Cooloola Great Walk
Uncover amazing trails from Noosa to Rainbow Beach, via rainforest and vast, awe-inspiring sand blows.This adventure takes you along 88kms of varied trail along the entire length of Cooloola Recreation Area.
Take to the trail that links Noosa North Shore to Rainbow Beach, and be transported through natural beauty from secluded rainforests to vast sand blows and past lakes. Start your day witnessing a by pink dawn on the Noosa River, and dip your toes in the ocean at Queensland’s iconic sandy beaches. Witness the long, sweeping landscapes of the Cooloola coastline.n It’s a beautiful trek with an incredible variety of landscapes squeezed into a short distance – traverse giant sandhills, find hidden forests, coastal woodland and heath plains, which bustle with beautiful spring wildflowers from August to October — as well as the long sandy beaches that Queensland is famous for. Don’t miss the different colour palates of the upper Noosa River and lakes.
Get ready for
● Exploring Queensland’s first biosphere area
● Witnessing the spectacular wildflower displays from late winter to spring
● Hiking along the beach highway that is Noosa North Shore
● Insta-ready sunsets from your campsite
● Golden sunsets from the glistening sand dunes of Carlo Sand Blow
● Long sweeping landscapes of the Cooloola coastline, upper Noosa River & Hinterland Ranges
● Vibrant open forests of predominantly blackbutt and coastal wattle
● Visiting the perched (coastal dune) lake, Lake Poona
Cooloola Great Walk
After crossing the Noosa River by ferry from Tawantin, it’s a 2.4km walk along the road until you get to the start of the trailhead at the Arthur Harrod Nature Refuge in Noosa North Shore. If you walk in late winter to spring you’ll be treated to a grandioso wildflower display along the low coastal heath plains, followed by a stretch of beach walking that is the Noosa North Shore, you then ascend up the sand dunes before your final destination of Brahminy walkers’ camp.
Depending on time you may wish to take a side trip from the beach to Teewah Landing at Lake Cootharaba, it’s approximately a 4km return trip and will add another 1-2 hours to your trip and includes a climb up to Mount Seawalk (300m return), offering amazing coastal views from this point.
Try to reach Brahminy walkers’ camp early enough to witness a stunning sunset over Lake Cootharaba.
This is one of the most challenging days with both physical and navigational skills required; though the breathtaking scenery and views are certainly rewarding for the extra effort.
You’ll begin walking from Brahminy walkers’ camp up through higher sand dunes and then into a small area of rainforest before tackling the Cooloola Sandpatch. There is approximately a 1km uphill crossing on soft sand, making it a tough section of walking, though views of the upper Noosa River lakes and hinterland ranges from here will certainly make it worth it.
The track starts to descend onto the heath plains and then winds itself alongside the upper Noosa River until you finally reach Dutgee walkers’ camp. (This area is locally known as Log Landing and is now a protected cultural site). Depending on the weather, the reflections on the river can project a spitting image of the surrounding scenery.
You’ll leave the upper Noosa River today walking through open timber forest mainly of blackbutt and coastal wattle. You will be challenged by some steep sections on this route with a number of elevation changes of between 100-150m, walking poles are a good asset for this section.
This is the longest day of this walk, though much of it is spent in the rainforest where Strangler Figs and massive Kauri Pines abound, along with noisy and buzzing wildlife.
As you walk north, the track comes out at Lake Cooloomera, a perched lake. The acidic water of the lake creates an ideal habitat for the little “acid” frogs but do be careful of snakes here as they too tend to like these little creatures. You should enjoy this lake from a distance as stepping over the reeds surrounding the lake will increase erosion and destroy what is an important part of the “acid” frog breeding habitat.
The track continues over some of the steeper sections of sandmass and into pockets of carrol scrub and littoral rainforest. Kauri walkers’ camp is situated on the ridge of the rainforest. The huge Kauri Pines that are close to this campsite produce large heavy seed cones that can fall any time, so if you walk during November and December be careful not to stand under Kauri Pines for too long.
You’re on the home stretch today. Your first stop being Lake Poona which is the highest perched lake in Cooloola (160m above sea level). If the water level falls below its upper limit you’ll see a magnificent white sandy beach, swimming is not advised.
