The only Sunshine Coast accommodation guide you’ll ever need
It’s been 50 years since the Sunshine Coast was bestowed its moniker – before that, holidaymakers would pitch their tents and book into holiday homes on what was known as the North Coast.
A lot has changed since that sunshine-y day and now there are countless places to lay your head from Caloundra up to Rainbow Beach and inland to the Hinterland. There’s restored train carriages, glamping tents, beachfront resorts and self-contained apartments you’ll want to make your own.
Get prepped for your next visit to the Sunshine Coast with this comprehensive accommodation guide.
Caloundra to Kawana
The southern end of the Sunshine Coast has always been a favourite with families, drawn to its calm waters along Golden Beach and Bulcock Beach, overlooking the Pumicestone Passage and Bribie Island with the Glass House Mountains popping their heads up in the distance.
5-star position: Rumba Beach Resort, Caloundra
You can’t get much more of a prime position than Rumba Beach Resort, on the esplanade at Bulcock Beach. You’ll find all the facilities you’d expect in a resort along with these self-contained apartments, with a new bar on-site, restaurants downstairs, and spa treatments on speed dial.
The rooms were completely refurbished in 2014 and one, two and three bedroom apartment choices means there’s plenty of room for the whole family or large groups here. You and the kids can splash around (and scare diners on the street below through the clear acrylic portholes) all year ‘round in the heated pool.
Local’s tip: Hire one of the tandem or single e-bikes from reception to cruise along the Caloundra Coastal Walk.
Cheap and cheerful: Dicky Beach Family Holiday Park
If you want beachfront without breaking the budget, book a site or cabin at Dicky Beach Holiday Park. With a surf club, skate park and patrolled beach on your doorstep – and shop and cafe strip across the road – a stay here will transport you back to camping trips with your grandparents.
Follow the Coastal Pathway south to discover nearby Moffat Beach and continue around to Kings Beach and Bulcock Beach, or walk along the beach to the north to reach the calm waters of Currimundi Lake.
Local’s tip: Tucked around the back of the Dicky Beach shops you’ll find some of the best sushi this side of Tokyo at Yume Japanese Restaurant. Book ahead.
How’s the serenity: Ramada Resort, Golden Beach
If you’ve never holidayed down this end of the Sunshine Coast before, you’ll be kicking yourself for missing out on the glorious water views, endless waterfront parklands and blissful lack of hustle and bustle the Ramada Resort has on tap.
Hire a kayak and paddle along Pumicestone Passage – or if you’re feeling extra energetic, over to the northern tip of Bribie Island – or jump on a jet-ski tour before grabbing a spot under a shady tree for fish and chips and arvo naps.
Mooloolaba to Marcoola
Pick your spot on the map between Mooloolaba and Marcoola to be at the beating heart of the Sunshine Coast (aka shopping, cinemas, and plenty of restaurants and cafes at your disposal).
Livin’ large: Breeze Mooloolaba
Call the real estate agent! You’ll feel like you’ve moved into your brand new home with a stay at Breeze Mooloolaba – directly opposite a quiet patch of Mooloolaba Beach.
A calm palette of grey linens, whitewashed Balinese timber and marble runs throughout the one and two-bedroom apartments – with either beach or hinterland views – and you’ll find a stylish communal BBQ and pool area lifted straight from the pages of Real Living downstairs.
Local’s tip: Grab one of the free outdoor BBQs at the HMAS Memorial, across the road, for the perfect sunset dinner spot. Oh, and if you’re missing the gym, there’s a free circuit in the park across the road, too.
Old school vibes: Cotton Tree Holiday Park
Once you’ve stayed at the Cotton Tree Holiday Park you’ll want to make a recurring booking year after year, with one of the most enviable waterfront positions on the entire coast.
You can pitch a tent, park up your van or book into one of the nine Deluxe Villas and enjoy the best of both worlds with SUPing and swimming the activity di rigueur on the Maroochy River side, and a gentle beach break for surfing and bodyboarding on the surf side.
Local’s tip: Wander along the waterfront pathway to Ocean Street in Maroochydore on the second Friday of the month for Nights On Ocean – a street festival serving up delicious eats from around the world, laneway bars, live music and kids craft activities.
