There are few Aussie holiday destinations that meld natural beauty with cosmopolitan experiences as effortlessly and flawlessly as Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. From the coast to the Hinterland – one minute you can be leaving footprints in the sand on a deserted beach or hiking in the hills, and the next, dining on world-class cuisine. It’s why happy holidaymakers return here year after year.
Here’s how to spend 48 hours on the Sunshine Coast.
6am: Go for a sunrise stroll on the beach
OK, everyone who lives in Queensland knows that the sun gets up super early, so to actually see it rise, you’d need to be up around 5. But you’re on holiday, so 6am is slightly more realistic. And that’s still a beautiful time to enjoy a stroll on one of the region’s sublime beaches. Try Mooloolaba, Alexander Headland (simply known locally as ‘Alex’) or Maroochydore beaches. If you want to take a dawn dip, the oceanfront saltwater pool at Kings Beach Caloundra is open each morning from 4.30am. Beat that, sun!
8am: Make breakfast a project
The Sunshine Coast’s café scene has come on in leaps and bounds in the past few years. The best options are usually located outside the tourist hotspots, and cater largely to locals. In Mooloolaba, head for The Velo Project in Careela Street. Enjoy delicious brunch treats created from the freshest local produce at this caffeinated community hub.
10am: See the sea life
While you’re in Mooloolaba, take the opportunity to visit the SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast Aquarium. Located adjacent to The Wharf Mooloolaba, the aquarium is made up of eleven different zones and offers the opportunity to see the Coast’s only little penguin colony, walk beneath sharks and cownosed rays in the Ocean Tunnel, and watch an awesome seal presentation. You can also wonder at these aquatic acrobatics from the underwater observation window.
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1pm: Do a seafood lunch cruise
Those seals love their fishy treats and they’re not the only ones! Coastal Cruises Mooloolaba’s Seafood Lunch Cruise has to be one of the best value things to do on the Coast. Enjoy a 90-minute harbour, river and canal cruise, and an included seafood lunch (sourced from the Mooloolah River Fisheries) all for $49 per person, at the time of writing.
3pm: Follow forest trails in the Bushland Botanic Garden
Take a break from the coastline and experience the beauty of the region’s native bushland at the Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden at Tanawha, a 20-or-so-minute drive from Mooloolaba. Be enchanted by this tranquil retreat, which you may be lucky enough to have all to yourself. Wander through 83 hectares of landscaped gardens, amid stunning natural eucalypt and rainforest, punctuated by 30 sculptural works.
5pm: Style it up for cocktails
Circle back towards the coast to Maroochydore, which is building a solid name for itself as a dining hub. Kiki Bar on Duporth Avenue is a chic wine-and-cocktail-bar-slash-eatery and the perfect spot for pre-dinner drinks. Ask the barman to shake up a classic espresso martini (make ours a Kiki Tiki), while you snack on marinated olives and some seriously addictive chilli caramel mushrooms. Another bowl? Yes please.
7pm: Sample sumptuous dishes à la New Orleans
New Orleans may be 14,000 kilometres away but Orleans restaurant has brought classic creole and cajun-style cuisine to the Coast, albeit with a modern interpretation. Situated just a short walk from Kiki, this is one of the Sunshine Coast’s hottest eateries. Feast on blackened tuna, seafood gumbo or cornfed chicken with blue cheese grits. The corn bread starter is dangerous, as are the cinnamon beignets. Food coma alert.
8am: Explore the Eumundi Markets
If it happens to be a Wednesday or Saturday, you’ll want to hit the Eumundi Markets at the northern end of the Coast. The best advice we can offer is to go early. This artisan market is insanely popular and parking is always a headache for late arrivals. There are plenty of options for a snacky breakfast as you traverse the maze of stalls, selling everything from crocheted cushion covers to spun mud bowls and wearable wooden bow ties.
11am: Step back in time in the Hinterland
As you’re in this neck of the woods, it makes sense to check out the other historic towns tucked away in the northern Hinterland. One of the most interesting is Pomona, situated at the base of soaring Mount Cooroora (yes, you can climb it, should you so choose). The town dates back to the late 1800s and has some wonderful heritage attractions. Visit the world’s longest operating silent movie theatre — The Majestic Theatre – and the community art gallery housed in the old railway station buildings. They’ve been beautifully restored. The Pomona Distilling Company bar and bistro is a working gin distillery that occupies what was originally a bakehouse. Enjoy the rustic setting and a tasting paddle of small batch gins, before tucking into a lunch of Thai street-food-inspired dishes. A booking is essential.
2pm: Enjoy sun, surf and shopping in Noosa
From Pomona it’s a short drive back to the coast to tourist epicentre Noosa, and here you can do as much or as little as you like. Spend the afternoon relaxing on Noosa Main Beach or strolling along Hastings Street, which is lined with fashion boutiques and cafés. If you’re feeling energetic and it’s not too hot, there are some amazing walks to do in Noosa National Park. Alternatively, rent a kayak and explore the Noosa River.
6pm: Have dinner with the guys in Sunshine
Wrap up your Sunny Coast sojourn in Noosa-neighbouring Sunshine Beach. Residents here enjoy million-dollar ocean views, but you can have them for the cost of a drink at the Sunshine Beach Surf Club. Take a seat on the deck and soak up the splendour of the setting. From there, head across to super cool Sum Yung Guys for dinner (book well in advance). The SYG team includes Queensland MasterChef runner-up Matt Sinclair, and serves up a set menu of suitably spicy Thai-inspired dishes.
Need a place to stay? Enjoy a dash of understated luxury at Breeze Mooloolaba, Ascend Hotel Collection. It’s right opposite the beach and close to a plethora of dining options.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.