About the Cooloola Great Walk
5 Days of hiking through the stunning Great Sandy National Park will challenge and amaze you with some of the most stunning views I have seen combined with the physical challenge of multi-day hiking with 16kg of weight on the back. If you are looking for a truly different experience that gets you back to nature with an ever changing landscape through rainforest, tall eucalypt forest, dry coastal woodland, heath plains and even across some sandy plains.
Our near 100km hike starts out from the incredible Carlos Sandblow at Rainbow Beach where we say goodbye to civilisation for a few days, and we are off….
Dropped off at the Carlo carpark, we will start with and information session and some warm-up stretches to get the mind and body ready. Within a very short distance we reach the magnificent Carlos Sandblow which is a part of Cooloola Sand mass where weather conditions have transformed a forest into a ‘moonscape’ of sand covering 15 hectares. Combine this incredible sandy visage with spectacular views over Rainbow Beach, DI and Tin Can Bay.
Across the Sandblow this well-trodden 15.2km section of the hike gives a very good taste of the conditions for the next 4 days. It's also a short day compared to some of them, so it gives you a chance to tend to any niggles that you may have.
As we drop down in elevation on the last quarter of the day we reach Poona Lake, 12 Hectares of fresh water set amongst the bushland. When the air is still, the reflections off the water are stunning. A photographers dream with the contrast of the tannin stained water against the white sand, and a great spot for a break.
After Poona Lake we drop down gradually about 90 meters of elevation...then it's well UP at an angle that feels similar in inclination to the trajectory of a NASA launch. Don’t let this put you off as we take it slow and steady, taking in the magical sounds of the lush rainforest surrounding us.
Kauri Walkers Camp – named for the Kauri pines growing in the region and our location for night 1 is hidden away in an area that feels like it's a million miles from anywhere, deep in the rainforest. This campground is generally the busiest of all four campgrounds due to its proximity to Rainbow and Teewah Beaches, providing a great opportunity to catch up with fellow hikers and shoot the breeze over dinner before retiring for the night.
Admittedly this is one of the more challenging days both physically and mentally being 20.5km it is the longest of the days and one of the reasons we start from Rainbow Beach. If you are anything like us…get the hardest parts done earliest if possible is the theory and this is definitely the hardest section of Cooloola Great Walk. We will travel mostly through rainforest full of strangler figs, massive Kauri pines and plentiful wildlife before coming across Lake Cooloomera just north of Litoria Walkers Camp where we will spend the night.
Lake Cooloomera, whilst pretty is not a place to swim with snakes plentiful in the reeds as well as being home to many ‘acid frogs’ species and birds. About 600m of uphill past the lake and we arrive at Litoria Walkers camp. Litoria – meaning ‘shore’ or ‘beach’ is the name given to Australia’s largest Genera of frogs. You may hear the high pitched sounds of the Cooloola sedgefrog ‘Litoria cooloolensis’ who has adapted to the acidity in the nearby lake. After we are set up it’s dinner time and an incredibly well earnt rest.
This one is a favourite of ours, 14.8km with only minor changes in elevation making for a brilliant day!
A day full of rapidly changing landscapes, from rainforest beside the beach to swamp as we near the Noosa River. Experiencing these changes over such a short distance makes you really appreciate how nature responds to slight environmental changes. Keep an eye out for Ramsey’s hut along the way, an old timber cutters hut which was abandoned prior to the region being classified National Park in 1975 … look but do not touch.
Dutgee (Aboriginal for boronia shrubs which grow through Cooloola) walkers camp is on the Noosa River, making a fantastic way to mark the middle of the hike with a swim, if you are game, and an afternoon packless!
What an incredible day! Fuelled by a great day of rest and the knowledge of what the day in front of us held, it would be difficult not to be pumped for this one despite it being the second longest day.
A nice and easy start to the day with a flat walk along the banks of the Noosa River is a stark change in landscape to what we have been previously walking in. The contorted shapes of the trees native to the low lying flats of the Noosa River are beautiful in a macabre kind of way...it’s a spectacle to behold for sure.
Up into the hills again with a climb of about 190 meters and then BAM, the Cooloola Sand Patch...wow...and you thought Carlos Sand Blow was incredible! This mini desert, complete with its own oasis you have to see it to appreciate it, then hike 1km to get across it…thankfully mostly downhill which is one of the other reasons we head north to south, much easier walking down a sand hill that up!
After crossing this desert, we are back into the bush. It is a long walk through what valleys between massive sand dunes with constant presentation of viewpoints in differing directions and incredible breezes to the final camp of the trip, Brahminy walkers camp.
A great spot with an awesome view of the sunset over Lake Cootharaba to the west, sunrise over the Pacific Ocean to the East and infamous Noosa in the South from the common area. Definitely a favourite camp spot and incredible place to spend our final night.
Day 5 - the last day
Amazingly it never seems to feel like we have been hiking 4 days and absolutely doesn’t feel like this should be the last day. Yet here we are, 17.3km to go and it’s almost all downhill to the pub from here.
Despite the elevation not being anywhere near as high as it had been on any of the previous days, the views are a great way to re-introduce you back into the modern world that you are about to re-enter. We will travel through lush Rainforest before hitting the sand for a short section then back in through the coastal heath plains of Arthur Harrold Nature Reserve.
Giddy with our achievement we head to the pub, pull up at a table out the back so as not to scare other patrons and settle in for the best feed you have had in days and a well earnt beverage.