While the Gold Coast is an incredible amalgamation of city and nature, the Sunshine Coast beaches caters to those who prefer a much more laid back country vibe. From small quaint towns on either side of a large town, you don’t have to move too far up and down the coast to find the perfect getaway spot to enjoy your stay.
Mooloolaba & Surrounds
Starting with the beating hub of this spectacular part of the world is the township of Mooloolaba and surrounds. This is the kind of place that definitely feels like a safe bet. As in, if you’re late, hungry and don’t have food to fill your belly, you’re not going to be stuck with fish and chips or meals heading into the $20 per serving situ.
Rumbling stomachs aside, this is a great place to stay or to start your coastal roamings. It has a handful of touristy areas but compared to the Gold Coast, Maroochydore is but a blip on the radar. Here, it’s more about the beaches than tours, more for the traveller than the tourist, so if all that jazz ain’t your vibe, you’re not going to feel like you’re drowning in it. In fact, you probably won’t even notice it at all. I don’t even know why I’m bringing it up…
Carrying on, the lighthouse is generally the next stop. Elevated high up on a headland, there are gorgeous views northward up the coast as far as the eye can see as well as expansive views of the ocean which makes it prime real estate for on-shore whale watching. (If you were to do a boat tour to see these gentle giants up close, Mooloolaba would be a great place to book your ocean adventure.)
- City vibes
- Aquarium and whale watching/water based tours
- Great for shopping
- Lots of food options, especially after dark
- Awesome views from the lighthouse
- Close to Sunshine Coast Airport
- Halfway between Caloundra and Noosa, so it’s a good base to explore the Sunshine Coast
- The most touristy place on the Sunshine Coast
When it comes to defining the perfect coastal town, Noosa would be it. In the same vein as places like Byron Bay, this idyllic town at the very top of the Sunshine Coast is a paradox. Everything feels slower here, relaxed, calm but at the same time, it’s busy, popular. Therein lies a lot of its charm. It’s communal, friendly and quaint. You’re a stranger to this town but something about the way it’s set up makes you feel like as if you’ve belonged there all along.
Noosa National Park
Unfamiliar familiarity aside, Noosa combines two other things that make this place a top destination. Not only is this place world-renowned for its pristine beaches, but has a national park, not way off in the distance as hazy humps beyond yonder, but right there, as a main feature of the town, surrounding its very own long stretch of secluded beach! Wha…
Cooloola National Park
For a magical experience, head north to Cooloola National Park. Although there are many places to camp and walk on either side of the river, the water is where you need to be. It is the absolute epitome of untouched, pristine wilderness. The extremely still waters perfectly mirror the trees and you feel as though you are gliding unearthly amongst the landscape as if defying gravity. You’ve never felt more one with nature. Transcendent.
And, if you are keen on getting the glutes pumping, the Cooloola National Park is also home to one of the Great Walks that zigs and zags it’s way up from Noosa North Shore to Inskip near Tin Can Bay.
Noosa is also a stone throw away from Coolum, which, with its formidable laccolith dominating the landscape, makes for the best short hike near the coastline with sweeping landscape views all the way down to Maroochydore.
Coolum also has the best set of beaches and lookouts. The road bops up and down with the landscape and many of the short beaches are surrounded by dramatic cliffs and headlands making an absolutely gorgeous, unique coastal scenery.
- Has vibes similar to Byron Bay
- Has its own stunning National Park right on the coast which includes its own secluded beach
- Sheltered Beach
- Has many eating options
- Close to one of only two everglades in the world
- Close to the equally stunning Coolum
- Similar vibes to Byron Bay
- Hard to find parking
- Cramped through town
Hopping over to the other side of the Sunshine Coast, is Caloundra, at the very bottom. It’s certainly a lot closer to Brisbane but that doesn’t mean it’s low on things to do.
For those who want to the coastal vibes, but don’t want to be in the waves, the Kings Beach Salt Water Pool is a great alternative. Unlike New South Wales, where there are a lot, this is only one of only a handful of ocean baths that Queensland has to offer so take it while you can.
There’s also a beautiful scenic boardwalk that lines the rocky shore on the southern end of Kings Beach that is well worth a stroll.
There’s also some lighthouses here, for some bizarre reason that I can’t comprehend, is nowhere near the shoreline. You can barely even see it when you are on the beach… (I know because I tried…) I’m confused…
Further afield, if you were to head inland, Caloundra has by far, the best hinterland. The world-famous Glass House Mountains and their unmistakable isolated peaks are a definite must-see (although you can’t not see them if you’re coming up from Brisbane). It’s an incredible drive and there are tonnes of great walks of all levels to explore out here.
- Ocean bath
- Small city vibe
- Closest to Brisbane
- Closest to the incredible Glass House Mountains
- Close to Bribie Island
- Erm, why are the lighthouses in the middle of the city and nowhere near the ocean…
What are your favourite places to peruse by the Sunshine Coast beaches? What draws you into these places and what makes them special for you?
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