3.5 hours drive North from our little home on the Gold Coast is picturesque coastal town known as Rainbow Beach. This long stretch of coastline gets its name from the coloured sands which, for miles, cascade dramatically down towards the pristine blue ocean.
Rainbow, as it is referred to by the locals, has all the characteristics of a sleepy Australian coastal town. There’s an old Queenslander style pub that churns out plenty of parmagianas on a Friday night, a well trodden fish and chippery and an independent servo that is absurdly spacious compared to the more modern petrol stations elsewhere (probably to house all of the random items they stock – postcards from the 90’s, life jackets and bait & tackle included).
But there’s one major difference between Rainbow and your average Aussie township fringed upon the beach.
And it starts with a ‘V’….and ends in an ‘8’.
You guessed it, Rainbow Beach is a petrol-head’s paradise. Lying just to the South of Fraser Island, the entire region is a 4WDing mecca, and the sand that extends from Rainbow Beach south to Double Island Point is the most driven upon stretch of sand in Australia. And being the Australia Day long weekend, the town’s four-wheel-driving population was swelling rapidly, like a bluebottle sting on a hot summer’s day.
We were lucky to be traveling with another family whose 4WD vehicle was well equipped and even looked capable of crossing the Sahara Desert, so we were pumped to soon be hitting sandy tracks that led down to the area’s postcard-worthy beaches.
But first, time to unpack the clothes, the towels, the food, the drinks, the colouring books, the surfboards, the cricket set, the buckets, spades, beach towels….oh, and the kids themselves! Gotta love traveling with ’em don’t you!
Based on recommendations from friends, we decided upon the Plantation Resort at Rainbow as our home base. The styling of the Plantation Resort itself is Hamptons-esque, the beautiful crisp white exterior textures offset by tropical plants and palms that were gently swaying in the breeze and seemed to immediately soothe the mind… or was that due to the frosty amber ale I now had in my hand, toasting the start of our weekend away? Either way, this place is pretty darn good for switching into relaxation mode.
We opted for the 3 bedroom penthouse which was absolutely perfect, with plenty of room for the kids and adults to co-habit and soak up the beautiful beach and ocean views from the open plan living and dining area, not to mention the separate private rooftop.
The in-room spa bath, with views spanning through the canopy of palm trees towards the sparkling blue ocean, was icing on the cake (the kids were particularly delighted when the spa became their bubble bath).
Of course, any good family resort needs an epic pool an the Plantation Resort doesn’t disappoint. The area is generous in size, with plenty of sun lounges to kick back in while the youngsters have a splash, plus a decent size spa to soak away your stresses, if that’s more your style. The pool is perfect for kids of all ages with a shallow step that extends the entire 20m length.
The next day we packed the fourby (that’s local dialect for any four wheel drive vehicle) full to the brim, with the boards on the roof and the esky full of goodies and headed for the sand. Unless the tide is completely out, the only way to get around to Double Island Point is by taking the Freshwater track, a 30 min offroad adventure with plenty of bumps and sandy ruts to put your four wheel driving mettle to the test. For us, the track came up trumps when our vehicle becoming bogged in the sand and going nowhere fast. The great thing about 4WDing, is the camaraderie of other drivers on the track, and in no time we had been pulled out by a trusty Landrover Defender and were back on our way, albeit a little red faced.
Once we were back on the beach, we headed up to Double Island Point. We spent the first half the day on the West side and the second half on the East, taking advantage of the area’s unique topography to shelter from the wind as it changed direction throughout the day. The place is just magical, the water glistens in every shade of blue imaginable with gentle rolling waves providing plenty of entertainment for the young and old alike.
At the end of each day we’d wind down in the pool, grab a feed and then collapse in contentedness (and maybe a touch of heat exhaustion!).
Rinse, repeat and relax is precisely what we did for the next a couple of days, and I couldn’t actually think of a better way to spend this long weekend. How lucky we Aussies are, to have such amazing destinations on our doorstep.
What to pack:
- A four wheel drive that is capable of driving on the sand plus all the necessary accessories to go offroad (tire pressure gauge, snatch strap in case you get bogged, spade)
- You’ll also need to buy an Adventure Permit when you arrive which allows you to drive on the tracks and beach
- Tide times (essential, so you’re vehicle doesn’t get gobbled up by the unforgiving incoming sea water)
- Sun shelter and beach chairs
- Plenty of sunscreen, beach towels and several pairs of swimmers (you’ll live in them your entire stay!)
- Plenty of water, and food for the day (we also took a portable BBQ that used butane canisters which I highly recommend)
- Surfboards, inflatable beach toys to relax in the ocean
When to go:
Anytime of year is great at Rainbow given Queensland’s relatively warm climate, however if you want more of the beach to yourself choose a time outside of school holidays and away from long weekends. (Hot tip: When the surf is up, Double Island becomes a mecca for surfers who drive from all over the state to surf the legendary sandy point break)
How much to budget:
A family of 4 can easily have an awesome long weekend at Rainbow for under $500, though if you choose to live it up a little I suggest setting aside up to $1500.
Accommodation ranges from $40 a night for camping through to $400 a night for higher end accommodation like the Plantation Resort penthouse.
Adventure pass is $30, and you may easily spend $100 in fuel depending on how much beach driving you do.
Food and drink will vary from $10 per head per day for self catering up to $100 per head if you choose to splash out at the local cafes and restaurants.
Plantation Resort at Rainbow gets 7.5/10.
It’s well presented, clean, family friendly and perfectly positioned in the heart of Rainbow Beach with easy access to everything you need.
Rainbow Beach and Double Island Point gets a well deserved 8.5/10.
Where else in the world can you have so much fun getting to your destination, only to find the destination itself to be world-class too. The whole trip is a laid-back adventure from start to finish, and is a one of the best remaining examples of good ol’ fashioned Aussie culture.