The Sunshine Coast or “sunny coast” is a collection of pretty seaside resorts and small coastal towns. It is located on the east coast in the state of Queensland and extends over 60 kilometres. It’s composed of diverse and varied landscapes, from heavenly beaches and mountain peaks to verdant tropical forest. The flora and fauna of this golden coast will not fail to surprise you! The Sunshine Coast is nestled in the heart of nature and is committed to living sustainably within it. It is the only place in the world where you will find three UNESCO biosphere reserves side by side! The Sunshine Coast was also was officially voted the “most loved destination in the world”, according to the Tourism Sentiment Index. So don’t waste any more time – go discover this little Australian paradise!
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How to get to the Sunshine Coast
By car / van
The Sunshine Coast is an hour’s drive north of Brisbane. From the capital of Queensland, you just need to take the M3 for about fifteen minutes. Then once you arrive on Gympie Arterial Road, you will take a fork on the road and re-enter the M1. When you arrive in the town of Sippy Downs you will need to exit the M1 for the Sunshine Motorway (State Route 70). The roads are well signposted all along the coast.
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Sunshine Coast Airport is located in the town of Marcoola (MCY). It is served by several airlines (Virgin Australia, Qantas, Jetstar and Alliance Airlines) which operate daily domestic flights, as well as Air New Zealand which operates seasonal flights from Auckland. Direct flights from major Australian cities such as Cairns, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra operate regularly.
The nearest international airport is Brisbane (BNE). Flights between Brisbane and the main Australian cities are more regular and cheaper than with the Sunshine Coast.
Once you arrive at the airport, you have several options. You can either rent a vehicle for the duration of your stay or take a shuttle, taxi, public bus or train (the train takes the longest amount of time) to reach the city. Con-X-ion shuttles are quite handy and less expensive than a taxi.
From Marcoola and Brisbane airports, door-to-door shuttle services are available every hour, 7 days a week. Regional buses also serve the area and private charters are available. The vast majority of bus services are provided by Sunbus, one of Queensland’s largest bus operators.
Regional routes are operated by Glasshouse Country Coaches. With Sunbus, you don’t have to go to an existing bus stop, you can be picked up anywhere on the designated route network. To do this, you should buy a Translink Go card which is actually an electronic pass (paper tickets have almost disappeared!) to be scanned when you enter the bus and when you get off. To top up your card, you must go to one of the payment stations located around the main terminals.
Regular train services operate between the Sunshine Coast and Brisbane, they are operated by Queensland Rail. A main rail line connects the Brisbane area to Gympie (and beyond) via Beerwah, Landsborough, Nambour, Cooroy and Gympie North stations. The main station on the Sunshine Coast is located in Nambour, 100 kilometres north of Brisbane. There is an online Journey Planner on the company’s website that allows you to calculate transit times on your desired date of travel.
When to go and how long to spend there
The best time to visit the Sunshine Coast is mid-season, either from February to May or September to November. At this time of the year, you will benefit from the lowest prices and pleasant weather. Try to avoid school holiday periods in the area! Whether it’s for surfing or going for walks, these seasons are perfect because the weather is temperate and the rainfall is lower than during the summer.
In autumn, daytime temperatures vary between 26°C and 32°C and drop to 16°C at night. This is the season when there is the most rainfall, with 38 days of rain over three months, i.e. a little more than a full month. Winter is the period with the lowest rainfall of the year, with 23 rainy days. Winter temperatures are between 21°C and 26°C, which is quite pleasant. At night, temperatures can drop to 10°C, so remember to bring warm clothes with you.
With everything the Sunshine Coast has to offer you, we recommend you stay there for at least seven days! Take the time to discover the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands and its gastronomy, to do some fun activities (nautical, aerial, sports), to chill and sunbathe on one of the pretty beaches of the coast or to stroll in one of the beautiful national parks of the region.
Things to do on the Sunshine Coast
Hike the Craft Beer Capital Brewery Trail
The Sunshine Coast is home to the most craft breweries per capita of any state in Australia. It is a long love story that has been established between the city and its inhabitants. In addition to tasting delicious award-winning beers, these breweries are places where locals and travellers gather to enjoy a good meal and listen to live music. A day tour allows you to tour the four main breweries of Noosa and its surrounding region. You will have the opportunity to do tastings, see the brewing process and chat with the brewers.
