Estef, Olivia, and I continued north to our first major stop: Rainbow Beach.
The plan was to stay there for a couple of days, and use Rainbow Beach as the gateway to Fraser Island (our next stop, only accessible by ferry). However, due to COVID, the tour operator we wanted – while open – was running reduced tours, and the next one wasn’t available for a week.
So… we ended up staying in Rainbow Beach for a full week.
The striped stone cliffs that give Rainbow Beach its name:
We spent most of the week camping at Inskip Point, a beautiful peninsula with campsites so close to the water:
There were several lazy, relaxing beach days, with lots of reading and lying around.
We saw the Carlo Sandblow, a massive sand dune near Rainbow. It’s hard to depict in pictures but it was epic; it felt like being in a crater:
Overlooking the rainbow cliffs:
One morning, we woke up especially early and drove out to Tin Can Bay, a little seaside town not far from Rainbow. There’s a place there that has wild dolphin feedings every morning!
Early morning drive to Tin Can Bay:
The dolphin feedings started accidentally several years ago. Some fisherman found an injured dolphin in the bay and brought it back to town, where a group took care of it until it was healthy enough for release. After they released it, the dolphin – who’d figured out people meant free fish – kept visiting every day for a snack.
The dolphin centre has a special license now to feed whichever wild dolphins choose to come in and visit each morning. They can only feed them a very small amount of fish, equivalent to a human having a coffee and cookie. The original dolphin – now named “Mystique” by the school children of Tin Can Bay – comes almost every single morning. Six other wild dolphins – Mystique’s pod – are also frequent visitors.
They can only feed them at 8am each morning. We got there at 7am and Mystique showed up shortly after, waiting for his snack:
The volunteers working at the centre told us that whenever a dolphin brings in a piece of garbage, they get a reward of an extra fish. The dolphins have figured this out and now appear almost every morning carrying a piece of garbage.
Mystique came in with a piece of garbage and then, while waiting for 8am, he swam off again, and returned a few minutes later with a second piece of garbage – a glass bottle – perched on his nose:
Most of the garbage in the bay, the volunteers said, was beer bottles and cans. Kind of depressing to think about… The dolphins are far better at keeping the bay clean than humans.
At 8a.m., the dolphin feeding began. When you paid to get in ($10) it included the price of a fish; you collected your fish, stood in line, and then a smiling volunteer instructed you to wade into the water. You held the fish out, underwater, and the dolphin swam up and took it. Touching the dolphins was strictly prohibited. It was so cool to see them up close.
Olivia feeding the dolphin:
This dolphin is Mystique. He’s older, I think the volunteers said he was around 35 or so. All those scratch marks are scars, from getting into fights with other male dolphins and raking their teeth against him:
The highlight of my week at Rainbow was the last day there. One of my Australian friends, Sarah, was staying two hours away from Rainbow, and she drove all the way out to visit me. I met her last summer in Jasper, when we were working at the riding stables together (she was on her working holiday visa for Canada at the time). It was so, so nice to see her again:
I love making new friends on the road, but there’s simply nothing like an old friend. Getting to reunite with the friends I’ve made in the past is one of my absolute favourite things about travelling (and one of the reasons I wanted to come to Australia!).
The stay at Rainbow Beach was so relaxing after my previous two weeks of almost constant moving around, and the week went surprisingly fast. Next stop…. Fraser Island!