A local’s guide to the Sunshine Coast

When she’s not whipping up a storm in the kitchen or walking her two dogs, Hank and Holly, you’ll find Sunshine Coast chef, author and blogger Adele McConnell aka Vegie Head, out in nature enjoying the best beachside camping spots, planning her next caravanning adventure, or chatting to the purveyors at her favourite farmers markets.

We drilled Adele to reveal her favourite things to do on the Sunshine Coast – save this post for your next visit, you’re going want to follow every tip!

Adele’s Top 5 places to visit on the Sunshine Coast

1. Kondalilla Falls – Take your bathers, a towel and some sturdy walking shoes. You’ll feel like a dip in the waterfalls after the long walk.

2. Peregian Beach – Golden sand as far as the eye can see and gentle waves. This beach is perfect for nervous ocean swimmers. Take lots of sunscreen, a hat and a beach umbrella; it gets hot out there!

3. Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve – A subtropical rainforest that overlooks the Glass House Mountains. Spectacular if you’ve got relatives from interstate and want to show them natural and local scenery.

4. Rainbow Beach – Great for camping! The facilities are clean and safe, staff are lovely, and there’s so much space to spread out and get back to nature. Enjoy sunset overlooking the water and settle down by the fire with a glass of wine. At night, you’ll hear the whooshing of bats overhead, and you’ll wake up to kookaburras laughing loudly. Simply stunning. Take your dog, too!

Camping at Rainbow Beach | A local's guide to the Sunshine Coast

5. Eumundi Markets – Literally something for everyone. Arrive early and be prepared to walk a little bit, as parking can be difficult, especially around school holiday time. Come with an appetite and a hat, and explore the huge market set on a gentle sloping hill. You’ll find everything from craft and art, to skin care and massage, to food and wine, clothing and jewellery. The perfect day trip.

Fave coffee/tea/juice

I’m a sucker for a good coffee! Head to Sunshine Sunshine Espresso (23/9 Lomandra Dr, Currimundi QLD 4551) for the drip of the day and a sweet treat; the Blondies are fantastic!

I love a fresh juice or smoothie from Greenhouse Cafe (5/8 Ormuz Avenue, Caloundra QLD 4551), and they also have Kombucha on tap – try the Hibiscus Galangal Kombucha. It’s refreshing and thirst quenching.

Best brekkie

Greenhouse Cafe, hands down. Their menu changes by season, and they only use the best organic and local produce they can source.

Try the Roast Vegetable and Basil Quesadillas, the Burger (a tender sweet potato pattie, topped with fresh herbs and greens, homemade tzatziki, beetroot, carrot and house chilli jam) and one of their daily soups. Grab a sweet treat from the cabinet on the way out – I HIGHLY recommend the raw Snickers slice!

Raw Snickers Slice | A local's guide to the Sunshine Coast

Raw Snickers slice. Photo by @_greenhouse_cafe via IG

And a second runner up, The Velo Project in Mooloolaba. Keep your eyes peeled for their kale and white beans breakfast special, which is great for the meat-eaters out there, and totally indulge in an iced almond milk latte. Both of these cafes are dog-friendly; so take your pooch along, they’ll be warmly greeted and patted by all!

Perfect picnic spot

Head to Bulcock Beach in Caloundra – there are some gorgeous shops along the waterfront (ice-cream for the kids!) and ample seating all along the water. You’ll often see kite surfers out in the water and it’s a great spot for a post-picnic dip. It’s patrolled, and there are no waves, so it’s good for the little ones.

Splurge on dinner at…

Spice Bar in Mooloolaba. Heck, I could eat there every night of the week. Spice Bar is modern Asian fusion, with a healthy take and packs a punch in the flavour department.

Ask them to surprise you with a mocktail, and they’ll come back with something coconutty and fruity; made just for you. No menu required.

The edamame are crunchy and salty; seasoned with dulse and sea salt. Order at least two bowls of lotus root chips. They’ll be gone in a flash, and you’ve never had lotus root chips this crunchy and hot before!

Spice Bar Mooloolaba | A local's guide to the Sunshine Coast

Favourite markets?