If you want to visit the breweries on your own, there is a pre-established “route” which lists all the breweries and distilleries on the coast on a map. You will also find the addresses of each of these places as well as their website, which will let you know their opening hours and the activities offered (tasting, guided tour, etc.).
Discover the native animals
Take a trip to Wildlife HQ, located in the iconic Big Pineapple, or Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World. Wildlife HQ is home to many species of native and exotic animals such as antelopes, monkeys, bears, dingoes, red pandas and a binturong. Maleny Bird World is home to more than 700 colourful birds from around the world (cockatoos, macaws, finches, etc.).
Don’t miss the famous Australia ZOO either! Founded by the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin and his family, this park has won many awards. You will find all the Australian native animals there and you can feed the kangaroos or take a picture next to a koala. The park also has other spaces dedicated to African animals, for example, shows, a small train, playgrounds, etc. From Brisbane, you have the option of taking a shuttle bus with entrance to the park included. For more info and reservations click here.
Go for a walk / hike
Hiking enthusiasts are in for a treat! Head inland and explore the rich natural heritage of the Sunshine Coast. Breathtaking waterfalls, water holes where you can cool off, incredible national parks, mountain ranges as far as the eye can see – this is what the sunny coast has to offer you! Be sure to hike around the famous Glass House Mountains and enjoy stunning views. Here are some hikes that we advise you to do in the region:
- Kondalilla Falls: This is one of the most popular hikes on the coast. Located in the Kondalilla National Park, a 90-meter-high waterfall houses a swimming hole in a pretty environment surrounded by trees with views of the hills. You will have the choice between a short walk of 4.6km or a long 20km walk which will take at least five hours.
- Mount Ngungun: This trail is one of the most popular in the Glass House Mountains. It offers breathtaking views to anyone who dares to venture there. If you can, go at sunrise or sunset to fully enjoy the landscape. The walk takes about 2 hours and extends over 2.4 km.
- Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk: this incredible 60km walk is perfect for hiking enthusiasts! It takes 4 days to cover the entire route. If you want to set foot on this trail, you will camp under the stars for 3 nights and hike for several hours/days. You will explore majestic places like Mapleton National Park, the Maleny and Mapleton tablelands, the Blackhall range, many streams and beautiful waterfalls, tropical forests and eucalyptus forests.
- Fig Tree Walk: Very close to lovely Kenilworth, Imbil Forest has a very pleasant path where you will walk under the feet of 150-year-old Moreton fig trees. This short 20-minute walk will introduce you to a hidden gem. If you want to prolong the moment, you can bring a picnic or simply relax by the river.
- Mount Coolum Walk: This hike is located 3.5 km from Coolum Beach. It will take you about an hour and a half to walk there and back. You will climb over 200 meters high, where you can observe the view from Double Island Point to Caloundra. It is a very nice walk to do on the Sunshine Coast.
Go whale watching
Whale watching season on the Sunshine Coast runs from June to November. The whales head north to breed and give birth, and stay there until their calves have grown and fattened enough to brave the waters of Antarctica as they head south. Go on an adventure with passionate professionals to observe them in their natural environment! The more adventurous can even jump into the water to get as close as possible to this impressive behemoth of the seas. Whale One (Mooloolaba) offers excursions for $75 for a simple observation trip, or $229 to swim with the whales.
Try some adventure sports
The Sunshine Coast is synonymous with adventure! Whether you like water sports or prefer to stay firmly on land, there is plenty to do. Mountain biking, 4WD, walking, fishing, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving and paddle boarding are just some of the sports on offer. You will also have a choice between fresh water or salt water for your water sport activities.
Paddle boarding and kayaking fans, head to Noosa River at Gympie Terrace. The water is calm and you can find equipment rental companies (paddle boarding, kayak, small boats, etc.). Otherwise, the Doggy Beach in Noosa is a great spot for a peaceful swim or paddle boarding.
