Great Sandy National Park, Qld, Australia
Deep in the Cooloola Recreation Area, Poona Lake is an oasis hidden in a unique corner of the world. It’s on the mainland part of the Great Sandy National Park (which incorporates the famed Fraser Island), one of the few places on Earth where rainforests grow on ancient sand dunes. This is the land of the Kabi people, and while much of their region has sadly been cleared due to white settlement, this area remains protected so that future generations can enjoy its raw beauty. A perched lake formed between the dunes, Poona Lake’s banks are lined with twisted paperbarks, sedges and reeds, while its reddish-tinged waters, stained by the surrounding native tea trees, are surprisingly clear up close. Arriving at the lake, you can plunge straight in at the double twisted paper bark, or make your way around to the white sand beach.
How To Get There: A 2WD vehicle will take you as far as the Bymien Picnic area. Following the Rainbow Beach Road into the park, turn right onto Freshwater Road. Bymein Picnic area will be on your right. Park here, then make the 4.2km round-trip bushwalk to the lake.
Difficulty of Access: 5/10 The journey is almost as beautiful as the destination as you take the 40-minute walk through the rainforest. Make the gradual climb up the high sand dune, before descending through the scrub to the lake.
Opening Times/Seasons: All year, although check weather warnings as the area can be cut off due to extreme weather events such as bushfires, floods and cyclones.
Entrance Fee: A vehicle access permit is not required to reach Bymien Picnic area. However, permits are required to access some of the 4WD-only roads in the Cooloola Recreation Area.
Facilities Nearby: The closest toilets are the drop toilets at the Bymien Picnic area 2.1km away, so we recommended taking advantage of them before you set off on your bushwalk.
Other Activities: Go surfing at Double Island Point, which, on a good day, has one of the longest right-hand beach breaks in Australia. If that doesn’t get the adrenaline pumping, you can also dive with nurse sharks at Rainbow Beach.
Other Places of Interest Nearby: World Heritage-listed Fraser Island is just a short hop across the water. Take a tour of this unique isle to discover rare plants and endangered species of animals and birds. If you have a 4WD vehicle, you can also make the journey to the Double Island Point Lighthouse for panoramic views from the headland.
Wildlife: On the walk through the rainforest you’ll be able to see all the stages of a strangler figs, as well as the tall, thin piccabeen palms, whose marble-sized fruits are enjoyed by the rose-crowned fruit dove. Make sure you look up to enjoy the light delicately streaming through the rainforest canopy. There are very few places in the world where you can experience a rainforest growing on a sand bank, and the best examples are found here, at Cooloola, and on neighbouring Fraser island.
Places to Eat: Perched on the highest peak at Rainbow Beach, Waterview Bistro delivers a smart bistro menu with stunning views across to Fraser Island. Arrive before your booking to enjoy a pre-dinner sundowner in their sophisticated cocktail bar. For a casual feed by the water try Latitude 25 Bar & Grill or fuel up on Vietnamese street food at Rainbow Woks.
Where to Camp: There are several campsites in the Cooloola Recreation Area. The nearest is Freshwater, about 7km away, which has toilets, hot showers, telephones and rubbish bins. There are also free gas barbecues available in the nearby Freshwater day-use area. This site must be pre-booked.
Other Places to Stay: At Rainbow Beach, you’ll find a range of accommodation options, from luxury penthouse apartments at Rainbow Ocean Palms Resort to decent backpackers such as Dingos Backpacker Resort. Over on Fraser Island, Kingfisher Bay Resort is a beautiful eco-friendly base from which you can explore your rugged surrounds.
Nearby Towns: Rainbow Beach, Gympie and Noosa.
Other Swimming Spots Nearby: Rainbow Beach, Seary’s Creek.
Comments: A Fraser Island experience without having to leave the mainland.