- Cooloola Recreation Area—boundaries
- Cooloola Recreation Area—management
- Domestic animals
- Vehicle access permits
- Canoeing on the upper Noosa River
- In an emergency
Cooloola is still part of the Great Sandy National Park (along with Fraser Island), but is managed under the Recreation Areas Management Act 2006 with the Cooloola Recreation Area boundaries overlaying the national park estate, plus other areas outside the national park, including beach areas down to the low water mark.
Be aware that vehicle access permits (VAPs) are required for traversing beach areas and some inland tracks. Penalties apply for non-compliance.
What areas does the Recreation Area Management declaration cover?
The area stretches from Noosa North Shore to Rainbow Beach and covers 61,750ha. It includes national park, various State and local government-managed areas, road tenure and the beaches and esplanade lands, and other lands exposed at low tide—down to the low water mark.
The recreation area does not include Sunshine Coast Regional Council freehold land, any privately-owned freehold land or sections of the Great Sandy National Park that occur south of the Noosa River.
- View the Cooloola Recreation Area map.
What has changed with declaration of Recreation Area Management?
- Declaration of the recreation area does not change the current tenure, ownership or use of the lands included in the area. The recreation area lies over the land and existing legislation, allowing for nature-based recreation opportunities and coordinated management.
- Vehicle access permits are required to access the beaches and some tracks in the Cooloola Recreation Area. See Cooloola Recreation Area visitor guide.
- Permanent residents who must access the recreation area to get to their residence and their relatives, landholders and people accessing the recreation area for employment, including people who run educational excursions, can apply for a fee-exempt vehicle access permit, nominating their vehicle.
- The beach between first and third cuttings on the Noosa North Shore at the southern end of Teewah Beach is closed; drivers are required to use the inland bitumen bypass road. See map of this area (refer to page 2).
- Dogs are prohibited from sections of the beach adjacent to the national park and from important migratory and roosting shorebird areas.
- A dog-friendly section of the beach is provided from ‘first cutting’ to the northern edge of Teewah Village. See things to know before you go.
Why do we need a new structure of management?
Previously, Cooloola’s level of protection did not extend below the high water mark. Many of the impacts involving vehicle use, visitors with dogs and camping occur on the beach and inter-tidal areas outside the national park.
The declaration of the Cooloola Recreation Area provides the framework for improved safety and better conservation. It also provides for a coordinated management approach to issues and activities across land tenures and levels of government—for example, the recreation area includes national park lands, areas managed by other State and local government organisations, roads, esplanade, the beaches and other lands exposed at low tide—down to the low water mark.
What are the benefits to visitors of Cooloola as a recreation area?
Benefits of the Cooloola Recreation Area include:
- funding for improved day use, camping and recreational facilities, roads, beach access and signage
- improved conservation and visitor management
- having a 'one-stop shop' to access permits and park information
- coordinated safety management for beach driving and public health issues across land tenures
- equitable and sustainable use and access for commercial tour operators
- sustainable tourism and recreation to the area leading to long-term conservation and patronage for local businesses
- improved communication materials, signage, brochures and web page material.
Who manages the recreation area?
The Cooloola Recreation Area is managed by the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, in partnership with the Gympie and Sunshine Coast Regional Councils.
Are there any other recreation areas in Queensland?
Where does the revenue from the recreation area go?
All revenue generated by the Cooloola Recreation Area is re-invested into the area to provide better visitor facilities and services.
Priority infrastructure projects for Cooloola include:
- expanding the Freshwater camping area
- upgrades to internal roads that provide access to the beach
- dune stabilisation and formalised access to camping sites
- more permit issuing centres and additional options to obtain permits online
- waste refuse and disposal facilities management.
Completed infrastructure projects and ongoing services include:
- improved signs and visitor guides
- upgrade to the Freshwater camping area amenities—that is improving overall sanitation and human waste disposal
- planning for upgrade of facilities at upper Noosa River camp sites 1–3, and Fig Tree Point camping and day-use area, with upgrades expected to be completed by mid 2013
- increased ranger patrols, and better co-ordination with Queensland Police Service and other agencies to ensure visitors have a safe and enjoyable stay.
Can I bring my pets into Cooloola?
