The complete backpackers guide to the Sunshine Coast
Whether you’re on a working holiday or a temporary jaunt around Queensland, the Sunshine Coast is ripe for the ‘packer picking. Not only will you find all the necessary ingredients of a memorable home-away-from-home (read: plenty of fun and new experiences), but the region is the perfect base for both finding work and adventuring.
No matter where you choose, you’ll need a helping hand to settle in like a local so this Sunshine Coast backpackers guide will start you on your way nicely.
WHERE TO STAY
As any backpacker worth their endless tan knows, the ‘where to stay’ part of a working holiday can present a litany of not-so-fun challenges. Bed bugs, rowdy roommates, patchy WiFi and exorbitant cost are all serious holiday vibe-killers worth avoiding.
Luckily though, the Sunshine Coast is home to a mix of quality hostels, back- and flashpacker resorts, camping options and holiday parks so you can sleep easy.
Popular resort and holiday spot Noosa is the biggest hub for backpackers seeking sunshine, stunning beaches and a fun local scene. Try Nomads Noosa, Noosa Flashpackers, Dolphin Beach House, Halse Lodge (set in a heritage-listed 1880s house, which sits a short 100 metres from the beach), Chillout Noosa and Noosa Backpackers for affordable shared accommodation in a mixture of lodges, bunk and resort-style rooms.
If you want to be in the heart of one of the Sunshine Coast’s most vibrant areas, Mooloolaba Beach Backpackers is right in the thick of it. Just a short walk to the beach and the strip of cafes, restaurants and boutiques the backpackers has great amenities and inclusions like free breakfast, reliable WiFi and good work connections.
Others to check out include Caloundra Backpackers, Maroochydore Backpackers Hostel and Suncoast Backpackers Lodge.
For a budget that only stretches as far as pitching your own accommodation, book a spot at one of the many campgrounds or holiday parks dotted along the coast.
Searching for your temporary digs? Keep these handy hints in mind to love where you live.
Proximity – Do you know where you’ll be working yet? Ideally, find somewhere that’s close to all the amenities you think you’ll need on a regular basis and your place of employ.
Hostel/accommodation inclusions – Most hostels offer a free continental breakfast daily, use of watersport equipment like surf and SUP boards as well as free WiFi, use of computers and free courtesy buses into town. It pays to check what’s included before booking.
Reviews – Do your research. Even if you happen to be on the other side of the world, the internet is an amazing way to get a feel for a place before you book. Websites dedicated to reviewing accommodation like TripAdvisor and Hostelworld are great places to get a feel for honest feedback from travellers just like you.
WHERE TO PLAY
There’s definitely no shortage of things to do on the Sunshine Coast but, let’s face it, hitting the beach is most likely going to be priority number one. Pick any one of the #nofilterneeded beaches along the stretch of coastline for some serious sea gypsy time. You’ll have to fight for a space to lay your towel at hotspots like Kings Beach, Mooloolaba Beach and Noosa Main Beach but if you venture to others like Coolum, Peregian and Sunrise at the northern end of the coast; and Shelly, Moffat and Dicky Beaches at the southern, then you’re sure to find a spot to lay your towel in peace.
Looking for a little more action? Learn to surf at one the coast’s best surf schools, or grab a paddle and try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding, or SUPing. The placid waters of Maroochy River in Cotton Tree and Noosa Sound are ideal for learning and most of the hostels, including Flashpackers Noosa, Mooloolaba Beach Backpackers and Halse Lodge, even offer free surfboards and SUP boards to their guests!
You don’t really come to the Sunshine Coast to sit inside. This outdoor playground is home to waterfalls to chase, mountains to scale, secret swimming holes to discover, biologically-blessed waterways to paddle and more than a few beach and bush walking trails to tackle (keep looking up in Noosa National Park for the chance to spot dozing koalas).
Bring your sneakers and your activewear, you’re going to need it.
Once you’ve had your fill of salty skin and vitamin D, head for the hills and explore the hinterland in all its glory.
There are some lesser-known spots you should check out while you’re out this way, too.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Eating out on the cheap
The Sunshine Coast’s cafe and eatery scene has a well-earned rep’ for delicious, fresh nosh served with a healthy side of classic coastal panache. And while eating out at every meal is not an option on a limited budget, there’s no reason not to treat yo’ self every now and then. Plus, there are plenty of Sunshine Coast restaurants, cafes and pubs that put on meal deals and happy hours for set days and hours of the week.
