I’m not going to lie; we weren’t expecting much from the little town of Rainbow Beach on Australia’s East coast.
For many, the village is simply a gateway to nearby Fraser Island, a place to stop and grab a shower after three days of camping on a remote land inhabited by dingoes. We’d broken the norm, however, by visiting the island from Hervey Bay. For us, Rainbow Beach was simply a ‘filler’ town, somewhere to break up the long commute between points A and B. The only draw, as far as I could see, was its name; surely no one could feel down in a town which sounds like a place the cast of Sesame Street might holiday.
As it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised. Rainbow Beach is tiny, but it’s stunningly beautiful, with a simple and laid-back charm. The town gets its name from its unique, multi-coloured sand cliffs, which are best seen by strolling along the long, curved beach.
We were blown away as we gazed up at the cliff faces – the sheer range of colours which beamed back at us was unfathomable – I didn’t even know you could get black sand!
Apparently, there are two explanations for the rainbow effect; the first quite simply comes down to the rich mineral content of the sand. The second, and much more inspiring story, is that the sands were coloured when the spirit of Yiningie, who took the form of a rainbow, had his energy dashed against the cliff faces during a fight with an evil tribesman. According to the Aboriginal legend, the fight was over a woman. Lads, eh?
Unfortunately our time checking out the cliff faces was cut short due to the rising tide, but we needn’t have worried. After chatting to some of the locals, it seemed that Rainbow Beach was home to another natural phenomenon – the Carlo Sandblow.
“You have to go up there at sunset. Then you’ll really understand why this place is called Rainbow Beach.” They told us; and so, the game was on.
Having gathered a group from our hostel, along with some beers, we began making the long climb up to the top of town. As we found ourselves fighting our way through a steep and overgrown forest, I began wondering whether we were going in the wrong direction.
Surely we’re too high? Surely a sand blow couldn’t make it this far inland?
Oh, how wrong I was.
The Carlo Sandblow is not just your average dune; formed over hundreds of years in the valley between two large hills, it is quite simply colossal, and stretches as far as the eye can see. Stepping onto it, you could be forgiven for thinking you were embarking on an epic journey across a desert landscape, or even onto the moon.
The views are spectacular, giving a panoramic vista over the Australian mainland to the West and the vast Ocean to the East. It’s really quite disorientating to be standing on sand so far above sea level, and yet the effect is just mesmerizing.
As the sun began to set, I could see what the townsfolk had been referring to. Splashes of red, orange, silver and pink bounced between the sky and the land, and began to snake their way through the rivets in the sand, changing every few seconds as though you were looking through the lens of a giant kaleidoscope.
At times, the colours reminded me of fire, lively and warm. Within moments, though, they would change, and we would be left shivering as blue tones washed over the scene. I kept trying to capture the moment on camera, and yet what occurred was so mesmerising, so dream-like and fluctuating, that my photography skills could not do it justice.
In the end, I simply put the camera away and watched as the sun slid through the clouds, reflecting upon just how lucky we were to be there at that particular moment in time. And then, of course, we ran to the top of a very large hill and began rolling like children to the bottom. It was wonderful.
Fancy visiting Carlo Sandblow? Here’s a few tips in order to get the best out of the experience:
The walk up to the Sandblow is very straightforward – simply follow the signs from the base of the town to the top of the hill. There’s a carpark at the end of Cooloola Drive if you’re driving. Keep in mind that although simple, the walk does get very steep and involves climbing a number of steps through a forest which can get quite slippery underfoot. Be careful if it’s been raining!
If you’re going to the Sand Blow for sunset (you’d be mad not to!) then it wouldn’t be a bad idea to bring a torch for the walk back as the area isn’t very well lit.
Bring a sandboard if you can! We were seriously envious of those that had thought about this in advance as it looked like so much fun to slide down the dunes! Most hostels have sandboards for hire, or you can always bring a boogie board!
Avoid visiting the sand blow on a windy day – that would be one hell of a sand storm to get caught up in!