Is it possible to ride a bike to Rainbow Beach without going on busy roads? Today’s Epic adventure answered that question.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

It takes almost three hours to drive to the Cooloola Coast from home.  Rather than do this trip both ways in a day AND complete a large ride, we camped up there the night before.

We awoke in a magical, misty pre-dawn paperbark forest to a birdsong chorus, stowed our gear and made our way to the starting point.

We began our ride at the northern end of Cooloola Way, following Teewah Pump Station Road to the east.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

Although the Coast was only eleven kilometres away, our way was blocked by a an imposing wall of sand dunes, two hundred metres high, covered with thick rain forest.

Today would test our navigational skills.

Many of the tracks around here consisted of soft sand.  It was tough going on the bikes, even with their large tyres…

… so we took frequent rest stops.

“Camp Milo” marks the start of Pettigrews Road, named after William Pettigrew.  In the 1870’s he built a tramway here to haul logs out of the thick forests, over sandy ground, to the mouth of Cooloola Creek in Tin Can Bay.  The route was too difficult and soft for bullock drays.  A locomotive on rails was the most efficient way to do it.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

Nothing much remains of it now, and the forest appears to have forgiven Pettigrew.  Trees have grown back as though he was never here.

In some spots you can still see railway cuttings through the sandy hills, where Pettigrew’s Railway went.

Clare got a large stick through her tyre.

We were impressed.

Mike fixed the tube.  Clare supervised with the rest of us 🙂

Pettigrews Road was delightfully shaded, keeping us cool from the sun.

We took a detour along Broutha Scrub Road at the top of the hill.

The road is gated, so we knew that motor vehicles hadn’t driven on it.  This meant the surface would be firmer because it wouldn’t have been churned up by car tyres.

It’s amazing how much easier it is to ride on sand when it hasn’t been broken up by heavy vehicles.

After half an hour, we met up with the main track again, crossed it, and followed a narrow leaf-covered path through the trees.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

The track emerged at a campsite for hikers on the Great Walk.

It’s a stunning spot set under towering trees.

We took the opportunity to have another rest. Pedaling in the heat on soft sand is hard work.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

After a brisk downhill run we came out at the Freshwater Walking Track.

I gave out a “whoop” of joy.  We’d been here before.  I knew this track could get us to Rainbow Beach, so we answered the question we had posed ourselves at the start of the day.

The others looked at me strangely.

“What’s wrong with this bloke who gets excited about sign posts in the forest?”

We stopped briefly at Freshwater Lake.

Normally this lake is brimming with cool clear water.  Sadly, it has been depleted because of the recent long run of hot dry weather.

A couple of other people swam in it, but we figured we could find a nicer place to swim a little later in the day.

After a short stop at the Freshwater picnic area, we followed another narrow track through the trees to the beach.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

After all the hills and meanderings of the forest, Teewah Beach was a welcome sight.

Now we could take it easy for half an hour as we rode down the firm damp sand.

A gentle headwind blew.  It didn’t slow us down much, but it did keep us cool.

Tailwinds might make you go faster, but it’s easy to overheat when there’s no fresh breeze in your face.

We splashed through numerous fresh creeks that crossed the beach.

Teewah Beach goes forever.  If we kept going all day we’d eventually end up at Noosa.

Not today.  We stopped at the entrance to Eastern Break near Red Canyon.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

Jason kept riding for a couple more minutes to have a look at Red Canyon.

He hoped to find an easier track back into the hills which would be better than the steep cutting where Eastern Break met the beach.

No luck.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

Instead of bashing up the steep cutting on the beach, we followed a walking track through the grass and up the hill.

We said goodbye to the beach as we pushed the bikes the last few metres up the hill.

It didn’t look steep, but the soft sandy track continued uphill for about three kilometres.

By the time we reached the top, I was exhausted.

I gobbled down a handful of Jelly Babies, hoping they’d spark me back to life.

Earlier in the week, my friend Paul had told me about a swimming spot called Franki’s Gulch.

I didn’t even know what a Gulch was, but it sounded interesting, so we all agreed to check it out.

The only problem was that it was at the end of another three kilometre stretch of soft sand.

As we laboured up the hill, I thought to myself “If this spot isn’t any good, they’re not going to be happy with me.  Gee I hope it’s alright!”

Franki’s Gulch is delightful.

After toiling in the heat all day, we jumped in the cool, crystal clear creek.

What a gem of a spot.  As I sat in the water and splashed my face, I felt revived.

Some of us felt more revived than others 🙂


Refreshed from our swim, we followed the sandy track back the way we had come and then started making our way back to the cars via Teewah Creek.

We walked the bikes through the cool water.  We were near the end of the ride, and I didn’t mind getting my shoes wet.

Jason showed us all how to ride across.

Very impressive, Jason!

The sun had dropped low in the western sky.

The grassy plain was tinged with an eerie red from a combination of the setting sun and smoke in the air from bush fires to the south.

It was beautiful.

What a huge day.  I felt relieved to make it back to the car.

Total distance: 65.25 km
Total climbing: 1324 m
Average temperature: 27.5
Total time: 09:54:26
Download file: activity_4235409846.gpx
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We rode a total of sixty-five kilometres in about ten hours including breaks.

During that time we climbed about 1,300 metres in elevation, and I burned about 4,000 kcal.

I’ll rate this one 9.5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.  The heat, soft sand and hills were grueling, which forced us to change our intended course.

This is remote country – it’s not the sort of place you’d ride solo.  I’m grateful I had capable friends to look after me.

Thanks Jason, Kaye, Clair and Mike for an awesome day out.

I’m looking forward to our return.


6 Replies to “Cooloola”

  1. I’ve been looking forward to this blog after seeing your track on Strava. Thoroughly enjoyed the read, what an impressive adventure – it looks spectacular!

  2. I used to ride dirt bikes in that area.It’s very rare to find an easy section.How on earth did you manage 65km?! Man that’s tough.
    If i ever join your group remind me to always have an escape route planned,lol

    1. Hi Ron
      Yeah – that was a tough day out.
      My mates call it “type 2 fun”. While it’s happening, you think “This is crazy – why am I doing something so stupid?” But when it’s finished, you think “Wow – that was fun!”.
      It’s hard work, but it sure beats watching TV.

  3. Hey mate, epic trip. That was a huge day. I wonder if you’d mind sharing where the Frank’s Gulch spot is? Feel free to use the email in this comment for reply.


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