South East Queensland’s Sunshine Coast lives up to its name with ease.
Fringed with golden beaches 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 upscale tourist mecca Noosa at one end to relaxed Caloundra at the other, there’s a holiday option in between to suit every taste and budget.
Here are ten of the best things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
The coast’s amazing beaches will probably be at the top of your holiday to-do list. Popular options include Golden Beach, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Marcoola, Coolum Beach, Peregian Beach, Sunshine Beach and Noosa Heads Main Beach. At Kings Beach in Caloundra, you can either hit the surf or enjoy a splash in the 25-metre tide-fed pool.
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), alongside a selection of vintage surfing products. Back it up with a surfing lesson on Noosa Main Beach, where the conditions are generally ideal for beginners.
While the Sunshine Coast’s culture is very much one of surf, sun and sand, there are more traditional cultural pursuits on offer. Noosa Arts Theatre offers a varied programme of productions throughout the year, while the Noosa Alive festival of arts takes place in July. To mingle with local artists and artisans at other times of the year, visit the picturesque Blackall Range (hinterland) villages of Montville, Maleny and Mapleton. There’s plenty to see and do, so set aside a full day for the trip.
The Sunshine Coast holds interesting little pockets of yesteryear in its grasp. Learn about the Dreamtime legends of the ancient Glass House Mountains, the gold rush era in Gympie, and the timber and sugar cane industries that sustained the region before tourism. Start at Bankfoot House, which is tucked away in the Glass House Mountains. Built in 1868 to accommodate those travelling from Brisbane to the Gympie gold diggings, it now serves as museum of local history.
Next, head up the highway to Nambour and pay a visit to the nostalgia-rich Nambour Museum. Those with sharp eyes may note the old sugar cane railway tracks that still run through the middle of town (and are soon to carry a passenger tram service!).
Further north, the town of Pomona in the Noosa Hinterland was established in the late 1800s and has some wonderful heritage attractions. Check out The Majestic Theatre — the world’s longest operating silent movie theatre — and the old railway station complex, which now houses a community art gallery.
Experience the beauty of the region’s native flora and fauna at the Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden in Tanawha — roughly 20 minutes’ drive inland. This enchanting 80+ hectare eucalypt and rainforest precinct is well worth a visit and features around 30 contemporary sculptural works. Birdlife abounds and you’re likely to see various other native critters.
Caffeine addicts, you have chosen to holiday in the right place. The Sunshine Coast’s cafe scene has boomed in recent years. The Velo Project at Mooloolaba is a 20-minute walk from the esplanade and beach (which puts it out of the reach of most tourists, but firmly in the lap of the locals). 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. Back on the coast, Marcoola is home to Little Boat Espresso and the Messy Hen. Both serve awesome breakfasts just a stone’s throw from the beach.
If you’re celebrating something special during your stay, the Sunny Coast will come to the party with a premium dining experience. The legendary Spirit House at Yandina and The Tamarind in Maleny both offer tantalising tastes of Thailand in tranquil garden settings. An array of Asian flavours are on offer at Noosaville’s uber cool Sum Yung Guys (whose team includes Queensland MasterChef runner-up Matt Sinclair). For modern Australian cuisine (including exceptional seafood), Ricky’s River Bar and Restaurant in Noosa Heads leads the way.
When it comes to that culinary staple of coastal holidays — fresh fish and chips — you can’t go wrong at the famous Fisheries on the Spit Mooloolaba. They supply the tucker for the popular Mooloolaba Seafood Lunch Cruise, which is great value and departs from The Wharf Mooloolaba. There’s a licensed bar on board.
For many visitors, Hastings Street in Noosa is the Sunshine Coast. This shady strip lined with boutiques, cafes, restaurants and hotels runs adjacent to Noosa Main Beach and is always busy. It’s worth a wander even if you’re not staying in the area. Parking is generally a nightmare, so consider taking the bus. The 620 follows the coast from Maroochydore and offers quite a scenic ride (travel time: one hour each way).
What is quite possibly Queensland’s best range of handmade goods can be found at the iconic Eumundi Markets. They’re held every Wednesday and Saturday and essentially take over the entire town. Go early to avoid the stress of trying to find another non-existent parking spot.
There are fun, family orientated attractions dotted across the Sunshine Coast. SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast Aquarium at Mooloolaba offers the chance to see hundreds of species of marine life, and even do a cage free shark dive. You’ll see plenty more sets of sharp teeth at Australia Zoo — the legacy of famous wildlife warrior Steve Irwin and his family. Situated at Beerwah, the zoo houses a vast array of native and exotic animal and bird species. The Ginger Factory at Yandina is packed with ways to fill a spare day. Do a tour and tasting at the factory, see a bee show, and ride the Ginger Train.
For more information, visit www.visitsunshinecoast.com.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do on the Sunshine Coast? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Additional images: Bigstock
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.
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.