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Cooloola Coast on a Budget

Home > Brisbane > Bed & Breakfasts | Tours | Trains | Travel | Weekend Escapes
by T. A. Rose (subscribe)
From Brisbane, Australia, I mainly write for WeekendNotes, and at present, I enjoy challenging myself to add reviews on many diverse topics to this vast library of articles.
Published November 14th 2020
A desirable destination, an adventure, and a bargain?
Cooloola Coast Rainbow Beach
Rainbow Beach, late 2018.


After taking a much-needed break on the Cooloola Coast and having been there several times, I really wanted to write a more generalised article after I had written some specific articles on holiday apartments. I'd done bed and breakfast in Cooloola Cove in late 2018, and I'd really focused on keeping the budget low that time, whereas this time in late 2020 needed a splurge. I also realised the Cooloola Coast is good for a range of travellers and budgets and definitely had something for everyone. Despite the ferocious sun and warm winters, it was likely to be very useful for a getaway from the city, a more adventurous escape, or a midweek escape for Brisbane residents who doubtless have heard of Double Island Point on their weather reports or have knowledge of surfing.

Cooloola Coast
Tin Can Bay late 2018


So where is the Cooloola Coast and what does it involve? This region is near Gympie, although it can also be accessed from Maryborough. There are three towns (aggregate population below 5000) on the Cooloola Coast of Tin Can Bay, Cooloola Cove and Rainbow Beach. It's 73 kilometres from Maryborough to Tin Can Bay and 73 kilometres from Gympie to Rainbow Beach while from Tin Can Bay town to Rainbow Beach is 32 kilometres, where the town of Cooloola Cove is nestled in between. At the website for Polleys Coaches, by scrolling down and clicking on route 50, is a reliable map of the Cooloola Coast towns, but for a more detailed map, your basic maps such as Bing or Google are really good as expected.

Polleys cater for Gympie commuters and Gympie is well known and more populous, and is great for history and country music and has more expanded commerce. Like Maryborough, a good launching pad for holidays at further destinations and transit centre and is a good contrast to the coastal destinations. There is a Nescafe factory at Gympie, it even says so on many coffee packages we take for granted in Australia. However I am yet to confirm if tours are possible, or what any tour would involve, but my understanding is it is a big employer in Gympie and a big operation. The Cooloola Coast has therefore got good commerce as it is only a bit off the beaten track and despite being low population, has many other non-residents in the towns at any one time.

Cooloola Coast
Tin Can Bay, near esplanade, late 2018


The towns offer good budget options and that is part of the range of accommodation available to travellers. While family destinations are widely available, one would likely need a car as airport transfers would be impractical. Hervey Bay and Sunshine Coast are the main airports, so they are too far for airport transfers, although having a car is still pretty good. A lot of backpackers hire a car and given the distances involved, enhances the range of destinations available, yet, a car is not necessary. For instance, when I did the wild dolphin viewing and feeding at Tin Can Bay, it was walking distance from the main hotel and motel and backpacker accommodation of Tin Can Bay; a long walk, but pretty easy-going at early morning dolphin viewing times.

Cooloola Coast Tin Can Bay Dolphins
Wild Dolphin interaction at Barnacles Centre, Tin Can Bay, photo November 2020.


The sun is ferocious, especially in November, but that can also be a good thing, and the rainfall is commonplace as it's not an overly dry area, although in the wetter season that mainly occurs later in the day or at night. Another example of a budget trip is to backpack, so while I stayed Airbnb on my first visit, backpacking for the budget-conscious is cheap, so I have left this link about sustainable travelling and Fraser Island Tours from this provider based in Rainbow Beach as a starting point for research. It's a safe assumption that room rates are cheaper in dormitories, and sometimes that is good, especially if you like talking or making friends and a bit of a drink. Although everyone is pretty laid back, you don't have to drink, it's a vibrant and fun scene ultimately, despite the occasional bad publicity, it's got a sustainable side to it, in many ways in fact. It's a good time to travel by coach, and Rainbow Beach has a good sheltered stop but for Tin Can Bay, you have to stand in the sun outside a bit of a busy bottle shop, so I stood a bit up the road and hailed the bus, hence my only issue was the sunburn involved.

Cooloola Coast
The clear waters of Tin Can Bay, late 2018.


My way of being budget conscious was to stay Airbnb at Cooloola Cove town in 2018, which was a good idea as it was cheap, the hosts were really awesome and I got some experience of Cooloola Cove which is all spacious homes with big backyards and swimming pools, but, apart from a Woolworths and restaurants has nothing of interest for the traveller. I used a bus service to access it on the route 50 as I linked from Polleys earlier and that actually got me dropped off outside the bed and breakfast, and the next day a lift to Tin Can Bay, so while taxis are also an option as it is very geared up to tourists, I paid, less than $250 Aussie dollars for a two-night escape from Brisbane, mainly though because I had cheap meals and caught a train there and back and could even go to the Sovereign Cinema in Gympie while I waited for my rail transfer bus. It's very adventurous somehow, mainly because there is a lot of transfers and buses aren't frequent, so it keeps you on edge in a good way. I've left some photos of the 2018 trip but I gained a lot of my insights on my second trip to Cooloola Coast, where I at least spent nights at Tin Can Bay and Rainbow Beach, so, I've stayed in all three towns. While not giving away the majority of this extensive topic hopefully the budget-conscious reader now has some concept on what to expect and some inspiration on creating their very own Cooloola Coast getaway - especially on a budget. I've left some links courtesy of my years of research on the area.

Lonely Planet article about Cooloola Coast Travel

Fraser Island FAQs

Coach service for travel to Cooloola Coast (good for backpacking)

Translink run cheap as chips train trips to Gympie from Brisbane/Sunshine Coast

Polleys Coaches are Gympie's main commuter bus service

There is also Caravan Park options in terms of the budget-conscious, and some of those get pretty good reviews. To better illustrate this point I have added two links on this, and while I want to be supportive, I am a bit more impressed with the Rainbow Beach offering, as shown on this YouTube link and their corporate website.\
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Why? Budget travel for a fun adventure
When: Weather allows for all year round travel to the area.
Where: Around 75 kilometres north east of Gympie, Queensland, Australia.
Cost: Cost depends on how you design your holiday.
Your Comment
I often go to this area as is easily accdessible from Brisbane and avoids the busy Sunny Coast.
by May Cross (score: 3|7810) 106 days ago
Just to confirm, I called the Nescafe factory, and reception stated they don't do tours period.

This describes more about how important the factory is to Gympie:
https://www.gympietimes.com.au/news/iconic-gympie-factory-unveils-10-million-tower/3392702/
by T. A. Rose (score: 2|142) 97 days ago
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