Rainbow Beach, immediately north of the Great Sandy (or Cooloola) National Park, is 200 km north of central Brisbane and 75 km north-east of Gympie.

In the mid-1960s Queensland Titanium Mines operated a sand mining dredge on the beach north of Rainbow Beach and ending at Inskip Point. Early developments included living-quarters and an access road servicing the mining site, which occurred shortly before the opening of a tourist ferry service from Inskip Point to Fraser Island in 1967. In 1969 the first allotments for the proposed Rainbow Beach resort town were sold, and a shop (1970) and motel (1972) soon followed. Another motel and a hotel followed during the 1970s, while sand mining ended in 1974.

The Cooloola beaches are backed by high dunes which have been exposed as cliffs. The various coloured strata of the cliffs have been formed by mineral oxides and the percolation of organic matter through quartz sand to an impervious layer, giving rise to layers of vari-coloured strata. It is most likely that this coloured strata gave rise to the name Rainbow Beach, although another source nominates the vessel HMS Rainbow.

Rainbow Beach continues as a holiday destination with a burgeoning 'eco-tourism' industry and substantial visitor numbers. It has a State primary school (1986), sports oval, tourist information centre, a golf course, a surf life-saving club, a camping ground, three motels, a hotel and three resorts. Its census populations have been:

Census DatePopulation
1981726
1991726
20011042
2006999
20111103