Cooran is a rural township about three km off the Bruce Highway, is 28 km west of Noosa Heads and 125 km north of Brisbane. It is thought that the name was derived from an Aboriginal expression describing tall trees, typically the Moreton Bay Ash, Eucalyptus tessellaris, indigenous to eastern Queensland and northern New South Wales.

The heavily timbered hills drew timber getters in the 1870s, and selectors followed. The Six Mile Creek and a lagoon provided a convenient stopping place on the road to Gympie, and an inn was built there in about 1875. A primary school opened in 1890, the year before the North Coast railway line was joined at Cooran, completing a through route from Brisbane to Gympie. Pugh's Queensland directory (1902) recorded about 30 selectors, five timber getters and the Railway Hotel at Cooran. In 1925 the directory recorded about three times as many selectors (mostly dairying), a second hotel (the Premier), several shops and a sawmill. Dairy produce was railed to the dairy factory near Pomona station.

The decline of dairying precipitated a slow-down in the town's growth, but by the 1990s the Sunshine-Noosa hinterland was attracting newcomers. Cooran has become a stopping place on the hinterland drive tourist route, supporting cafes and galleries. There are also a convenience store, a handsome school of arts, three public reserves and several additional local businesses. The 'treechange' phenomenon spurred further interest in the town, and in 2003-04 Cooran's median house price rose by 53%.

Cooran's census populations have been:

Census DatePopulation
1911299
1933534
1961390
1991454
2001600
2006771
20111457