A Sun-kissed Coast

11 November 2010

The Sunshine Coast spreads from Caloundra to just north of Noosa, offering a diverse and exciting touring trail

There’s more to the Sunshine Coast than just a giant pineapple. The landscape is varied and dramatic, with volcanic peaks, cane fields, lush hinterland and stretches of golden sand. Sophisticated cafés and swish beachside resorts line the streets and a swagger of holiday parks overlook waterways.


Whatever you fancy, no doubt you will find something of interest on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.




Encompassing seven stunning beaches, Caloundra is a popular holiday destination. Kings Beach is perfectly set up for kids with a playground, large pool overlooking the ocean and a giant water fountain.


Many take their fishing gear to Pumicestone Passage, sandwiched between the mainland and Bribie Island. Soak up the seaside ambience on a coastal pathway stretching 25km from Golden Beach to Kanwana and Mooloolaba.


Along the way spot plaques commemorating fallen war heroes, the Military Jetty, the heritage-listed bathing pavilion and keep your eyes peeled for the wreck that ran aground during a cyclone on Dicky Beach in 1893.


Hollywood comes to Caloundra with a Walk of Fame. The local version, Walk of Stars, honours members of the Australian and New Zealand music industry, with 55 bronze stars along the main street.


While in the area, the Queensland Air Museum is worth a look. The collection includes de Havillands, the Tiger Moth, a Douglas DC-3 and a Hawker Hunter, amongst many more fine examples of aviation history.




Beerwah is home to Australia Zoo, owned by croc hunter, conservationist and much loved Aussie, the late Steve Irwin. As ibis waltz the manicured grounds, laugh at the cheeky otters playing tag, meet alligators like old gal, Alison, who was born in the ’30s, and see the largest lizard in the world, the Komodo dragon. These commanding reptiles can weigh in at over 100kg.


Interact with some of the zoo animals and hand feed an elephant, a roo or a wallaby, adopt an animal, pat a snake,a sleepy koala or have your photo Experience quaint hinterland villages taken with a baby alligator or beautiful bird.


See giant land tortoises being fed and watch tigers at play. Gawk at endangered species like the cassowary, Australia’s largest flightless bird, or the Tasmanian devil as they scamper about their forest-like enclosures.


Don’t miss the wildlife shows in the Crocoseum as handlers swim with pythons and crocs launch out of the water. Be blown away as magnificent coloured birds perform majestic aerial displays overhead.


About 20 minutes north-west from Beerwah, experience the quaint hinterland villages of Maleny, Mapleton and Montville. In Maleny discover vineyards, craft shops, nature reserves, and Lake Baroon. From Maleny, gaze into the distance to be awarded with stunning views of the Glasshouse Mountains. Montville is known for its olde English architecture, Devonshire tearooms, antique stores, galleries and Kondalilla Falls National Park. Just north of Montville stumble upon Mapleton and the Mapleton Falls National Park, boasting waterfalls that plunge 120m into the rainforest valley below.




The eroded, extinct volcanic plugs rising from the earth are known collectively as the Glasshouse Mountains. These remarkable peaks were named by Captain Cook in 1770 as to him they resembled glass furnaces from his native land. The mountains do have their own individual Aboriginal names and are considered spiritually significant.


Experience the peaceful sub-tropical rainforest with a picnic at the base of Mount Beerwah and Mount Tibrogargan. Feeling adventurous? Take on the many walking tracks that weave through the Glasshouse Mountains National Park, ranging from easy to challenging.




Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Cotton Tree and Alexandra Headland are collectively known as Maroochy and enjoy 25km of sand and surf.


Maroochydore is the commercial hub of the region. Sunshine Plaza is the Sunshine Coast’s largest shopping centre and overlooks Cornmeal Creek. Hire paddle boats or get some retail therapy!


Maroochydore straddles both surf beaches and the idyllic Maroochy River. BIG4 Maroochy Palms Holiday Village, located across the road from the river and boat ramp, boasts great facilities and friendly staff and is where I settled for the night.


Mooloolaba’s cosmopolitan esplanade overlooks the patrolled main beach and is spotted with high-rise buildings, shops and al fresco dining. Mooloolaba’s Marina is a fishing trawler base and the place for fresh fish ’n’ chips. Mooloolaba Wharf precinct next to the Marina is scattered with cafés and souvenir shops, and is one of Mooloolaba’s oldest attractions.


There’s an odd sight 10 minutes north of Maroochydore CBD – a Norman-style castle complete with drawbridge,dungeon and 24m lookout tour. Markets are held within the grounds of the Sunshine Castle, Bli Bli, on the first Saturday of the month.




Pack a picnic and perch yourself on one of the benches overlooking Coolum Beach. Wander about the string of shops opposite or walk the 370m-long boardwalk from Coolum Beach to Point Perry headland.


Mt Coolum, an isolated volcanic dome, looms like an imposing giant 208m above the surrounding land, offering 360° views from the summit. The 1.6km Mt Coolum Summit Walk is only recommended for experienced climbers. Allow two hours return.


