“How is it possible that we’ve never been to Rainbow Beach,” I ask Matt as we look out at the waves crashing on the deserted stretch of golden sand.
We’ve travelled around Australia a lot over the last few years, yet we’ve only just discovered this gorgeous corner of the world. And it really is one of the most stunning destinations I’ve ever been.
For those of you who are too busy to read the post, here’s a little video about our stay.
Rainbow Beach with kids: Where to stay
We stayed at the Rainbow Beach Resort while I was working on a travel feature about the Fraser Coast for Australia and New Zealand magazine (look out for it in the magazine early 2017). (You can check out hotels and resorts here).
As a family of five, we’re used to squeezing into a family room at a hotel or, at best, an apartment. Our three-bedroom, two bathroom self-catering house nestled amongst the trees at the resort gave us so much space, freedom and privacy. It may have been a holiday home, but it was bigger than our house in the UK!
Inside the house, the rooms were light, bright and modern, just like in a hotel. The kids adored the shaped towels that decorated the beds – even more so when they realised there were chocolates scattered around them too!
The boys shared a twin bedroom and Eva had a room all to herself, while Matt and I spread out across the upstairs in the beautiful master suite complete with a sitting area and balcony overlooking the trees which was a great spot for my morning coffee. The house had a full-sized kitchen – perfect for families wanting to cook for themselves – and it also had a dishwasher, washing machine and tumble dryer. This was great for us as we were on our way back from Fraser Island where I’d been working on another article, so we had plenty of washing to catch up on.
There was a lovely big lagoon pool at the resort. We didn’t try it out as we had so much to cram into our stay but I’m pretty sure the kids wouldn’t have minded the chilly winter temperature – in spring/summer it would be a gorgeous place to spend a lazy afternoon. There was also a tennis court, a playground with barbecue area, a gym, a lap pool and a spa pool.
It was such a great base for the family holiday. I loved being away from the hustle and bustle of the main town (not that Rainbow Beach gets that busy!) – it was just so peaceful. We saw plenty of wildlife while walking around the resort and it was the perfect place for star gazing on our walk back at night from the on-site restaurant. We had planned on eating out at some of the other locations around Rainbow, but after tasting the food in the resort’s restaurant on the first night we all wanted to go back there again to eat as it was SO good. Honestly, the Thai green curry was so delicious I ended up having it twice while we were there even though I really wanted to try other things. The kid’s meals were so generous too so the second time we only ordered two between the three of them and still took lots back home in a container. We took some of our own colouring books for the kids to do while waiting for our food to come and it kept them entertained all evening. The prices in the restaurant were so good too that it wasn’t really worth cooking. The only shame was that we didn’t make it to pudding on either of our visits. We’ll have to save that for next time.
Rainbow Beach with kids: What to do
There were too many highlights of our stay to fit into one blog post (I’ll save most of it for the Aus and NZ magazine article) but here were our favourites:
Sand and Surf Safari
When visiting Rainbow Beach, it’s essential to get out on the beach in a 4×4. If, like me, you’re scared of getting bogged in the sand and losing your Jeep, then this half-day Sand and Surf Safari is perfect. It was a great way to learn about the history of the area, to see the stunning multi-coloured cliffs melting with ochres, yellows and reds, and to experience the places the locals hang out on the weekend. We learned the Aboriginal legend of how the area was formed, we went up to the lighthouse and watched whales splashing in the surf below and we stood on the windswept beaches listening to stories from our guide, Steve, about his childhood growing up in this pristine part of the world.
This is a must-do tour – without it I’d have missed out on so much of what Rainbow Beach has to offer. It’s short enough to squeeze into most itineraries, it’s great value ($75 for adults and $40 for under 12s) and it’s family friendly too (they also do a full day tour if you have more time to spare).
Bright and early one morning we took a visit to Tin Can Bay’s Barnacles Dolphin Centre.
We’ve been so lucky to have had the opportunity to hand feed wild dolphins in a few locations around Australia now (Moreton Island, Monkey Mia and Bunbury – the latter two before we had kids), but I have to say, of all of them, this was our favourite. We arrived just after the centre opened at 7am and were able to get straight into the water with the dolphins to spend some time with them before feeding started at 8am. There were volunteers in the water and we lined up at the water’s edge with the other visitors. At 8am, the centre got busier as people arrived for the only feeding session of the day. We bought five fish to feed, so we’d each get a turn, and we waited in line with our buckets as they invited small groups to go into the water to feed. It was on a much smaller scale than the other encounters we’ve done and it was so well organised. We each gave our fish to a dolphin named Mystique, then bounced back to the cafe for breakfast. Entry to the centre was $5 each then it cost $5 per fish. Entry also came with a voucher for money off breakfast.
There was a fantastic playground next to the car park which was a great place to burn off some energy after being quiet for so long around the dolphins. There was also a lovely big shady area that looked perfect for picnics or barbecues. Maybe on our next trip we’ll spend longer there.
Horse ride on Rainbow Beach
Possibly my favourite experience on the whole trip was something recommended to me by Tony, the manager of Rainbow Beach Resort. He told me I really needed to do a beach horse ride to experience the beauty of the location.
I love any excuse for a horse ride, so when I spoke to Rainbow Beach Horse Rides and found out there was a Full Moon Beach Ride (usual price $200 per person) taking place while we were there, I knew I had to do it. This ride only happens on a full moon and it’s weather dependent, so the fact that I happened to be there at the right time and the weather was great was just pure luck. I’m so grateful for Tony for suggesting it to me and for Andrew at Rainbow Beach Horse rides for hosting me for the experience of lifetime. How often can you ride and watch the sun set and the full moon rise from such a breathtaking location? It was truly one of the most beautiful travel experiences I’ve ever had.
We also explored Gympie, Maryborough and Hervey Bay during our stay (including a fabulous trip to Hervey Bay’s beachfront Reefworld Aquarium where we got to hand feed 50-year-old sea turtles, touch sea cucumbers in the touch tank and look at so many different fish in the natural, sand-filtered aquarium), and T1’s favourite gem shop where he got to geek out about shiny rocks and crystals.
Rainbow is a place to unwind, chill out and slow the pace. Forget theme parks and shopping malls. Rainbow Beach’s sand, surf and outdoor lifestyle is where I would rather be.
Make sure you check out my post about nearby Fraser Island as the two destinations make a great two-centre holiday.
*I was hosted by Rainbow Beach Resort, Rainbow Beach Horse Rides and Sand and Surf Safaris for writing the magazine article. All opinions are my own.