Beach holiday like you used to in Caloundra
Remember when holidays used to be less about screen time and more about long, lazy days stretching out in front of you? I know a place where you can find that peaceful, easy feeling, in the Sunshine Coast’s happy holiday playground – Caloundra.
It’s where the soul settles, where the mind calms and where the body becomes mindfully active. If you’ve not yet tapped into your Aussie zen, then head to this charming town, which has buffed itself into a contemporary beachside hub, while still retaining its retro vibe.
Put down the iPad and beach holiday like you used to with this guide:
Explore on foot or with two wheels
In times past, you didn’t need to spend a whole lot of time in the car on your beach holidays and Caloundra keeps that tradition running strong. The Caloundra Coastal Walk is a dream for walkers and cyclists. Wander or pedal its footpaths and boardwalks from beach to beach.
I grabbed my retro wheels from my Rumba Beach Resort accommodation. They hire out comfy treadlies with seats soft enough to accommodate Toblerone-shaped bottom bones (yes, it’s a thing).
At Bulcock Beach, breathe in the salty air from beneath the dappled shade of pandanus trees, or become part of the passing parade of cyclists, locals being walked by their determined dogs, and hand-clasping couples enjoying a romantic escape.
Between Kings Beach and Shelly Beach, look for resident sea hares, black sea cucumbers, blue periwinkles and rose barnacles that call tidal rock pools home. Dig your toes in the sand and make it squeak.
Enjoy watching families frolic in tide-forgotten lagoons, while picnickers unravel their rugs, tipping out their paisley-lined wicker baskets as if packed by Mary Poppins – all before the dreamy backdrop of the pretty-as-a-painting Glass House Mountains. Welcome, in other words, to quintessential Queensland.
Back on the trail, beyond the smoking barbecue stations, cycle up to Centaur Park to see the memorial cenotaph. When you reach pandanus and pine-clad Moffat Beach, abuzz with the coffee connoisseur crowd, sip from The Pocket Espresso Bar or Café by the Beach.
Then enjoy Seaview Artists Gallery, run by 15 locals exhibiting their multimedia installations, from watercolours to stained glass, and pottery to fabric figurines. You can even commission them to create a piece to your liking.
If you’ve developed a penchant for the paintbrush, then head back to Bulcock Beach. Caloundra Regional Art Gallery is currently showcasing the 2017 Sunshine Coast Art Prize finalists’ entries. This prestigious competition awards the winner a $25,000 prize for the acquisition of their piece, which finds a home in the Sunshine Coast Art Collection.
Turn back time in your own Baywatch moment (well, sort of)
Behave like you’re in Baywatch and straddle a jet-ski – okay, so it’s a little more ’80s than retro, but simple beach holiday fun nonetheless.
“Anyone can enjoy my jet-ski tours,” says Ken Jeffries, from Caloundra Jet-ski Hire & Safaris. “I recently had an 83-year-old lady join my tour. And you don’t even have to drive if you don’t want to.”
Ken can mount you on the back of his jet-ski for half the self-drive price. But if the urge takes you, you can ride your own, guided by Ken on a tour of the tranquil waters of the gorgeous 35km-long Pumicestone Passage.
These peaceful waters are part of the Ramsar-listed Moreton Bay Marine Park, flocked-to by migratory shorebirds from the northern hemisphere.
As you zoom alongside Bribie Island’s islets and sandbanks, Ken informs you about the area’s ecosystem through his hi-tech waterproof intercom (fitted on your headpiece), so you’re safe and in contact all the way. You can even be dropped off for a picnic on a deserted beach, and picked up later. How sensational is that!
Go water-glamping and island fishing
Nothing says retro beach holiday like a houseboat but here in Caloundra it’s been taken up a notch. Bruce Boucaut of Caloundra & Bribie House Boats has brought to fruition his dream of a floating campsite.
Flinders is Bruce’s eco-friendly houseboat, which he constructed from scratch. It accesses the shallow intertidal flats of Pumicestone Passage, home to dugong-inhabiting seagrass meadows.
Solar-powered, the houseboat comes fitted with kitchen, pull-out beds, flushing toilet and LPG-heated shower. It also carries a rubber dinghy with oars, cast nets, fishing rods, yabby pump, and beach umbrellas and beach chairs. You’re all set to water-‘glamp’.
Keep your eyes peeled when on the fishing circuit. On my recent trip, I was fortunate enough to meet Caloundra-based Rob Paxevanos from the Fishing Australia TV series. When I told Rob that I’d never even picked up a fishing rod before (never mind that bait and tackle are apparently not rugby league terms), he was happy to show me the ropes.
We set out looking for whiting and flathead. “Walk along the beach… as far as the last pelican!” he directed. Just that, made my day! Mounting tuna on my hook, I cast confidently (if not a little like I was swinging a golf club). I learned that what you catch depends on the weather, water temperature and tide.
But what was most enjoyable was taking the time out to become immersed in nature by lapping waters on a sandy spit beside my long-beaked friend (the pelican, not Rob). The busy mind defrags when it de-techs. Okay, so I didn’t catch a thing, but it didn’t matter. It’s that old adage about the journey and not the destination.
Don’t worry if Rob is not around on your trip to Caloundra. You can use Bill’s Boat Hire in Golden Beach to go fishing. You can also angle from Caloundra’s Boardwalk. Its guardrails come fitted with rod holders, and even bait-cutting boards and taps.
Make meals an occasion – from breakfast through to beers
If there’s one part of the retro beach holiday we’re not sad to leave in times past it’s the DIY breakfasts in your accommodation.
Sandbar Café on Bulcock Beach offers some of Caloundra’s most dribble-inducing breakfasts. Nourish yourself on the Avocado Smash with poached eggs, whipped ricotta and roasted chilli jam. Or, to indulge, feast on the Sandbar Big Breakfast: a platter of the crispiest bacon, poached eggs, pork chipolata, thyme mushrooms, glazed tomatoes, hash brown and Turkish toast – I did say it was indulgent!
Free range and pasture-fed fare can be lunched upon at Moffat Beach Brewing Co. This award-winning, family-owned boutique brewery offers six beers that are handcrafted and fermented on-site. Matt Wilson sells his brews only here. Enjoy his retro wall, plastered with posters of old theatre performances and music concerts. Tom Jones, Neil Diamond and John Mellencamp are up there with the best of them.
As evening approaches, swap the retro fish ‘n’ chips for fine dining overlooking Pumicestone Passage at chef-hatted Tides Waterfront Dining at Bulcock Beach. Caloundra’s premier seafood restaurant serves up the freshest of the scaled kind and the most succulent roasted lamb rump. As the food goes down, so will the sizzling sun through the haze of the Hinterland beyond.
With its salt in the air and its sand in your hair, Caloundra releases your inner child. In this pocket of seaside charm, you’re never too old to be young again.