The Road to Rainbow Beach

A few months ago, Jason wondered about the possibility of riding our bikes to Rainbow Beach via off-road tracks.  After a few exploratory adventures before the big day, we finally worked out a route…

Day 1 – Nambour to Kin Kin

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[DAY 1]

We started at Nambour Railway Station, our fat bikes loaded up with a couple of days worth of snacks and clothes, and headed north.


Rather than follow the road to Yandina, we detoured via the mountain bike trails at Parklands.

These tracks are a lot of fun on a dual-suspension mountain bike, but they can be a bit tedious on a cumbersome fat bike.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

My friend, Adi, was visiting from the UK.  He joined us for the ride, but was finding the mid-summer heat and humidity a bit oppressive.

I tried to distract him from the discomfort with an impromptu botany lesson.

“Look – that’s a Cabbage Tree Palm.  That’s a Piccabeen.  And that one there is a Melaleuca.”

Adi was more interested in having a look at the infamous Gympie-Gympie stinging tree.  We didn’t encounter any at Parklands.  I was secretly relieved. 

We followed “Road Rage” track for a while, twisting through the thick forest, over tree-roots, up and down hills, and emerged out the back of Yandina.


From there we crossed an old bridge over the Maroochy River…

(Photo: Adi Smith)

…and followed some quiet back-roads through North-Arm towards the Eumundi State Forest.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

The day grew hot.  We welcomed the shady gravel roads near Eumundi Forest.

As we took a break in the shade, a couple of “furry mountain bikes” slowly ambled past.  It was a hot day, and no one was in a rush.

There are many ways through Eumundi Forest – some quite steep and rough.  Today we took the easy way through along “Ironbark Track” which spat us out at Seib Road.

After a short stint on the main road, we detoured via an underpass and emerged at the car park in Eumundi.

The markets were in full swing – it’s the perfect place if you like people-watching.  We parked the bikes and wandered from stall to stall looking for a quick feed, while bouncing to the sound of the tuba and accordion.

After lunch, we struggled up a slow climb along Eumundi Range Road in the midday heat.

It took us about half an hour to get to the top of the five kilometre climb.

The hard work stretched out our group, so the faster riders waited at the top for the rest of us to catch up.

At the top of the hill, we left the paved road and followed several single tracks through the mountain bike trails at the top of Wooroi Forest.

It was a mixed blessing.  We had to work harder on the undulating dirt tracks, but dirt tracks are more peaceful.  And they’re much cooler to ride on than road because there is less reflected heat, and the trees offer more shade.

We crossed the road near the Tinbeerwah Public Hall and climbed up the hill towards the National Park.  From here it was a fun bumpy ride down the hill towards Lake MacDonald.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

The rear rack on Paul’s bike needed a bit of TLC after bouncing over all the bumps.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

After a bit of encouragement from Jason, Paul was able to fix it and get rolling again.

For the next hour we snaked through the endless trees of Ringtail State Forest.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

We rolled over leafy tracks in cool quiet shade.

The easy flat tracks were a pleasant respite from the hot hilly hard work from earlier in the day.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

We eventually emerged from this leafy wonderland on to a quiet dirt road.

“Gee that was fun!”

I’m always amazed at the places we discover while riding our bikes.

“Why is it called ‘Black Pinch Road'” someone asked.

“It’s like a giant has taken his thumb and forefinger, and pinched the road up into a sharp point,” I replied.

We struggled up the Pinch.

Having been in a snowy UK winter only a few days before, Adi found the heat oppressive, but soldiered on.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

We enjoyed some impressive views at the top of the hill.  To our right we could see the Noosa River, the Cooloola sand hills, and the ocean.  To our left lay the mountains.  Ahead of us, the road twisted down the hill.  We could relax and roll for a while.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

We rolled into Kin Kin late in the afternoon, tired but happy.

We’d be staying at the local pub for the night, but we had more important business to attend to before checking in…

(Photo: Adi Smith)

Beer tastes so much better when you have to work for it.

Total distance: 71.15 km
Total climbing: 1678 m
Average temperature: 31
Total time: 08:48:29
Download file: activity_4397755026.gpx
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Day 1 stats: 70km with 1,366 metres of climbing in 9 hours.  9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Day 2 – Kin Kin to Rainbow Beach

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We planned to get away early the next day, to beat the heat.

But the “Black Ant” cafe didn’t open until 7am, and it served a delicious cooked breakfast – so we delayed our departure.

