Guide to the Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast is perfect for an action-packed holiday or quiet escape at any time of year. Discover its vast beaches, a thriving food scene at Noosa and the many natural treasures of the surrounding hinterland.
By Stephanie Williams
Stretching from the coastal city of Caloundra, near Brisbane, to the Great Sandy National Park in the north, the Sunshine Coast is home to pretty villages, renowned surf spots and spectacular rural hinterland. Surrounded by beach, Noosa is a holiday haven near the centre of the Sunshine Coast, with many fashion boutiques and hip cafés dotted along Hastings Street. Surfers and golfers will love the holiday town of Coolum, while lush Eumundi in the Noosa hinterland will satisfy market shoppers and art lovers with its famous Eumundi Markets. Maroochydore is the cultural capital of the region, but is pleasingly far from being a bustling city. From the Sunshine Coast you can catch a car ferry from the village of Tewantin and explore the Noosa North Shore, the Great Sandy National Park and World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.
Things to do and top attractions on the Sunshine Coast
Explore Noosa's beaches and bars
Just a few steps from the beach, Hastings Street in Noosa is packed with trendy restaurants and fashion boutiques. The dining scene here is excellent, ranging from casual eateries to restaurants helmed by celebrity chefs. For something casual try the beach shack vibe at Betty's Burgers, which sees queues spilling out the door. In the evening enjoy the ever-popular Bistro C for fine waterfront dining or head to Miss Moneypenny's for incredible seafood and chic cocktails. One of the best places to stay in Noosa is on Hastings Street at the five-star Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort, also home to celebrity chef Peter Kuruvita's restaurant, Noosa Beach House. The Netanya Noosa resort is another popular choice, and is located right on the beach. While you're in Noosa, make sure to visit the Noosa National Park to take in spectacular coastal scenery and see an abundance of native Australian wildlife.
Come for the festivals
The Sunshine Coast has a packed calendar of great events ranging from foodie festivals to sports and the arts. In May don't miss the Noosa Festival of Surfing where you can watch pros, amateurs and even dogs take to the waves. For serious sports enthusiasts, June's Velothon Sunshine Coast is the biggest cycling event on the planet. If all this exercise is making you hungry, be sure to experience The Curated Plate in August, where the best of the region's produce is on display. You can also visit Noosa in May for the annual Noosa Eat and Drink Festival, which regularly attracts the best chefs in Australia.
Swim with the whales
Witness the grace and scale of whales up close and in the water with Sunreef at Mooloolaba. The opportunity to swim with the largest mammals on Earth in their natural habitat is rare and incredibly moving. Once a whale is sighted, swimmers slip into the water wearing wetsuits and snorkels and hold onto a floating line attached to the boat where they then watch the whales underwater. The best months for whale watching and swimming are July to October, when the whales are migrating.
Visit the many markets
The region's markets are an exciting blend of sights, sounds and smells, where you'll find fresh food produce, artworks, original fashion and jewellery by local designers. Eumundi Markets are among Australia's best artisan markets and take place every Wednesday and Saturday. Other excellent markets include Noosa Farmers Market, Peregian Beach Markets, Cotton Tree Markets and the Caloundra Street Fair.
Visit Mooloolaba and Marcoola
The heart of the Sunshine Coast is the area from Mooloolaba to Marcoola. Mooloolaba has a large port where you can learn to sail, head out for a day of deep sea fishing or join a whale watching cruise in season. Mooloolaba Spit is one of the safest swimming beaches on this part of the coast. For diving or snorkelling, head to the Ex-HMAS Brisbane Conservation Park, site of the shipwreck of the HMAS Brisbane. A waterfront walking track from Mooloolaba to Maroochydore through Alexandra Headland is always buzzing with activity. For peace and quiet, visit Marcoola or Twin Waters, where you might be the only person on the beach. Watch out for the hawksbill turtles, which come up on the beach to hatch their young from November to March. Take a cruise with Cruise Maroochy on the Maroochy River to Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary and see kangaroos, wallabies and abundant birdlife.
Explore the Glass House Mountains and Maleny
Just south of the Sunshine Coast you’ll find the incredible Glass House Mountains rising from the coastal plain. Drive the Glass House Mountains Lookout Circuit to take in the scale of the mountains from the lookout. It's a 20-minute walk from the car park. Explore the hinterland towns of food, epic views and boutique hotels. Stay at Spicers Tamarind Retreat to immerse yourself in local produce at the on-site cooking school and restaurant. Mapleton, Maleny and Montville for gourmet.