The Cooloola Great Walk is an incredibly diverse hike that takes in sweeping sand dunes, endless beaches, lush rainforest, and cool riversides. If you want it all and you want it now (or, more accurately, over the course of five days) then this hike is a must.


We Are Explorers acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Kabi Kabi people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

The Cooloola Great Walk is a 102km multi-day hike accessible from Brisbane offering hiker-exclusive campsites. It links Queensland’s Noosa North Shore with NSW’s Rainbow Beach. It’s a challenging walk, recommended for experienced hikers.

Nature lovers will be in their element as not only will they be surrounded by diverse landscapes including beaches, rainforests, sand masses, rivers, and lakes, but they’ll be inundated with lizards, birds and living things every day.


The Cooloola Great Walk


Cooloola Great Walk Facts

Distance: 102km (coastal route)
Duration: 5 days
Elevation gain: 200m
Nearest Town: Rainbow Beach

How To Get to the Cooloola Great Walk

There are two access points to the Cooloola Great Walk, the southern entrance on Noosa North Shore via Tewantin, and the northern entrance from Carlo Sand Blow in Rainbow Beach.

Overnight parking is available in Tewantin and Rainbow Beach townships, but not at the walk entry points so best to get dropped off or catch a taxi. As a one-way walk, you’ll also need to think about your return transport options.

From the South

From Brisbane, it’s about a two hour drive to Tewantin. You’ll need to use the Noosa River ferry (car ferry) from Tewantin to reach Noosa North shore. From there, it’s 2.2km to the start of the walk.

From the North

It’ll take around three hours driving from Brisbane to reach Rainbow Beach. The most direct route is to head to Gympie via the Bruce Highway before turning onto Tin Can Bay Road and then onto Rainbow Beach Road. The track officially begins at the Carlo car park.


Explore Poona Lake For a Taste of The Cooloola Great Walk, Lisa Owen, Carlo Sand Blow, sand dune, beach

Carlo Sand Blow | @_thelittleadventurer

Skill Level

Intermediate – advanced

This is a Grade 4 walking track suited to experienced walkers only. You’ll be walking long distances over sand, and encountering steep, uneven ground.

Distance Covered / Duration / Elevation Gain Cooloola Great Walk

88km (inland route) or 102km (coastal route) over five days.

Plenty of up and down with elevation ranging from sea level to around 200m.

Essential Gear for the Cooloola Great Walk

  • Lightweight tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • Comfortable lightweight hiking apparel and quality shoes
  • Food for five days
  • 3L of water for the first day
  • Water purification device or tablets for campsite tanks
  • First aid kit
  • Communication device and/or PLB (network connection at higher elevations)
  • Sun protection (many exposed stretches of track)
  • Map of the Cooloola Great Walk
  • Camping permit

What it’s Like to Hike the Cooloola Great Walk

After packing and repacking our bags more than a few times, we set-off from Noosa North Shore to hike the Cooloola Great Walk from the south to the north, ending at Rainbow Beach. Here’s a day-by-day breakdown of what to expect on the Cooloola Great Walk.

Day 1 – Noosa North Shore Track Entrance to Brahminy Walkers’ Camp

Distance: 17.3km
Duration: app. 6hr

Day one is all about getting into the rhythm and a taste of the scenery that’s to come over the next week on the Cooloola Great Walk.

After walking through plains of stunning wildflowers (late winter to spring), you’ll find yourself hiking along the beach highway that is Noosa North Shore. Making it to Teewah around lunchtime, you can take a detour to climb Mount Seawah (only 300m return) shortly afterwards for fantastic coastal views.

After 17.3km and around six hours of walking time, pitch your tent at Brahminy Walkers’ Camp with plenty of time to enjoy the sunset over Lake Cootharaba.


