Hands up who loves a break by the beach. Just days of relaxing and enjoying the sand, sea, and sun. Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is a destination loved by many, and it’s easy to see why. Yes, the beaches are incredible, but there’s always so much else going on. Some of its best-kept secrets can be found in the hinterland, where there’s a diversity of landscapes to enjoy and small towns to explore. Make a rough plan, jump in your rental car, and take in as much as possible. Chances are you’ll be making plans to return even before you’ve left. Here are just a few budget-friendly adventures to enjoy on your trip to the Sunshine Coast.
There are so many blissful stretches of sand on the Sunny Coast, you could stay here a week, go somewhere different every day, and still manage to miss something good. Mooloolaba is one of the prizes. It’s long, there are patrolled areas dotted along it, and you can walk all the way to Mooloolaba Spit. Here, you might want to grab some fish and chips from Fisheries on the Spit and picnic with an epic view of the ocean.
Most tourists wouldn’t have heard of it, but tree-lined Moffat Beach, only five minutes’ drive from Caloundra, is a hidden gem worth discovering. There’s a point break for the surfers, plenty of sand so you won’t ever feel crowded, and lots of cafes just a stroll away when you get hungry.
If it’s a bit windy and rough along the coast, check out Noosa Main Beach. Yes, it’s one of the most crowded patches of sand in the ’hood, but it’s also protected, so you might be able to find a spot to enjoy the sun. If not, simply hit Hastings Street for a coffee.
Nature is right on your doorstep on the Sunshine Coast. Just 10 minutes from Mooloolaba is the Mooloolah River National Park, with its short walks through rainforest, eucalyptus groves and banksia woodlands. With the build-up of urban areas along the coast, this park has become a refuge for wildlife, so you might be lucky enough to eastern grey kangaroos, echidnas, yellow-tail black cockatoos, and even colourful rainbow bee-eaters.
Then there’s Noosa National Park, which sits on the headland between Noosa Main Beach and Sunshine Beach. The Coastal Walk is stunning and offers incredible views. Look up and you might see koalas in trees; look out over the ocean and there’s a chance you might see dolphins surfing the waves. If you’re visiting between June and November, there’s also a good chance you’ll see migrating humpback whales.
If the day is warm, set your GPS for Kondalilla National Park, about a 35-minute drive inland from Mooloolaba. Here, you’ll find a spot where Skene Creek drops 90m over rock into an enticing pool of water. The walk to Kondalilla Falls is a good one, but you need to leave yourself a few hours if you want to have a dip. There are about 300 steps on the 2.5-kilometre trial and, since what goes down must come back up, you need to give yourself enough time to take them on and return to the rental car before day’s end.
Did you know there are only two everglades systems in the world? Most people have heard about the one in Florida, but lesser-known is the Noosa Everglades, about a 40-minute trip in your rental car from Noosa Heads. Within the Great Sandy National Park, this 60km network of waterways winds its way through wetlands and ancient tea tree forests in a landscape that has barely changed in thousands of years. The best way to explore it is from the water itself. Hire a kayak or stand-up paddle boards and enjoy the tranquillity as you watch for pelicans, black cockatoos, eagles and even jabirus. The best thing is that, unlike in Florida, you can cool off in the tannin-tinted water because there are no alligators here.
Anyone who loves the work of artists and craftspeople should stroll around the stalls at Eumundi Markets. As well as any type of product you can think of, from handmade fashion to quirky homewares, there are vendors selling so many different types of food you’ll never be able to choose what to have for lunch.
Looking to expand your Eumundi experience? The town of Maleny, about 50 kilometres southwest of Maroochydore Airport, is artsy and bohemian. There’s so much to do here, from seeing how a farm works at Maleny Dairies to strolling around the glorious Maleny Botanic Gardens with its jaw-dropping views of the Glass House Mountains.
Want to make the most of your trip to the Sunshine Coast? Hire a rental car when you get there.