Luxury Escapes Guide to the Sunshine Coast
Just an hour from Brisbane, you’ll find never-ending warm weather, mouth-watering produce and jaw-dropping landscapes, both coastal and country.
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Discover the Sunshine Coast
Things to see and do
Keep an eye out for rare wildlife at Noosa National Park
Just a half-hour walk from Hastings Street, Noosa National Park is a veritable wildlife wonderland, with 2,883 hectares of lush greenery to explore. The protected area, spanning from the Noosa headland to Lake Weyba, Peregian and Coolum, is home to dozens of endangered wildlife species including the glossy black cockatoo, ground parrot, koala, red goshawk and wallum froglet. That’s not all you might find – a wander along the Coastal Track offers a front-row seat for whale-watching during migration season, while dolphins and sea turtles tend to make regular appearances at Dolphin Point, Boiling Pot and Hell’s Gates, all stops along the way.
Find a gem at Eumundi Markets or Caloundra Street Fair Market
As the largest arts and crafts market in Australia, Eumundi Markets has something for everyone. Held in the centre of a historic town just 20km from Noosa Heads, the market operates every Wednesday and Saturday, rain, hail or shine. Visitors will find treasures at every stall, with furniture, homewares, health and beauty products and the latest in fashion and jewellery on offer, as well as gourmet treats and freshly prepared fare. On Sundays, Caloundra Street Fair Markets is just as vibrant, with over 120 stalls selling artisan products, fresh produce and tasty juice to the soundtrack of live music.
Swim with humpback whales at Mooloolaba
Frolic alongside one of the world’s largest mammals on a Swim with Whales experience at Mooloolaba. Run by Australia’s first swim with humpback whales tour operators, Sunreef, the three-hour tour sees you get up close and personal with these majestic mammals as they migrate over the winter months. Choose between spectating from the boat, or hopping in the water to swim alongside the animals – either way, you’ll be privy to an once-in-a-lifetime experience. For the best chance at spotting the whales, visit between July and mid-October.
Explore the Glass House Mountains
Just a short drive inland from the Sunshine Coast’s iconic beaches sit the 11 picturesque peaks of the Glass House Mountains – landscapes of such significance that they’ve been listed on the Queensland and National Heritage Register. Walking tracks, horse trails and abseiling locations dot the range, with most providing jaw-dropping views of the surrounding areas, including Brisbane and Moreton Island. Whichever area you explore, make sure to leave no trace of your visit – the mountain range is of huge significance to the local Gubbi Gubbi people, with multiple ceremonial sites still present and protected.
Paddle through Pumicestone Passage or the Noosa Everglades
Stretching from the tip of Bribie Island to Deception Bay, Pumicestone Passage is a 35km channel of crystal-clear water, perfect for all types of water-based adventures. Part of the Moreton Bay Marine Park, the shallow estuary is home to dolphins, dugongs, turtles, a huge variety of fish and 35 species of shorebirds, and is best explored by stand-up paddleboard or kayak. Known as the River of Mirrors, the Noosa Everglades are also perfect for a kayaking adventure, with 60km of pristine waters and amazing flora and fauna to discover. It’s the only everglade system in the world where you can safely swim, so don’t forget your swimmers! Tours leave from Boreen Point, about a 25-minute drive from Noosa Heads.
Meet the locals at Australia Zoo
Home of the late Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, Beerwah-based Australia Zoo is one of the country’s leaders in animal conservation, with 700 acres of wildlife habitat to explore. Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin now carry on Steve’s vision, welcoming guests to learn about more than 100 species of animals, including crocodiles, tigers, cheetahs, dingos, elephants, emus, echidnas and of course, kangaroos, kookaburras and koalas. Become a zookeeper for a day, or book into an animal encounter to get up close and personal with the likes of red pandas, meerkats, rhinos and wombats.
Learn to surf with Coolum Surf School
Give one of Australia’s most iconic sports a red-hot try with a surfing lesson at Coolum Surf School. Join owner Chris and his brilliant team to learn how to paddle out, choose your wave and ride it all the way in! Whether you’re an absolute beginner, or an experienced surfer looking for some tricks and tips with a private lesson, the team will provide expert guidance on surfing technique, water awareness and body boarding so that you can enjoy the experience with confidence. Wetsuits and boards will be provided so all you need to bring is bucketloads of enthusiasm.
Chase waterfalls in Kondalilla National Park
Discover a different body of water in Kondalilla National Park, the hinterland mountain retreat named after an Indigenous word for ‘rushing water’. It’s home to the spectacular Kondalilla Falls, where Skene Creek drops 90m into the rainforest valley below, as well as 107 species of birds, 70 species of reptiles and 32 species of frogs. Wander along the Picnic Creek Circuit to find rockpools at the top of the falls, or continue to the bottom for a second dip in the cascading water. But be warned – the water is chilly! Keep an eye out for the local fauna and flora – butterflies and birds flutter between the unique bunya pines, piccabeen palms and pink ash trees.
