Sunshine Coast – Adventure is Second Nature11/10/2020
Sit back, relax and discover the pinch-me experiences that make Queensland’s Sunshine Coast a waking dream…
If this year has left you longing for warm beach days, the feeling of sun on your skin and falling asleep to the sound of crashing waves – we have just the antidote.
Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, located just an hour’s drive north from the state’s capital, Brisbane, offers a breath of fresh air, quite literally, for travellers looking to escape it all and reclaim their inner peace.
What sets the Sunshine Coast apart is it’s natural landscape – here is one of the few places in the world where you’ll find two UNESCO declared biospheres sitting side by side, more than 100km of pristine beaches, pockets of sub-tropical rainforest and the Glass House Mountains that are actually remnants of volcanic activity that occurred more than 25 million years ago.
But it’s also home to some of the most unique experiences in Australia. Did you know, for example, that the Sunshine Coast was the first place in Australia where you could swim with humpback whales as they migrate north along the country’s coastline?
It is also where you’ll find the Great Beach Drive, one of the longest beach drives in the world that connects Noosa with Rainbow Beach and the world heritage listed Fraser Island; there are sea turtles, dolphins and incredible bird-life to keep you company.
As we inch closer towards the possibility of a travel bubble between New Zealand and Australia, now’s the time to keep those dreams alive and take a virtual dive into the Sunshine Coast.
DAYDREAM 1: HINTERLAND
When Captain Cook sailed up the east coast of Australia in 1770, he was so taken by the volcanic mountain range that he encountered a thousand kilometres north of Botany Bay that he named them the Glass House Mountains, because their shape reminded him of glass furnaces back in his native Yorkshire.
For many centuries, the Glass House Mountains was a special meeting place of cultural and spiritual significance for local indigenous tribes, the Kabi Kabi and Jinibara people, to gather for ceremonies and social activities.
For modern day explorers, the Glass House Mountains form the southern border of the Sunshine Coast and gateway to the serenity of the Hinterland – rising over 500 metres above sea level where the air is cooler, there are lush rainforests, bountiful waterfalls and a near-perfect sub-tropical climate.
You may laugh at the thought of wrapping your arms around a tree trunk, but studies have shown that people who connect with Mother Nature are less stressed. With hundreds of walking trails that zigzag their way through some of the most spectacular rainforests and national parks, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland is an ideal place to get back in touch with the earth.
There are strolls suitable for all fitness levels, walk through a stunning patch of remnant rainforest at popular Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve or with an easy-to-navigate path, climb one of the Glass House Mountains – Mount Ngungun and be rewarded with panoramic views.
For the more serious trekker, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk is 58.8 kilometres and crosses through three national parks…Kondalilla, Mapleton Falls and Mapleton. The walk offers many access points to take on a section or the whole distance. There is overnighting in remote, walkers’ camps or, at the other end of the scale, Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat offers a luxury two-night all-inclusive guided package.
Located only 45 minutes drive from the beaches of the Sunshine Coast, the Hinterland is a popular destination for a daytrip and also has a range of accommodation options from treehouses to luxury retreats.
Where to Stay:
- Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat – A boutique luxury rainforest retreat for couples, nestled in pristine rainforest on the edge of Kondalilla National Park.
- Secrets on the Lake – Ten unique hand carved treehouses nestle high in the rainforest canopy on the shores of Lake Baroon, each with stunning lake views.
- Spicers Tamarind Retreat – Located on the edge of Gardner’s Falls and surrounded by rainforest, this five star retreat is an Asian-influenced refuge.
- Spicers Clovelly Estate – Set in the tranquil Hinterland hills, this European estate has a reputation for exceptional gourmet cuisine.
DAYDREAM 2: MOOLOOLABA
Mooloolaba is one of Australia’s most vibrant and exciting stretches of coastline and is the epicentre for water activities.
Local and visitors fully embrace the region’s relaxed beach vibe and it is easyto understand why. Rimmed with wide stretches of pristine sand and crystal-clear waters; Mooloolaba Beach is a curving, north-east to north facing beach creating a sheltered bay. The beach is patrolled by surf lifesavers making it a safe and popular choice for families.
Get your heart racing with the once in a lifetime experience of swimming with mighty humpback whales. During whale season (June to October), Sunreef offers a half day tour and the exhilaration of getting up close with these gigantic but gentle sea creatures.
From the revitalised wharf you can head out on a fishing charter, river cruise, dive the HMAS Brisbane wreck or snorkel Mudjimba Island. The tour is suitable for all swimmers from eight years and during the 2.5hr encounter you will see turtles, wobbegongs, rays, nudibranchs, crayfish and many types of reef fish.
New indigenous cruise operator, Saltwater Eco Tours, operates a century-old historic timber sailing vessel, Spray of the Coral Coast, to showcase the Sunshine Coast’s indigenous heritage. Each tour has an indigenous storyteller on board to share the stories, traditions and culture of the Sunshine Coast’s original inhabitants and first eco custodians, the Kabi Kabi people (who were originally known as the Saltwater People). Tours operating from Mooloolaba include a cultural tour, sunset acoustic tour and private charters.
Mooloolaba is located 90 minutes-drive from Brisbane Airport and only 15 minutes from Sunshine Coast Airport.
