Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Noosa & Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast is a lot like what the Gold Coast used to be before the developers and the swarms of tourists moved in. Not that the Sunshine Coast is tourist-free - when you're flaunting more than 100 km (62 mi) of peerless surf beach, come-hither hinterland and a mix of upmarket and laid-back scenes, you've got to expect a few visitors.
Highlights - aside from the average of 300 sunshiny days a year - include Noosa, with its frothing surf and frothing latte scene, the kick-backed backpackers feel of Maroochydore, and the bewitching eeriness of the Hinterland, particularly the Glasshouse Mountains.
Known as the “River of Mirrors,” the Noosa Everglades is one of Queensland’s most stunning natural landscapes and one of only two everglades systems on Earth. This stretch of wetlands, mangrove forests, and lakes is part of Cooloola National Park and harbors a rich diversity of flora and birdlife.
This spectacular national park, covering an area of some 15 square miles (40 square kilometers, beckons visitors away from the surf and sunshine of Noosa Heads, offering miles of coastal walking trails, secluded beaches, a rugged coastline, and the chance to spot dolphins to one side and koalas to the other.
Formerly home to Steve Irwin, also known as “the Crocodile Hunter,” the Australia Zoo is one of Australia’s largest and most popular wildlife conservation facilities. Managed by the Irwin family, whose personalities are a major part of its continued success, the zoo has a huge collection of native Aussie animals as well as creatures from around the world.
The Ginger Factory sits amid 22 acres (9 hectares) of tropical grounds in the Sunshine Coast. Besides a factory, which offers tours and tastings, there are shops, a café, an ice-cream store, live bee shows, and a kids’ playground. Rides include the Ginger Train, an old sugarcane train, and Overboard, an adventure led by a gingerbread man.
Unlike many other beaches on Australia’s eastern coast, Noosa Main Beach faces north—thereby protected from the surf. Granted, this is still the famous Sunshine Coast, the sandy mecca for surfers, and Noosa Main Beach still gets waves that are perfect for taking a surf lesson, but not the powerful, dangerous waves that pummel the nearby headlands. The gently rolling waves aside, Noosa Main Beach is also patrolled by a year-round team of lifeguards, and backed by a wooden, exceptionally clean boardwalk just steps from the Hastings Street shops. Hire an umbrella and relax in the shade, your toes in the sugary white sand, and cool off in cerulean waters that gently lap at the coast. Noosa Main Beach has repeatedly been voted as one of the best in Australia, which is easy to see from the moment you first lay eyes on the white stretch of sand.
The Sunshine Coast’s famous The Original Eumundi Markets rank among the biggest arts and crafts markets in Australia. With more than 300 stalls including everything from fashion designers and jewelry makers to local art galleries and interior designers, from artisan foods to homemade beauty products—there’s something to suit all tastes and budgets.
There’s more to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast than suntans, surfboards, and shoreline, although given the wealth of white sand beaches and places to bake in the sun, it’s easy to see why the forested interior can sometimes be overlooked. At the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, travelers are reminded how Queensland’s interior has an endemic beauty of its own. These hills that rise behind the Glass House Mountains were once covered in rainforest—parts of which are still visible on the reserve’s 135 acres. Stroll along miles of wooden boardwalk past red cedar and ginger, and listen for the mating call of green catbirds and they flit high in the treetops. While silently strolling the shaded trails, keep an eye out for red-legged padmelon as they scurry and forage through the underbrush. These small wallabies have lost much of their habitat due to surrounding deforestation, although still survive on this small refuge that’s been called an “ecological island.” There are playgrounds and barbecues for family outings as well as an education center, or simply sit at the small café to enjoy a tea in the forest.
Surrounded by golden beaches, scenic waterways, and mountainous hinterlands, Mooloolaba enjoys a stunning setting along Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Perched at the mouth of Mooloolaba River, the town has a reputation as one of the coolest on the Sunny Coast, known for its great surf, lively markets, and buzzing nightlife.
