When I was a little kid, there was no bigger adventure than driving from Brisbane to Townsville with Mum. We’d pack everything up in the car, including the dogs and set off on the open road. Along the way, we’d stop at different beaches for a swim, eat at rest stops and listen to 90’s music as loud as possible. At night, we’d drive with the windows down, breathing in the fresh country air as street lights lit the way. It was perfect. Those same feelings always come flooding back, even now, when we take a road trip. There’s just something different, a sense of wild adventure, fun and freedom you can’t quite recreate travelling any other way. So, when the team at Mitsubishi asked us to take their sleek, new Eclipse Cross on a roadie, we immediately said yes and knew it had to be to somewhere special!
Without a doubt, Rainbow Beach is one of my favourite places to visit in Queensland. The sleepy little beach town is the perfect escape for either a quick weekend getaway or a week-long escape and it’s driving distance from Brisbane makes it the perfect road trip destination. With stunning stretches of pristine beaches, the incredible Carlo Sand Blow, beautiful weather and lovely locals, it’s a destination that should be on everyone’s bucket list. We love enjoying the great outdoors in Rainbow from swimming all day and basking in the golden afternoon sun to waking up early and catching the first glimpse of light as it touches the spectacular Coloured Sands. It’s one of those unique destinations you can’t help but fall in love with and find yourself visiting time and time again.
Essential road trip tips
Here are a few essential road trip tips to help you have a fun and safe adventure:
- Stock up on snacks for the drive, grabbing things like fresh fruit, water, chips and lollies. It’ll save you time and money on the road!
- Give the car a clean-out before you leave home, emptying out anything unnecessary. I also like to put some compostable rubbish bags and wet-wipes in the front of the car, to help keep the rubbish situation under control and the car-free form sticky post-chip fingers.
- Pack picnic gear so you can stop along the way and enjoy any gorgeous viewpoints, lookouts or beaches with an impromptu picnic
- Get the car checked out and serviced, if it’s due and be sure to check your oil, water and tyre pressure. If anything needs to be seen to before you head out be sure to take it to a mechanic.
- Play games along the way to pass the time and also help keep your driver alert during the drive. Games like trivia, 21 questions and even eye-spy are perfect!
- Make a few great playlists to listen to along the drive and, if you like, base them around different themes like, ‘Ultimate Break-Up Jams’ for a laugh
- Rest and switch drivers regularly to ensure you stay alert, refreshed and safe. When you stop, be sure to get out of the car, stretch your legs, breath in some fresh air and drink some water.
- Go Eco by looking for ways to cut down on single-use plastics along your journey. You can bring your own refillable water bottles, reusable coffee cups, shopping bags and even a little cutlery kit.
- Prepare an emergency kit that includes essential medicines, lots of water, non-perishable foods and the contact details of your roadside assistance and car insurer, just in case.
How to get there
It takes just shy of three hours to drive to Rainbow Beach from the heart of Brisbane, which sits around 100km north of Noosa. The closest international airport is Brisbane International but interstate or overseas visitors could also fly into Sunshine Coast Airport at Marcoola or Hervey Bay Airport. The drive from Hervey Bay Airport is around 1 hour 30 minutes and it should take around 1 hour 45 minutes from Sunshine Coast Airport. From further away, just to give you an idea, it should take around 13 1/2 hours drive from Townsville, 17 1/2 hours from Cairns and 12 1/2 hours from Sydney.
Things to see and do in Rainbow Beach
Rainbow Beach is all about relaxing and unwinding, here are just a few ideas on things to do while you’re there:
- Explore the incredible moonscape of the Carlo Sand Blow, taking in the sunrise and sunset as well as jaw-dropping views of the Queensland coastline
- Go for a morning or afternoon horse ride along the beach, while enjoying views of the beaches, dunes and bushland
- Hire a kayak or canoe and explore the area from the water
- Spend the day making the most of the area’s fantastic fishing, you can bring your own gear or hire from a local shop
- Head to nearby Tin Can Bay for dolphin feeding or, if you’re visiting between May and October, spot migrating whales
- Bring your snorkelling gear or hire scuba equipment and meet grey nurse sharks, Queensland groper, turtles, eagle rays and leopard sharks
- Explore Inskip Peninsula and spend the day swimming, relaxing under the shade of trees or playing cricket on the beach
- Head into the Great Sandy National Park and visit Poona Lake. Take a swim, enjoy the bright, white sand and explore the Queensland rainforest
- Cool off at Seary’s Creek, a pocket-sized swimming hole home to a few friendly cat-fish
- Visit the local Surf Life Saving Club for the very best ocean views while eating lunch and enjoying a cold drink
- Head down to the picture-perfect Rainbow Beach in the afternoon or at low-tide when the sun is golden and little pools form on the sand. Be sure to swim between the flags and listen to the advice of Surf Life Savers on duty!
