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Cooloola Great Walk

Robert Ashdown © Queensland Government

Cooloola Great Walk

Walking No Walking
Wheelchair access (may require assistance) No wheelchair access
Mountain biking No mountain biking
Horseriding No horseriding
Two-wheel driving No two-wheel driving
Four-wheel driving No four-wheel driving
Trail-bike riding No trail-bike riding
Canoeing & kayaking No canoeing & kayaking
Boating No boating
Dogs allowed on leash No dogs
Lookout (natural) No lookouts
Tent camping No tent camping

Legend

Walking No walking
Wheelchair access (may require assistance) No wheelchair access
Mountain biking No mountain biking
Horseriding No horseriding
Two-wheel driving No two-wheel driving
Four-wheel driving No four-wheel driving
Trail-bike riding No trail-bike riding
Canoeing & kayaking No canoeing & kayaking
Boating No boating
Dogs allowed on leash No dogs
Lookout (natural) No lookouts
Tent camping No tent camping
World Heritage Area

Experience the very best of Cooloola, from massive sand hills and hidden rainforests to spring wildflowers and beautiful reflections mirrored on the river's surface.

Discover the many landscapes of the Cooloola Great Walk from eucalypt forest, to heath plains and dry coastal woodlands to rainforest.
Discover the many landscapes of the Cooloola Great Walk from eucalypt forest, to heath plains and dry coastal woodlands to rainforest. Robert Ashdown © Queensland Government
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Park Cooloola
Traditional Owners Traditional Owners
Park Ranger Park Ranger

Immerse yourself in nature for five days as you hike this remote 102km trail through Cooloola’s rainforest, coastal woodland and heath-clad plains. Linking Noosa North Shore with Rainbow Beach, the Great Walk will take you over the eastern high dunes of the Cooloola sandmass, between the pristine upper Noosa River and the coast.

Climb over vast sandblows, discover perched lakes and long sandy beaches and be rewarded with sweeping views of the Cooloola coastline. Along the way, glimpse snakes, skinks, lizards, emus and echidnas, and admire the views from many natural lookouts. Relax at night in the four walkers’ camps—Brahminy, Dutgee, Litoria and Kauri—where it’s only you and the wildlife.

At a glance

Distance: 102km one way (a path where the start point is different to the finish point).
Time suggested: Allow 5 days walking time.
Grade:
Journey type: Walk

See below for detailed track notes for the Cooloola Great Walk from south to north.

S1 Noosa North Shore track entrance to Brahminy walkers’ camp

Distance: 17.3km
Time suggested: Allow 6hrs walking time
Grade: Grade 4 walking track

Start at Arthur Harrold Nature Refuge in Noosa North Shore, an area managed by the Sunshine Coast Regional Council. From late winter to spring, enjoy spectacular wildflower displays on these coastal heath plains. Shortly after entering the recreation area, you'll begin to ascend the Cooloola sandmass.

If you have time, take a side track from the beach to Teewah Landing at Lake Cootharaba (4km return, adds approximately 1.5hrs to your trip). Take another side trip (300m return) to climb up Mount Seawah for fantastic coastal views. Make camp early at Brahminy walkers’ camp, in time for sunset—simply stunning!

S2 Brahminy walkers’ camp to Dutgee walkers’ camp

Distance: 20.3km
Time suggested: Allow 7hrs walking time
Grade: Grade 4 walking track

Walk over high dunes through scribbly gum Eucalyptus racemosa woodland and blackbutt Eucalyptus pilularis forest. Glimpse Lake Cootharaba to the west, and enjoy 360 degree views of sweeping coastal landscapes. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to stumble upon a small patch of shady rainforest along this route. Test your navigation skills with the 1km crossing of the Cooloola Sandpatch and then be rewarded by awe-inspiring views of the upper Noosa River lakes and hinterland ranges. Follow the track as it descends onto heath plains with spectacular wildflowers in winter and spring, and then winds alongside the upper Noosa River to Dutgee walkers’ camp. Dutgee is the Aboriginal word for the pretty boronia flower seen along this walk. The site (locally known as Log Landing) is now a protected cultural site; the logs are part of timber cut during the mid-1900s. On calm days, admire the surface reflections on the river which perfectly mirror the surrounding landscape. Do not climb on the decaying logs at this camp site—you may suffer serious injury.