Laidback Sunshine Beach attracts surfers and locals with its white-sand beaches, hip bars and cafes, and relaxed village vibe. Set between Noosa and Coolum on the Sunshine Coast, the town serves as a gateway to the coastal trails of Noosa National Park.
Coastal Queensland is home to an amazing array of sea life and ecosystems, and the SEA LIFE® Sunshine Coast aquarium is the perfect place learn more about it. The aquarium features penguins, seals, sharks, turtles, and much more. It even has one of Australia’s largest collections of jellyfish.
More Things to Do in Noosa & Sunshine Coast
The stretch of the Sunshine Coast that makes up Maroochydore is a surfer's heaven and a popular destination with those chasing waves. Over 15 miles (25 kilometers) of beach lends itself to surfing, swimming, jet-skiing, picnicking, or just relaxing. Surfing competitions are not uncommon, so be sure to keep your eye out for the pros.
Hastings Street—the popular, posh and impossibly pretty Noosa Heads promenade—is one of Queensland’s best known spots. The coastal boulevard and its open air cafes, trendy boutiques, and high-end shopping attracts traveling celebrities and luxury-seekers to the sun-soaked sidewalks of this once strictly local surf spot. Visitors to Noosa and the Sunshine Coast can pop into Hastings' many restaurants and pubs for a night out on the town or visit the area as part of a day trip from Brisbane, exploring the street and neighboring beach towns.
If driving along a golden sand highway and wild camping against a backdrop of dunes, rainforest, and ocean sounds like your kind of adventure, then Teewah Beach checks all the boxes. Stretching for more than 25 miles (40 kilometers along the coast, it’s the highlight of the Great Beach Drive and part of the Great Sandy National Park.
Lake Cooroibah is one of the central locations on Noosa’s North Shore, with its local Aboriginal name meaning "places of possums."
The large lake lies just to the north of Tewantin and Sir Richard Branson’s private Makepeace Island in the Noosa River. Relatively shallow, Lake Cooroibah is a popular destination among the locals–the southern entrance to the lake in particular is frequented for fishing. A sandbar at the northern end appears at low tide, offering the perfect place for picnics on the sand. This is a fantastic place to relax in the afternoon with opportunities for swimming and great views of the surrounds. Visitors can see the Noosa hinterland and the nearby Mt Cooroy, Mt Tinbeerwah and Mt Cooroora from the lake, while the Noosa Everglades lie to the north.
Lake Cootharaba is the largest of the Noosa Lakes. At about six miles (10 km) long and three miles (5 km) at its widest point, it serves as a popular location for holiday-makers and those on recreational day trips alike. With plenty of places for picnics along its shores, the lake lends itself to family vacations.
The town of Boreen Point is Lake Cootharaba’s activity hub and is the place to start if you're looking for water sports gear. Kayaking, fishing, swimming and sailing are all popular on the water – but there’s much more to Lake Cootharaba than just boats. A number of walks are threaded through the bushland that surrounds the lake, including the 15-mile (25 km) trek around its circumference. There's also a boardwalk through the mangroves on the edge of the lake and a number of campsites within the Great Sandy National Park for those who wish to camp on the lake.
Lake Cootharaba is also known as the gateway to the Noosa Everglades, as the Noosa River passes through the Everglade Wetlands just before spreading into the lake.
Although the name mentions slithery snakes—which the site surely has a lot of—the Snakes Downunder Reptile Park& Zoo is also home to kangaroos, koalas, and over 40 other species of animals in addition to its reptiles and amphibians. The zoo is on the small side, allowing for personal attention from staff members and detailed answers to all of your questions about Australia's wildlife and reptiles.
Guided experiences are offered throughout the day, during which visitors can watch as staff members handle venomous snakes and feed saltwater crocs, or participate in a supervised kangaroo feeding. It's hard to believe the fearless nature of the staff as they handle the animals, but this is because of their extensive training and deep knowledge of the animals at the park. Although not offered by Viator, the park also offers koala and reptile encounters that can be booked onsite separately from admission.