Check out Alex Bar & Grill for their Wednesday wings; try the $17 pizza and pasta night at Brightwater Tavern in Mountain Creek (Wednesdays); Noosaville’s Bordertown has $5 Taco of the Day on Wednesdays from 3-5pm; Tuesday’s steak nights at Your Place Espresso in Mooloolaba; and The Beach Bar and Grill on Thursday nights is the place to get a chicken parma worth writing home about,
Ocean Street in Maroochydore is great for quick, budget-friendly eats with good atmosphere. Try Hello Harry (also in Caloundra) for a belly-filling burger with chips for under $20 or Junk for authentic Asian small plates for $10. On the second Friday each month this buzzing strip is also home to Nights on Ocean, a food-lovers’ nirvana with moreish market eats, live music, and local arts and crafts.
If you love whipping up gourmet feasts on the cheap, then you’ll find plenty of supermarkets and speciality shops from which to source ingredients.
Thanks to the Sunshine Coast’s ideal climate and geography – fertile volcanic soil and humid weather – farmers markets brimming with local produce are everywhere. Caloundra, Kawana, Peregian, Noosa and Maroochydore are all home to regular farmers markets – a great place to score the freshest fruit and veg to prove your culinary chops. Kawana Farmers Markets are on every Saturday morning, while Noosa Farmers Markets and Fishermans Road Markets in Maroochydore pops up every Sunday morning.
One of the Sunshine Coast’s most iconic markets, Eumundi Markets is also great for finding fresh fruit and veg, and picking up locally made souvenirs from artisans who call the area home. Head along every Wednesday and Saturday to explore.
Taking a tipple
After a long hard day at the beach, you’re going to be in need of a frosty beverage to take the edge off all those salty good times. The Sunshine Coast has you covered with everything from pubs, surf clubs and returned services leagues (aka RSLs), pulling reasonably priced pints of beer and a decent tipple of wine, to hip bars and clubs slinging creative cocktails and chilled tunes.
For a relaxed vibe, head to one of the coast’s craft beer bars. Taps Mooloolaba’s $5 tinnie and snag special (AKA tinned beer and sausage) is on every Sunday afternoon, too.
Tips for staying fed on the cheap
- Have similar tastes to your bunkmate buddies or new housemates? Buy in bulk and at the markets and supermarkets like ALDI to cook up meals that are both filling and affordable.
- Keep an eye out for cheap meal deals and happy hours at RSLs and pubs, plus deals associated with hostels and group accommodation, many of which organise special evenings and discounts for their residents at local businesses.
- If you want to eat out on the cheap, take the DIY approach and make use the free BBQ facilities in local parks, or throw down a rug for an impromptu picnic.
- Check out roadside stalls and honesty boxes in hinterland areas home to local fresh fruit and veg at super cheap prices.
WHERE/HOW TO FIND WORK
It’s easy to feel like you’re on forever holidays on the Sunshine Coast but finding work is a necessary evil to facilitate all that fun. There’s plenty of ‘hard yakka’ to be found on the Sunshine Coast. From farm and labouring work to admin, au-pair and nannying work as well as hospitality jobs, it’s a breeze to pick up temporary work on the coast, if you know where to look.
The current working holiday visa allows a maximum of six months working with the same employer during your 12-month Working Holiday. If you want to apply to stay for a second year (aka a second Working Holiday visa), you’ll need to do a three-month stint in agriculture in a regional area (under which the Sunshine Coast falls #winning!) during your first Working Holiday.
Since fruit picking is popular, it pays to be prepared. You’ll find everything from strawberry picking and planting and ginger, custard apple and pineapple picking throughout the year on the coast.
Ask your hostel
Most of the hostels (like Mooloolaba Beach Backpackers) have connections with local farmers and can recommend where to look for seasonal work like fruit picking and farm work. Strawberry Fields in Palmview generally hires approximately 50-55 backpackers per season, finding them through local hostels.
Trawl online job sites
Online forums like Backpackers Jobs Board, the Australian government’s Jobactive site, Fruit Picking Australia site and Fruit Picking Jobs Australia (on Facebook) are free resources to start your search.
Don’t forget to check Adventure Queensland’s Jobs page which links to a number of sites geared towards working holiday/seasonal jobs throughout the state.
Check out WWOOFing
No, this has nothing to do with acting like a dog and everything to do with finding work on local organic farms (minimum of 4-6 hours per day) in exchange for room and board. To apply, you’ll need to be a member of the Australians WWOOF network but you can join online for just $70 per year or a WWOOF ‘host’ can help you join, giving you access to the app and associated resources instantly.
Talk to locals
Local knowledge goes a long way so don’t be shy about making friends with the friendly residents and locals you bump into. Even if nothing comes of it work-wise, you’ll likely make a friend for life!