Taste the local food
A must-visit destination for foodies, the Sunshine Coast is known for its delicious seafood. Crabs, shrimps, swordfish, lobsters, tuna… there’s plenty to tickle your taste buds during your stay here! Mooloolaba Port is Australia’s largest swordfish port and one of the busiest seafood ports on the east coast. Enjoy exquisite cuisine at one of the Sunshine Coast’s many restaurants or grab a takeaway from one of the coast’s fish and chip shops and enjoy your meal al fresco on the beach.
It’s not just the seafood that’s worth a detour here! Inland, fresh produce such as avocados, ginger, caviar lemon, pineapples, macadamia nuts and many others are produced in the rich volcanic soils of the region. On the Sunshine Coast you will also find some of the best milk in all of Australia! The producers also make award-winning cheeses and yogurts. We recommend you go directly to the farm to get a glimpse behind the scenes and taste the local products right at the source.
Finally, make sure you try the craft beer of the Sunshine Coast by visiting one of the 19 breweries in the region. If you prefer stronger alcohol, you will also find several distilleries that draw inspiration from local ingredients and create delicious alcoholic drinks with the products (vodka, gin and rum).
Discover local history and culture
Learn about the history and traditions of the Kabi Kabi and Jinibara peoples, traditional owners of the land. Saltwater Eco Tours, Triballink and Biral Tours offer day trips. You will have the opportunity to discover many things about these peoples: the traditional objects they use, their dance and their storytelling, their food (you can taste kangaroo, emu or vegetables/fruits and traditional jams), the bush and the sacred streams in which they live, etc.
Magnificent heritage buildings and the Eumundi archives are worth a visit. You will find endless information here, including the history of sugar cane, for example. Take a stroll through the art galleries and museums (Queensland Air Museum, Bankfoot House and Gympie Bone Museum) of the hinterland to observe art works of all kinds: paintings , drawings, photography, engravings and also ceramics and porcelain, blown glass, sculptures, wood, silk, textiles and jewellery etc. Explore street art in Caloundra (Caloundra Street Art Trail) or in Nambour and discover various coexisting styles. Finally, visit exhibitions in the Caloundra Regional Art Gallery, the Noosa Regional Gallery or the Gympie Regional Gallery.
In the local markets, you will find artisanal and fresh products. Don’t miss the Eumundi market, which takes place every Wednesday and Saturday.
There is so much to do here, which is one of the reasons why we moved to the Sunshine Coast! If you’re interested, see our article on 10 reasons to live on the Sunshine Coast.
Spots to visit on the Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast is full of beautiful places to visit and explore. Dreamy beaches, waterfalls nestled in the forest, majestic mountain ranges, pretty seaside resorts and local markets…You won’t be able to resist being seduced by the diversity and beauty of the area.
Here is our list of the best spots on the coast that you should not miss during your visit. You won’t be disappointed! (Of course, this list is not exhaustive.)
- Noosa Heads
- Eumundi Markets
- Buderim Falls
- Montville and Kondallila Falls
- Gardners Falls
- North Shore Beach
- The Glass House Mountains
- Cotton tree
- Mount Coolum
- Point Cartwright
- Mooloolaba and Maroochydore
- Australia Zoo
Where to go out on the Sunshine Coast
The Rolling Rock (Noosa)
This is a pretty cool little club, very popular with backpackers in Noosa. It’s located on Hastings St in Noosa Heads. You can find news and events on their Instagram page @rollingrocknightclub.
Sneaky Baron (Maroochydore)
This bar/restaurant is the perfect place to go out with friends, listen to music and enjoy a good burger accompanied by a delicious beer. The value for money and the food are excellent and the staff and service are very professional.
The Beach Bar & Grill (Mooloolaba)
The Beach Bar and Grill was founded by two best friends who teamed up to open a bar and grill in their home town. They bundled together everything they loved: craft beer, great food, and amazing views. This gastropub mixes an industrial atmosphere and a maritime atmosphere with its view of the coast and the sound of the waves.
Uptown Social Kitchen & Bar (Maroochydore)
With its refined and floral industrial style, this bar/restaurant is the ideal place to enjoy a few cocktails or craft beers, but also to party. The restaurant brings traditional dishes up to date with a modern Australian touch, which will delight your taste buds!