North of Coolum lies Peregian Beach. This seaside town holds a market featuring 70 individual stalls on the first and third Sunday of the month. After the markets, settle back for Peregian Originals live music in the park. West of the beach is Lake Weyba, which feeds into Noosa Head’s estuary.




Tewantin is the somewhat poorer cousin (real estate wise) to the neighbouring towns of Noosaville and Noosa Heads, but is by no means lacking in natural attractions.


Take to Memorial Park on the banks of the Noosa River, then wander over to Tewantin Forest Reserve with its Mount Tinbeerwah lookout walk. From up here, admire the lakes, mountains and cane fi elds that make up the region. Visit Parkyn’s Hut in the heart of Tewantin for history on the area. Formally an old Gympie miner’s hut, it was moved to Tewantin in 1922 and also acts as the Tourist Information Centre.


The buzzing Noosa Marina is a good spot to explore, with its restaurants, galleries and market every Sunday. From here you can board one of the river cruises for a sticky-beak into the multi-million-dollar homes fronting the river in the neighbouring Noosa region.


I boarded the River Express, which picks up at Tewantin, Noosaville and Noosa Heads. Our friendly skipper, Bruce, pointed out birdlife and koalas in the draping trees and sting rays gliding in the shallows as we cruised by mangrove-protected areas along the Noosa River and canals.


Bruce provided running commentary on the mind-boggling prices of real estate along this elite pocket of the Sunshine Coast. “If you buy a vacant block, you have to build a big house. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, as long as it is big to keep up with the neighbours,” laughed Bruce.


Canal houses, many equipped with pumped-up beach, private jetty, floor to ceiling windows, long pools and palm trees, grew bigger and grander as we cruised by.


The Noosa River is a bustling thoroughfare for canoes, tinnies, houseboats and cruises like the River Express. The river flows from the Pacific Ocean to the Noosa Everglades, part of the Great Sandy National Park. Explore the river system on one of the many tours available.


Noosa Heads may be best known for upmarket Hastings Street, but brush turkeys share the road with well-heeled tourists. Southerners ditch their usual black designer wear for white threequarter pants and bright tops, lured by the nice weather, boutiques, quality restaurants and swanky resorts that nestle amongst the trees and hug the eroding shoreline.


To dismiss Noosa Heads as simply a resort destination, though, would mean missing out on a beautiful national park. Noosa NP actually stretches 3500ha from Noosa Heads all the way south to Maroochy River. There are tracks to suit most fitness levels, from 1km circuits to the 10.8km return coastal track. Pick up a Walking Track Guide from the Park’s Information Centre. The path is wheelchair friendly from the centre to Dolphin Point.


For a bird’s-eye view over the Noosa region, drive up to Laguna lookout before sunset and join the audience already seated with cameras poised and wine ready, waiting for the sun to sink into the mountains.


Any Sunday, mosey on down to Noosaville’s football oval for the Noosa Farmers’ Markets, selling fruit and veg grown or produced on the Sunshine Coast and surrounds. If you fancy a meal out, Noosaville’s Gympie Terrace is studded with trendy restaurants offering international cuisine. Pull up a seat and watch the passing river parade with the pelicans.




I was told by many that no trip to Noosa was complete without a detour to the Eumundi Markets. Swinging 20km west, this charming hinterland township with towering fig trees buzzes with keen bargain hunters on market days. When the market was first established in 1979 it began with just three stalls, now there are over 500.


Purchase arts and crafts, local produce, get your palm read or relax with a massage. You could spend weeks and weeks exploring all the delights of the Sunshine Coast. Stop by all the places I missed and be sure to write in and tell us all about your adventures!




From Brisbane to Caloundra: Head north up the Bruce Hwy and exit onto Caloundra Rd exit.




319 Bradman Ave
Maroochydore QLD, 4558
(07) 5443 8611


141 Cooroy Noosa Rd
Tewantin QLD, 4565
(07) 5447 1712




1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, QLD
Adult: $54, Pensioner: $43,
Child: $32 (Get 10% off with your BIG4 membership)
Catch the courtesy coach. For bookings phone (07) 5436 2000.

Noosa river and canal midday
2–3 hour cruises
Adult: $29, Senior card holder: $27
(Keep a lookout for two-for-one offers. I found mine at Big 4 Bougainvillia Holiday Park)
Includes complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits.
Sunday to Friday, 0414 727 765

Caloundra Airport, Adult: $9
Open 10am – 4pm
The next Open Cockpit fundraiser weekend is 3–4 July 2010

292 David Low Way, Bli Bli
Adult: $7




Memorial Drive, Eumundi
Wednesday 8am–1:30pm
Saturday 6:30am–2pm

Every Sunday till noon
Football ground, Weyba Road, Noosaville

Noosa Marina, Tewantin
Sunday 8am–2pm

Park Rd (continuation of Hastings St), Noosa Heads
(07) 5447 3243

Viewland Drive, Noosa Heads

Live music in the park
1st and 3rd Sunday

By Kylie Dapiran