorations of Captain James Cook from Great Britain.

Cooloola Recreation Area

Budget Blog - Cooloola

Cooloola Recreation Area Photo Credit:

Budget Blog - Cooloola Beach

Cooloola Beach Photo Credit:

The Cooloola section of Great Sandy National Park is the oldest section of the park, which was originally gazetted as Cooloola National Park. Cooloola is an aboriginal name that means coastal cypress pine. Cooloola is a diverse wilderness area with long, white sand beaches that line the coast, mangrove-lined inlets, forest land, swampy heaths, multi-coloured rock formations, and fresh water lakes. Cooloola is known for having something fun and interesting for everyone to do:

  • Camping on the beach or in the freshwater camping areas. Campgrounds have different amenities from rugged to deluxe accommodations.
  • Fishing right from the beach.
  • Hire a yacht or boat charter for snorkelling or SCUBA diving off shore.
  • Beach sports and surfing.
  • Swimming in the ocean.
  • Relaxing on the beach, taking in the sun and the ocean breezes.
  • Canoeing on the calm waters of the lakes.
  • Hiking or bushwalking through the forest and bush.
  • Bird watching – the park is classified as “An Important Bird Area” because of the many birds that travel through the area during migration and the rare birds that make this unique area their home.

Rainbow Beach

Budget Blog - Rainbow beach

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

Budget Blog - rainbow beach 2

Photo Credit:

Budget Blog - Swim with the Dolphins

Rainbow Beach Swim with the Dolphins Photo Credit:

Budget Blog - Rainbow Beach 3

Rainbow Beach Photo Credit:

Rainbow Beach is at the north side of the Cooloola Section and is named for its coloured sands and striations along the rocky coastline. Rainbow Beach is a peaceful and beautiful town to spend some time for your holiday, which has several resorts and places to stay right in Rainbow Beach. In addition to swimming in the ocean, surfing, and other beach activities, here are some things to do on Rainbow Beach:

  • Take an aerial tour that highlights the coloured sands, which are easier to see from above.
  • Go swimming with the dolphins.
  • Climb the Carlo Sand Blow sand dune.
  • Visit Inskip Point at the northern tip of the peninsula overlooking Fraser Island across the Great Sandy Strait.
  • Visit the beached ship wreck of the SS Moreno.
  • Have a picnic or a BBQ. Several barbecue facilities are available throughout the park.
  • Go shopping in the town’s quaint stores and markets on Rainbow Beach Road.
  • Eat at some of the cafes at the end of Rainbow Beach Road. Most of the restaurants are open for breakfast or lunch, but not dinner.

Noosa Beach

Budget Blog - Noosa Beach

Noosa Beach Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Budget Blog - Wolf Rock

Wolf Rock Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Here are the things to do near Noosa:

  • Dive with sharks at Wolf Rock. Off of the end of Double Island Point, the waters near Wolf Rock are considered one of the top diving destinations in Australia. Grey nurse sharks frequent these waters and seasonally you can see a variety of other marine life. Manta Rays are seen during April and May. June through October is humpback whale season, and they pass Wolf Rock during their migration back to Antarctica.
  • Boating in the Noosa River. Canoes, kayaks, and small power boats can be hired to sail through the calm waters of the Noosa River. You can also ride the Noosa River ferry.
  • Learn about the aboriginal history of Noosa. Three aboriginal groups were the original keepers of this area and they include the Undumbi, the Dulingbara, and the Kabi Kabi.
  • Go surfing or take surfing lessons, which are available in many different areas of the park.
  • See the Cherry Venture ship wreck on Teewah Beach.
  • Tour the lighthouse at Double Island Point at the southern end of the Great Sandy National Park.