Local’s guide: Sunshine Coast

Beach Sunshine Coast QLD my nrma local guides
Beach Sunshine Coast QLD my nrma local guides

Gondwana era rainforest, pandanus lined beaches, fusion food and heaps of laidback small town charm make “the Sunny Coast” a holiday destination like no other.

  • Paddle the Noosa Everglades
  • Try a cooking lesson at Spirit House
  • Dine at the Chef hatted Tide Restaurant
  • Take a four wheel drive across Rainbow Beach
  • Explore the laidback Hinterland

Bounded by the salty beach towns of Caloundra and Noosa as well as misty mountains, organic farms and groovy villages from Maleny to Montville, the Sunshine Coast is a relaxing holiday for all types of travellers, set just 90 minutes north of Brisbane. Sunbathe or surf at a secret cove, savour local seafood and house brewed beer, and hit the hinterland for a hiking, kayaking or cooking adventure to write home about.

Where to eat

From hidden country pubs to stylish seaside promenades, dining on the Sunshine Coast is as diverse as the scenery and produce. In laid back Caloundra, start with a brekky pie and Guru Life coffee at The Pocket espresso bar and move up to local prawns, chicken and barramundi at the chef hatted Tides restaurant. Travelling up the coast, you’ll want to try the fish and chips at Saltwater in Mooloolaba and the barbecued cuttlefish and mini mango pavlovas at the Noosa Boathouse. For something different, order the stir fried spanner crab with a Shanghai Mule at Embassy XO.

In between, take in the hidden joys of the Hinterland, from the authentic Bavarian brew house King Ludwigs in Maleny to the 1950s rock and classic car themed diner Ricks Garage in Palmwoods. The biodynamic farm/cafe Sunspace in Doonan transforms into a wood fired pizza and live music joint every Friday night. There’s also a thriving craft brewery scene that ranges from country chic Copperhead in Cooroy to Moffat Beach Brewing Co, where you can relax with a cheeky ale (Deadbeat Boyfriend or Hipster Doofus?) overlooking one of the Sunny Coast’s favourite stretches of sand.

Members, don't forget to search the my nrma app for your nearest and discount cafes and restaurants. The Duporth Tavern celebrates all-things Australian beach culture and cuisine, with an emphasis on mouth-watering steaks and fresh seafood. The Castle Cafe is part of the Sunshine Castle and offers a touch of German cuisine, alongside a great selection of bistro meals and snacks. Try one of the yummy knackwurst specialties while enjoying the view and flair (Castle wenches and knights replace serving staff, of course). If it's breathtaking views you're after, Alex Bar and Grill is a family-friendly venue, offering uninterrupted views of the beach to Maroochydore and the ocean beyond. Feast on prime-cut steak or the USA-style ribs. Members receive 20 percent off the total bill up to $25 at The Dupworth Tavern, The Castle Cafe and Alex Bar and Grill. 

Where to play

Surrounded by stunning surf breaks, wildlife rich national parks and the spectacular Glasshouse Mountains, the Sunshine Coast is a mecca for outdoor adventures. Keen bushwalkers will love Experientia Sunshine Coast’s 6 Mountains in 1 Day tour, a challenging climb up mounts Ngungun, Beerburrum, Wild Horse, Cooroora, Ninderry and Coolum – all in one day – intermixed with Aboriginal stories about the mythical monoliths.

An adventure like that deserves a cool down on Moffat Beach or Tea Tree Bay in Noosa, a four wheel drive across Rainbow Beach, or a stand up paddle board yoga class on the Noosa River. If you can multi task that, why not simultaneously get your hair cut, sip an Allpress espresso and shop for your next Thomas surfboard at Captain Sip Sop’s in Noosaville? Heck, you may as well try the skate ramp, too. Once recharged, head to the Heritage listed Noosa Everglades, which swarm with over 40 per cent of the country’s bird species. If you’re travelling with kids, the Maleny Botanic Gardens & Bird World, Mary Cairncross Reserve, Australia Zoo and Ginger Factory are all great spots for family fun.

Where to cook

A testament to the incredible produce of the Sunshine Coast is the crop of renowned cooking schools that train travellers in everything from cheese making to sushi rolling. This culinary revolution began in the 1990s with Spirit House, a Balinese style restaurant that added on a cooking school in 1997 that specialises in Thai cuisine. (Local tip: after your class here, pull up a cane chair at their Hong Sa Bar for a Singha Mojito spiced with lemongrass syrup.) Several more Asian cooking classes followed Spirit House, including those offered at Amytis Gardens, the Tamarind School and Phon's Thai restaurant, Mango Hill Farm.

Seafood fans should book a class at Point Cartwright Seafoods, while budding cheesemongers can’t look past Easy Cheesy. Freestyle Escape is the place for gourmet demonstrations from the likes of Adriano Zumbo and Matt Wilkinson. Of course, DIY types can always browse the markets (Noosa, Eumundi and the one at the Big Pineapple in Woombye are three favourites) and cook up a tailor made feast.

Where to stay

Just inland from Woodford and the Glass House Mountains, the NRMA Lake Somerset Holiday Park is a magnet for watersport enthusiasts interested in boating, bass fishing or wakeboarding the placid waters of Lake Somerset. The 45ha property provides powered and unpowered sites for campers and motorhomes as well as two bedroom cabins, lake view villas, safari tents and a log cabin for groups. In addition to water activities, the holiday park has mini golf and a playground for little ones.

At Spicers Tamarind Retreat, aorth east in Maleny, choose between two bedroom villas with wood burning fireplaces or a studio attached to the Tamarind Cooking School, con hour nmplete with a cedar hot tub on the deck. By day, you can hike through the lush valley to Gardners Falls or be pampered at the spa. If it’s the first or third Sunday of the month, don’t miss Jazz in the Forest.

NRMA members can also save on car hire on the Sunshine Coast at SIXT with 15% off daily rental rates.

Get more out of your getaway

Download the my nrma app to find accommodation and exclusive Member benefits nearby