The Sunshine Coast extends from Caloundra and the Glass House Mountains in the south to Noosa and Rainbow Beach in the north and then west to the Hinterland and Mary Valley.
As its name implies, it has fantastic sunshine and coastline, but go beyond the beaches and there is a magnificent Hinterland waiting with adventure sports, rainforest trekking, decadent spa resorts, heritage villages, authentic markets and one of Australia’s richest and most diverse food scenes.
While people might come initially for the sunshine, increasingly they are coming back because the Sunshine Coast offers so much more.
Top 10 things to do in the Sunshine Coast
You can spend weeks at the Sunshine Coast and still not see or do it all. To choose just a few top experiences is near impossible. The following are a mix of the top 10 things to do for all types of travellers, outside of visiting the beach as that is a no-brainer.
Kayak with dolphins
Jump on a 4WD adventure to Double Island Point with Epic Ocean Adventures for their Noosa Dolphin View Kayak Tour. Feel the thrill of a unique 4X4 beach drive adventure tour along the spectacular Teewah Beach from Noosa’s North Shore, deep into the Great Sandy National Park to a pristine ocean kayaking location, Double Island Point. Immerse yourself in the views and natural beauty of Australia’s Nature Coast on guided kayak tours whilst experiencing a buzzing hub of wildlife including wild Bottlenose dolphins, Humpback whales, turtles, rays and more in this tropical aquatic paradise. This location features scenic views of the Rainbow Beach coloured sands, Fraser Island and pristine Honeymoon Bay. And dolphins of course. If you are lucky, you can even spot rays, turtles and other marine life.
Visit the rainforest
Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve offers an easy way of exploring the Sunshine Coast’s rainforests, while the new Discovery Centre provides tremendous insight into the region’s animal and plant life. The views across the Glass House Mountains are spectacular.
Swim with humpback whales
Swimming with whales is one of those ‘once in a lifetime experiences’ worth a visit to the Sunshine Coast in its own right. The waters off Mooloolaba are like whale highway between June and October, and as an added advantage you can swim with humpback whales thanks to Sunreef at Mooloolaba.
Cooking on the coast
Cook up a storm – what’s better than learning how to cook stunning Thai food? Eating it. You can do both at one of Australia’s finest cooking schools and restaurants, The Spirit House in Yandina.
Take an eco-cruise on the Noosa Everglades
Cruise along the pristine Noosa River & Lakes on the Everglades Eco Safari. The Noosa Everglades, one of only two everglades systems on Earth, is a world of water, wilderness and wonder in the upper reaches of the Noosa River. Known as the River of Mirrors because of the amazing reflections in the water, the Noosa Everglades is a 60km stretch of pristine waters, magnificent flora and fauna and narrow waterways. Simply sit back, relax and take in the beauty of the area whilst experienced tour guides take you on a journey through ancient mirrored landscapes. Cruise into one of Australia’s most pristine regions, swim in tea tree infused waters, canoe through the mirrored waterways or simply relax in this unique natural environment.
The Hinterland M’s
The three Ms – the Hinterland villages of Maleny, Montville and Mapleton straddle one of Australia’s most spectacular drives – the Blackall Range drive. The villages are rich in dining, authentic shopping, arts and crafts, wineries and breweries, markets, health and wellness retreats and, of course, views to die for.
Ride on the Rattler
There’s something about the Mary Valley – magnificent rolling hills, cute heritage villages and the legendary Mary Valley Rattler steam train make a visit to the Mary Valley a must.
Sailing and culture
Find a unique and authentic experience onboard Saltwater Eco Tour’s Cultural Sailing Tour as you step onboard the historical timber sailing vessel, in the traditional waters of the Kabi Kabi/Gubbi Gubbi people. Sail through the Mooloolaba canals on board the beautifully restored, century-old traditional timber sailing vessel, “Spray of the Coral Coast”. Immerse yourself in an unforgettable cultural experience through storytelling, music and entertainment, as you enjoy an array of delicious bush-tucker inspired lunch with fresh Mooloolaba prawns and oysters that brings flavours and textures of rainforest and the ocean to life. Served with a refreshing local craft beer, sparkling champagne or our signature Lemon Myrtle cocktail.
Shop until you drop
Eumundi markets has been a legendary market for 40 years and still retains its hippy charm and genuine local character. You can spend a whole morning there and finish off with lunch while listening to local music.