Where to stay in Rainbow Beach
We’ve visited so many times it feels like we’ve done it all from camping and budget accommodation to luxury digs. Without a doubt, our favourite place to stay is at Rainbow Ocean Palms Resort. Owners, Mark and Tanya, are lovely and will make you feel welcome to the resort and Rainbow Beach. The apartments are fully self-contained so you can wash your clothes, lounge on the couch and watch movies or fix a bite to eat in the fully equipped kitchen when you feel like it. The apartments are really well thought out with absolutely everything you could possibly need, loads of space, comfortable furniture and bedding as well as great bathrooms. They’re a home away from home!
The most impressive thing about Rainbow Ocean Palms Resort is the incredible views from the apartments. Each time we’ve visited our apartment has opened up to a huge private balcony and the most fantastic views of Rainbow Beach, the water and beyond. The table and chairs on the balcony are the perfect spot to sit with a cup of coffee or glass of wine and some cheese just to soak in those million-dollar views. This is where everything really comes together because when you have an apartment that offers the best views of the place you’re visiting, you’ve got no need to go out looking for them! As the apartment is fully self-contained, you can stay in and enjoy them with everything you need at your fingertips.
Best time to visit
The weather in Rainbow Beach is stunning pretty much all year round. We have visited at different times throughout the year and always had a wonderful time. Our most recent visit was in May and the weather was perfect – warm during the day but not too hot, cool in the evening but not too cold. Local resort owner, Mark, also told us May is the quietest time of year for the resort – perfect for anyone looking for a quiet escape. Rainbow Beach is usually a quiet little town but does swell with visitors during school holiday breaks. Honestly, I don’t think you can really go wrong with what time you visit. If you feel the cold (my mum!) you may find June, July and August slightly too cool for swimming but other than that, the weather is just stunning. It’s even gorgeous when it’s overcast. If you’re keen to spot migrating whales, you should plan your visit between June and November.
Things to know before you go
If this is your first time visiting Australia, Queensland or Rainbow Beach there are a few things you should know before you go:
- We care a lot about our environment so it’s important to leave everything as you found it or in better condition. Don’t break things or walk-in places you aren’t supposed to, destroying local vegetation in the process. Take out what you brought in, including food, rubbish, empty bottles etc and help out by picking up any rubbish you may see while you’re there
- You may like to cover yourself with good quality bug spray before visiting the Carlo Sand Blow
- Be respectful of those who call Rainbow Beach home both human and animal! Refrain from touching any local wildlife, no matter how cute they may look (we know, they’re almost irresistibly gorgeous!)
- The heat is no joke! If you’re visiting from a cooler climate please take care of yourself by drinking enough water, resting appropriately and avoiding the hottest parts of the day. You should also be sure to wear sunscreen, a hat and a long-sleeve shirt where necessary. Heatstroke is real, my friends, don’t let it ruin your vacay!
Thank you, Mitsubishi!
A huge thank you to the incredible team at Mitsubishi for hooking us up with the all-new Eclipse Cross! We felt incredibly fancy and loved all the features of the car (it was very hard giving it back and going back to our car which now feels like a rolling junk pile). We honestly loved every moment of our road trip, had so much fun visiting Rainbow Beach again and putting the Eclipse Cross through its paces. 10/10 Would Eclipse again!
Useful travel resources for your next adventure!
As always, our guides are completely free. If you found this post (or anything we do) useful, we’d be grateful if you considered using the affiliate links below. We’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Rest assured, these are the services we love and use ourselves. Thanks for your support! XO Phoebe and Matt.
Agoda – for booking hotels
Airbnb – for booking apartments
Booking.com – for booking hotels
Motorhome Republic – for booking RVs
RentalCars.com – for car rentals
SCTI – for travel insurance
Skyscanner – for booking flights
Surfshark – for online security and VPN
TourRadar – for booking tours
Uber – for ground transport