Been there, done that: 16 alternative things to do on the Sunshine Coast
Ah, the Sunshine Coast. Will its charms never end? Just when it feels like every nook and cranny has been thoroughly explored, it tosses up yet another treasure trove of goodies to sift through.
Finding things to do on the Sunshine Coast certainly isn’t hard; it’s one of the most visited destinations in Queensland for good reason. But discovering off-the-beaten-track alternatives to the usual suspects is just so much more satisfying.
Because everyone can use a hot tip, or two, here are our suggestions for things you may also like past the obvious things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
If you’ve done: Sunshine Beach
You should try: Mudjimba Beach
Any Sunshine Coaster worth their salty hair has spent many a sun-drenched day at Sunshine Beach. Both the patrolled and dog beach sections are popular with beach-goers looking to escape the hub-bub of Hastings and Noosa Main Beach. But, if you’re after even less crowds with the same surf-pounded shores, then Mudjimba is your jam.
Just north of Maroochydore, and flanked by the Maroochy River Conservation Park, the patrolled beach is pure Pacific Ocean glory, combining ultra surfable swell with plenty of family-friendly options.
If you’ve done: Kings Beach rock pools
You should try: Fairy Pools in Noosa National Park
The Sunshine Coast is to beaches what Kanye West is to his own ego (i.e. inseparable). And while there are plenty of places to lay out a beach towel and get your fix of vitamin D, finding a rock pool to soak in – like it’s some kind of natural spa – involves a little more effort.
The flat, easily accessed, tidal rock pools at Kings Beach in Caloundra are the obvious choice for rock pool hoppers but head just one hour north to find the Fairy Pools in Noosa National Park.
Consisting of two deep, sparkling, bottle-green pools (the smaller of the two is only visible at low tide), the Fairy Pools sit past Tee Tree Bay and Granite Bay, about a 30-40 minute walk from Little Cove.
Easily missed from the path above, the tell-tale sign is a bench a few hundred metres past the Picnic Cove sign. A word of caution: the sheared face of granite rock formations on either side make for challenging passage but it’s well worth the scramble.
If you’ve done: Cafe by the Beach
You should try: Cool locals’ cafes
Cafes on the beach are always winners, to be honest, but if you are struggling to get a table at the now iconic Moffat Beach spot, Cafe by the Beach, then cast your appetite towards some of the fresh new alternatives frequented by cool locals.
Head north to Mudjimba where High Tide is serving coastal living-inspired fare from a similar beachside location. Or check out The Velo Project in Mooloolaba for creative breakfasts with a locavore bent. Still in Mooloolaba, recently opened Gainsbourg draws in the hippest of crowds for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Get your Insta-worth cake fix at social media faves, TOME, in Maroochydore, drop in to Padre in Noosa for a cup of onsite-roasted joe, and make a bee-line for the beautiful breakfasts at Guru Life in Rosemount.
If you’ve done: Farmers markets
You should try: Roadside produce hotspots
Stumbling upon the occasional honesty box is one of the most pleasant surprises of driving on Queensland’s rural roads. And the Sunshine Coast hinterland has its fair share of these micro-markets dotted along the winding, hilly backroads from Kenilworth to Maleny and Montville.
From avocadoes to pumpkins, corn, mangoes and tomatoes, the produce is super fresh – well worth the short stop.
If you’ve done: The hinterland
You should try: The ‘other’ hinterland
The Sunshine Coast Hinterland of Maleny, Montville and Mapleton behind Caloundra, Buderim and Maroochydore holds many a time-honoured treasure, it’s true. But just a short zip up the motorway towards Noosa and you’ll find the ‘other’ hinterland brimming with lesser-known sights to be seen.
Check out Bonsai Brewhouse in Pomona, The Kenilworth Cheese Factory in, you guessed it, Kenilworth, and Fox and Hound Espresso or Dhom’s Kitchen, both in Cooroy.
If you’ve done: Eumundi Markets
You should try: Kawana Farmers Markets
There’s nothing like a good trip to the markets to make you feel a) very hungry; and b) full of that community spirit. And while the Sunshine Coast’s most famous offers, Noosa Farmer’s Markets and Eumundi Markets, are definite must-dos there are plenty of alternatives to fill a basket and grab something locally-made to munch on.
The Kawana Waters Artisans and Farmers Markets is a less-busy, just as impressive option where friendly local producers share their wares every Saturday from 7am to 12pm.
If you’ve done: A movie at Sunshine Plaza
You should try: A silent film at the Majestic Theatre
It’s hard to compare Pomona’s Majestic Theatre to anything else because it is so singular and unique on the Sunshine Coast – it’s a must-do whether you’re a film buff or not.
Queensland’s longest-running operational film theatre, the Majestic is also one of the only pre-World War II theatres that hasn’t been demolished or adapted to other uses from its glory days.
