How to do Noosa National Park
Turquoise water, white sand, frolicking dolphins, a native forest… hang on, make that a native forest with koalas. Sounds like an Aussie dream, yes?
Well right on, because Noosa National Park on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast – around 150kms north of Brisbane – is a knock-your-socks-off stunner. There are 15kms worth of trails to explore, so split from Hastings Street and walk straight into a postcard.
What’s so special about Noosa National Park?
There are few places in the world where you have a thriving town centre chocked with boutiques and cafés just a stone’s throw from some of the most stunning landscapes you’ll ever see. Sand and surf meld with a peaceful forest that has Australia stamped all over it.
Better still, it’s easy to lose yourself in the beauty… without actually getting lost, along the marked walking trails.
In contrast to Noosa Main Beach, where a sunny day can prompt sardine-tin conditions, you’ll also find secluded beaches where you can swim and surf.
Noosa National Park trails
Lace your sneakers and hit the tracks because a wander through Noosa National Park delivers some mighty fine views. The most popular trail is the Coastal Track, which runs – you guessed it – along the coast, in all its sparkling turquoise glory.
To experience a mix of landscapes, however (and to escape the midday heat), duck off the Coastal Track near Hell’s Gates (2.7kms from the main car park) and make a peaceful return along the Tanglewood Track through the forest.
For a short 1km walk through the trees, loop around the Palm Grove Circuit just before the Boiling Pot lookout. The trails are well signed.
Alternatively, follow the coastline all the way to Sunshine Beach to grab lunch and a drink at the Sunshine Beach Surf Club, then catch the afternoon courtesy bus back to the centre of town (from Friday to Sunday). Or jump on a public bus from the Ed Webb Park bus stop on Duke Street. Allow around two hours to walk to the surf club from the main park entrance.
The Coastal Track is sealed until Dolphin Point to allow access for strollers and those with reduced mobility. After that, although still well marked, the track turns to dirt.
This exposed track can become a scorcher in summer, so make sure you take plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen (and your swimmers if you fancy a dip). It pays to wear good walking shoes, especially if you plan on walking the dirt trail and/or doing any rock hopping. Keep in mind the only public toilet and taps are located up the steps at Tea Tree Bay.
Some sections of the tracks are quite isolated and, not to scare y’all, but there have been a few incidents in the park. It’s best to explore with a buddy. On fine weekends, however, there are generally plenty of people hitting the trails so you’ll rarely find yourself wandering alone.
Remember, beaches within Noosa National Park are unpatrolled, so check the conditions before you swim or surf.
The flora and fauna of Noosa National Park
Noosa National Park is teeming with native Australian plants and wildlife. From the main entrance, you’ll set off through a forest of Queensland brush box trees. Deeper into the park you’ll pass banksias, she-oaks and giant kauri pines.
Carpets of brilliant green coastal boobialla creep down the escarpment at Hell’s Gates, and if you look closely, you’ll notice the plant is sprinkled with tiny white flowers.
The Coastal Track offers a box seat for whale spotting during the migration season. It’s also not uncommon to see pods of dolphins frolicking year-round. If you look into the clear water at Dolphin Point, Boiling Pot and Hell’s Gates, you might also spot a sea turtle or two.
Once you cut inland keep your eyes peeled for koalas snoozing in the trees and black cockatoos, and if you’re lucky you could see an echidna scuttling across the ground.
The best photo spots in Noosa National Park
Noosa National Park is an Insta-lover’s paradise. Get snap-happy capturing the rolling turquoise waves, wildlife or a beach shot perfectly framed by a pandanus branch.
There are a few key lookout points along the way, like Boiling Pot (formerly known as the Witch’s Cauldron due to the surge of frothing water that bubbles into the bay), Dolphin Point, where yep, you can often spot dolphins, and Granite Bay, where you can see all the way to Double Island Point on a clear day.
Despite its morbid-sounding name, the crowning jewel is Hell’s Gates, which is a sandstone cave carved out by pounding waves. The deep valley of the Gates sits on the edge of a headland, with infinite ocean views on one side and the long sandy stretch of Alexandria Bay to the other.
If you’re feeling footloose and fancy-free, carry on to Alexandria’s unofficial nudist beach for a kit-off dip.
To explore beyond the beaten track, scramble down rocks to the ‘fairy pools’ near the eastern end of Granite Bay. While photogenic, these natural tidal pools are a magnet for tourists so may not be as blissfully secluded as you hope. Adventure early if possible.
Local tips and tricks
On warm sunny days (and most other days), parking in Noosa Heads is at a premium. You’ll find the national park’s main carpark at the end of Park Road and you’ll want to arrive early to secure a spot.
If you’re not keen on getting up with the sparrows, park up a side street and think of the walk to the park as a warm-up. If you can snag a parking spot in town, it’s a pleasant stroll along the boardwalk, past Little Cove, to reach the national park entrance.
Pop into the kiosk at the start of the track to chat to the volunteer park reps, who’ll give you insider info about where the koalas are hanging and let you know about any whale or dolphin sightings. You can also pick up a trail map here.
If you come at the park from the other side, there’s limited car parking at Parkedge Road and streets around the northern end of Sunshine Beach.
Where to stay
You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to holiday apartments in Noosa, so check out our this accommodation guide to find a bed.
Discover more of Noosa with these guides:
- Plan your visit with this 48-hour guide.
- Time your visit with the Noosa Festival of Surfing. Check out this guide to the festival.
- Surf your way across Noosa with this surfing safari guide.
- Plan where you’ll eat after exploring the Noosa National Park with this food and wine list.
- Find out where the locals spend their time with this guide.