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A Weekender's Guide to Rainbow Beach

Where you can ride a horse along the beach or glide right over it.
By Sarah Ward
August 01, 2016

A Weekender's Guide to Rainbow Beach

Where you can ride a horse along the beach or glide right over it.
By Sarah Ward
August 01, 2016

in partnership with

Yearning for a coastal stay off the beaten path, but don't know where to head? Afraid that most of Queensland's stunning beach spots have become busy tourist meccas? Don't worry, there are still a few sleepy places where it feels like time stands still, as long as you're willing to take a bit of a longer road trip. Located in the Wide Bay-Burnett Region just past Gympie (about three hours' drive from Brisbane), Rainbow Beach might actually be that dream spot you've conjured up.

Taking its name from the multi-coloured dunes that line its shores and stem from deposits of minerals such as rutile, ilmenite, zircon and monazite, the former sand-mining site turned Sunshine Coast holiday town might be big on different shades of the granular stuff that gets between your toes, but it's tiny in terms of population. Just over 1000 people call it home, in fact — so when we say it's small, we really do mean it.

It's also quaint, gorgeous, just the right kind of quiet, looks like it belongs on a postcard, is perched on the edge of the Great Sandy National Park, and overflows with all the outdoor activities you could want. Whatever type of experience you're after, here's our guide to the ultimate Rainbow Beach weekend.


The main reason anyone would want to visit Rainbow Beach is so obvious that it's right there in the town's name, and it really doesn't disappoint. Spying as many as 72 different colours of sands in the cliffs two kilometres from the main township is a bucket list moment (make sure your phone is charged so you can take plenty of pics, of course), but it's not the only thing to do. Visit the Carlo Sand Blow to witness 15 hectares of sandy land that has been compared to a moonscape, and looks particularly stunning at sunset and sunrise. It was actually named after one of Captain Cook's deckhands, and shares its historical links with Double Island Point, a popular dive spot to the south that's accessible via a 4WD down the beach, and is also home to a 132-year-old operating lighthouse.


Rainbow Beach Horse Rides.

Alrighty, so you've seen some absolutely stunning natural sights — now it's time to get active in the elements. Want to ride a horse along the beach (or swim with one in the ocean — yes, really)? Or grab a rod, throw a line in and fish from the shore? Great, because you can do all of that here, plus kayak, hang glide, paraglide and skydive as well. If you're not feeling that adventurous, make a beeline to the Rainbow Beach Sports and Recreation Club instead. That's where you can enjoy a game of barefoot bowls or a spot of tennis. Hey, everyone needs a rest every now and then.

And, don't forget that Rainbow Beach is just a ten-minute barge ride away Fraser Island via the nearby Inskip Point, which is just seven kilometres north of the main drag. Booking onto a tour is your best bet given that 4WDs are the only appropriate form of transport on the biggest sand island in the world. Boom, that's a whole day's itinerary sorted. Thankfully, you really can't get enough of the great outdoors out here.

Arcobaleno on the Beach

Arcobaleno on the Beach.


Whether you're hungry or thirsty, your first point of call really should be the Rainbow Beach Hotel. And, probably your second and third too. Recently redesigned, it's the number one watering hole in town, with a typical seasonal bistro menu of pizzas, pastas and pub food to satisfy the stomach. You'll also find more Italian offerings at Arcobaleno on the Beach at the same address, as well as a hearty breakfast selection.

Next, because every beach spot has a pub and a surf club, you owe it to yourself to grab a meal at the latter. With just six dishes on offer, Rainbow Beach Surf Live Saving Club's range is small but tasty. And, no visit to Rainbow Beach would be complete without stopping in at Cafe Jilarty at Rainbow, which combines coffee, cake and a la carte orders with a gallery. Get your caffeine fix here courtesy of their house blend, and when you're done, peruse the creative handiwork of the region's artists.

Plantation Resort

Plantation Resort.


In a town this cosy, accommodation options aren't what you'd call abundant — Noosa or any other bigger Sunny Coast locality, this well and truly isn't. Here, it's all about quality over quantity, but there's still something available for every budget. If it's luxury you're after, then you'll want to check into either Plantation Resort at Rainbow or Rainbow Ocean Palms Resort. Both feature the type of furniture, fixtures and facilities you'd expect of resort-style hotels, plus beach-adjacent locations and panoramic views as well.

Or, venture a few streets away from the shore to find the peaceful, more modest homes away from home that are the Rainbow Getaway Apartments. Rainbow Sea Resort is also a bit further away from the water, but offers ocean views from its more modern digs. And don't overlook Debbie's Place, a motel perfect for one-night stays run by someone who just might be the friendliest of accommodation hosts.

A handful of hostels can also be found in Rainbow Beach for those really looking to save their pennies (and are up for sharing their holiday experience with strangers). Whether you choose Dingo's Rainbow Beach Hostel, Rainbow Beach Hostel, or Pippie's Beachhouse, they're all located on the same block, so they're rather easy to find.


If you're Rainbow Beach-bound from Brisbane, then the Bruce Highway is about to become your new best friend. Just head north for around 239 kilometres until you hit Gympie, then follow the signs east another 75 kilometres. Fun fact: the road direct to Rainbow Bay only opened in the late '60s, if you can believe it; before that, the only access was actually via boat from Tin Can Bay.

Top image: Flickr.

Published on August 01, 2016 by Sarah Ward

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