Backlane Bar & Street Food (Mooloolaba)
Explore this laid-back spot just a few minutes away from Mooloolaba Beach. You can have a drink, share a meal and even spend the evening there. The menu is inspired by street food and takes you on a sensory journey. Here, local, fresh and seasonal products are king!
Boston Shaker Bar (Mooloolaba)
This classy and sophisticated place was opened by a mum who wanted to combine her passion as a musician with her desire to open a high quality cocktail bar. This bar has a cool atmosphere and offers quality service.
Spice Bar Restaurant (Mooloolaba)
This spot serves high-quality Asian food, more specifically Japanese food. The elegant decor, excellent quality-price ratio and incredible service make this place a must-visit. The dishes are delicious and very well presented.
Where to stay on the Sunshine Coast
Flashpackers (Sunshine Beach)
Noosa Flashpackers offers free Wi-Fi, breakfast, shuttle and swimming pool. Guests can choose from dorms and private accommodation, located just 5 minutes’ walk from Noosa National Park. Info and reservations
Nomads (Noosa Heads)
This hostel is in the heart of Noosa Heads, with shops, restaurants and cinema nearby. It’s only 800m from the main beach and the famous national park. Info and reservations
Peppers (Noosa Heads)
This 5-star hotel offers luxurious accommodation with private balconies. You can enjoy a restaurant, a bar, 2 swimming pools, a gym, a games room and a spa. The beach is located just 500m from the hotel. Info and reservations
Element (Coolum Beach)
The resort is located directly across from the fully supervised surf beach of Coolum Beach. So you can walk around and have all the shops, cafes and restaurants nearby. The residence has a heated outdoor swimming pool with sun loungers. Info and reservations
Silver Sea on Sixth Resort (Maroochydore)
Set in Maroochydore, 200 meters from the beach and 300 meters from Alexandra Headland Beach, Silver Sea on Sixth Resort offers accommodation with free WiFi, air conditioning, a restaurant and an outdoor swimming pool. There is also a spa bath. Info and reservations
Landmark Resort (Mooloolaba)
Located on the Esplanade of Mooloolaba, the Landmark Resort enjoys a beachfront location. This property offers modern apartments and studios. Guests can enjoy a swimming pool, rooftop spa pool, sauna and spa and wellness centre. Info and reservations
Habitat Noosa Everglades Eco Camp (Noosa)
This Eco Camp is located half an hour north of Noosa. Nestled on the banks of the Noosa River, it sprawls over 65 hectares of national park. The range of accommodation is varied and offers nights in a simple tent or in a more sophisticated glamping tent. This makes it possible to meet the different levels of comfort expected by campers.
You won’t be bored thanks to the many activities organised by the camp. Paddle, canoe or kayak rental, golf course, hiking trails, there is something for everyone. A bar and a bistro are located inside the eco camp and offer fresh, local and tasty products. The Micro Brewery offers 11 tasty beers brewed on site. Barbecues, equipped kitchen, refrigerator, gas, laundry are all amenities that you can find at Noosa Habitat. Prices per night vary between $35 and $300.
Starry Nights Luxury Camping (Woombye)
This pretty nature campsite is surrounded by wild flora and located near the crystal clear waters of Petrie Creek. It is nestled in the quiet forests of the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Fully equipped 75 m² luxury tents are set up on the hillside. Recycled flooring, hand-carved stone sink, king size bed, bathtub, shower and log fire are some of the incredible facilities at this luxurious campsite. The owners prepare unique organic meals cooked over a wood fire, what a delight! The campsite only takes two reservations at a time to guarantee the privacy of the place. A kitchen, living room, refrigerator, dining room and games room are at your disposal. The rate is between $330 and $480 a night.
Cotton Tree Holiday Park (Maroochydore)
The Cotton Tree Holiday Park is a family vacation spot very popular with Aussies! It is located on the sandy banks of the Maroochy River and therefore offers its customers an interesting choice of water sports including angling which is practicable throughout the year. A wide variety of fish species are found in the river. On the other hand, you can also enjoy the Olympic swimming pool and the shops and restaurants of Cotton Tree which are only a few steps from the campsite. Barbecue, kitchen, shower, laundry, free wifi, television (for a fee) are available. $46 to $285 a night.