Domestic animals are not permitted in the Cooloola Recreation Area, except under permit or authority, including travelling in vehicles, vessels and trailers through the recreation area.
See things to know before you go for further information on permitted areas for pets.
What sort of vehicle is suitable to drive in Cooloola?
High clearance, four-wheel-drive vehicles* with low range functions are strongly recommended. Most all-wheel-drive vehicles, even with low range, do not have the clearance needed for Cooloola’s tracks and beach areas.
Only fully road-registered vehicles and motorcycles are permitted on the roads and tracks within Cooloola. Drivers must be licensed and all Queensland road rules apply.
Conditionally-registered vehicles, such as trail bikes and four-wheeled motorbikes (ATVs), are NOT permitted.
All vehicles are required to stay on designated roads and vehicle tracks, and must not be driven on or over vegetation including that of the foredunes. Obey all speed limits, signs and barriers.
* In prolonged wet or dry conditions, drivers of cars with low clearance or those towing trailers will experience great difficulties and can get stuck. Bogged vehicles can take hours to recover and can cause long traffic delays. Don't risk getting bogged—always check road and track conditions before driving into the park.
Do I need to pay any fees to drive on the beach or any inland tracks in Cooloola?
For more information see:
How do I find out about beach or track conditions?
Seek local advice and check out up-to-date information in the Cooloola Conditions Report to better plan trips and avoid delays. This is updated every fortnight or sooner depending on the urgency of the condition changes.
Do road rules apply in Cooloola?
Yes. The beach and all vehicular access tracks are public thoroughfare roads and all Queensland road rules apply. Police patrol Cooloola’s beaches and tracks and can do speed checks and breath tests at any time of the day or night.
Generally, unless otherwise signed, speeds are:
- 80km/hr on beaches
- 50km/hr along beach camping areas
- 20km/hr on inland roads
- 10–20km/hr within camping areas
Observe all speed signs.
When is the best time to travel on the beach?
The best time to drive is around low tide. Avoid driving during the two hours either side of high tide, and often for longer, because some areas are more affected than others by tidal activity and onshore winds. Read more about driving safety. Drivers are advised to be cautious and drive to track conditions. Slow is safe!
Take care when driving around Mudlo Rocks near Rainbow Beach. This should only be attempted at low tide by experienced drivers. Be prepared; these rocks may be impassable, even at low tide. Understand the risks and turn back and travel via an alternative route.
If travelling between Rainbow Beach and Teewah Beach, check the Leisha Track's northern entrance on the Cooloola Conditions Report before heading off. This entrance is constantly affected by tides and swells. It can be eroded to a condition where access is restricted to low tide only, or perhaps impassable.
What is the operating time for the Noosa River ferry?
Ferry operates generally between 5.30am to 10pm daily. Operating hours may vary over weekends and holiday periods. For confirmation and ferry prices contact:
- Noosa North Shore ferries
ph (07) 5447 1321
How do I access the beach at Noosa North Shore?
From the Noosa River ferry, follow the bitumen road along Maximillian Road, and turn a sharp right onto Beach Road. There are 2 beach access points along Beach Road onto Teewah Beach.
Warning! Beach access points can be soft and rough and are only suitable for high clearance four-wheel drives. Improved driving conditions are experienced at low tide. This will reduce damage to vehicles and the environment. Please read the Driving on sand safety guide for further information and driving tips.
Is there anywhere I can't drive?
Pay attention to information in the Cooloola Recreation Area visitor guide and this website. Stay alert to and obey any notices, signs and/or barriers that restrict access.
Never enter these restricted areas:
- the 2.5km of beach between first and third cuttings on the Noosa North Shore
- beach area at the mouth of the Noosa River—this is a shorebird nesting area
- Double Island Point Conservation Park, including the lighthouse—this area is accessible on foot only
- all beach foredunes, except on defined vehicle tracks within the Teewah Beach camping area
- all other areas that are not defined public access tracks, including restricted management access tracks and bushland.
- See Cooloola Recreation area map.
Can I access Harrys camping and day-use area or Poverty Point camping area in a 2WD vehicle?
No. Harrys Hut Road and Poverty Point access road are recommended for high clearance 4WD vehicles only. These roads are generally sand (with some gravel sections on Harrys Hut Road). Washouts and potholes are common. Be aware that sections of these roads are prone to flooding. Check the latest information about road and track conditions in the Cooloola Conditions Report. Vehicle access permits are not required when traversing Harrys Hut Road and Poverty Point access road.
