Cooloola National Park – Beach Camping

Cooloola National Park is situated between Tewantin and a Rainbow Beach on the eastern coast of Queensland. Roughly 3 hours drive north of Brisbane, Cooloola beach, also known as Noosa North Shore, is like a miniature Fraser Island with a beautifully long sandy beach on the shadow of a lush green ridge that follows the beach all the way up to Double Island Point.
Being 3 hours drive from Brisbane, Cooloola is almost too far for a weekend get away however if you can manage to squeeze a log weekend out of the boss, it’s a great way to spend a couple of nights. There are a couple of camping options starting with a 15 kilometre stretch of beach front camping where fires are allowed, as well as a managed camping area where there are toilet and showers, but no fires allowed.

When coming from the south, beach access is a simple matter of driving to Tewantin, turning left at the Shell service station, and heading to the car ferry. Just before arriving at the ferry you can stop in at the ranger station where you can purchase you camping and vehicle permits if you didn’t get the, online before you left home. At the time of this article the ferry cost $7 and correct change is greatly appreciated. After driving off the ferry it’s a short drive past the pub to the tyre deflation area where you can air down before driving onto beach.
We arrived on a Saturday and planned to camp on the beach as camping without a fire just isn’t what we were after. The weekend we visited wasn’t a long weekend so the numbers were down on the busier times, however there was still quite a few campers around and it took a little while for us to locate the ideal site.
Our site was at the northern end of the beach camping zone and somewhat protected from the wind, which can be quite strong on any Queensland beach. During the busy times the site we chose would have been the location of up to 10 different campers, but on an out of the way weekend there was no one around for a hundred meters in each direction.
As there are no facilities along the beach it is highly recommended that you bring along your chemical toilet. They are cheap these days and really make the difference to your overall camping experience, not to mention the environment. No one wants to go camping next to someone else’s pit toilet. The beauty of camping toward the northern end is that there is a dump point and hot showers at Freshwater camp group, meaning you can do a daily run up the beach to empty the chemical toilet, and maybe even sneak in a shower. 
An important point to note is that while there is a lot of water seeping out of the hills behind the beach, National Parks warns against using this water for any purpose, even if treated. While we’re not 100% sure why this is, we didn’t want to run the risk, it could have something to do with many years of people camping without chemical toilets! Freshwater camp ground has water available however it must be treated before being used.

After setting up we got to work arcing up the fire.  We needed to get some coals going for some spuds and sweet potatoeto go along with the lamb roast that was planned for dinner. Sitting around and especially cooking on a fire is a wonder feeling. It’s hard to explain but those of us that crave that feeling know what it’s all about. Remember to bring milled off cuts for your fire, collecting firewood from any national park is not allowed. Dinner was capped off with and apple crumble with custard. Simple pleasures. A little more fire watching and off to bed.

If you’ve ever camped on the eastern beach of Fraser Island, or any beach for that matter, you’ll know and appreciate the feeling of going to sleep to the endless sound of crashing waves. This is no different at Cooloola although there is an increased level of nighttime traffic. Traffic in general is more intrusive than other beach camping zones, most likely due to the ease of accessing the location. It is not uncommon to see 4wd drives drag racing, swerving and chucking donuts. Families with younger children should be aware.
Not having to leave until Monday, on Sunday we sparked the fire up early so that we could cook up damper for morning tea. Again, there is something about cooking on the fire that means no matter how bad a job you do, it still tastes good. Lunch consisted of jaffles, you guessed it, on the fire again.

While we spent most of the day around camp we did go for a quick drive down the beach. There were a lot of campers packing up to leave and as a result Sunday night was much quieter. This would be the ideal location to spend a week outside of school holidays as during the working week you could be lucky enough to find a large patch of beach all to yourself.

The beach is relatively safe to drive on although depending on the prevailing conditions, there are some small areas of coffee rock and the occasional washout, but like all beach driving take it easy and keep an eye out for hidden dangers. If you’ve never been to Fraser and want to get a feel for it, the Cooloola coast is the ideal place to visit.

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