Surrounded by country and nature, the region of Gympie is more than the city that shares its name. Famously known as the home of the annual Gympie Music Muster held in Amamoor State Forest, there is so much more to Gympie than meets the eye. From the fabled Rainbow Sands at Rainbow Beach to the multi-day coastal adventure that is the Cooloola Great Walk to the Mothar Mountain Rock Pools, that’s is just a few of the incredible attractions you can uncover in his beautiful region.
What makes this Wide Bay Burnett sub-region even more alluring is that much of what makes the greater Gympie region an unforgettable experience is that many of the attractions are is hip pocket friendly. Read on and discover some awesome free things to do in Gympie that’ll have you packing up the bags as soon as you’ve finished reading so you can experience this treasure trove of attractions in this spectacular wonderland for yourself.
(There are a tonne of activities that you can do in the Great Sandy National Park if you have or hire a 4WD, but this list is catered more towards those who have a conventional vehicle as there are still plenty of free things to do even if you can’t go beach driving or off-roading.)
With the region having the same name, the city of Gympie is the big kahuna here. Located on the Bruce Highway/A1 and surrounded by hundreds of square km of the countryside, Gympie is a place that you will likely traverse through whether you’re staying a while or passing by.
If you do choose to give Gympie a little look-see, you’ll find a couple of beautiful free places to visit in this bustling major city you won’t want to look past.
Stretch Your Limbs At A Peaceful Lake.
After long stretches of sitting in the car driving the landscape, it’s always great to be able to get out of the automobile and limber up those limbs. A beautiful place to do that is Lake Alford on Gympie city’s southern side.
The small, picturesque lake has water fountains and thousands of birds such as ducks, magpie geese, ibises and swans. It’s a great place to unpack a snack and get the blood flowing back to those extremities. It’s also home to the regions information centre so you can stock up on knowledge of things to do and a museum so you can learn some history at the same time. (Although the museum isn’t free.)
Get Some River Views.
River To Rail Walk.
Gympie is a city perched on the Mary River, a narrow river that occasionally breaks its banks and floods the surrounding areas. When the river is not overflowing, most of the time, the waterway is a beautiful natural recreation spot to discover when you’re in town, thanks to the new River To Rail Trail. The circuit, which goes through town to various points of interest, also follows the Mary River allowing you to run or walk alongside the picturesque waterway.
Even though it’s right by the city near a national highway, the density of the treeline makes you feel like you’re a world away from all the chaos and is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life without venturing too far.
It’s also home to numerous birds and the elusive platypus, so if you’re lucky on your stroll along this beautiful calm river, you may spot one of the animal kingdoms most unusual animal.
Stay Another Night In Gympie For Free.
Chatsworth Rest Area & Six Mile Creek Rest Area.
If you find that you’re enjoying your stay in the Gympie region more than you expected and want to stay an extra night, or you’re too tired to keep on keeping on, the city of Gympie has two overnight rest areas where you can lay your weary head to rest.
Both rest areas are pull-in spaces just off the Bruce Highway on each side of the city. The Six Mile Creek Rest Area is just as you come into the outskirts of Gympie on the south side, while the Chatsworth Rest Area is a handful of kilometres north of the large city.
The former is a smaller space probably best suited for cars and vans, while the latter has areas for larger vehicles such as motorhomes, 4WD with trailers and small buses. As for large buses and long caravans etc., be warned there may not be space.
It’s quite a narrow dead-end area, which is where cars and vans go. There’s also one turnaround area where a lot of the smaller large setups stay. Unless you get there early and manage to turn around when no one is around and grab a spot on the narrow straight area, it might be more trouble than it’s worth.
If you can get a spot, it’s a great little place to hold up to get some well-deserved shut-eye. Whether you’re heading home or out for another day exploring Gympie the next day, it’s nice to know there’s somewhere you can stay without having to fork out for a hotel and get some rest before pursuing another day.
Drive The Mary Valley.
Mary Valley Tourist Drive – Gympie – Imbil.
If you’re looking to save a few bobs on a scenic country ride or historic trains don’t light your coal fire, you can take the free-to-roam Mary Valley Tourist Drive. Starting at Gympie and stretching for 45kms down to Imbil, the road takes you down a similar path to the famous Mary Valley Rattler train journey.
Even if you’re not in it for the train history, the drive is a fantastic alternative to the noisy and chaotic Bruce Highway when traversing the southern expanses of the Gympie. You can take life at your own pace and stop wherever you like, all the while drinking in the pretty undulating scenery.
For the train or history buffs, the drive takes you to the tiny towns of Dugan, Amamoor, Kandanga and Imbil, which all have historic train stations that played a significant role in the Gympie Rattler trains life.
Imbil and Amamoor are also home to State Forests of the same name that have walking trails if you’re looking to stretch your legs in nature along the drive. (Amamoor State Forest is also home to the famous Gympie Music Muster.)