How can I access the upper Noosa River?
Most sites on the upper Noosa River have river access only, except for Harrys camping and day-use area. For information on canoe and kayak hire, water taxis and river cruises contact:
- Noosa Visitor Information Centre
61 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads QLD 4567
ph (07) 5430 5000 or 13000 NOOSA (66672)
email enquiries online.
- Gympie Cooloola Tourism
Lake Alford, 24 Bruce Highway, Gympie QLD 4570
ph 1800 444 222
fax (07) 5482 8205
email enquiries online.
How much does a vehicle access permit cost?
How do I book my vehicle access permit?
Are there any beaches visitors can drive on without a permit?
Yes, the beach from Rainbow Beach Township to Middle Rocks is outside the recreation area and therefore does NOT require a vehicle permit. Inskip Peninsula Recreation Area does NOT require vehicle access permits.
Vehicle access permits are needed only for designated tracks and beaches in the Cooloola Recreation Area (see map of this area, refer to page 2).
Are any sections of beach closed to vehicles?
Drivers are required to use a bypass road behind the beach between 1st and 3rd cuttings on the Noosa North Shore at the southern end of Teewah Beach (see map of this area, refer to page 2). This provides a 2.5km vehicle-free section of beach in front of the popular Noosa North Shore Camping Reserve for families to enjoy the beach without any risk of vehicle accidents. The Noosa River mouth is closed to vehicles to protect nesting and roosting shorebirds.
Where in Cooloola will I need to have a vehicle access permit?
Vehicle access permits are required for the following areas:
- from north head of the Noosa River to Middle Rocks south east of Rainbow Beach
- inland along the Freshwater Road between Bymien and the beach
- inland along Kings Bore Circuit track (also known locally as Pettigrews Road, and the eastern and western firebreaks)
- inland from the Kings Bore Circuit track (also known locally as Pettigrews Road, and the eastern and western firebreaks)
- the Leisha track.
Vehicle permits are not required for:
- 3km of the unsealed Freshwater Road from Rainbow Beach Road turnoff to Bymien picnic area
- Cooloola Way
- Harry’s Hut Road
- 4WD track to Poverty Point camping area
- any privately owned freehold land
- sections of Great Sandy National Park south of the Noosa River
- Inskip Peninsula Recreation Area.
View the Cooloola Recreation Area map.
What if I have to drive through the recreation area to get to my property? Will I have to pay for a vehicle permit?
No, but residents must apply for a fee-exempt vehicle permit to access their properties by going through the recreation area. Obtain an application form online or from a Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) office.
Who else is eligible for a fee-exempt vehicle permit?
Permanent residents who must access the recreation area to get to their residence and their relatives, landholders and people accessing the recreation area for employment, including people who run educational excursions, can apply for a fee-exempt vehicle access permit, nominating their vehicle. Applicants must meet eligibility criteria.
A 'Fee exemption for vehicle access permits on QPWS-managed recreation areas' application form must be completed and returned. These are available online or from a QPWS office. For more details download the ‘Fee exemptions for vehicle access permits on QPWS managed recreation areas’ information sheet.
For detailed information about each camping area in the Cooloola Recreation Area, see the camping page.
Where can I camp?
In designated camping areas only. Keep groups small; large groups have more environmental impact and can adversely affect the experience of other visitors. Group activity permits may be required for large groups.
Do I need to book?
Yes definitely. Advance bookings are required at all camping areas in Cooloola*. NB: reserving or roping off areas is not permitted.
- Book your Cooloola Recreation Area camping permit online
- If you can't book online, see other booking options
*Be aware that vehicle access permits are required for access roads or beach areas into some camping areas in the Cooloola Recreation Area. If camping overnight, campers must purchase two daily vehicle access permits or a weekly vehicle access permits.
Can I change my booking?
Yes, in some instances. Bookings may be altered, subject to availability, if sufficient notice is given. Bookings can be cancelled but you may not be entitled to a refund. You can try to modify your booking online, or contact a QPWS office for further information.
Am I entitled to a refund?
