Inspire

Sunshine Coast Is The Ultimate Winter Getaway

The stretch of rolling swell and brilliant beaches between Caloundra and Noosa is called the Sunshine Coast for a reason. With over 300 sunny days a year, it’s no wonder the locals are always smiling, but that’s far from the only reason to visit.

The entire region of the Sunshine Coast is one giant playground ready to be explored. Here’s what you need to know when planning your ultimate winter getaway.

Find a convenient base

The Sunshine Coast stretches out along the Queensland shore beginning about 100kms north of Brisbane, and for most of that distance towns are dotted along the foreshore. These are connected by the Bruce Highway, which can get busy at peak times so it’s worth choosing a convenient base.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sunshine Coast Australia (@sunshinecoast) on

At the Southern end, Mooloolaba is perfect – it’s close to the airport, there’s plenty of white sand and waves, lots of on-water adventures and it’s easy to get into the hinterland. Further north, Noosa has an upscale vibe with stunning beaches on the edge of lush rainforest and is the ideal spot to relax and forget about the rest of the world.

The best Sunshine Coast beaches

Just about the whole coastline is made up of beaches – more than 100kms all up – so the hardest part may be choosing which one to spread your towel out on. Mooloolaba Beach has large stretches of sand, sparkling surf and plenty of nearby amenities while Noosa Heads’ north facing beach is calm and perfect for lounging with a good book.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Coolum Surf Club (@coolumsurfclub) on

If you want to escape the crowds you can split the difference at Coolum Beach, which is full of hidden bays and rockpools to explore, and is usually quiet even when the other areas are crowded. Even more secluded is Alexandria Bay (or A Bay), a 20-minute walk through Noosa National Park that is an unofficial nudist beach.

And if you want to do more than just watch the waves roll in, you can get lessons all up and down the coast but Coolum Surfing School is among the best.

Go diving to explore underwater shipwrecks

From the beaches you’ll see plenty of surfers and swimmers, but some of the best action is happening under the surface. Hidden in the waters of Mooloolaba, the ex-HMAS Brisbane is a 133-metre long decommissioned warship that’s slowly turning into an artificial reef.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sunreef (@sunreef_mooloolaba) on

The front half has been modified for diving and even if you’ve never done a wreck dive before, Sunreef Mooloolaba can take you on a guided tour that passes through all three interior levels, as well as checking out the abundant wildlife surrounding it. And if you’re a pro, venture out to the pitch black back half for a serious challenge.

Swim with whales

These waters aren’t just popular with humans. Up to 30,000 humpback whales use it as a highway while heading up to warmer waters for breeding season, and it was the first place in Australia where humans and whales were able to interact on the unique Swim With Whales tour from July to October. With just 20 people on board, it’s a chance to have an intimate encounter with a giant (they grow up to 16 metres long!) and hear a real whale song up close.

Chasing waterfalls

If you want a change of scenery, head inland and you’ll quickly encounter peaks covered in lush subtropical rainforest. The spectacular Blackall Range Tourist Drive is only 55kms, but allow plenty of time because it’s hard to find a spot without jaw-dropping views.

From Mary Cairncross Reserve, you can look out over the volcanic crags of the Glasshouse Mountains that rise dramatically from the surrounding plains, while around Montville the views stretch south over forested slopes down to the sparkling sea.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Kate Bennett 📷 (@katebennett70) on

But you don’t need to go that far for a swim; hidden in every patch of rainforest is a waterfall worth tracking down. A short walk along a creek takes you to the cascading Gardners Falls and a lovely picnic spot while the ethereal Gheerulla Falls require a bit more of a walk. Kondolilla Falls has a bigger drop and the pools above it catch the full sun. Enjoy stunning views of the deep valley surrounding the falls as you’re drying off or if you really want to earn that swim, check out the circuit that goes through the cool, dark rainforest to the base of the falls.

Where to eat and drink

Since its recent $10m refurbishment, The Wharf in Mooloolaba has become the spot to dine. The Hampton-style complex has lots to choose from, but Rice Boi is the most popular for a reason. They don’t take reservations so it’s best to get in early for your chance to enjoy the pan-Asian share plates on offer. Just be careful who you bring, because some of this food is too good to share! Think yellow curry chicken spring rolls and sweet, spicy 10 hour coconut braised beef.

sunshine coast

Image: The Wharf

For dessert, grab a scoop of creamy gelato or flavoured soft serve from nearby Fior De Latte. And if you’re still hungry after all that, in August The Curated Plate festival has a host of events celebrating the producers, chefs and microbreweries of the region.

(Lead image: Noosa. Jamie MacFadyen. Copyright: TA/TEQ)