Although it was recently refurbished, much of the original material and character remains. The country hall-cum-theatre functioned as the home of vaudeville theatre productions, the town’s community space, and a silent film theatre.
If you’ve done: The Pub at Aussie World
You should try: Another country pub
There’s nothing like perching yourself at the bar of a classic old-style Australian pub, pot of beer in hand, pub grub on the way. And while the Sunshine Coast’s pub stalwart, The Pub at Aussie World (previously known as the Ettamogah) still draws the crowds, there’s a few more old charmers just waiting to be experienced up and down the Sunshine Coast.
If you’ve done: Fraser Island 4WD
You should try: The Great Beach Drive
The Great Beach Drive is Queensland’s answer to the Great Ocean Road and starts right in the heart of the Sunshine Coast. Running from Noosa North Shore through Rainbow Beach (and incorporating part of Fraser Island and Fraser Coast), it’s the perfect Sunshine Coast road trip.
Take your camping gear and pitch a tent wherever you find yourself for the night, after spending your days zooming the sandy highway, frolicking in the surf and soaking up plenty of sunshine.
If you’ve done: Baroon Pocket Dam
You should try: Lake Weyba
Visitors to Noosa have probably driven past a hundred times on the to and fro between Hastings Street and Noosaville without realising Lake Weyba is there. Aside from its serious environmental cred’ – Lake Weyba is a Wetland of National Importance and an integral section of the Noosa UNESCO Biosphere – this lake ups the ante on lakes everywhere.
Home to amazing bird watching, horse riding and kayaking, the bulk of the lake is just a stone’s throw from Sunrise Beach and is super easy to get to. Book into 4.5 star Lake Weyba Cottages or Eumarella Shores Noosa Lake Retreat.
If you like: Gardners or Kondalilla Falls
You should try: Serenity Falls
This cool rainforest gem is in the most unlikely of places: the heart of Buderim Forest Park in the quaint hillside community of Buderim.
Aptly named, you’ll find this collection of clear, freshwater pools and falls at the end of a short boardwalk through the forest, just off Lindsay Road in Buderim.
If you’ve done: Mt Coolum
You should try: Wild Horse Mountain Lookout
Heading north from Brisbane up the highway, between Bribie Island and Caloundra, you’ll notice the wooden rotunda of Wild Horse Mountain Lookout jutting from the top of a rise to your right. Surrounded by little but commercial pine forests, the lookout’s panoramic views of the Sunshine Coast are hard to beat.
From Caloundra around to the Glass House Mountains, the view is most spectacular at sunset when the sun lights up the landscape with a warm golden glow, throwing rays out from behind the jagged and ancient mountain formations. To get here, take the Wild Horse Mountain Lookout.
If you’ve done: Bistro C
You should try: Green Zebra
We’re huge fans of Noosa’s Bistro C but sometimes a change is as good as a holiday, so it’s worth mixing it up every now and then. Overlooking Double Bay on Kawana Island, the Green Zebra Restaurant is a suburban bistro serving up quality modern Australian fare.
Eat local is this restaurant’s mantra; the majority of the food is sourced from local Sunshine Coast suppliers, with quality produce from local farmers and drinks from wineries and micro-breweries.
If you’ve done: Noosa Sound
You should try: Currimundi Lake
Hugged by wallum heath and tea trees on either side, Currimundi Lake is a tidal lake running adjacent to the surf beach of the same name. With its inland reaches dyed brown by the forest which surrounds it, it’s a locals secret from way back.
A favourite with families thanks to the calm, shallow waters for splashing, swimming and canoeing, it’s great to visit any time of year but in winter and spring, the heath flowers come out to play.
Seek out the paved pathways running through the Currimundi Lake (Kathleen McArthur) Regional Park for a spot of beachside bushwalking.
If you’ve done: Caloundra Coastal Pathway by foot
You should try: Caloundra Coastal Pathway by bike
There’s an extensive network of cycle tracks on the coast, but Caloundra’s Coastal Pathway is a clear winner. The breathtaking nine-kilometre stretch takes in a lighthouse, lakes, creeks and surf as it meanders along Caloundra’s beaches.
Although the shared walk and cycle path runs from Point Cartwright in the north to Golden Beach in the south, there are different sections for those who want to spread the fun out over several days. A full range of maps can be found at sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au.
If you’ve done: Op shopping in Maroochydore
You should try: Nambour
There’s vintage, pre-loved treasure just begging to be taken home in Nambour’s nifty thrift stores and quirky-cool op-shops. A rummage never felt so good when you hand your hard-earned cash over for newfound gold, and help one of the charity organisations that operate the stores.
Trawl your way through Margie’s Place, Hospice Shop, Bloomhill Op Shop, Endeavour Op Shop and Lifeline. The Old Ambulance Station is also a can’t-miss; the former emergency service hub has been transformed into a creative arts space and incubator filled with pop-up shops and gallery exhibition spaces.