We love Kawana Waters Farmers Market (at the Kawana Waters State College, back of Sportsmans Parade)! I’m going to take you on a virtual tour that I trek every Saturday morning; we stock up on all of the best foods, then go and enjoy a tapas picnic with the food we’ve just bought. Let’s go!

First things first: hydrate. We’re going to go to The Sunflower Hotel for a smoothie (The Hip Wiggler is my total fave; almond milk, banana, dates and cinnamon). Some of their most popular creations are things like ‘Sunshine Sprout’ (bright pink, and zingy enough to put a spring in your step) and ‘Mother Earth’ (green, but don’t let that scare you. This one’s a must try!)

Sunflower Hotel smoothie | A local's guide to the Sunshine Coast

Sunflower Hotel smoothie. Photo by @vegiehead

Next, we’re going to see Garry at Sunshine Organics for the best local certified organic produce, as well as dates, coconut cream and herbs. (Tip; buy the Dutch Cream Potatoes – they’re the best you’ll ever have). Grab some ripe avocados, some juicy tomatoes and some lemons.

After having a chuckle with Garry (he’ll talk your ear off) we’re going to see Judy at Olive Envy. Judy has the best olives I’ve ever tried. They’re salty, but not overly so, meaty yet tender, and come in all sizes and varieties. She knows everything there is to know about olives, and will let you know what the different varieties are like, and how best to enjoy them (hint: did you know that if you suck on an olive pip after eating it, you’re going to get different levels of flavour that you’ve never had from the flesh of an olive? Give it a go!)

Olives from Olive Envy | A local's guide to the Sunshine Coast

Olives from Olive Envy. Photo by @vegiehead

We’re also going to grab some artichoke hearts or mixed antipasto if there’s any left! Her beetroot dip is also a must-try; she makes it fresh and it’s minty, zesty ‘pinkness’ is to die for.

From here, let’s head to the sprouts stand. They’ve got a gorgeous selection of sauerkrauts and different sprouts. All are crunchy, sweet, and will top off our picnic tapas bruschettas beautifully.

Next up, it’s time to carb load. Grab a loaf of sourdough from French Sin (and if they’re not busy they may even slice it for you). They’ve got heaps of pastries and savoury tarts; so if you’re looking for a quick dinner with the family it could be a winner.

On the way out, we’re going to get something sweet. Nathan at Wholefood Provisions makes a killer superfood brownie (for dessert of course). It’s filled with moist prunes, dark cacao and chocolate, and is gluten free too! WHAT!? It’s just too good. We may as well get some Fire Hummus while we’re here too… the hot kick is going to make our tapas out of this world.

And then, let’s find somewhere warm and sunny near the music, sit on a blanket and tuck in! I like to tear the bread, spread some dip over the top, sliced avocado, tomatoes and a squeeze of lemon. Munch on some olives. Have a sip of smoothie. This is the life…

Best spots to photograph?

Head to Currimundi Lake at about 4:30pm. You’ll get to see the sun going down, and the sky turn blue, to purple, to orange and then blazing red. If you’re really lucky, you’ll see the sky look like the image at the top of this post!

Sunshine Coast secret only a local would know?

Ben Bennett Park | A local's guide to the Sunshine Coast

Ben Bennett Park in Caloundra is our secret little spot. It’s part rainforest, part bushland. It’s a beautiful eco-system and is maintained really well. We’ve taken some magical photographs there and it’s a wonderful place for a picnic, a walk with the dogs, or just to sit and read a book.

Keep your eyes peeled for black galahs, and a huge goanna that lives there. It’s a gentle walk, so you can take a stroller or even a wheelchair in some parts. There are signposts that tell you which way to go, as well as little pamphlets that you can take and read up on the local habitat and its animals. Hardly a soul goes there; some mornings it’s just us and the birds. It’s magnificent.  

Most sentimental spot on the coast?

Probably the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, up in Maleny. Our holistic vet, Dr Toni Lynch is based there, and we had to put our dear dog to sleep last year. It was on her property at sunset, and it was still and beautiful. Her animals all came over to say goodbye; guinea fowl, sheep, a horse and her chickens. Maleny holds some very sentimental memories for me.