In most cases a refund will not be available. If a refund is permitted and the booking needs to be cancelled or modified, a camping credit will be established. This camping credit is valid for up to 12 months and can be used towards a new booking. Refer to the QPWS Camping Refund Policy for details.
Instead of getting a refund, can I choose an alternative camping area or dates?
Yes, provided the application to change the details is made before the start of the refund notification period.
Will I receive a refund if the park is closed or access is unsafe?
Yes, visitors would be eligible for a full refund on the unused balance of a camping permit, or an alternative location or dates may be selected.
Can I pay the ranger?
No. Rangers cannot issue permits in the field. Permits must be purchased before setting up a camp site or driving into the Cooloola Recreation Area.
Where can I collect a visitor guide and camping tag?
An online permit tag is generated once the booking is receipted. Print off the tag and display it prominently at the camp site, following the instructions as outlined on the tag.
If you are unable to obtain an online permit tag you can collect one from nominated over-the-counter camping and vehicle access permit booking offices or from the information shelters at most parks or forests.
In the Cooloola Recreation Area, visitor guides and camping tags can be collected from:
- QPWS Rainbow Beach office, Rainbow Beach Road, Rainbow Beach
- QPWS Great Sandy Information Centre, 240 Moorindil Street, Tewantin
- Freshwater camping area entrance (camping tags only; no visitors guides at this site)
- QPWS display shelter at Elanda Point canoe launch and car park
- Kinaba Information Centre
- QPWS display shelter at Harrys camping and day-use area (canoe launch car park).
How long can I stay?
Maximum length of stay is 29 nights at:
- Teewah Beach camping area
- Poverty Point camping area
- Freshwater camping area.
Maximum length of stay is 21 nights at:
- Fig Tree Point camping and day-use area
- Harrys camping and day-use area
- upper Noosa River camp sites 1–15
- Wandi and Neebs waterhole camping areas (Cooloola Wilderness Trail).
Maximum length of stay is one night at:
- All Cooloola Great Walk camp sites.
If I exceed the maximum length of stay will I be directed to move?
What if I don’t know how long I want to stay?
During busy periods, it is best to book ahead and get permits for the entire duration of the stay, and for all of the people who will be camping. If the camping area is full, or fills up during the stay, all bookings will be closed. If deciding to stay longer during a busy period, or have extra people stay at the camp site, it will not be possible to extend the permit and visitors will be asked to leave. Remember, it is essential to have a valid permit at all times. Don’t wait until after the permit has expired—penalties and/or eviction apply.
Can I set up camp and wait for the ranger to issue a permit?
No. Rangers cannot issue permits in the field. Permits are required before setting up camp. Penalties apply.
Can I reserve a camping area for a friend?
No. Campers may not reserve, fence off or rope off any areas under any circumstances.
Where can I camp with a school or organised group?
A maximum of 1 group* at any one time can camp at the following group sites:
- Freshwater group camping area (education group site): maximum 40 people (schools only)
- Freshwater group camping area (old group site): maximum 20 people (non-school groups only)
- Harrys camping and day-use area (group camping area): maximum 60 people
- Camp site 3: maximum 25 people
- Fig Tree Point camping and day-use area: maximum 25 people
- Neebs Waterhole camping area: maximum 25 people
- Wandi Waterhole camping area: maximum 25 people.
Check camping availability before making any arrangements or bookings, especially for the more popular sites—camp site 3, Fig Tree Point, Neebs Waterhole and Wandi Waterhole.
For general enquiries, contact email@example.com or visit the Great Sandy Information Centre, 240 Moorindil Street, Tewantin.
* Please note that large groups of people have more environmental impact and can adversely affect the experience of other visitors. Don’t monopolise facilities, stay within the camp site's boundaries and observe quiet time between 9pm and 7am.
Group activity permits may be required for large groups, depending on what the event is and the intended activities.
Are fires permitted?
Yes, in two camping areas, except when fire bans or prohibitions apply. Campfires are only permitted in the camping areas on Teewah Beach and at Poverty Point camping area. Always use a pre-existing campfire site at Teewah Beach camping area. Use a fire ring, provided by QPWS at the Poverty Point camping area. Never leave a campfire unattended and completely extinguish the fire with water, not sand, when leaving the camp site.