S3 Dutgee walkers’ camp to Litoria walkers’ camp

Distance: 14.8km
Time suggested: Allow 5.5hrs walking time
Grade: Grade 4 walking track

As you leave the upper Noosa River, look back across the heath plains to the sandy finger-like extensions of the Cooloola Sandpatch rolling down the distant sand hills. Follow the track as it continues through towering timbered country with vibrant open forests of predominantly blackbutt and coastal wattle. Be prepared! There are steep sections on this leg of the walk. For each fall and rise over 3km the elevation varies by approximately 140m. Look for Ramsay’s Hut, an old timber cutter’s hut which is a relic of Cooloola’s past timber industry. The hut was abandoned before the area was declared a national park in 1975. For your safety, stay on the walking track at all times and do not enter the hut area.

S4 Litoria walkers’ camp to Kauri walkers’ camp

Distance: 20.5km
Time suggested: Allow 7hrs walking time
Grade: Grade 4 walking track

As you continue north, the track brings you to a perched lake—Lake Cooloomera. The mildly acidic water is perfect habitat for the little “acid” frogs Litoria cooloolensis, restricted to these reedy areas in Cooloola and Fraser Island. Be very alert for snakes here—they like the frogs too! Perched lakes take years to form in depressions in sand dunes. A saucer-shaped, hard pan of organic debris, sand and peat forms a crust and when filled with rain, reeds and water plants start to thrive. Don’t leave your mark here—enjoy the lake from a distance. Trampling reeds accelerates erosion and destroys this essential frog breeding habitat. Follow the track over some of the highest sections of sandmass, through pockets of the strongly scented, carrol scrub Backhousia myrtifolia, and some littoral rainforest. Kauri walkers’ camp sits on a ridge of rainforest. The gigantic kauri pine Agathis robusta—growing here close to its southern limit—produces 3kg seed cones which fall anytime from November to late December. Never linger too long under kauri pines!

S5 Kauri walkers’ camp to Carlo car park track entrance (direct route)

Distance: 15.2km
Time suggested: Allow 5hrs walking time
Grade: Grade 4 walking track

Listen for the many birds of the rainforest that make up the Cooloola chorus, their songs pierced by the whip crack call of eastern whipbirds. Ahead is Poona Lake—the largest perched lake in Cooloola—sitting over 160m above sea level. A glorious white sandy beach appears when the water level falls below maximum capacity. Although tempting, we don't recommend swimming here. Hike across Carlo Sandblow for 200m. You’ll view Double Island Point to the east, and Tin Can Bay to the west. Stay clear of sand cliffs at the edges of sandblows—they may crumble and fall away. Do not attempt to reach the beach from the top of Carlo—there is no access! Stay clear of hang-gliders when pilots are landing or taking off. Take a 600m stroll through beautiful scribbly gum forest to Carlo Sandblow car park—the northern end of Cooloola Great Walk. A side track takes you to the QPWS information centre on Rainbow Beach Road.

Coastal route: S6 (alternative route to S5)

S6 starts at Kauri walkers’ camp and leads through Freshwater, along Teewah Beach and up to Double Island Point—a rocky headland, with great views and a lighthouse. The route continues north past coloured sand cliffs, and ends at Carlo Sandblow. Rainbow Beach township is 1.2km (downhill) from the track entrance at the Carlo Sandblow car park.

S6 Option 1—Kauri walkers’ camp to Carlo car park via Double Island Point

Distance: 29.1km
Time suggested: Allow 10hrs walking time
Grade: Grade 4 walking track

This is a long day’s walk along Teewah Beach and up to Double Island Point. Walking S6 instead of S5 means an early start and a late finish to the day. Walking on soft sand (necessary at high tide) slows you down and is tiring.

S6 Option 2—Freshwater to Carlo car park via Double Island Point

Distance: 24.7km
Time suggested: Allow 8.5hrs walking time
Grade: Grade 4 walking track

Consider camping at Freshwater, and not Kauri, the night before. This will cut 4.4km or about one hour off S6. Decide in advance and ensure your camp site booking reflects where you plan to camp. The walk along Teewah Beach is in full sun. Starting the walk at dawn offers cooler temperatures, an ocean sunrise and hundreds of shorebird sightings. Although tempting, do not swim in the ocean, as there may be rips and sharks. The track up to Double Island Point is steep, but on the way up and once at the lighthouse, there are excellent ocean views to the horizon and long sweeping coastal landscapes. You might see migrating humpback whales as they pass here from July to November, manta rays, dolphins, sharks, turtles and schools of fish. The track crosses Carlo Sandblow for 200m. You’ll view Double Island Point to the east, and to the west, Tin Can Bay. Another 600m stroll, through beautiful scribbly gum forest takes you to Carlo car park—the northern end of Cooloola Great Walk. The township of Rainbow Beach is 1.2km from here.