Dive the ex HMAS Brisbane
Diving the wreck with Sunreef. Image: Sunreef
The ex-HMAS Brisbane is one of the world’s best wreck sites, and this decommissioned guided missile destroyer that now serves as a lively artificial reef. Take a dive with Sunreef on the wreck and you may frequently see many species of turtles, such as hawksbills, loggerheads, and more. There are large bull, shovel nose and eagle rays that visit often. Sometimes you may spot an octopus or three, camouflaging with the rest of the wreck site. If you look really close up you may find some nudibranchs living amongst the soft and hard corals of the site. You may cross paths with a leopard shark, the big local Queensland groupers, squid, yellowtail kingfish, red emperor, snapper, lion fish, angler fish, blennies, sea hares, batfish, and so much more.
See the Glass House Mountains
Captain Cook named the Glass House Mountains on his voyage up the east coast in 1770 because their shapes reminded him of the glass furnaces back in his native Yorkshire. You can climb them (Mt Ngungun has a very good path), cycle between them, eat produce grown from the volcanic soils and even paint them.
Where to stay
From the south to north and inland of the Sunshine Coast region, you will find a broad array of accommodation options for all types of travellers. Here are some top picks for the region.
Lux on a budget at Bounce Noosa
Located just one block back from the bustling Noosa River Foreshore, Bounce Noosa brings a chic vibe to the communal concept. To say this is a backpackers would be wrong, more like a place to be seen for funday Sunday for the flashpackers. This place oozes coastal chill. Rooms vary from dormitory to private suites. Whether you’re simply keen to lap up those riverside vibes, hit the famous white sandy beaches, get adventurous out on the water, or simply hang by the dreamy pool, you will get your beach vibes at Bounce Noosa.
Indulge in resort life at Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort
Located on Hastings Street in the heart of Noosa, the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort offers all you can expect from this 5-star Accor brand. Once you step inside you’ll experience a warm, local welcome like no other – maybe even with a glass of champagne on arrival. There is a balanced blend of coastal chic and Parisian elegance which Sofitel embodies so well. Everything you love about Noosa is on your doorstep but even if you don’t leave the resort, there is all you need right there – a stunning pool with swim-up bar, restaurants (including the popular Noosa Beach House), sauna, gym and much more. The rooms are very large and most have balconies looking out over the pool and beyond to Noosa Beach.
Location is key at Breeze Mooloolaba
Located on the waterfront at Mooloolaba Beach, Breeze Mooloolaba certainly serves up that salty sea breeze complimentary with your stay. This luxury resort features One and Two Bedroom Self-contained Apartments with Pool, Spa and BBQ facilities – an idyllic setting to entertain family and friends. Apartments are full of all you need, including a full kitchen and laundry, so you will feel like you are staying at a home away from home. It is only metres from the beach plus the many restaurants, coffee shops, cafés, supermarkets, retail and all of the other attractions of Mooloolaba Esplanade.
Family fun in the safari tents at Ingenia Rivershore
Want to feel like you are on staying in Africa right on the Sunshine Coast? Then the spacious safari tents at Ingenia Rivershore offer just that experience. Why stay in a hotel or resort when you can glamp it in extravagance and luxury under canvas. All self-contained safari tents offer ensuite bathrooms, kitchenette and river views to ensure that you have everything you need for a relaxed and comfortable stay. Nestled on the banks of the Maroochy River, experience being amongst nature whilst keeping all the creature comforts of a home. There are even family tents to fit the whole tribe. What a fun way to stay.
How to get there
The Sunshine Coast has its own airport that is serviced by the major carriers from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Auckland (outside of lockdown) and Cairns (service by Alliance Airlines), Canberra (serviced by Alliance Airlines & Qantas) and Newcastle (serviced by FlyPelican). The full list of airlines that service the airport include Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin, Alliance Airlines, FlyPelican and Air New Zealand. The nearest International airport is Brisbane Airport. From the Brisbane Airport, you can either hire a car or get a shuttle bus or private chauffered transport to the Sunshine Coast.
Queensland Rail operates regular electric train services between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane. The main station for the Sunshine Coast is at Nambour, 101 kilometres north of Brisbane (which usually takes around 1 hour and 30 minutes from Brisbane’s Central Station). The rail service is geared for residents and business travellers but can be useful for tourists needing transport options in the region. Use the online Journey Planner to calculate transit times for specific dates.
Greyhound buses connect through to the Sunshine Coast. A majority of local bus services are provided by Sunbus, however regional links are operated by Glasshouse Country Coaches which include the Maleny, Landsborough & Beerwah service as well as the Hinterland Connect.
For more visit www.visitsunshinecoast.com
Feature Image: Noosa Beach. Credit – Visit Sunshine Coast.