Bring clean firewood, such as untreated mill off-cuts, not bush wood. It is illegal to collect wood from the recreation area or the national park, including leaves and twigs for kindling. Penalties apply.
Campfires are prohibited in all other areas in Cooloola. Pack a gas stove for cooking.
Are there any powered sites?
No power is available. This means there are no power sockets in the amenities blocks for any electrical appliances, including hairdryers, shavers or asthma pumps.
Can I take a generator?
No. Generators are prohibited in most of Cooloola. However, generators no louder than 65 decibels (2.0Kva) can be used at Teewah Beach camping area and can only be operated between 7am and 9pm.
Is drinking water available?
For safety reasons, all water collected from Cooloola must be treated before drinking*. Pack water treatment tablets or boil water for at least 5–10 minutes. Preferably, bring drinking water. On Teewah Beach, never drink, cook with, swim in or bathe with water collected from creeks, pools or sub-surface flows. Noosa River water is not suitable for drinking*.
Always treat water collected from taps or water bodies at these sites, before drinking. Treat water with sterilisation tablets or by boiling it for 5–10 minutes.
Untreated tap water is available at:
- Freshwater day-use area
- Fig Tree Point day-use area
- Harrys day-use area.
Natural water bodies:
- Neebs and Wandi waterholes (along the Cooloola Wilderness Trail)
- River camp sites (upper Noosa River)*.
* The upper Noosa River between Lake Cootharaba and Lake Como is generally brackish (partly salty) water and not suitable for drinking.
On Teewah Beach, can I use a water or sand spear to get water from underground?
No, this interferes with a natural resource, which is an offence, and QPWS cannot guarantee the quality of the water.
The use of portable sand spears to collect sub-surface water from the foredune areas is not permitted. The quality of fresh water obtained from pools, creeks or sub-surface supplies on Teewah Beach cannot be assured and is not suitable for drinking, cooking, showering or swimming. Teewah Beach campers should collect water from the beach camper service bay at Freshwater, opposite the day-use area.
Where are suitable camp sites for camper trailers?
Camp sites suitable for off-road camper trailers are available at Harrys camping area, Freshwater camping area, Teewah Beach camping area Poverty Point camping area. See the camping page for more information about these areas.
Soft sand conditions make towing a caravan extremely difficult in Cooloola. Inland tracks are not suitable at all for caravans.
Are there are public toilets and showers in Cooloola?
Yes, public toilets and showers are located at:
- Freshwater camping area ($1 for 4 mins of hot and cold water)
- Freshwater day-use area and beach camper service bay (free, cold water outdoor showers).
Public toilets are located at:
- Double Island Point
- Bymien picnic area
- Searys Creek
- Kinaba Information Centre
- Fig Tree Point day-use area
- Harrys camping and day-use area
- upper Noosa River camp sites 1–3.
There are no public toilets in the Teewah Beach camping area, Poverty Point camping area, upper Noosa River camp sites 4–15 and Wandi or Neebs waterholes camping areas.
It is best to bring a portable toilet for all beach areas, rather than bush toileting. A toilet waste disposal facility is located at Freshwater, in the beach camper service bay.
If bush toileting is necessary, bury all faecal matter and toilet paper in a hole at least 50 cm deep and at least 50m from watercourses, tracks and camp sites on Teewah Beach and Poverty Point or 100m from watercourses, tracks and camp sites along the upper Noosa River, Cooloola Wilderness Trail and along the Cooloola Great Walk. Bag tampons, sanitary pads, disposable nappies and cigarette butts and remove from the area.
- Watch the web clip: Bush toileting practices
- Also see: Summary of Cooloola visitor sites and facilities
Where can I dispose of my rubbish?
Bins are not generally provided. Please take rubbish home. Bulk rubbish bins are only located in the Teewah Beach camping area and near the entrance to Freshwater camping area. Keep rubbish in sealable containers until it can be placed in a bin. Do not burn rubbish or hang rubbish bags from trees or tents.
- Watch the web clip: Reduce and recycle rubbish
Where can I launch my canoe?
Canoe launching is available within Cooloola at Elanda Point and Harrys camping and day-use area. Car parks are nearby. Please note that secure parking is not available.
When is the best time to canoe across Lake Cootharaba?
