How to do the Sunshine Coast like a local
The Sunshine Coast is known for its sun and surf and is famous for its laid-back vibe and community spirit, but what do the locals get up to when they’re not at the beach?
Here are five ways to experience the Sunshine Coast like a local and see ‘behind the scenes’.
1. Take an Everglades cruise
This is a hidden world tucked behind Noosa’s waterways (and kept close to the hearts of Noosa locals). Take a Noosa Everglades Discovery cruise of the Everglades – part of a UNESCO Biosphere area. More than half of Australia’s birdlife species can be seen here.
Besides passing two shallow lakes, the cruise takes you through the narrow River of Mirrors where the water (stained by tannins from the trees) acts a perfect mirror, reflecting the scribbly gums, swamp banksias, thick spiky grasses and gargantuan paper-barks.
Watch a snake decked darter swoop down as white bellied sea eagles circles overhead. Catch a piece of history as you dock at Harry’s Hut, built in 1957 to accommodate the timber cutters when the area was open to logging.
2. Discover Rainbow Beach
When locals want to escape for the weekend, they head north! Rainbow Beach is the major entry point to the Cooloola National Park, which offers one of the great 4WD excursions in Queensland and a jump-off spot for the ferry to Fraser Island. Explore its huge cliffs, dunes and coloured sands.
Feast on the palette of as many as 72 different coloured sands ranging from vermillion to bright tangerine, which have been produced by combinations of iron oxide and leeched vegetable dyes. The colours are due to its rich content of minerals, such as zircon and monazite.
If you prefer the unusual, the Aboriginal legend about the formation of the sand dunes will interest you – that the sands were coloured when Yiningie, a spirit that took the form of a rainbow, fought with an evil tribesman and fell onto the cliffs.
3. To market, to market
If you want to see community spirit and an arty vibe, head to Eumundi, a small historic hinterland town 20km from Noosa. This market, which looks like an outdoor gallery, has more than 600 handicraft stalls and is held on Saturdays and Wednesdays under the shade of magnificent fig trees.
Choose from the array of fresh food and gourmet goods on sale, perfect for a morning treat. Listen to the soothing tunes of local performers as your browse the colourful stalls that all stick to the dictum ‘make it, grow it bake it or sew it’. Stock up on colourful pottery, vintage wares, glass and local timber products as well as handcrafted boho-chic clothes.
For more local produce, head to Noosa Farmers Market on Sunday mornings, spilling over with bakery products, local honey and fruits and vegetables.
4. Discover Yandina’s attractions
The Ginger Factory at Yandina produces the bulk of the world’s ginger for confectionery. But what is amazing is how they have made it a great educative and entertaining experience for adults and children, making it a favourite with local families.
It’s set out like a mini adventure park with tropical gardens and ‘Moreton’, a 100-year-old restored cane train that takes you around the complex and explains its history.
You learn all about how ginger is processed to use in confectionery, taste various ginger products and then at the Super bee Live Bee Show you learn about how important bees are and how they make honey. At the Ginger Shop you can buy ginger in every possible shape, size and packaging from crystallised ginger, ginger lemon to lime marmalade. The best part? Entry to the factory is free!
Top off the trip to Yandina with a meal at the evocative Spirit House, an oasis of tranquility tucked deep into a bamboo grove with spirit houses, statues and open-air pagodas around a fern-fringed pond. Have a Thai lunch in an electric red pavilion overlooking the calm pond and order the kitchen’s signature whole crisp fish with tamarind chili sauce.
5. Drive through the lush hinterland
Take the Sunday drive route favoured by locals and discover the soul of the Sunshine Coast along the Blackall Range Tourist Route into the hinterland, which is one of Australia’s most dazzling drives.
Drive through emerald green pastures, organic food stores, galleries and a view of 16 volcanic crags that rise up dramatically from the surrounding landscape of eucalyptus and pineapple plantations; the Glass House Mountains.
Stop in Kenilworth to taste handmade gourmet cheese. Maleny is a little town with quaint European architecture, a variety of craft shops, bookshops and cafes and the highest concentration of artists in the country. This was originally a timber region, with cedar, beech and pine felled for furniture and construction. Visit David Linton’s Gallery to see polished silky oak tables and stools, as well as exquisitely crafted cheese platters.
Drop by Art on Cairncross to see a carefully curated collection of artwork, pottery, glass work and masks by local and international artists and A Piece of Green, which is an artist’s collective.
Make sure you stop at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve for a breathtaking view of the Glass House Mountains. Make Montville your last stop before heading back to Noosa, with antique shops and European-style cafes and bars including the Poets Cafe, great for a light meal or tea with a view.