South East Queensland’s Sunshine Coast lives up to its name with ease.
Fringed with golden beaches and pristine coastline, and bathed in glorious sunshine for most of the year, the somewhat ‘quieter’ of the coasts either side of Brisbane attracts flocks of contented holiday makers. From family-friendly Coolum Beach and Mooloolaba, to up-and-coming dining destination Maroochydore and the tourist mecca that is Noosa, you’ll find a holiday option here to suit every taste and budget.
Enjoy this Sunshine Coast travel guide.
Need to know
Base yourself: Noosa Heads, Mooloolaba, Alexandra Headland
Average hotel price per room/per night: AUD $140
Best breakfasts: Marcoola Beach, Coolum Beach, Peregian Beach
Great coffee: Noosa Heads, Palmwoods, Nambour, Yandina
Top spots for a beverage: Hastings Street (Noosa Heads), coastal surf clubs, Mooloolaba Wharf
Must-dos: Australia Zoo, Noosa Everglades, Hinterland day trip, Eumundi Markets
Best times to visit the Sunshine Coast
Queensland’s Sunshine Coast can be enjoyed all year round, but autumn is an ideal time to visit. From March to May rain is rare and temperatures float in the mid 20s. T-shirts and shorts are definitely the dress code, but you may need an extra layer in the evening.
From June to August things cool down considerably. Temperatures hover around the mid to high teens and you’ll need to rug up for early morning or late afternoon beach walks. Temperatures gradually pick up again between September and November, reaching the mid 20s most days.
Summers are generally humid with sticky temperatures lingering in the high 20s and low 30s. Cooling sea breezes do bring regular relief. Accommodation prices peak in December and January during school holidays.
Top cultural experiences on the Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast’s culture is very much one of surf, sun and sand.
To channel your inner gromit, check out legendary Noosa Longboards on Hastings Street in Noosa Heads. They stock a big range of quality surfboards (including their world-famous Tea Tree Longboard), while also offering a chance to step back in time with a collection of vintage surfing products. Back it up with a surfing lesson on Noosa Heads Main Beach. The conditions are generally ideal for beginners.
For more traditional cultural pursuits, Noosa Arts Theatre offers a varied programme of productions throughout the year, while the Noosa Alive festival of arts takes place in July. The renowned Noosa Eat & Drink festival is held in May and celebrates the coast’s culinary culture.
To mingle with local artists and artisans, take a wander through the picturesque Hinterland villages of Montville, Maleny and Mapleton. There’s plenty to see and do, so set aside a full day for the trip.
Sunshine Coast for history lovers
The region hides interesting little pockets of yesteryear in its grasp.
From the Dreamtime legends of the ancient Glass House Mountains to the gold rush era in Gympie and the timber and sugar cane industries that sustained the region before tourism, there are wonderful historic chapters to explore across the region.
Nestled in the Glass House Mountains you’ll find Bankfoot House. Built in 1868 to accommodate those travelling from Brisbane to the Gympie gold diggings, it now serves as a showcase of the area’s early history.
Head up the highway to Nambour and pay a visit to the nostalgia-rich Nambour Museum. Those with sharp eyes may pick up the old sugar cane railway tracks that still run through the middle of town.
Great places to eat on the Sunshine Coast
The dining scene on the Sunny Coast has come a very long way in a very short space of time.
With a huge selection of restaurants, cafes, markets, and even wineries, the most difficult aspect of eating out these days is choosing where to go!
For caffeine addicts, The Velo Project at Mooloolaba is set away from the esplanade and beach but is worth the short walk. It’s one of the best cafes on the coast. Homegrown Cafe in Palmwoods offers a range of gluten-free goodies and meals prepared from locally sourced fresh produce. Nearby Nambour is also getting a name for cool cafes. Top options include Brown Sugar, Husk and Honey and Nambour Social.
For a great chicken parmi served with exceptional views, try the Caloundra Surf Club. To spice things up, popular Hathi Indian Restaurant at Alexandra Headland provides a truly authentic Indian culinary experience.
In and around the newly revamped Ocean Street precinct in Maroochydore, you’ll find lots of lively dining options — including slick and sophisticated Orleans, which serves up Creole-style cuisine. The Boat Shed in nearby Cotton Tree offers relaxed waterfront dining, while the Prickly Pinata does mouthwatering Mexican fare.
When it comes to that staple of coastal holidays — fresh fish and chips — you can’t really go wrong, but try the famous Fisheries on the Spit Mooloolaba. The Mooloolaba Seafood Lunch Cruise is good value, and has a licensed bar on board.
If you’re celebrating something special, the Thai-inspired Spirit House at Yandina all but lives up to the hype (specify an outdoor table). The Tamarind in Maleny also offers the tastes of Thailand. An array of Asian tastes are on offer at super cool Sum Yung Guys in Sunshine Beach. The SYG team includes Queensland MasterChef runner-up Matt Sinclair.
For modern Australian cuisine, Ricky’s River Bar and Restaurant in Noosa Heads is unmatched in the region.
Where to shop on the Sunshine Coast
There are plenty of opportunities to shop up a storm on the Sunshine Coast.
Hastings Street in Noosa should be the first stop on your coastal shopping spree. You’ll find unique boutiques stocking homewares, fashion, jewellery and surf wear.
What is quite possibly Queensland’s best range of handmade goods can be found at the iconic Eumundi Markets. They’re held in the town of Eumundi every Wednesday and Saturday. Go early to avoid the stress of trying to find a non-existent parking spot.
The coast actually has around thirty weekly markets to choose from, including the Yandina Country Markets, the Fishermans Road Markets, the Noosa Farmers Market, and many more. It’s a great way to mix with the locals during your stay.
For a more mainstream retail experience, Sunshine Plaza at Maroochydore has over 220 specialty stores, along with a plethora of dining options and a cinema.
Ways to relax on the Sunshine Coast
When it comes to relaxing, the coast’s amazing beaches will probably be at the top of your to-do list.
Popular options include Golden Beach, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Marcoola, Coolum Beach, Peregian Beach, Sunshine Beach and Noosa Main Beach. At Kings Beach in Caloundra, you can either hit the surf or enjoy a splash in the 25-metre tide-fed pool.
The picturesque Maroochy River was known as muru-kutchi (meaning black swan) by the First People and is a beacon for water-loving holidaymakers. Stretching from the Blackhall Range down to the coast, and made up of a number of estuaries, the river opens out to the ocean between Cotton Tree and Twin Waters. The best way to explore the tranquil waterway is by boat, kayak or stand-up paddle board. Swan Boat Hire on Bradman Avenue hires out all of the above, including a variety of water craft — from 12-seater pontoon-style boats to two-seat tinnies. A boat licence is not required and a comprehensive safety briefing is provided.
For popular family activities out of the water (for the most part), SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast Aquarium offers the chance to see hundreds of species of marine life, and even do a cage free shark dive! There are more sharp teeth on display at Australia Zoo at Beerwah. The zoo is the legacy of famous wildlife warrior Steve Irwin and his family, and is home to a vast array of native and exotic animal and bird species.
Do you have any tips to add to our Sunshine Coast travel guide? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
About the writer
Marianne Diaz is a research scientist by day and a freelance travel writer by night! She has travelled to Sri Lanka to explore her children’s part-heritage, and enjoyed research trips to Japan, and Bloomington, Chicago and Boston in the USA. Marianne’s main travel goal is to get to the Italian Aeolian Islands to check out the other half of her children’s background. She also loves exploring history-laden Australian country towns.