Plan to travel in the morning as strong winds often occur in the afternoon and can make the river and Lake Cootharaba rough to cross. Paddle close to the shore and stay clear of channel markers to allow a clear path for powerboats. Never canoe alone in case of an emergency, and tell someone responsible about the itinerary, destination and expected arrival time. Carry safety equipment including a lifejacket and communication devices, such as a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).
What are the approximate canoeing distances and times?
There are many canoeing opportunities on the upper Noosa River.
- Read more about canoeing distances and times.
Where can I launch my boat?
On the upper Noosa River, boats on trailers can be launched at boat ramps at Boreen Point and Tewantin. There are no boat launching facilities at Harrys camping and day-use area. Boat ramps are located further downstream at Tewantin and Noosaville.
Along coastal areas, boats on trailers can be launched at boat ramps at Carlo Point north of Rainbow Beach and at Norman Point, Tin Can Bay.
Where can I travel in my boat?
All Maritime Safety Queensland rules apply on Cooloola’s inland and adjacent coastal waters.
In the upper Noosa River, motorised vessels are permitted as far as camp site 3 in the upper Noosa River. Only electric motors and non-motorised vessels are permitted past this point. Sailboat masts should be lowered before entering the upper Noosa River due to overhanging branches. No-landing zones are located between Fig Tree Lake and Harrys camping and day-use area. Please use jetties provided.
- Read more about boating distances and times.
Coastal waters north of Double Island Point (including the headland) and Tin Can Bay Inlet are protected within the Great Sandy Marine Park and regulations apply.
Can I swim in the upper Noosa River?
Swimming is not recommended for the following reasons:
- The river and lakes are not patrolled.
- Bull sharks are common in the river system.
- Submerged obstacles, including logs, are very common.
- Water near the riverbank is often shallow.
Can I swim in the ocean?
A patrolled swimming beach is located in front of the Rainbow Beach township. Check signs for patrol times. However, swimming is not recommended in lakes or the ocean other than this patrolled beach. People have suffered serious injuries and death in water-related accidents in Cooloola.
Am I allowed to fish in the upper Noosa River?
Yes. However, to reduce the chance of harming any freshwater turtles or eels, QPWS recommends the use of lures rather than live bait, bait traps and crab pots. For more information visit Fisheries Queensland, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (AFF). Note the annual Queensland closed season for bass is 1 June to 31 August.
Fishing in Searys Creek is prohibited under a regulatory notice.
What influence does the tide play in the upper Noosa river?
Tide enters and exits Lake Cootharaba once each day, approximately 5 hours after affecting the Noosa River mouth. These fluctuations have minimal impact on the upper Noosa River waters, which are generally fresh but may become brackish depending on recent rainfall.
Am I allowed to fish from the beach?
Yes. Fishing is popular along Teewah Beach, Rainbow Beach and at Double Island Point. On the beach, all rubbish from fish cleaning, including offal, scales and unused bait, should be buried at least 30cm deep below the high tide line.
Bag limits and size restrictions apply to some fish species. Contact Fisheries Queensland for rules and guidelines.
Some waters surrounding northern Cooloola are protected within the Great Sandy Marine Park.
If fishing at night, wear high-visibility vests and use glow sticks to alert drivers on the beach. Stay out of traffic lanes and keep children close by.
What walking tracks are available?
Cooloola offers walking tracks ranging from short, easy strolls to half and full-day walks and extended overnight adventures.
- Read more about Cooloola walking tracks.
Where can I find out more about the Cooloola Great Walk?
Find out more about the Cooloola Great Walk.
Will my mobile phone have reception?
Mobile phone reception is limited and unreliable. A Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) can be helpful in an emergency and is highly recommended.
Who should I contact in the event of an emergency?
Phone: Triple Zero (000) for all life threatening, critical or serious emergencies, and for reporting a bushfire or acts of arson. If having difficulty connecting to Triple Zero (000) from a mobile phone, try dialling 112.
What about planning for a natural disaster?
Always be prepared for disaster and check weather warnings before heading off. Tsunami, cyclones and extremely high tides may occur in coastal areas. Visit the Bureau of Meteorology website for weather forecasts or tsunami updates. Tune into a local radio station for weather warnings.
For comprehensive information on preparing for floods, cyclones, tsunami and severe storms visit Queensland Disaster Management Services.