Getting there and getting around

Cooloola Great Walk is in Cooloola Recreation Area, in Great Sandy National Park, on the Sunshine Coast between Noosa Heads and Rainbow Beach (155km–240km north of Brisbane).

  • This 102km Great Walk extends between Noosa North Shore in the south and Rainbow Beach in the north.
  • There are two access points to Cooloola Great Walk: the southern entrance on Noosa North Shore via Tewantin, and the northern entrance from Carlo Sandblow car park at Rainbow Beach.
  • Taxi services are available in Tewantin and Rainbow Beach.
  • For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

From the south

  • From Brisbane drive 135km north on the Bruce Highway or the Sunshine Motorway to Tewantin; or from Gympie drive 58km south and east on the Bruce Highway to Tewantin.
  • In Tewantin, follow Moorindil Street to the Noosa River ferry, cross the river to Noosa North Shore, and drive 2.2km on Maximillian Road.

  • Turn left onto Beach Road and follow the signs 250m to the southern entrance of the Cooloola Great Walk.
  • Before heading to Noosa North Shore, drop into the Great Sandy Information Centre on Moorindil Street in Tewantin for camping permits and other information (business hours only).

From the north

  • From Brisbane, drive about 160km north on the Bruce Highway towards Gympie. At the southern edge of Gympie, turn onto Tin Can Bay Road and drive 42km, then turn right onto Rainbow Beach Road.
  • From Maryborough, drive 57km south on the Cooloola Coast Road, then turn left onto Tin Can Bay Road and drive 3.5km, then turn right onto Rainbow Beach Road.

  • Drive 29km along Rainbow Beach Road into Rainbow Beach township.
  • Turn off Rainbow Beach Road onto Double Island Drive then turn left onto Cooloola Drive and follow the signs for 850m to the Carlo Sandblow car park and the northern entrance of the Cooloola Great Walk.
  • Before you start, visit the Manta Ray barge office, Shell service station, Rainbow Beach caravan park (BP service station) or the Rainbow Beach Tourist Information Centre  on Rainbow Beach for camping permits and other information (business hours only).

Road conditions

Parking

Overnight parking is available at Tewantin and Rainbow Beach townships, but not at the Great Walk entry points.

Wheelchair access

There are no wheelchair-accessible facilities.

When to visit

Opening hours

Cooloola Great Walk is open 24 hours a day.

Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.

Climate and weather

Cooloola enjoys a mild, sub-tropical climate. The average daily temperature range is 22–30°C in summer and 12–22°C in winter. The mean annual rainfall for the area is approximately 1400mm with the driest times between July and September.

  • Expect sections of damp to very wet track conditions between December and March, with generally drier times in all other months. The area can be affected by cyclones or days of torrential rain causing flash flooding.
  • Read safety during extreme weather for important information about what to do during floods, bushfires and cyclones.
  • See the Bureau of Meteorology for weather conditions and forecasts.

Permits and fees

Camping permits

Organised events

  • If you are planning a school excursion or organising a group event such as a wedding, fun run or adventure training, you may need an organised event permit. Maximum group sizes and other conditions apply depending on location and activity type.

Pets

Domestic animals are not allowed here.

Staying in touch

Mobile phone coverage

Unreliable. Check with your service provider for more information.

Tourism information

For tourism information for all regions in Queensland, see Queensland.com, and for friendly advice on how to get there, where to stay and what to do, find your closest accredited visitor information centre.

Be prepared

  • Parks are natural environments and conditions can be unpredictable. You are responsible for your own safety and for looking after the park.
  • Read stay safe and visit with care for important general information about safety, caring for parks and essentials to bring when you visit Queensland’s national parks.

  • Check park alerts for the latest information on access, closures and conditions.
  • Check the Cooloola Recreation Area conditions report prior to arrival for any park closures, fire prohibitions, warnings, tide times and beach and track conditions. Subscribe to the RSS feed to receive automated updates. (About RSS feeds).