Where to Stay:
- Mantra Mooloolaba Beach – Located centrally in the heart of Mooloolaba with easy access to the beach, cafes, restaurants, shopping and attractions.
- Landmark Resort and Spa – This resort offers absolute ocean front accommodation directly opposite Mooloolaba Beach.
- Oceans Mooloolaba Beach – The spacious five star apartments and penthouses are perfect for families and couples to enjoy.
- Allure Mooloolaba – Boutique seaside holiday accommodation with superb fully self-contained one, two and three bedroom apartments and an outdoor pool.
- First Light Mooloolaba – Luxurious one, two and three bedroom self-contained apartments are furnished with modern décor and open onto your own private balcony.
DAYDREAM 3: COOLUM TO NOOSA
Follow the coast north and you will find yourself in the seaside township of Coolum. Here life revolves around the beach. The locals’ alarm clocks are set for daybreak so they can paddle out early and catch the best waves.
Sunshine Coast waters are safe to swim year-round – the water temperatures are usually well above 20 degrees even in winter – making it the perfect place to cross ‘learn to surf’ off your bucket list. In Coolum you would be hard-pressed to find anyone who knows the surf better than Chris and Genevieve Kendall who operate Coolum Surf School, which is a must-do in the region.
This emphasis on beach culture continues further north in Noosa; the first of two UNESCO declared biospheres on the Sunshine Coast. Noosa Main Beach sits alongside Noosa National Park, where on any given day you will spot turtles, dolphins or koalas high up in the trees.
Noosa is also home to the Noosa Everglades, one of only two Everglades systems in the world – that can be explored by kayak with Kanu Kapers or on an eco-cruise with Everglades Ecosafaris.
For those who appreciate a touch of glamour, Noosa’s iconic Hastings Street is home to a myriad of restaurants, bars and boutique stores, making it one of Australia’s most revered holiday destinations.
Noosa is a UNESCO declared Biosphere home to one of only two everglades systems in the world and just a 1h30 drive from Brisbane Airport.
Where to Stay:
- The Point Coolum – Set in the hills overlooking Point Arkwright and Coolum Beach, this property is home to comfortable villas with breathtaking ocean views.
- Peppers Noosa Resort and Villas – Surrounded by the tropical wilderness of Noosa National Park, enjoy the serenity of the resort with lush gardens, heated pools and Stephanies Ocean Spa.
- Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort – A blend of coastal chic and Parisian elegance, this five star resort boasts the Noosa Beach House Peter Kuruvita Restaurant & Bar and AQUA Day Spa.
- Habitat Noosa Everglades Ecocamp – Uniquely located in National Park, Habitat Noosa provides onsite camping, motorhome and glamping accommodation on the edge of the Noosa Everglades.
- Culgoa Point Beach Resort – Nestled on the longest private beach in Noosa, the resort overlooks the pristine waters of the Noosa River.
DAYDREAM 4: THE GREAT BEACH DRIVE TO RAINBOW BEACH
The Great Beach Drive to Rainbow Beach – has there ever been a more whimsical sounding journey?
Noosa North Shore is the gateway to the Great Beach Drive; an awe-inspiring road trip which is one of the longest beach drives in the world. The journey, which is only accessible by four-wheel drive, takes you along the sand from Noosa through the Great Sandy Biosphere to Rainbow Beach.
To one side you have the sparkling Pacific Ocean, where you can spot dolphins, turtles and humpback whales during migration season, with natural Australian bushland to the other.
A great way to experience the Great Beach Drive is on a guided tour. Epic Ocean Adventures operate out of Noosa and Rainbow Beach and take visitors to Double Island Point, which at half-way between the two regions is the perfect place to learn to surf, kayak with dolphins or stand-up paddle board.
Rainbow Beach, as its name suggests, is known for its coloured sands, which were stained over thousands of years by iron-rich minerals. Explore the beach on horseback with Rainbow Beach Horse Rides, by four-wheel drive or on foot, before retiring to the beachside town of the same name.
For a local’s tip, make sure to head-up to Carlo Sand Blow – a unique moonscape sand mass covering 15 hectares overlooking the rainbow sands – to watch the sun set on what has been the ultimate Sunshine Coast daydream.
Rainbow Beach is nestled between Fraser Island, the Great Sandy Biosphere and the Pacific Ocean, a 1.45-minute drive from Sunshine Coast Airport.
Where to Stay:
- Rainbow Ocean Palms Resort – A boutique apartment complex perched on the highest point in Rainbow Beach and a short walk to the impressive moonscape of Carlo Sandblow.
- Plantation Resort at Rainbow – Located in the heart of Rainbow Beach, the resort has one, two and three bedroom apartments, all self-contained with private spa and BBQ.
- Rainbow Beach Ultimate Camping – Fully equipped beachfront camping with everything provided and boasting spectacular views to Fraser Island.
- Rainbow Getaway Holiday Apartments – Located adjacent to the Cooloola National Park, this affordable accommodation offers fully self-contained apartments in one, two and three bedrooms.
Visit Sunshine Coast can’t wait to welcome our Kiwi neighbours back when it is safe to do so, and in the meantime, encourage armchair travellers to keep the dream alive and experience the best of the Sunshine Coast via our website www.visitsunshinecoast.com and Instagram @VisitSunshineCoast.