Glamping for the whole family: Big4 Rivershore, Maroochydore
Keen to give this glamping thing a try? Book into one of the permanent safari tents, replete with four-poster bed, at this riverfront holiday park.
You’ll have stand-up paddleboards at your disposal, a Weber BBQ to sort dinner, and Netflix if all that great outdoors stuff gets too much. If your brood spills out of the bedding configuration, they’ll even set up a bell tent for up to five kids to camp in.
Local’s tip: Stock up on fresh fruit and veggies at Erbachers for all your self-catering needs, operating out of the same spot they’ve been in since 1965, just a few hundred metres away from your tent flap.
For skater boys and girls: Breakfree Alexandra Beachfront Resort
While the brand new Alex skate park is currently under construction, once completed (in November 2017, weather permitting) it will be THE place for the kids to kickflip, ollie and rail slide their heart’s out.
In the meantime, you’ve got the spoils of the sprawling lagoon pool at the Breakfree Alexandra Beachfront Resort and the upgraded Alexandra Headland beachfront parklands to soak up and enjoy. Take a surfing lesson with XL Surf Academy who you’ll find in the park every day, wander up to the Bluff to watch the longboarders, and catch live music in Black Bunny right out front of the hotel.
Local’s tip: If you’re a fiend for Mexican, tuck into tacos at Ol’ Cactus, opposite the skate park, just a few steps from your front door.
DIY retreat: Novotel Twin Waters Resort
With rooms positioned around a private lagoon and direct access to the almost deserted North Shore off-leash beach, it doesn’t take long to slip into holiday mode here. The kids will love the inflatable Aqua Fun Park with obstacle-course-like challenges while you can hire a SUP or kayak to explore, or just laze by the pool and leave the exertion to someone else.
Local’s tip: Come October, the resort will be a blur of lycra and yoga mats as Wanderlust Festival takes over for three days of yoga, mindfulness, music and organic eats.
Noosa to Coolum
Of course, Noosa needs no introduction with its speccy National Park (look up to spot koalas!), top-notch dining scene and events like Noosa Food and Wine and the Noosa Triathlon bringing the best in the biz to chill, Sunny Coast style.
Absolute beachfront: Netanya Noosa
There are few moments in life when you feel like a celebrity, but stepping out onto your balcony at the beachfront Netanya Noosa would have to be one of them.
The studios, apartments, and penthouses are stunning but it’s what lays out right out front – Noosa‘s beautiful Main Beach and the curving headland wrapping around to Little Cove and Noosa National Park to your right – that amplify this resort to Kardashian-high levels.
Local’s tip: Order a breakfast hamper to be spoilt with a bundle of local produce from the on-site Providore deli, including the likes of Tanglewood sourdough and creamy Queensland yoghurt.
In nature: Peppers Noosa
Perched high on the hill, you’ll be able to drink in views over Noosa and the National Park from your studio, apartment or penthouse at Peppers Noosa Resort, which keeps its eco conscious clear with solar energy and rainwater irrigation.
With Stephanie’s Spa and the VIEW on Little Hastings restaurant on-site, you won’t have much cause to leave the compound, and if you decide to go high-roller and book a villa you’ll have your own personal concierge and complimentary transfers into town, so you won’t even have to lift a finger.
Local’s tip: If you’re in town on a Sunday, head to the Noosa Farmers Market nice and early to rub shoulders with local producers and sample their wares.
Family-friendly stay: Coolum Holiday Park
Beach out the front, shops out the back, kids to play with in the playground… what more could you ask for from a family holiday?
Book into Coolum Holiday Park for a low-key escape that revolves around plenty of surf and sandcastle-making time and happy hour at the surf club. If you lock away your digital devices, it could almost be 1989.
Local’s tip: Head a few streets back for your morning coffee at Compound Surf & Espresso, serving secondhand surf clothes alongside your piccolo.
Off the beaten track: Boreen Point Campground
Never heard of Boreen Point? You’ll want to keep this secret to yourself when you discover how laid-back the vibes are here on the shores of Lake Cootharaba.
If you’re into fishing, kayaking and being at one with nature, this is your holiday nirvana with the protected Noosa Everglades just a few paddle strokes away. And as a bonus, accommodation options here are wallet-friendly, too.