We rode north out of Kin Kin towards Cooloola – a vast expanse of delightful forests, hills, creeks and sand.

There was no “civilization” between Kin Kin and Rainbow Beach, so we carried all the food and water we’d need on the bikes.

We left the paved road behind and slowly followed the gravel up the hill.

This is a popular spot for campers heading towards the Noosa River at Harrys Hut.

We wouldn’t be following them today.  Instead we’d be pointing the bikes further north.

Toolara State Forest stretches forever.  If you wanted, you could ride through the trees from here for a hundred kilometres to Maryborough without seeing another person all day.

The forest trails ran long and straight as we coasted in the shade of the pine trees.

(Photo: Jason Grant)
(Photo: Jason Grant)

After a couple of zigzags, we followed Cooloola Way into Great Sandy National Park.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

When I feel stressed or crowded, I sometimes imagine riding a long secluded road all day to escape the hassle.

Cooloola Way is very similar to the road I escape to in my imagination.

This far up, the Noosa River was a mere trickle crossing the road.

I got out my water filter and pumped out a few litres of clean drinking water.

Paul had a bit of a splash around to cool his feet.

We left Cooloola Way and followed “Pump Station Road towards Teewah Creek.

The road surface became more sandy.

Although our fat tyres had been a hindrance yesterday, they were now very welcome.

Our big tyres floated over the soft sand as we continued eastward.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

A deep creek blocked our way.  What should we do?

It was hot and the water was cool.

We didn’t need much convincing to jump in and cool off.

There are few things more enjoyable than a cool creek on a hot day.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

After soaking in the water, we got out, dried off and continued our eastward ride on the sand.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

On Western Break, the sand was horribly soft.

Despite our fat tyres, it was difficult to pedal.


(Photo: Jason Grant)

Sometimes we rode on the edge of the track to avoid the soft sections.  Sometimes we just picked a line through the sand and mashed the pedals.

After a lot of hard work, we reached the bridge over Frankis Gulch.

Crystal clear water flowed beneath us.

Time for another break…

(Photo: Adi Smith)

The water was deliciously cool.

Paul didn’t even bother taking his shoes off.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

I got out a cup and decided to drink the water while cooling off in it.

Adi wondered what his mates in snowy Coventry were doing.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

The climb up the road from the Gulch was hard work.  A few of us pedaled upwards.  A few of us walked the bikes.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

Miles and miles of soft sand took their toll.  This was incredibly tiring.

At Camp Milo we talked about the course ahead.  We basically had two choices:

If we continued to plan, we’d have to follow Eastern Break through the bush, then climb up a fairly steep hill to Freshwater Road before rolling into Rainbow Beach over Carlo Sandblow.  It would be awesome – but it involved a lot of climbing.

The alternative was boring.  Head out to the paved road and ride the final few kilometres into Rainbow Beach.  We’d have to compete with cars, but at least we’d get to the endpoint in a reasonable amount of time.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

We took the easy option.  The more challenging route to Rainbow Beach would have to wait for another day.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

An hour later we rolled into Rainbow Beach.

The fresh sea breeze felt delightful.

Although we had accommodation to sort out, there were more important issues to address.  We parked the bikes outside the pub and enjoyed a couple of cold drinks.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

Later that evening, we sat in the Rainbow Beach Surf Club and watched paragliders float over the beach.

What a great way to end a huge day!

Total distance: 65.82 km
Total climbing: 1069 m
Average temperature: 32.3
Total time: 08:20:59
Download file: activity_4401537375.gpx
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Day 2 stats: 65km with 768 metres of climbing in 8.5 hours.  9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Day 3 – Rainbow Beach to Double Island Point

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The next day Jason suggested we ride out to Double Island Point.

But instead of going via the beach, Jason suggested we follow the more interesting (and more challenging) cliff-top track.

(Photo: Russel Scholl)

The track runs very close to the cliff-tops at one particular spot.  We stopped briefly to have a look.

It’s a long way down.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

Some of the forest has been damaged by bushfires.  I’ve never seen it look so sparse.

On previous rides it has been beautifully lush and green – a stark contrast to what we saw today.

We twisted through the steamy forest for a while.  The humidity was overwhelming.  Our clothes were soaked with perspiration.

(Photo: Russel Scholl)

Poona Lake was a welcome sight.

