The beautiful coastal town of Noosa is the perfect base from which to explore everything that Queensland’s Sunshine Coast has to offer – from island paradises and lush mountains to bohemian markets and deep sea fishing.
It would be easy to spend a holiday in Noosa, lazing on Noosa Main Beach, taking in the spectacular scenery from the national park and hitting up the myriad shops, bars and restaurants in Hastings Street and Noosa Junction – but there’s plenty more to explore on the Sunshine Coast. Take a trip to some of the region’s more remote beaches, including a unique 4WD road trip on the sand, or hike to the top of a volcanic dome. There’s also an abundance of picturesque towns and markets to explore, as well as adventures to be had at sea and on land. These are Culture Trip’s picks of the best day trips from Noosa.
This heritage-listed island is one of the Sunshine Coast’s must-see attractions – and is worth more than just a day’s visit if there’s time. It’s the only place in the world where towering rainforests grow on sand dunes, and an astonishing array of 72 different colours of sand have been recorded on the island. The famous Seventy-Five Mile Beach makes for a unique highway, while Lake McKenzie boasts crystal-clear blue waters and white sandy shores. Sign up for a day trip or camping trip with Fraser Tours, or set off on a camel safari with Camel Company Australia. For a self-guided 4WD tour, it’s an easy 90-minute drive from Noosa to Inskip Point, where a barge regularly departs for Fraser Island’s southernmost point. Make sure to check the ferry schedule ahead of time and, if staying overnight, check out Kingfisher Bay Resort or Eurong Beach Resort.
Back in 1979, three local artisans set up market stalls in the small town of Eumundi, a 25-minute drive from Noosa. Today, The Original Eumundi Markets boasts more than 600 stalls and 1.6 million visitors each year, making it the largest art and craft market in the country. The market runs every Saturday and Wednesday, and has everything from opal jewellery to ceramics and street food. For a real taste of the Sunshine Coast, try some raw sugarcane juice from Noosa Cane Juice. Make sure to also stop by the Berkelouw Book Barn – a treasure trove of new releases and over 100,000 second-hand books, including rare finds – and head to The Store Eumundi for gourmet goods, fresh food and live music.
The Great Beach Drive is one of the world’s most unique road trips, connecting the Sunshine Coast with Fraser Island through remote beaches, national parks and World Heritage-listed reserves of natural beauty. Clocking in at 380 kilometres (236 miles), however, it’s much more than a day trip. Get a taste of the epic trip by undertaking the first leg – a 90-minute drive by 4WD to Rainbow Beach. The Great Beach Drive starts just past the Noosa North Shore with the Great Sandy Biosphere and the coloured sands of Teewah. Continue to Double Island Point, where surfers can put their skills to the test on the world’s longest right-hand break. Then check the tides and drive through the sand dunes along the Leisha Track to Rainbow Beach. This 23km-long (14mi-long) beach is home to the spectacular Carlo Sand Blow, beach horse riding, and plenty of restaurants and bars. Epic Ocean Adventures offers a guided tour that includes dolphin-view kayaking.
The Sunshine Coast is home to some beautiful hiking – and a rewarding option is Mount Coolum, a half-hour drive from Noosa. The domed mountain, which rises 208m (682ft) above sea level, has a 1.6km-long (1mi) track that starts at the carpark on Tanah Street, and a return trip can be completed in around 40 minutes. Be warned, though – while the start of the track is gentle, it quickly becomes very steep. Spectacular views to the protected coastal plains from the top, however, make it a worthwhile trip. Afterwards, head into the beachside town of Coolum for a well-earned meal at Canteen and spend the afternoon lazing on the beach at Coolum Beach, or the more secluded – but unpatrolled – First Bay and Second Bay.
The ocean waters around Noosa are a paradise for keen fishers – think snapper, perch, mackerel, mahi mahi and king fish. There are plenty of chartered services, offering everything from deep sea bottom fishing to light game and reef fishing for experienced anglers and novices. Noosa Bluewater Charters is one of the oldest charters and has one of the fastest fishing vessels in Noosa – the 32ft wide-body 300hp Cougar One. Deep Sea Fishing Co is another respected outfit, offering five-, seven- or nine-hour trips with a professional crew who will clean and fillet any fish caught. A day on the water makes for an excellent family day out, and is best followed by a feast of freshly caught fish on the barbecue for dinner.
This pristine area of national park, known as the “River of Mirrors”, is Australia’s only everglades – and one of just two in the world. It offers the opportunity to explore a 60km-long (37mi) wonderland of meandering riverway, lush rainforest and abundant wildlife. Birders and keen amateur ornithologists will be especially thrilled, as the area is home to more than 44 percent of Australia’s bird species, which add a magical, trilling soundtrack to a trip here. Dugong, turtles, koalas and kangaroos can also be spotted in the area. Everglades Ecosafaris offers popular “wilderness cruises” into the Everglades – choose the Cruise ’n’ Canoe to experience the mirrored waterways and subtropical rainforest from a canoe, or opt for the Serenity Cruise for a more laid-back view of the everglades. All experiences finish with lunch or snacks at cootharaBAR bar and bistro.
The Noosa Hinterland is a charming patchwork of tiny towns that stretches from Doonan to Eumundi, each of which can be easily explored from Noosa. There’s the creative hub of Cooroy, which is home to the Butter Factory Arts Centre, a gallery and pottery studio that exhibits the work of local artists, and the vibrant Cooroy Fusion Festival each May; Pomona, which cinephiles will love for the Majestic Theatre, the world’s longest-established silent movie theatre and live music venue; and tiny Kin Kin, which is a foodie’s paradise thanks to the many farms here that supply Noosa’s best restaurants. For a “paddock-to-plate” experience, pay a visit to the Kin Kin General Store. Wandering through all these towns is the Noosa Trail Network, which is made up of eight scenic hinterland trails that are popular for hiking, horse riding and mountain biking.