Local’s tip: Head to the nearby Apollonion Hotel for its renowned Sunday roast.
Prefer the sounds of a whip-bird to the crash of the ocean to wake to each morning? Head for the Sunshine Coast Hinterland and you’ll have your pick of boutique B&Bs through to luxury homesteads and eco lodges.
Wherever you stay for the night, a scenic drive, mountain hike, waterfall and roadside stall overflowing with tasty local produce won’t be far away. As well as visiting the hot spots like Maleny, Montville and Eumundi, take time to explore the lesser-known Hinterland haunts, too.
Date night: Spicers Tamarind
Some places are so special they’ll make you want to visit again and again, and when you book into Spicers Tamarind Retreat in Maleny, it’s hard not to be smitten.
You can try playing hard to get as you dine through a Chef’s Selection degustation in the restaurant, or play it cool while you float in the hydrotherapy pool before your spa treatment at Spa Anise, but after you’ve wielded a knife and sliced and diced your way through a cooking class and had a soak in your outdoor cedar hot tub, you’ll be in a deeply committed, long-term relationship.
Local’s tip: Continue down the road to find Gardners Falls, a little-known waterfall, swimming hole and picnic spot beloved by locals.
Out of the box: Glasshouse Mountains Eco Lodge
What do you get when you combine an old church with a collection of turn-of-the-century train carriages, Australia’s largest dragonfruit farm, a coffee plantation and a menagerie of plants at the foothills of the Glass House Mountains? A completely charming, and slightly quirky, place to stay.
Spend a night (or five) at Glasshouse Mountains Eco Lodge and you’ll be well-positioned to tackle the challenging climb of Mt Tibrogargan or spend the day at Australia Zoo and when you retire for the day, you can kick back on a swinging chair with a cup of coffee grown, processed and roasted on-site or sample their Jaboticaba Jam or port, made with fruit grown on the property.
Local’s tip: Pick up the ‘flestering’ guide at reception to find out the story behind owner Keith Murray and his son, Hamish’s quirky artworks, fashioned from found objects across the property.
Hiking in luxury: Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat
It’s not just honeymooners who’ll enjoy a stay at Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat. Book into one of the six pavilions placed around the property and you’ll have your own spa bath, fire, and hammock to laze about in but make sure you factor in time to explore a section of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk.
You can chase waterfalls; sample local cheese, chocolate and wine; and spot the elusive platypus all within a short radius.
Local’s tip: Book their Luxe Trekking package for a full-day guided walk complimented by two nights at Narrows and all the trimmings.
Gympie to Cooloola
Didn’t think the coast went any further north than Noosa? Well, you’d be missing one of the best parts!
Continue your exploration – whether you opt for the highway or the Great Beach Drive – to see the coloured sands of Rainbow Beach and discover the food bowl that is the Mary Valley. A place where it is still completely possible, and encouraged, to ditch the WiFi connection and get back to nature.
Service with a smile: Rainbow Beach Ultimate Camping
Camping is awesome. Setting up camp is not always so awesome. The guys behind Rainbow Beach Ultimate Camping help you to slip into holiday mode from the moment you arrive, by setting up everything – including the kitchen sink – at your campsite of choice at Inskip Point, overlooking World Heritage-listed Fraser Island.
They’ll even come to service your outdoor toilet and shower – oh yes, these camps come well equipped – each day.
Local’s tip: We’ve got an entire Local’s Guide to Rainbow Beach for you!
Escape to the country: Mary Valley Views B&B
Stay put and spot wallaby, echidna, kookaburra, and rosellas or gaze up at the night sky for a spot of stargazing. Fuelled with an included breakfast of Gympie Gold Regional Produce, check out the local markets, visit a country pub, or go fishing or water skiing on Borumba Dam.
Local’s tip: Here’s how to spend 48 hours in the Mary Valley.
Farm stay: Imbil Bridge Farm
Have your own McLeod’s Daughters moment when you settle into the beautifully-restored 1920s Queenslander farm house, set on 30 acres at Imbil Bridge Farm.
Stairs lead you straight down to a natural creek where you can go swimming, fishing and kayaking, while you’ll be more likely to catch bass, perch and saratoga upstream at Lake Borumba.
Local’s tip: Get hands on and help to feed the cows and collect the eggs on this working farm.