Enjoy wide open beaches and watch sunsets over quiet bay waters
Inskip Point is well known as the gateway to some of the most amazing natural environments in the world – Fraser Island, the Great Sandy Strait and the Cooloola Recreation Area – but many thousands also know it as a fantastic holiday destination in its own right. Families have been making the Christmas pilgrimage to its sandy shores for generations, while those not constrained by work enjoy its sub-tropical delights all year round.
The point is a hook of land at the tip of the peninsula that separates the sheltered waters of Tin Can Bay and the Strait to the west from Wide Bay and the Pacific Ocean to the east. It is the sandy projection of Rainbow Beach that arcs around to Double Island Point, forming the northern littoral of the Great Sandy National Park (Cooloola Section).
The recreation area at the point can be reached by a 12-km bitumen road from the town of Rainbow Beach, by 4WD along the beach itself or, if you’re coming from Fraser Island, by barge from Hook Point at the island’s southern extremity. (The island is so close that the barge takes only 10 minutes to make the crossing).
Rainbow Beach is also a popular tourist destination and a mecca for fourwheel drivers who come in their droves for the experience of cruising on seemingly endless beaches backed by the spectacular sand cliffs that lend the town its name. In the Dreamtime legends of the local Kabi Aboriginal people the dunes were coloured when Yiningie, a spirit represented by a rainbow, plunged into the cliffs after doing battle with an evil tribesman. The more prosaic scientific explanation is that these steep, multi-hued dunes were created by geomorphic processes over the past 700,000 years, and painted in vivid hues of yellow, brown and red by iron oxides that percolated through the layers of sand.
The township of Rainbow Beach owes, not merely its name, but its very existence to these mineral-rich sands. In the mid-1960s Queensland Titanium Mines operated a sand mining dredge along the beach up to Inskip Point. Living-quarters and an access road were developed to service the mining site, together with a ferry service from the Point to Fraser Island. Up to that time the only access to the peninsula was by boat from Tin Can Bay. However, the sandmining boom here and on Fraser Island attracted opposition from conservation groups that led ultimately to a cessation of the industry in the Great Sandy region by 1976.
The first allotments of the proposed resort town were sold in 1969, followed by hotels, motels and caravan parks to accommodate growing numbers of holidaymakers seeking beach-oriented recreation. The controversy surrounding sandmining and the subsequent World Heritage listing of Fraser Island dramatically increased visitation by local and international tourists, such that Rainbow Beach now has as a burgeoning ‘eco-tourism’ industry attracting 70,000 visitors annually. An integral part of this is the Inskip Peninsula Recreation Area.
There are five camping areas arrayed along the eastern side of the peninsula, one named simply “The Oaks”, after the casuarinas that vegetate the dunes, and the other four named after vessels associated with the region’s maritime history.
M.V. Sarawak was a former navy minesweeper, which plied the coastline between 1949 and 1970, carrying supplies to Maryborough and returning with sugar to Brisbane, via Inskip in both directions. The M.V. Natone had no fewer than six name changes (including Wyatt Earp) during her colourful career as a Norwegian herring boat, a veteran of six Antarctic expeditions and a fleet auxiliary for the Royal Australian Navy. As an east coast freighter, she was caught in cyclonic seas on 23 January 1959 and wrecked on Mudlo Rocks near Double Island Point. All 18 crew survived the ordeal. Not so lucky were five of the six men on board the 10m game fishing vessel M.V. Beagle, which came to grief on its maiden voyage in April 1970 while attempting to cross the Wide Bay bar in mountainous seas.
Of all the camps’ namesakes, the one with the most tragic end was the steamer S.S. Dorrigo. On Good Friday, 2 April 1926, she was bound for Thursday Island from Brisbane when she was caught in a southeasterly gale and sank several kilometres off Double Island Point. The captain and his son were rescued, the bosun’s body washed ashore on Fraser Island, but the 21 other crewmembers disappeared without a trace.
These seafaring legends are now synonymous with sun-basking pleasure in the low-key recreation area ringed by ocean beaches and estuary foreshores. Facilities are limited to hybrid toilets in each of the camping areas; there are no showers and drinking water is only available at the council service facility on Clarkson Drive, just outside Rainbow Beach. Their great attraction lies in their location, location, location. The open sites behind the foredunes have views across the ocean towards Double Island Point or Wide Bay bar and Fraser Island; sites that are set further back find dappled shade among the coastal trees and shelter from prevailing ocean winds; all are only a short walk to the beach or the more protected Pelican Bay.
It should be noted, however, that the peninsula’s sandy conditions restrict access to some camping areas by 2WD vehicles, camper trailers, caravans and boat trailers, and you need to choose a camping area suitable for your type of vehicle and trailer set-up. (Refer to the QPWS website for details.)
Once you’re set up, you can start thinking about how to spend your time at Inskip – and there’s plenty to do here and in the wider region.
Relaxation is high on the list for most visitors but for those who need action there are long walks on the beach or a 1km circuit to Pelican Bay. Boating is a popular pastime in these coastal waters and, while there are no boat launching facilities at Inskip, you’ll have no trouble getting a tinnie from a trailer into Pelican Bay. For bigger boats, council-managed boat ramps are located at nearby Bullock Point and Carlo Point and at Norman Point, Tin Can Bay.
Of course, the main reason for getting out on the briny is to get among the 100 species of fish that abound in the local waters – mangrove jack, flathead, whiting, mullet, bream, snapper, sweetlip, morwong, tarwhine, rock cod, mackerel, tailor, trevally and marlin, to name a few. And don’t be surprised if you see dolphins, dugongs and turtles while you’re out there. Be aware, however, that Inskip is surrounded by the Great Sandy Marine Park, which extends to Fraser Island and the Cooloola coast, and fishing restrictions apply to season, size, bag limits and the tackle used to catch them.
Swimming is also a tempting option but conditions can be hazardous on the exposed point and the open ocean is best enjoyed between the flags in front of the surf club back at Rainbow Beach. If birdwatching is your thing, then you won’t lack for subjects on the peninsula or in the Great Sandy Strait, where flocks of resident and migratory shorebirds are often seen feeding and roosting along the beaches and in Ramsar-protected wetlands.
With a 4WD you can take a leisurely drive around to Double Island Point or explore the wilds of the Cooloola Recreation Area, including beautiful Teewah Beach, for which you’ll need a CRA vehicle access permit. A no-vehicle zone on the southern side of the spit conserves shorebird roosting and nesting areas.
Finally, no review of Inskip would be complete without reference to the natural phenomenon that received such intense (near hysterical) media coverage in 2015. On 26 September, part of the beachfront off the MV Beagle and MV Sarawak campgrounds quickly dissolved into the ocean, leaving an arc-shaped depression over 200m wide and 7.5m deep that engulfed a four-wheel drive vehicle, a caravan and a camper trailer. The event was later investigated by engineers and diagnosed as a “nearshore landslide” or, more correctly, a “retrogressive breach flow slide”. It was definitely not a sinkhole, as reported in some media.
The foreshore area of the affected campgrounds and part of a day-use area were temporarily closed but have since been re-opened, with a “no camping” buffer zone and a no-drive zone along sections of beach in high-risk areas. It appears that these modest restrictions have had very little impact on the number of visitors to Inskip, which is definitely open for business.