Dicky Beach Family Holiday Park (Dicky Beach – Caloundra)
This Holiday Park is perfectly installed on the seafront of Caloundra. The city is the ideal starting point for holidays and is close to everything. Whether you are campers, in a van, in a 4×4 or even in a caravan, you are welcome at Dicky Beach Family Holiday Park! $46 to $170 a night.
Maroochydore Beach Holiday Park & Campground (Maroochydore)
This peaceful haven is located on a plot of almost 2 hectares by the sea, right next to the tourist information centre. As a guest, a footbridge allows you to have direct access to the beach. The grounds are fully fenced and very well secured, which guarantees you a peaceful stay in this pleasant campsite. All the pitches of this Holiday Park are just a few minutes’ walk from all amenities. In addition, each of them is equipped with electricity and water. For the less adventurous, six luxury cabins will allow you to spend a more than comfortable stay. Budget between $51 and $285 for one night.
Ocean View Caravan & Tourist Park (Landsborough)
Housed in the heart of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, a stay in this Tourist Park is a great opportunity to relax and unwind! Botanical gardens and several national parks are nearby, as well as the famous Glass House Mountains. Here it is quite possible for you to camp, to sleep in your vehicle or to rent a cabin/villa with a bathroom, air conditioning and queen-sized bed. There is also a terrace outside each accommodation. Bonus: a local bus service serves the campsite and provides connections with Cairns and Brisbane but also with several beaches on the Sunshine Coast. The price for one night is between $42 and $175.
Popular destinations nearby
Rainbow Beach (1h40 North)
The charming coastal town of Rainbow Beach is known for its colourful sand dunes as far as the eye can see! It is nestled between Fraser Island and Cooloola Park. Don’t miss strolling barefoot through the golden sands of the Carlo Sandblow, discovering the magnificent rainbow cliffs by the sea or hiking in the tropical rainforest bordering the dunes. For a little more adventure, criss-cross the sand dunes on board a 4WD! Other great activities are possible such as kayaking, surfing, dolphin watching, diving with grey nurse sharks at the Wolf Rock Dive Centre, horseback riding on the beach or exploring the sky in a helicopter to discover the dunes of Rainbow Beach in a different way.
Hervey Bay (2h20 North)
This natural bay with a mild climate is located between the Australian mainland and Fraser Island. Renowned for its humpback whales, you can’t go through here without going to meet these giants of the seas! The golden beaches of Hervey Bay extend over 14 kilometres where you can combine sunbathing, swimming and water activities. It is a friendly and relaxing place, ideal for spending holidays and enjoying an ice cream in complete serenity.
Fraser Island (5h North)
Besides its natural beauty and the fact that it is classified as a World Heritage Site, Fraser Island is the largest sand island in the world (1840 km²)! It will offer all those who dare to venture there breathtaking panoramas. Tropical forests, freshwater lakes and shifting sand dunes populate the landscape. You will also certainly have the opportunity to cross paths with wild dingoes. This island experience is only accessible to 4WD vehicles. Whether you are looking to play it adventurous or simply to relax in a unique place in the world, you have found the perfect destination!
Brisbane (1h20 South)
The capital of Queensland (Australia’s second largest state), Brisbane has several assets that are sure to seduce you. An international airport, a very interesting public transport system, places of entertainment, musical, sporting and artistic events, tons of places to go out and party, very pretty parks and gardens where relax as well as an artificial lagoon to cool off in the middle of the city… Everything is done so that residents and tourists enjoy the local lifestyle! In addition, Brisbane enjoys a mild climate throughout the year with lots of sunny days, so you can enjoy your visit whatever the season.
Gold Coast (2h South)
Spread over more than 70km of coastline, the Gold Coast is an ideal holiday destination. You will find everything you need for a pleasant stay: mountain landscapes, lush tropical forests, sandy beaches, golf courses, various places for shopping, music festivals, art exhibitions, theme, sporting events, diverse and varied water activities including scuba diving, excursions to meet humpback whales… The choice is impressive and you won’t be bored!
Be careful, mosquitos love the place too, bring some spray with you if you want to avoid being attacked.