Shakedown, Sunshine Coast

This week, we’re giving Australia’s stunning Sunshine Coast a good old-fashioned shaking down.

We’ll be taking you on a journey through all you could possibly need to know to prepare for a visit to this sun seeker’s dream: when to go; how to get there; what to see, and most importantly, where to catch those promised rays! Strap yourself in – we’re going Down Under!

What exactly is the Sunshine Coast?

Good question! This attractively named collection of beautiful and relatively unspoilt beachside and hinterland towns is located on the east coast of Australia, in southeast Queensland.

Unlike its Gold Coast neighbour, the Sunshine Coast comprises not just one destination, but a whole collection, with place names with more double-O’s than you could shake a stick at. Ooh!

Stretching nearly 70km, the area extends from the Glasshouse Mountains north to Rainbow Beach, through the coastal towns of Caloundra, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Coolum and Noosa. Each offer a unique travelling experience, so it’s well worth making a pit-stop at as many as possible during your journey up the Pacific coastline.

Brighten up your day, anywhere along the Sunshine Coast

At just one hour’s drive north from Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast is an easily accessible destination if you want a break from the city, or as a stop-off point on a journey along the coast.

Famous for its un-crowded stretches of white sandy beach, breathtaking green scenery and crystal clear waters, the area is popular with Aussies and East Coast locals and is largely considered a more laid-back, less developed version of Surfers’ Paradise.


This is the sun. You will see this on the Sunshine Coast. | Photo by blueforce4116

When to visit the Sunshine Coast

The weather in this sun soaked part of the world is without doubt one of its principal attractions. The hottest time of year is (funnily enough) the Australian summer, from November – February, when the average high is a balmy 28C, while between June and September, temperatures can fall to a still comfortable 9C.

Bear in mind that around Christmas, accommodation and travel prices will peak with the weather, so consider arranging your trip a little earlier or later to avoid paying top dollar.

Getting to the Sunshine Coast

It couldn’t be easier to get to the Sunshine Coast. If you’re flying into Australia from the UK, hop on a flight to Brisbane, then take a Sun Air shuttle to the Sunshine Coast, for around AU$40. Public transport is possible, but can involve a very circuitous route, and cost $30 or more.

If you’re already in Aus, you can catch a flight to the Sunshine Coast’s very own little airport from both Sydney and Melbourne. This is located 10km north of Maroochydore, and from here you can take the delightfully named Sun Bus (can you see a theme developing here?) to your resort.

If you’d rather steer clear of the hassle of flying, then a hop-on hop-off bus pass might be the way forward. This flexible method of transport allows you to quite literally hop on and off where you like. (Seriously. The use of two legs at once is highly frowned upon.)

Loads of the passes take you up the East Coast, en route to Cairns, and allow you to stay for as long as you like in each destination, without the worry of missing flights or sticking to strict timetables. Sounds like a plan!


Red sky at night… backpacker's delight. | Photo by garry61

What to see in the Sunshine Coast

The sun! They love it there.

There are other things to see, of course, but the Sunshine Coast is principally a relaxation station. So take a deep breath, take in those dazzling rays, and be calm!

The name of the game is chilling out, and the beaches and towns cater extremely well for this. Mooloolaba, Alexandra and Maroochydore all fit the profile of laid-back Aussie beach towns perfectly. Café culture predominates, and you definitely won’t be at a loss for a cool breakfast bar, coffee shop or smoothie shack.

If action’s more your thing, since the coast’s beaches and hinterland are an easy 30-minute hop from each other, you could easily visit several spots in a day. Have breakfast overlooking Noosa Beach, take a morning hike in Kondalilla National Park and spend the afternoon indulging in some cricket on Coolum Beach. Hire a car or campervan if you want the freedom to get around at your own pace.


Surfers’ showers at Mooloolaba | Photo by neilalderney123

The Sunshine Coast isn’t short of an attraction or two, either. An absolute must-see is the home of the original Crocodile Hunter, Australia Zoo. Featuring exhibits with such names as “Crocosseum”, “Tiger Temple” and “Elephantasia”, this is one world-class animal extravaganza that you won’t want to miss.

Also worth a visit is Underwater World aquarium in Mooloolaba, where you can swim with the seals, or even become a Seal Trainer for a day!