There’s also the Dugan-Amamoor Lookout, where you can drop by and view the scenery. (Imbil lookout is a spectacular place to view the stars!)
It’s a chill way to spend a day exploring the southern side of the Gympie countryside that beats the need-for-speed Bruce Highway.
Woondum National Park.
Rock Hop & Wild Swim
Mothar Mountain Rock Pools
Tucked away between some mountains in the southern-eastern part of the Gympie region lies some pretty little rockpools in Woodum National Park.
The Mount Mothar Rockpools is a fantastic place to explore, especially for younger families, as the rocks are large, making navigating to and from each side of Boulder Creek a fun and exciting micro-adventure.
And if it’s hot out and you’re looking to cool off, then these rock pools at the base of Boulder Mountain are a picturesque place to engage in some scenic wild swimming. Be warned, though, that the waters might be stagnant, so if you’re looking to get wet here, time it after a decent amount of heavy rain for the freshest experience.
Whether it’s flowing or not, it’s still an inviting place to visit and do landscape photography, with the boulders and pools serving as picturesque focus points.
There’s a long list of things that make Rainbow Beach such a special place to visit. A significant part of its allure is that it’s smack bang in the middle of the endlessly stunning and massive Great Sandy National Park. Comprised of three sections: Cooloola, Inskip Point and K’Gari (Fraser Island), Rainbow Beach is nestled nicely between the first two and is only a stone’s throw away from the third.
As you can imagine, that’s a lot of preserved natural spaces to explore with so much space you could stay here for weeks and not discover everything these incredible collective sections have to offer.
While the activities that garner the most appeal is 4WD and beach driving, you don’t need to have or hire an off-roader to have a sensational trip to enjoy Rainbow Beach, which is another reason this place is the idyllic coastal town. There’s plenty of easy-to-access, free things to do even if you aren’t the most equipped kitty in the litter.
Get Some Ocean Experience.
Rainbow Beach Swimming Beach.
One of the first things you’ll probably want to do when you get to Rainbow Beach is head down to the beach and frolic in the ocean. After all, that is the crux of every coastal vacation. There’s plenty of places you can do just that, given the sandy shoreline goes uninterrupted for miles from Inskip Point to Double Island Point.
That’s of a lot of foreshore real estate, so you’re spoilt for choice. With that said, most of the beach doesn’t have patrols to help you out if you get in a pickle. But if you are looking for a safe oceanside swimming spot where experience lifeguards are on the lookout for you, you needed head further than the strip of beach just in front of the tiny township.
Engage in a little wild swimming, build some sandcastles, or build up a tan. If you’ve got some skill, or even if you don’t, pull out the surfboard or the skip board and see how well you can ride the water. Even if you aren’t that great, give it a go, no one minds, but they might get a little entertainment out of it, nonetheless. It’s all good. Everyone’s there for a great time.
Fill Up You Belly.
Lawrie Hanson Park & Phil Rogers Park.
Eating out can be expensive. Sure it’s nice to have a delicious sit-down meal that you don’t have to create yourself, and there’s no clean up afterwards, but the more you chow down on restaurant food, the more your bank account frowns upon you. And sometimes, it’s nice to find a spot to yourself out in the open and take it slow for a while as you refill your body with the energy you need to carry on.
If for at least one meal, that’s the vibe you’re going for, a great place to fire up a BBQ or crack open a picnic basket would be Lawrie Hanson Park or Phil Rogers Back. Both of these beautiful parks are in an ideal location between the Rainbow Bay township and the beachfront.
Both have plenty of space for you to either sit under a shelter so you can dine in a shady spot or on the grass where you can unfurl a blanket and do things more romantic-like. There’s also free-to-use BBQ’s, so you needn’t bring your own or even save on some gas if you have and toilets nearby for when nature inevitably calls.
When you’re chowing down on some grub, don’t forget to drop in by the scenic lookout just behind the memorial propellor and gaze out upon the picturesque ocean landscape before carrying on with the rest of your activities.
Walk The Rainbow.
One of the most spectacular free things you can do in Gympie is to see the rainbow. No, not the rainbows made up of light hitting water particles at certain angles and reflecting coloured light, not that kind of rainbow. Yeah, yeah, I know, quit raining on people’s rainbows. But those rainbows can’t happen without rain, but the ones at Rainbow Beach can, and they’re a lot less fleeting too. I’m, of course, referring to the famous coloured sands that the idyllic coastal town of Rainbow Beach is named after.
Starting from the end of Griffin Esplanade, it’s a leisurely stroll south along the beach, and before long, you’re walking amongst dramatic 40-metre cliffs that, well, calling them “rainbow” coloured is a bit of a stretch.