Next you cross the Carlo Sandblow for 200m, you see Double Island Point to the east and Tin Can Bay to the west for here. The sand cliffs at the edges of the sandblows can fall away so be careful not to stand on the edges of these cliffs and no not try to get down to the beach from the top of Carlo Sandblow as there is no access track.
The last section is a 600m walk through gorgeous scribbly gum forest ending at the Carlo carpark which marks the end of the Cooloola Great Walk. Note, there is a side track taking you to the QPWS information centre.
If you wish to extend your walk further on the last day there are a couple of options, though not easy as it involves a really long stretch of soft sand beach walking:
- Option 1 – Kauri walkers’ camp to Carlo carpark via Double Island Point 29.1km/10 hours
- Freshwater to Carlo carpark via Double Island Point. If you camp at Freshwater instead of Kauri the night before this will reduce walking this day by 4.4km. Campsite must still be booked in advance if you choose this alternative.
You could also add on the Fraser Island Great Walk at the end of this trip by catching a bus onto Hervey Bay.
Explore Cooloola Great Walk
Duration: 5 days
Route type: Linear trail, from A to B
Start: Arthur Harrold Nature Refuge, Noosa North Shore
End: Carlo Sandblow car park near Rainbow Beach
Location: Great Sandy National Park
Closest Towns: Tewantin and Rainbow Beach
On the trail
The Cooloola Great Walk landscape is extremely varied and the walking trail — marked with orange trail markers — will see you walking beaches, through dry coastal woodland and heath plains, over vast sand masses, to winding through rainforest, along the upper Noosa River and past iconic and unusual perched lakes.
Most of the walk is flat and well graded, however the width of the track can vary. Very soft sand sections can be wet under foot at times, and include steep grades and steps. There are steep sections from Dutgee walkers’ camp to Litoria walkers’ camp. Walking on the sand mass will test your stamina and give your legs a good workout!In some of the more remote sections, heavy rain can make tracks harder to find. Fast-growing vines may hide the tracks and expect hazards such as fallen trees and branches. Junctions are signposted.
- Our detailed guide to hiking the Cooloola Great Walk
- 5 days worth of food for your adventure; breakfast, lunch and dinner each day – delivered straight to your home
- Our own range of Lightweight, highly nutritious meals that are locally sourced, delicious and easy to carry & cook ( freeze dried and dehydrated)
- Our ‘state of the art’ Navigation app to guide you on the track; showing huts, campsites and all points of Interest along the way
- Delivery to your door* of our ‘Adventure in a box’ food parcel
- Our ‘Get fit for hiking’ e-guide for backpacking adventures
- 10% GST included
* Additional $35 delivery charge for locations in NT, WA and Northern Queensland
- Campsite bookings required prior to walk
- Transfers or transport to trailheads in Noosa/ Rainbow Beach
- Ferry at Tewantin – paid locally $1
- No equipment included
Our essential information guides give you everything you need to know – and none of the information you don’t – to prepare well for one of these hikes. We cover off all transport and transfers with contacts, full equipment lists tailored to each walk, and safety factors to consider that can be unique to each track. We give you the information you need to know about water and where the best accommodation is before and after your trip, plus overviews of Aboriginal & European history and wildlife you can expect to encounter.
It saves countless hours of trawling through websites, guidebooks and forums to get to the essential information you need to know, so you don’t forget to factor in anything for your adventure.
Finding your way
Our unique RAW Travel walking app has been designed to help you navigate easily on the trail. Simply download your map with the link we send you and you’ll be able to follow your route with ease, showing your location in real time without any internet connection needed. The app has many great features; it shows you weather forecasts localised for each of your overnight stops, detailed information on each campsite/ hut and what facilities are available there so you don’t need to carry our trail guide. There are important reminders, safety information, videos and emergency contact information for your route. It also has a unique audio feature that can tell you about places and points of interest as you approach them on the trail.
Need to Know
We classify this as a moderate walk that is suitable for all hikers with a good level of fitness and confidence. Be prepared for walking on soft sand, hard sand, through rainforest and creeks.