  • Follow additional safety guidelines on the Cooloola Great Walk topographic map, which can be purchased over the phone.
  • Have an emergency plan in place. Take into consideration the assembly areas listed on the Great Walk topographic map. Help could be hours away!
  • Ensure you have the appropriate navigation equipment, a reliable communication device such as a mobile phone and a spare battery. A Personal Locator Beacon is the ideal device for emergencies and a hand-held GPS is also useful.

Camping

  • There is a 'maximum stay' rule—only one night's stay in each walkers' camp—to ensure everyone has the opportunity to walk through this long-distance track and be assured of camping availability.
  • Only use existing tent sites, never dig trenches, damage plants or hurt animals.
  • Toilets are provided at all walkers' camps along the Great Walk, and at Freshwater camping area. Bring a human waste disposal kit to take your waste out with you. If bush toileting is necessary, bury all faecal waste and toilet paper in holes 45cm deep and at least 100m from watercourses, camps and tracks.
  • Don't tie rubbish bags or tent ropes to trees.
  • After cooking at night, pack away all food and rubbish that may attract wild dogs. Although generally shy of humans, keep your distance on the chance you encounter them.
  • Observe camping quiet time after 9pm.
  • Read camp with care for tips on camping safely and camping softly.

Drinking water

  • Bring water containers capable of holding enough water for a full day's walk.
  • Water is not provided at track entrances. Fill your drinking water containers before you get to the Cooloola Great Walk entry points.
  • Water is provided in rainwater tanks at the walkers' camps . Although regular maintenance checks are done, good water levels cannot be guaranteed.
  • Tank supplies rely on rain; the driest months are August to October.
  • Always be water-wise—use only what you need. Please turn taps off.
  • Treat all water before use.

Open fires

  • Open fires are not allowed. Use a gas or fuel stove for cooking.

Rubbish

  • Rubbish bins are not provided. Pack your rubbish securely in rubbish bags and carry out of the recreation area.
  • You can help the park by bringing out any other rubbish you find. Carry a small rubbish bag, so that even tiny scraps of tin foil, lolly wrappers, and cigarette butts can be removed.

Walking

  • During October to April, plan to cross 'hot' areas (heath plains or low-lying hollows away from the sea breezes) in the cooler times of the day, if possible.
  • Stay on marked tracks and trails. Follow the orange track markers. Check your map regularly to mark your progress against features. If you think you are lost, sit down and stay calm. Use your map and compass or GPS. Do not continue travelling until you know where you are.
  • Be aware that you may encounter vehicles at sections of beaches near Double Island Point and Noosa North Shore. Drivers prefer to drive on the harder sand near the waters' edge. Remain alert at all times and wear something reflective.
  • Exposed coastal sand dunes and sand cliffs are unstable and can collapse without warning. Climbing on, sliding down or digging into them is dangerous and can lead to serious injury or death.
  • Watch your head. Tall blackbutts and scribbly gums readily drop branches in windy conditions. Never linger or camp directly under trees in windy weather.
  • Keep well away from cliff edges. The rocks around headlands can be slippery and unstable. Large sections of sand cliffs can slip silently.

Around water

  • Swimming is not recommended because visitors have been seriously injured or killed diving or jumping into water. All water bodies have hidden dangers that cannot be seen and may contain swift currents.
  • The river system, lakes and coastal beaches are not patrolled. The nearest patrolled beaches are at Rainbow Beach and Noosa Heads.

  • Rips occur frequently and sharks are common in the ocean.
  • Bluebottles (a species of marine stinger) are prevalent during spells of northerly winds.
  • For health reasons, do not dam or swim in creeks or soaks along the beach.

Bad weather and emergencies

  • For all life threatening emergencies (police, fire, ambulance), phone Triple Zero (000).
  • Tsunami, cyclones and extremely high tides may occur along coastal areas.
  • The Noosa River is also susceptible to flooding, cutting off escape routes.
  • Tune into a local radio station for updated warnings and advice. Be aware that an emergency alert may be received at any time.

  • Walking tracks are closed during periods of scheduled maintenance, flood, wildfires, high fire danger or other severe weather events such as cyclones and strong winds.
  • Check the Cooloola Recreation Area conditions report prior to arrival for any park closures, fire prohibitions, warnings, tide times and beach and track conditions. Subscribe to the RSS feed to receive automated updates. (About RSS feeds).

  • See the Bureau of Meteorology for weather conditions and forecasts.
  • Read safety during extreme weather for important information about what to do during floods, bushfires and cyclones.
Last updated: 22 March 2018
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