It’s more like 50 shades of red, and it’s not just the sands that are coloured, either. The wind-carved cliffs that keep the coloured sands high up in their place are just as impressive. Various shades of red, orange, yellow are most beautiful when the light hits them directly, showing off their true colours and bringing out the depth and contrast of the colours and shapes that make up these gorgeous, rugged sea walls.
These incredible naturally coloured cliffs extend almost entirely the 15km to Double Island Point. That’s a long-ass walk if you’re not traversing the sandy highway in a 4WD, but, luckily, for the average foot traveller, you need only walk an easy 1km (one way) or so before you start seeing these stunning geographical features. It’ll be a few hours very well spent.
Note: While tempting, don’t follow Skittles advice. Don’t touch the rainbow, and for the love of everything good and tasty, please do not taste the rainbow.
Walk Across A Stunning Barren Landscape And Take A Slide On The Sand Side.
When heading into Rainbow Beach, don’t just check out the Carlo Sandblow perched above the Coloured Sands. Ride it as well.
The easy 600m walk to get to Carlo from the Carlo Sandblow car park is worth its weight in views. At the end of the walk is a platform where you can gaze upon the unusual, barren, windswept sand blow. But take a walk across the natural wonder to the right, and you’ll get lovely views of the Great Sandy Strait.
But it’s the left side that is the most breathtaking. At the natural lookout, Double Island Point lingers way off in the distance. Looking down, you can also see Rainbow Beach’s spectacular coloured sands as tiny looking 4WDs ride the sandy highway beside the ocean below. To the left, it’s just as gorgeous, with endless coastal views stretching up past Inskip Point and one of the peaks of the side of the Carlo Sandblow rounding out the rest of the stunning landscape.
Speaking of that peak that rises from the Carlo Sandblow, the left side of that is the perfect place for a little scenic sandboarding. Wax on, wax off a sandboard, boogie board, skip board and slide your way down the slopes that make up the side of the sand blow. (Just don’t go down the cliffs to the beach below. Yikes! That won’t end pretty.)
Whether you go just for the views or to have a little slip-and-slide with a makeshift thing-a-ma-jig, or both, the Carlo Sandblow is one of the best easy access, free things to do in Gympie that you mustn’t pass up.
Take A Dip In A Gorgeous Freshwater Lake.
Are you looking for a hike through a rainforest with a side of wild swimming? Poona Lake is here for you to uncover.
It’s a beautiful and picturesque lake in the middle of pristine rainforest, and its warm deep coloured waters are particularly inviting for swimming on balmy days.
(Walk starts at Bymien Picnic Area, which is 2WD accessible.)
Snorkel A Crystalline Creek.
One of the best free activities you can do in Gympie is to take a trip to the underworld. The underwater world. (Ha! I’ll let myself out.) Seary’s Creek is a small, crystalline yellow/red creek just outside Rainbow Beach and is a stunning shallow waterway to go wild swimming in. (Even if it’s a touch on the freeze-your-ass-off side.)
But for an enhanced swimming experience, be sure to take some goggles or a snorkel with you and explore the world that lies beneath. The close quarters of the shallow and narrow waters combined with fallen logs and tree roots taking up residence with the fish, the eels and the yabbies while the current guides you down the river make an exhilarating and empowering experience for those who’ve always wanted to go “full fish”.
It’s such a cool and unique way to experience the river world, and the best part about it, besides that it’s free, is that it’s only a short walk to get to such a magnificent place. It’s guaranteed to be a highlight of your trip.
Tin Can Bay.
Walk To Your Own Little Tidal Island.
Have you always wanted a private island? Well, they don’t come cheap!!! But at Norman Point at Tin Can Bay, they do come tidal.
There’s not a lot going on at Tin Can Bay that you can do for free. (You can’t even legally look at wild dolphins from a public pier. I’m not even kidding. It’s ridiculous.) It’s a quiet little town that sits at the end of a peninsula on the Great Sandy Strait and is primarily for boaties who want to fish and tourists who want to feed the aforementioned wild dolphins at the Barnacle Dolphin Centre.
But if you happen to be in town during low tide, you can explore the tidal flats that become exposed and if it’s shallow enough, make your way over to a temporary island. Sure, it doesn’t have the mansion and the luxury yachts, and it’ll be gone in a couple of hours, but I mean, you can’t have everything!
Take a flag, stake your claim and enjoy your fleeting slice of paradise. Discover hermit crabs, beach worms, MILLIONS of soldier crabs and other cute sea-faring creatures as you make your way to and from your awesome temporary sand kingdom.
With all the little creatures scurrying around and an island all to yourself, you and especially any little ones you have with you will have a ball.
Are you thinking of venturing out into this region? Which one of these free things to do in Gympie sound like fun to you? Have you explored this beautiful part of the world? Which were your favourites to visit, and have I missed any gems in the greater Gympie region? I’d love to hear from you.
Gympie is part of the Wide Bay Burnett region. Click here to see what Wide Bay Burnett has to offer.
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