Moving away from the animal theme, be sure to take a trip to Glasshouse Mountains National Park, a stunning flat plain punctuated by volcanic plugs. There are some fabulous scenic drives through the park, which are also popular among walkers and climbers. Head up to Beerburrum Mountain Lookout with an esky of beer(burrum) for an incredible view across the dramatic park.

If you’re a keen surfer and want to catch some waves (dude), then head to the top four surfing beaches of Coolum, Maroochydore, Alexandra Headland and Mooloolaba. Surf stores are plentiful, and you’ll have no issues in hiring a board or booking a beginner’s lesson.

Bryan Timm

When in Australia, do as the Australians do | Photo by Phil Gibbs

Get to know Noosa

Noosa is the main hub of the Sunshine Coast, and the ideal gateway to backpacker haven Fraser Island. With a lively surf community, waves for all levels of surfer, and stretching swathes of white sand for spectators to lay their towels on, it is the ideal spot to really get involved in the Aussie beach lifestyle.

Noosa’s social scene is also the liveliest in the Sunshine Coast, with great shopping, restaurants and bars. Noosa Junction and Sunshine beach are refreshingly down to earth, filled with vintage shops, quirky cafes and open-air markets, where you can tuck into delicious local produce.

For the adventurous among you, a trip to Noosa National Park is well worthwhile. There are miles and miles of well-kept trails along the coast and through the bush in this park, the most visited in Queensland. Along the track there are countless secluded bays you can stop off at for a dip, or keep walking until you reach Noosa’s nudist beach, Alexandria Bay. Time it right and you might get to see the spectacle that is the Noosa Nude Olympics! The mind boggles…

Once the clothes are firmly back on, get yourself out to the incredible Noosa Everglades. These tranquil and entirely unspoilt waters are the perfect place to unwind aboard a canoe. Join a 2-night self-guided canoeing & camping adventure for the ultimate bush experience. You’ll paddle your way down the Noosa river, bushwhack your way through the wilderness and camp in Australia’s wild, and all for £93!

Hop over to Fraser Island

The largest sand island in the world, at 123km in length, Fraser Island ranks way up there with Uluru, Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef, as a World Heritage site.

With over 100 freshwater lakes, and long, uninterrupted white beaches flanked by coloured sand cliffs, it’s not surprising that this island has become a Mecca among travellers the world over.

To see it all, you need to travel by 4WD, and by far the most practical way is on a 4WD tour. You’ll drive down the incredible 75-mile beach, and swim in the vivid turquoise waters of Lake McKenzie. Bliss!

While the traditional launching point for trips to Fraser Island is Hervey Bay, Noosa offers a more unique and memorable journey. Approaching the island from a different direction, you will use the ‘Beach Highway’, racing up the beach in your 4WD to the ferry at Rainbow Beach. The ferry crossing is much shorter than from Hervey Bay, and you will arrive at Fraser Island in the most convenient spot for seeing the sights.

You can even add on a trip to Fraser Island after your canoe adventure in Noosa, so that you don’t need to worry about transport or accommodation. Done!

Oz Fraser island 96

"The main road on Fraser island...Australia 1996." | Photo by IMP1

Accommodation along Sunshine Coast

Accommodation on the Sunshine Coast is abundant, and backpacker friendly hostels are sprouting up by the day. Favourites are Nomads Noosa, Mooloolaba Backpackers and, for a spot of luxury, Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island.

Leaving the Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast is a must on any East Coast itinerary, and is ideally situated half-way along the route from Sydney to Cairns.

Continue on northwards to explore the breathtaking Whitsunday Islands, or join an adventure tour to head south to laid-back Byron Bay, lively Sydney and cultured Melbourne.

Whether it’s an adventure-packed watersports weekend you’re after, or a sun drenched week away from the city, the Sunshine Coast has it all, and within easy reach of one of Australia’s most enticing cities.

You’re guaranteed to fall for the crystal clear waters and stunning sunsets this beautiful strip of land has on offer, and it’s the perfect spot for a breather on your route up the stunning East Coast. If you’re interested in planning the ultimate trip to the Sunshine Coast, pop into your local STA Travel branch for a chat with one of our well-travelled consultants.

Have you sunned yourself on the Sunshine Coast? Do you have some top insider knowledge you’re dying to share? Throw it down in the comment thread below so we can all benefit from your wisdom!

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