Learn about the area’s cultural and Indigenous heritage with Saltwater Eco Tours
The local Kabi Kabi people, or ‘Saltwater People’ are the traditional owners of the land around Mooloolaba and have been for milennia, passing on Dreamtime legends, ancient traditions, beliefs and stories to future generations. Captain Simon Thornalley, an Indigenous man of Torres Strait Island descent, has partnered with the local traditional owners to create Saltwater Eco Tours, giving guests an insight into the rituals of the traditional landowners. Glide through the Mooloolaba canals on the beautifully restored sailing vessel, Spray of the Coral Coast, while exploring the historical sites that form part of Dreamtime songs and stories. Along the way, you’ll feast on bush tucker and may even spot a turtle or two!
Pick fresh berries at Cooloola Berries
Fill your baskets with beautiful berries at Cooloola Berries, an award-winning family-run farm gate in Wolvi. Wander through the rows of strawberry plants, where 10 varieties fruit from June to November, or visit in December and January to pick your own blueberries. When you’ve found the juiciest and ripest selection, retire to the cafe or farm shop to sample Cooloola’s produce for yourself, with jams, sauces and ice cream on offer. If you’re visiting on a Sunday, stick around for the locally renowned Paella in the Paddock from 1pm.
Top places to eat and drink
Classic New Orleans cuisine meets modern French touches at Orléans, a chic dining spot in Maroochydore. Sitting on the water’s edge, this relaxed restaurant celebrates its seaside spot with a menu bursting with locally sourced seafood – seared scallops are a crowd favourite, while the seafood gumbo is a masterclass in combining traditional techniques with knock-out ingredients. Exposed brick and concrete, mood lighting, Chesterfield-style booths and live music create an old-world dining experience, while the accompanying list of delicious drinks will have you feeling spoilt for choice – will it be a Sazerac or glass of sauvignon to start?
Harry’s on Buderim
Perched on the edge of Buderim Forest Park, Harry’s on Buderim is one of those quintessential Queensland experiences you’ll be thinking about long after you leave its heritage homestead setting. Surrounded by verdant rainforest, the fine-dining restaurant is perfectly placed to explore the sheer variety of modern Australian cuisine, with a constantly changing menu that reflects the seasons. Choose the Fraser Isle spanner crab or citrus-cured ocean trout for starters, before moving onto mains such as charred lamb rump and crispy skin saltwater barramundi. The service more than matches the five-star setting and menu, with friendly faces at every turn.
Chef Cameron Matthews has returned to his roots with Winston, a pop-up restaurant taking up residence at Wasabi Restaurant & Bar in Noosa, and the result of a Winston Churchill Fellowship study tour based on sustainable and environmental practices. Cameron combines his new-found knowledge with an ongoing love of seasonal ingredients and extensive experience within the Spicers Retreats restaurant group, offering a four-course menu that celebrates the very best of Queensland produce. Each dish is designed to highlight the produce of small artisans from the surrounding area and can paired perfectly with a selection of handpicked drinks. Except surprises on the plate and a cheeky approach to fine dining – this is the Sunny Coast, after all!
The Velo Project
Melbourne’s iconic cafe culture comes to the coast with the Velo Project. Tucked off the main drag in Mooloolaba, the local cafe puts an emphasis on nearby farmers and suppliers, including Kai Coffee. Every palate will find something to devour across their brunch menu, with classics such as eggs benedict and crepes sitting alongside dishes like Gather & Feast (glazed carrot hummus, confit cherry tomatoes, roasted beetroot, avocado, haloumi and an egg) and Humble Beginnings (pork & fennel sausage, double smoked ham, maple pumpkin, roasted mushrooms, American mustard aioli, tomato chutney and an egg).
Fish on Parkyn
There’s local, and then there’s ‘can see where your food came from’ – Fish on Parkyn definitely falls into the latter. Sitting opposite Mooloolaba Beach, the seafood restaurant operates on a ‘dock to table’ model, sourcing their fresh ingredients from the ocean directly across the road. They build their menu around what’s come into the docks and complement the offering with locally sourced meats and vegetables for a true tribute to regional Queensland flavours. Enjoy macadamia-crusted barramundi, or go all out with the local seafood platter, complete with oysters, Moreton Bay bug, Mooloolaba king prawns, Hervey Bay scallops and more.
Celebrate contemporary pan-Asian cuisine at Mooloolaba’s Spice Bar, where views of the Pacific Ocean are served alongside a delectable fine-dining experience. A large open kitchen and chic red, black and gold interior sets the stage for Japanese-inspired flavours, with dishes like beef tataki, numbing chicken wings and master stock duck. Choose your own adventure through the small and large plates, or leave it in the chefs’ hands with a range of tasting menus – at lunch, choose between three or four courses, while at dinner, make room for five or seven.