We parked the bikes on the shore and jumped in for a refreshing swim.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

The cool water provided wonderful relief from the hot muggy air.

(Photo: Russel Scholl)

Eventually we all decided we had a long way to go yet, and that we should dry off and get back into our sweaty cycling gear.


We followed the Freshwater Road 4×4 track for a short way past giant strangler figs and tall skinny piccabeen palms.

After a couple of kilometres we left the 4×4 track and rejoined the narrow walking track.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

It was steep in places.  The “Ninjas” rode their bikes to the top while the mere mortals pushed.

(Photo: Russel Scholl)

We emerged at the Leisha Track near Double Island Point.

I was exhausted.  The arduous trek up and down the steep walking tracks had worn me out.

A few of us wanted to continue the ride up to the lighthouse.  Others wanted to roll back down the beach.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

It’s a steep climb up to the Double Island Point lighthouse, but the views are worth it.

(Photo: Jason Grant)

Looking south you can see forever down Teewah Beach as it stretches to Noosa Heads.

(Photo: Russel Scholl)

To the west you can follow the curve of the coastline along the ochre cliffs to Rainbow Beach.

(Photo: Russel Scholl)

This area is popular with 4×4 drivers.  At times the beach is a busy road.  When you ride a bike, it’s important to stay aware of what’s going on behind you.

We trudged across one stretch of really soft sand in search for a firmer surface on which we could ride.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

The red and orange cliffs curved away ahead of us, framing a stunning landscape of ocean, sand and hills.

With the wind at my back, I relaxed.  The hard work from earlier in the day was behind me.   I could take it easy and enjoy the view.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

I remember how I felt the first time I rode under the cliffs at Rainbow Beach.

It was magical.  I’d never seen anything like it before.

That’s partly why it’s so enjoyable to revisit these places with friends who’ve never been there before.  When they see these places for the first time, I get to share in that “first time” magic again.


(Photo: Adi Smith)

Back at the Surf Club, we enjoyed a cool beer in the breeze and kept one eye on the beach for the rest of our group.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

Total distance: 35.75 km
Total climbing: 877 m
Average temperature: 26.5
Total time: 06:01:17
Download file: activity_4405352764.gpx
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Day 3 stats: 34km with 661 metres of climbing in 6 hours.  8 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.

Day 4 – Neebs Waterholes

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(Photo: Russel Scholl)

On the final day of our adventure, some of us planned to catch the train back from Gympie in the afternoon.

Eric and Paul rode back to Kin Kin along the Cooloola Way to where they had parked their car.

The rest of us made our way to the car park at the top of the Cooloola Wilderness Trail for a short ride to a popular waterhole.

Some adventurous people spend several days walking along this trail all the way to Elanda Point.

It’s much quicker on a bike 🙂

The headwaters of the Noosa River form a vast grassy plain.

The track is aptly named.  This place feels wild and remote – miles from anywhere.

As we neared the river, the trees grew thicker.

(Photo: Russel Scholl)

Neebs Waterholes are a chain of ponds formed by the Noosa River as it twists through the thick scrub.

We stood on the bank and admired it, but how could we get in for a swim?

After a short search, we found a reasonably easy access to the river…

…and jumped in 🙂

As I floated on the river, I thought “We’ve certainly done a lot of swimming over the past few days!”

Long hot summer rides in Queensland are more enjoyable if there’s a swimming spot along the way.

(Photo: Russel Scholl)

After cooling down, we scrambled back out for the short ride back to the cars.

We weren’t carrying heavy touring gear on the bikes today: no bar-rolls or saddle bags.  The bikes were much lighter and easier to ride.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

We arrived at the railway station with plenty of time to spare.

(Photo: Adi Smith)

The last few days had been a lot of fun.  What a perfect way to start the new year.

Total distance: 18.1 km
Total climbing: 302 m
Average temperature: 31.1
Total time: 02:12:46
Download file: activity_4408811062.gpx
More info

Day 4 stats: 18km with 21 metres of climbing in 2 hours.  5 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.


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We rode a total of 187 kilometres over four days with total elevation gain of 3,007 metres.

During that time we swam in five different waterholes – the best way to keep cool during a long midsummer ride!

Thanks to Jason for inviting us on this ride and organizing the accommodation.

Thanks also to Kaye, Calum, Adi, Paul G, Paul S, Eric, Simon, Russel and Helen for being part of the adventure.

I can’t wait for the next one!

(Photo: Jason Grant)

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