A local Sunshine Coast guide

If you have the sun in mind, why not vacation in one of the hottest places in Australia? Sure, you may have swum the beaches of Mooloolaba on family vacations or walked the main street of Noosa in your youth, but there’s so much more happening on the Sunny Coast.

The problem is what they have is so good that the locals like to keep it a secret. That’s why I’m here, a Kiwi turned Sunny Coaster who’s ready to spill those tasty beans.

Noosa

see and do

Get away from the crowds at Noosa Main Beach and take a short walk to the famous Noosa National Park. You can stop at Tea Tree Bay for some of the best beginner-friendly surf spots in the area, or keep going until you hit the magical Fairy Pools to get the iconic shot (check trail conditions beforehand). Just be careful if you end up walking too far; you will arrive at Alexandria Bay, the local nudist beach.

READ MORE:
* Nine must-sees on Australia’s Sunshine Coast
* The Australian Sunshine Coast: Charm, coasts and community
* Visit Noosa, Australia’s fanciest resort, in a vintage wooden car

Catch the best waves on the coast at Noosa's Tea Tree Bay.

Tourism and Events Queensland/Stuff

Catch the best waves on the coast at Noosa’s Tea Tree Bay.

If you’re adventurous, be sure to take a 4×4 (and a trained driver) on the barge to Noosa North Shore. From there, it’s about an hour’s drive up the beach to Double Island Point, a veritable local paradise shared only with dolphins and turtles, and be sure to hop on Rainbow Beach for the perfect longboard wave.

But Noosa is more than beautiful beaches; there are errands to be done. Head out of town to Thomas Surfboards to explore the gallery, boards, barbershop and live music venue they have in store, or take a 20-minute trip to nearby Peregian Beach for explore boutiques, thrift stores and delicious cafes while you’re there.

Eat and drink

Noosa is the culinary capital of the coast, and you’ll even see locals coming from as far away as Caloundra to get a taste of what’s on offer. Sum Yung Guys is a Sunshine Coast institution, beloved for its inspired Asian fusion cuisine. If you can’t get a table (and you’ll have a hard time – he books up months in advance), try Light Years. This restaurant in Noosa Junction is always packed with people from all over the area enjoying a tapas style meal.

While you’re in the junction, be sure to check out Paradise Arcade for deliciously fresh Mexican and the best espresso martini in town. If you’re craving pizza, head to Somedays for fermented sourdough bases and authentic wood-fired flavors.

Alex Bluff is the best place to be when the sun goes down.

Tourism and Events Queensland/Stuff

Alex Bluff is the best place to be when the sun goes down.

For an afternoon beer, do as the locals do and head to the newly refurbished Sunshine Beach Surf Club to enjoy a classic XXXX Gold on the rugged beaches. Or, if you fancy a taste of craft beer, head to the Land & Sea Brewery for a much-loved Sunshine Coast beer.

Then, for Sunday brunch, don’t miss Noosa’s famous Farmers Markets, where artisan producers come together with local food trucks for the most authentic Noosa experience yet.

Where to stay

Treat yourself to a Treetop Villa at Peppers Noosa Resort & Villas, where the jungle-like environment will offer you a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Close to the beach, try Tingirana Noosa, where the infinity pool will make Main Beach feel like your backyard.

Mooloolaba is a major attraction on the Sunshine Coast.

Queensland Tourism and Events

Mooloolaba is a major attraction on the Sunshine Coast.

Mooloolaba and Maroochydore

see and do

In the heart of the Sunshine Coast, it will be easier for you to blend in. Start your day with a visit to Alex Heads, where if the swell is good you can catch a wave from the top of the cliff with friendly locals, take a dip in the sea (between the flags) or just soak up the sun on the long stretch of beach. If you’re looking to shop, head to Alterior Motif’s flagship Cotton Tree, which brings together some of the best Australian (and New Zealand) designers in one beautiful store.

For fans of live music, head to Ocean Street in Maroochydore in the evening. Solbar has been named Queensland’s Best Regional Music Venue – their back room has hosted everyone from Aussie stalwarts to some of Aotearoa’s best – just in case you’re a little homesick.

Rice Boi, at Mooloolaba's The Wharf, offers some of the best cocktails and food in town.

Tourism and Events Queensland/Stuff

Rice Boi, at Mooloolaba’s The Wharf, offers some of the best cocktails and food in town.

Eat and drink

With booming development and a year-round population, a tantalizing food scene is emerging. Try Rice Boi on the quayside for Asian fusion or Market Bistro in the new downtown for elegant dining (the gnocchi are to die for).

Locals rely on two outposts for brunch options. Velo Project, whose pancake menu is seasonal and divine, or Glass, the outpost of a famous surfboard shaper serving delicious food and coffee, alongside the occasional concert by local legends, The Dreggs.

Where to stay

Traditionally, this coastal pocket was home to vacation homes and resorts, but there are new emerging boutique hotels and beach-inspired Airbnbs for you to rest. Loea is a new hotel that opens onto the Maroochy River. If you’re looking for a more personalized experience, look no further than the sold-out Airbnb Vacay Co (The Pool House is the perfect spot for two).

The Loea Hotel in Maroochydore is a journey through time.

Tourism and Events Queensland/Stuff

The Loea Hotel in Maroochydore is a journey through time.

Caloundra

see and do

You’d be forgiven for spending your time on the coast at the northern end, but you missed some of the area’s gems. Like everywhere, start your day in the surf – the waves of Neill Street are friendly, and the locals are even friendlier. For those looking for even more adventure, head to the magnificent Glass House Mountains.

Once back on the coast, head to NightQuarter. The place is an experience in itself; an outdoor food market with every cuisine imaginable, bumper cars and carnival attractions. There are also three stages, including a performance hall that has hosted famous Australian artists like Ocean Alley and Jungle Giants.

Views of Mount Ngungun at sunrise.

Tourism and Events Queensland/Stuff

Views of Mount Ngungun at sunrise.

Eat and drink

The best food in Caloundra can be found near the beach. Get a vegetarian breakfast and coffee at Ours Cafe or Pocket for afternoon beer and tacos with views of the ocean sunsets. Clancy’s at Dicky Beach offers the best scoop in town if you fancy a simple fish and chips.

If you want to share a beer with the locals, head to Your Mates Brewing. It is home to local legends Sally and Larry, two beers named by punters.

Where to stay

Like Mooloolaba, Caloundra is home to many family-friendly resorts and apartment hotels. But to live like the locals, you’ll want to settle into a retro beach shack.

Maleny Lane serves delicious food all day.

Tourism and Events Queensland/Stuff

Maleny Lane serves delicious food all day.

Countryside

see and do

Start by heading to the beautiful hippie town of Maleny (and be sure to stop at Gardners Falls for a swim along the way) to explore the shops, galleries and bookstores of the main street. Next, visit One Tree Hill Lookout to watch the sun set over the Glass House Mountains. For wildlife lovers who want to see an authentic taste of Australia, visit Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve to be wowed along the way.

Eat and drink

You’ll find the much-loved cafes Monica’s (be sure to sit upstairs) and Shotgun Espresso in the heart of Maleny Township, or explore Maleny Lane for a global food market option. Be sure to call on Flame Hill Vineyard to sample the local wines among the vineyards and book yourself a table at Tamarind, a fine dining experience at Spicers Tamarind Retreat.

Where to stay

Staying in the outback is a boutique experience, with local couples often scrambling into the hills for a romantic getaway. Look no further than The Postman’s Cottage, a newly renovated historic building in the heart of Montville, or for the ultimate luxury, bed down at one of the nearby Spicers Retreats.