With a name like ‘The Sunshine Coast’ how can you not want to head straight here! Golden sands, sleepy towns and incredible fresh food – it’s a holiday must destination.
There’s approximately 60 beaches on the Sunshine Coast in Australia, plus tons of coastal towns, parks and tourist trap centres spanning over 40 miles. So you could be there months exploring it all. But I’ve kept this write up to three of the most popular towns and their surrounding attractions.
Like most places in Australia flying or driving is preferable – though the greyhound coach service has improved enormously if on a budget. It really depends where you are coming from. I have always flown to Brisbane and then driven up.
You can also fly direct into the Sunshine Coast airport (on Friendship Avenue – love that name) but you will still need a car to get around – unless you are simply going to one spot – to flop and drop! Then a taxi it is!
I’ve been here a lot. Mainly when I lived in Brisbane – which was a long time ago. So I don’t have current restaurants to recommend but I do remember the very chilled vibe. More like the Nice of France rather than Cannes! It’s where the Brisbane city folk head to on the weekends. The dream! Which makes Moololabar really popular as it’s closest to the city for day trips. A great seaside town with a stunning beach that I also liked it for the phonetic spelling!
If you have kids or just want to say you saw a shark while in Aus then Mooloolabar is also home to the ‘Sunshine Coast Sea Life Centre‘. (I may have had a small panic when a shark swam over me! But no I wasn’t in the water – I was safe in the sea life Centre!)
If you carry on driving north from Mooloolabar you get to Maroochydore – I’ve only ever driven through here but my last trip we stopped for a little lunch break….
This is Sunshine Coast’s sophisticated version south of France – low key elegance and understated wealth. Sandwiched between Noosa river and the ocean this gorgeous get away has something for everyone.
This is where Brisbane and indeed many Aussie families flock in the summer. This also means in the school holidays it’s pretty much sold out or extortionate prices to stay. But with its great restaurants, beautiful beaches and heritage hikes you can see why it’s become so popular.
This was my second trip Noosa and it was more lovely and much smaller than my sketchy memory told me. Chilled, slightly pretentious but packed with surfers and yogis – it’s a bit like the posh Byron Bay!
This really is a seaside town at heart. It’s all about units and self catering rather than hotels as people come for weeks at a time. (If you love a rose and rest break then this is for you. If you get restless then a lazy long weekend would probably suit better).
Last time I stayed at the OutRigger and at that time, it was great value plus it had 2 bedrooms with the hugest bed. But it was up the hill and whilst there were buggies we wished we had booked to be on Hastings Street. This is the street with the majority of the bars and restaurants are, so if you want to ditch your car while you are here then stay in walking distance of the street. That said Uber is limited but definitely available if you want to pop to different areas.
My last trip in 2023 we stayed at the Sofitel. The rooms were huge with dining tables and mini kitchen area. This is the hybrid of self catering and hotels! But with free bubbles on arrival and all day every day – we got our moneys worth! The staff were super friendly and excellent turn down service.
The pool was very, very popular. For many, the ambition of the day was to move from a sunbed to the swim up bar and back! Many spent their days in the water just bobbing by the bar burning the calories as they drank their bubbles. If that’s you, then you will love it here.
Things to do in Noosa
For those more active there is a hive of hikes and activities: You can learn to surf, have yoga by the pool, wander in the heritage parks and see koalas in the their natural habitat.
Definitely don’t miss a morning walk through Noosa’s National Park. I recommend morning as, especially in summer, it will be too hot by lunch. And ideally that it’s cloudy! That scorching sun is hard to walk in.
The walk is really more an up hill hike up – to the charmingly named hells gates. It wasn’t hell – it’s where the fairy pools and a dolphins look out are.
The path itself is pretty even and would be fine for most people but some off the beaten tracks are less safe and certainly don’t attempt the fairy pools alone as it’s rocky all the way down and pretty tricky!
The walk up had seriously stunning scenery. Just take lots of water with you and have your phone charged – photo ops galore!
Alternatively there is the another exhaustive exercise – shopping! On Sunday’s there are the markets and all week long are an array of expensive boutique shops. Or you can hop on a ferry and head down to Noosa junction where more shops await you.
If you go to the junction then do stay down for sunset – you won’t be disappointed. The aptly named ‘Sunset Bar‘ at Noosa Boathouse really is the perfect rooftop spot. Note you can’t book so go early to grab a seat.
Restaurants in Noosa
This was a foodie haven. I actually think I developed an addiction to grilled calamari! It started in Brisbane at Maya rooftop bar and I just couldn’t get enough!
With its sister restaurant in Gold Coast this is one of Noosa’s boujee go to’s. Service was a bit sleepy but the food was insane and they were so kind to take note of my requests for seating – was a vibey way to spend a Saturday night.
This was my favourite spot in Noosa. Also where my friends sister got married so you can imagine it’s quite magical.
Set on the beach, they have a note on their website to say first requested first to get one of the front tables. Which is fair. And yay I must have been early to book as we were sat in the prime spot: Overlooking the ocean as the sun slowly set (note you can’t actually see the sun this side of Noosa but you do get that gorgeous golden hour light) Pricey but so perfect for this being a special night.
This was so popular that even weeks before I left the U.K. this was booked up every day and night we were there!! It also has a sister restaurant in Byron but we didn’t have to wait till we went south as we did an impromptu pop in and it worked. Such delicate food and fabulous cocktails – I can see why it’s the place to go!
Popular brunch spot delivering great coffee and a chilled vibe.
This was all the European cafe vibes and perfect for a champagne brunch.
This was a spontaneous stop after our hike. The front tables on the beach, on a Sunday, were obviously booked! But we could still see out to the ocean set further back. Very low key decor but great food and very attentive waiter – who took a shine to every girl who entered! Was quite entertaining!
Heading back: Sunshine Coast stops to make
If you are driving back on a Wednesday or Saturday morning then a stop at the near by Original Eumundi Markets is a must – the biggest and self claimed best artisan market in Australia.
Once you are all shopped out, drive back down the coast take a detour to the Glass Mountains National Park. Cited as a spiritual site you can climb two of them or you can drive to the Lookout cafe and sit and admire them with a coffee! (No prizes for guessing which one I did!)
Taking this route you’ll also pass Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo. Not my thing but for animal lovers or kids to entertain I imagine this would be a must. And watch out for koala’s and kangaroo’s as you drive!
So there you have it – the Sunshine Coast where sunshine isn’t actually guaranteed but it’s hard to leave without a refreshed chilled sunshine mentality 💛