In Search Of A Rainbow // The Cooloola Great Walk (QLD) Jesse Lindemann, hiker, beach, backpack, sand dunes, ocean, waves

Day 2 – Brahminy Walkers’ Camp to Dutgee Walkers’ Camp

Distance: 20.3km
Duration: app. 7hr

This is probably the most challenging but also rewarding day of the hike. The coastal views from the sandy track soon after leaving camp are simply breathtaking.

After enjoying the refreshing coolness of the hike’s first rainforest, you’ll be ready to test your navigation skills and resilience with the more than 1km uphill soft sand crossing of the Cooloola Sand Patch. The reward is lunch with spectacular views and the knowledge that it’s all downhill to camp alongside the Noosa Everglades.

Cool off with a dip in the river at Dutgee Walkers’ Camp, the perfect way to end a day of 20.3km and about seven hours of walking time.

Day 3 – Dutgee Walkers’ Camp to Litoria Walkers’ Camp

Distance: 14.8km
Duration: app. 5.5hr

Leaving the Noosa River, today is a day of hills and open timbered forests of predominantly blackbutt and coastal wattle. Memorable for a number of challenging steep sections, expect multiple elevation changes of between 100-150m. It was on this day that I discovered the value of a walking stick!

Don’t be fooled by the shorter 14.8km and five and a half hours walking time – you’ll definitely be ready for camp and an early bedtime after conquering all the hills on your way to Litoria Walkers’ Camp.


In Search Of A Rainbow // The Cooloola Great Walk (QLD) Jesse Lindemann, tent, camping, woman, light, backpack, trees, forest

Day 4 – Litoria Walkers’ Camp to Kauri Walkers’ Camp

Distance: 20.5km
Duration: app. 7hr

This is the longest day of the hike at 20.5km and around seven hours of walking time, much of which is spent in rainforest. From gnarly Strangler figs and the gigantic Kauri pines to the beautiful wildlife that keeps the rainforest buzzing, there’s lots to love about this cooler climate.

Enjoy your last night on the rainforest ridge that is Kauri Walkers’ Camp.


In Search Of A Rainbow // The Cooloola Great Walk (QLD) Jesse Lindemann, strangler fig, tree, forest

Day 5 – Kauri Walkers’ Camp to Carlo Car Park Track Entrance

Distance: 15.2km
Duration: 5hr

Whether it’s the lighter backpack or the motivation of a warm shower, day five’s 15.2km over five hours definitely felt the easiest of the whole hike.

Lake Poona, the highest perched lake in Cooloola at 160m above sea level, is a great first stop before powering through some more stunning rainforest to the finish line. Savour the views from the final 200m across Carlo Sand Blow and have someone meet you on the other side with a cold beer or head to the Life Savers Club for lunch – you’ve definitely earned it.


In Search Of A Rainbow // The Cooloola Great Walk (QLD) Jesse Lindemann, hikers, poles, sand beach, ocean, footprints, hero

Tips for the Cooloola Great Walk

  • Sand hiking is deceptively difficult. Pack as light as you can without leaving any essentials behind
  • Hiking poles are worth their weight in gold
  • Don’t, under any circumstances, forget your bathers! Those end-of-day swims are the best!

FAQs Cooloola Great Walk

How hard is the Cooloola Great Walk?

The Cooloola Great Walk is a Grade 4 walk, which means it’s suitable for experienced hikers. It includes steep, rough, and sandy sections, which are gruelling.

How long is the Cooloola Great Walk?

The Cooloola Great Walk is 102km if you take the coastal route, but you can shorten it to 88km if you go via the inland route.

What other hikes can I do in Queensland?

Start small with these five easy hiking trails near Brisbane. If you want a challenge, head up Mt Barney or tackle one (or more!) of the 11 best multi-day hikes in Queensland.

This piece was brought to you by a real living human who felt the wind in their hair and described their adventure in their own words. This is because we rate authenticity and the sharing of great experiences in the natural world – it’s all part of our ethos here at We Are Explorers. You can read more about it in our Editorial Standards.