No. There are currently no equipment hire places in Noosa.
You can hire from an outfitter in Brisbane who can help outfit you with equipment for the Cooloola Great Walk.
If you are travelling to Queensland with the main purpose of hiking the Cooloola Great Walk we recommend you fly into Maroochydore, which is the closest airport for the Sunshine Coast area. Greyhound Australia’s Brisbane to Hervey Bay service stops at both Tewantin and Rainbow Beach — approx. 5km from the start and 1.5km from the end of the trail.
The trailhead at Arthur Harrold Nature Refuge on the Noosa North Shore is approximately 5km from Tewantin CBD. To get to the trailhead, you need to catch the ferry to cross the Noosa River over to Noosa North Shore.
Full transport details and contacts are given in our information guide.
Independent adventures place you at the centre of the experience, giving you the confidence to be a self-reliant walker on the trail. We take care of the research needed and give you all the essential information relating to the trip ( a task that seasoned walkers can tell you often takes many hours to get the correct information) so you can be thoroughly prepared and confident that you have everything you need for your adventure. We give you all the contacts & details to campsites, nearby transportation, accommodation and hire services, highlight any risks to be aware of and how to mitigate them.
The food prep is a major hassle of many hikers trips and we solve that for you. We prepare all the food that you need for your trip, all pre-measured and dehydrated / freeze dried to take away the weight but keep the freshness. Our meals are reviewed by Nutritionists to provide the right daily nutrition and energy for your demands of the walk. And our ingredients are prepared from the best local ingredients here on the Mornington Peninsula, cooked to order and freeze dried fresh – not sitting on a shelf for years at a time!
Once you arrive at the trail it’s all over to you the adventure begins! You are free and independent to create your own experience the way you want it. We provide you with an app to help you navigate in real time on the trail and give you the campsite locations and points of interest but you are completely autonomous & self – supporting on the walk. These trips are best suited to people who relish that sense of liberation and freedom that comes with being self-reliant and don’t need the back up of a leader or group travel. Independent Adventures are different from our other self – guided walking trips as there are no briefings, transfers or local support from RAW Travel staff. It’s just you and nature out on the trail!
Yes, but we recommend that you log your intended route with a family or friend and carry a PLB as there is no mobile receoption for much of the track.
All campgrounds must be pre-booked on the Cooloola Great Walk.
There are officially four walk-in campsites along the Cooloola Great Walk: Brahminy walkers’ camp, Dutgee walkers’ camp, Kauri walkers’ camp and Litoria walkers’ camp. If you decide to include the section to Double Island Point then consider camping at Freshwater camping area instead of Kauri the night before this will reduce walking this day by 4.4km. Campsites must still be booked in advance if you choose this alternative. It is a shared camp site as it can be accessed by 4WD.
Facilities and restrictions apply for all the walk-in campsites:
- Rainwater tanks (must treat water before drinking)
- Composting hybrid toilet
- Low level wooden tables in the group area
- Cleared heathland scrub for pitching tents
- Open fires prohibited, fuel or gas stoves only
- No mobile phone coverage on most of the trail (some reception at Dutgee walkers’ camp)
Though this walk can be done all year round, April to October is considered the best time to take on this walk. and is the most popular time to walk. In the drier season with the average daytime temp of 23°C and nights averaging 13°C. Note, night time temperatures through June-August can get as low as 3-4°C.
It can become very hot and humid from November through to March and there is more rain.
Social and environmental
All our adventures are fully carbon offset so that you know your travel has minimal impacts. Hiking itself is a low impact activity but we offset the cost of all our office operations and food production as well, so you can be satisfied that you have chosen a form of travel that is both good for you and good for the planet. Each year we also plant trees on behalf of every customer who has travelled with us, aiming to build towards a carbon positive effect with our operations.
As a B-Corp a focus on local community is an important part of who we are. We are committed to buying locally and source our produce from growers here on the Mornington Peninsula. We care about people in our community and for every meal pack you buy with us we donate a meal to a homeless support charity, to spread some love and share good food with those who need it most.
TRIP date selection
when would you like to travel?
Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed