Australia’s Sunshine Coast is a destination you’ll never tire of visiting. Lined with gorgeous beaches, it boasts a diverse level of surfing and swimming, long white stretches of sand that are ideal for horse riding and running, plus hidden beach coves for private picnics, dolphin, whale and koala watching. To the west, the Sunshine Coast is framed by picturesque mountains and green rolling hills that hide quaint country towns, lush rainforest and world-heritage-listed everglades. This region’s towns burst with designer, retro and local artisanal shopping, an amazing foodie scene, and lodging from five-star resorts to beach shacks. So, what can a long weekend hold on the Sunshine Coast? Here are a few highlights comprising a range of activities.
Make the small town of Noosa your first stop. Perched neatly on a beautiful expanse of beach, it’s got a small-town, eco-friendly vibe. Get your day off to an energetic start with a run or stroll up the beach to the boardwalk that threads its way through the National Park, tracing the coast and giving glimpses of small inlets and coves where surfers go to catch the morning waves. Finish with a dip in the ocean and you’ll be revived, fresh, and ready for a day of discovery.
For breakfast, head to Aromas on Hastings Street, a Noosa institution. With the aura of a Parisian café, Aromas is designed for sitting and taking life slow. You can choose an organic smoothie and bircher muesli or more hearty options, including dishes featuring eggs, bacon, grainy toast and ‘mushies.’ Enjoy a seriously crafted cappuccino or flat white, and people-watch alongside locals.
Hastings Street is Noosa’s ‘strip’. On one side, cafes and restaurants spill onto the sand, making the line between bathers and diners indistinct. Daytime provides tons of great shopping. Edgy beach boutiques meet international designers and local artisans show off their jewellery and crafts. The wide, tree lined walkways attract the local bush turkeys that make their way among the shoppers, oblivious, providing amusement for visitors.
Local mixologists pride themselves on foraging local ingredients, of which there are many. Start your night at the award-winning Miss Moneypenny’s, which pairs their ultra-creative cocktails with Mediterranean cuisine and even offers mixology courses. Dine at the Boardwalk Bistro or Bistro C, where you’ll enjoy creative local cuisine. For a romantic moon-lit dinner, try Sails Restaurant, whose white tablecloths and flickering candles provide a dreamy foreground to the lull of the rolling waves. No matter where you dine, you can be assured the fish will be fabulously fresh. Don’t leave without enjoying a simple surf-side beer battered fish and chips, which should ideally be followed by a plunge into the ocean!
If you’re a nature lover, one of the many cruises is a must. Local charter boats offer a variety of experiences, so spend a few hours exploring the canals and waterways, architecture, spotting native birds and wildlife, and taking a short fauna walk. Be assured, your morning or afternoon tea on the boat is like breakfast at grandmother’s house – it’s quite the spread, with tropical fruit, scones and ‘biscuits’ (aka cookies), tea, coffee, and cold beverages served up with a string of jokes and local facts from the captain. Noosa Ferries Eco Cruises depart every day from Noosa’s jetty. A day cruise will take you to the Everglades Wetlands, which, like Florida’s, have earned the title of UNESCO Biosphere of Global Significance for their untouched natural rich history and beauty.
Just half an hour from Noosa, the Ginger Factory is the world’s largest operating ginger factory. It even has a theme park feel featuring a 100-year-old cane train, which chugs along amidst the ginger forest and an indoor Disney-esque boat ride, Overboard, where you follow the Gingerbread man around the world. Learn about the entire workings of a beehive in action, wander amongst the huge variety of ginger plants growing in their beautifully landscaped tropical gardens, and, yes, purchase ginger-flavoured everything.
Everyone will love the vast variety of goods and foods at the Southern Hemisphere’s largest outdoor market, the Eumundi Markets. You’ll find original artwork, sculptures, furniture, handmade toys, homewares, and skincare as well as cutting-edge fashion and jewellery by local designers, all guided by their ethos: ‘we make it, bake it, grow it, sew it.’
When you’re ready for a break from shopping, head across to the Bohemian Bungalow, housed in a quintessential Queensland bungalow. It’s laid back and boasts a menu and coffee list as bohemian as its decor. With names like ‘Stairway to Heaven’ (sweet potato, roast corn, cumin and coriander fritters), and ‘Field of Dreams’ (local field mushrooms with wilted spinach, goat cheese, poached egg and truffle oil on sourdough) alongside an eclectic mix of wicker furniture and engulfing sofas, you’ll be transported to another time.
Heading inland, weave your way through lush green countryside and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the entire Sunshine Coast. To the west, the outstanding Glasshouse Mountains pop out of the landscape, their pointy hills rising abruptly and disorderly out of the flat green plains. In no time, you’ll be in the quaint rural village of Montville, followed quickly by Maleny, where it feels like time stands still. There’ll be no fast walking here; you’ll want to move slowly thanks to the alluring mix of galleries, vintage shops, fudge and chocolate shops, cheese factories, and cafes.
Minutes from the town of Montville, you’ll find lush rainforests with panoramic views over the glorious Baroon Pocket Dam, where fishing and boating beckons. Head down into the rainforest that leads to a stunning valley dam and up an unassuming driveway, and you’ll find yourself entering another land at the magical Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat. Romance is in the air here, with the log cabins snuggled beside a gurgling brook each with a spa bath. Hammocks swing on the decks, locally made chocolates welcome you on the bed, and each room is home to some of the plushest towels you will have experienced. The breakfast hamper is beyond wonderful, with fresh warm morning croissants delivered to order.
For dinner, you can be picked up to enjoy an amazing dinner nearby at The Long Apron at Spicers Clovelly Estate, a French upscale Provincial-style boutique hotel. It’s small and intimate, the service is polished and friendly, and the chef’s creations are amazing. Cameron Matthews draws from his local surroundings, foraging daily for local flowers and herbs and sourcing local artisans for honey, cheese, seafood and meat. It’s nothing less than culinary mastery.