Sunrise on point Cartwright, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

Enjoying the Best of the Sunshine Coast in Australia

Queensland locals have known for decades that there’s a quieter, more relaxed, and local alternative to the always on-the-go Gold Coast. That doesn’t mean the Sunshine Coast, beginning an hour’s drive north of Brisbane, lacks for things to see or do on travel to Australia. It just means visitors can leave the little cares at home, enjoying the smaller cities, slower pace of life, less touristy vibe, and beautiful wilderness that add up to make the Sunshine Coast so distinctive.

How to get the most out of the Sunshine Coast? That depends on what kind of traveller you are, and whether your visit is a short stay of a few days or a more relaxed, “snowbird” style escape. In a destination like Sunshine Coast, it’s tempting just to settle in and enjoy the lifestyle. Certainly, if you’re only here for a few days, that approach works. But since the Sunshine Coast is made up of numerous small cities and towns, it’s best to rent a car if you’re staying a while or want to explore on your travel to Australia.

Life by the Beach

It should surprise nobody to learn that one of the Sunshine Coast’s best assets is its long stretches of pristine white sand beach. Even the Coast’s growing popularity with visitors has done nothing to spoil them. Offering relaxation, ideal picnic spots with ocean views, great spots for families, and even a little history, the Sunshine Coast is defined by its beaches, from Caloundra in the south to Rainbow Beach, the gateway to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island in the north. Unless you plan to spend your entire trip in the hinterland, you’re going to find a Sunshine Coast beach that calls your name. It might be the gentle, shaded shores of Bulcock Beach, the family friendly surf of King’s Beach, the long stretches of sand that guard Mooloolaba, Noosa, and Coolum, or the picture-perfect Moffat Beach. You’ll even find a bit of Sunshine Coast history at Dicky Beach, the world’s only beach name for a shipwreck.

Dicky Beach sunrise in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
Dicky Beach sunrise in Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast

Hike Through the Hinterland

Just as integral to the Sunshine Coast’s natural beauty are its surrounding mountains and eminently hike-friendly hinterland. We hear the term “lush green hills” thrown around a lot, but the Sunshine Coast opens up those hills for some seriously rewarding trekking on travel to Australia. Climb to the top of Mount Coolum for some unbeatable coastal views. Let your camera take in the wonders of Buderim Forest Park or Noosa National Park, or follow the track through Kondalilla National Park to Kondalilla Falls.

By far the most distinctive national park in the region however is Glass House Mountains National Park. Covering a wide stretch of forest and farmland just west of Beerwah, these rocky peaks welcome visitors approaching the Sunshine Coast from the south. The best views are well worth a detour to the Glass House Mountains lookout. If you’d rather get some fresh air, climb the easy and well-rewarded Mount Beerburrum track for a less crowded view. Other walking tracks, including the summit tracks to Mounts Beerwah (temporarily closed as of this writing), Tibrogargan, and Ngungun, vary widely in length and difficulty, from picturesque forest walks to tough scrambles over steep rocks. By all means, challenge yourself, but be realistic about your fitness level and climbing skills, respect any track or area closures, and always put your safety first. The rewards are great no matter which track you choose.

Stunning view from mid way up Mt Ngungun in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland, Australia
Stunning view from mid way up Mt Ngungun in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland

Theme Parks and Family Fun

The Sunshine Coast has always been about attractions that showcase the region’s strengths, including wildlife and local farming and produce. While many have come and gone over the years, some have endured to become icons of the Sunshine Coast. Most famous of these is Australia Zoo in Beerwah, operated by the family of late “Crocodile Hunter,” Steve Irwin. The Zoo continues a tradition of “conservation through education,” with demonstrations, animal encounters, and feeding shows every day. Not far away in Landsborough is the Big Kart Track, Australia’s biggest go kart track and a great half day outing for the entire family.

Heading north, you’ll find Aussie World, fronted by its iconic Pub. Aussie World is probably the closest the Sunshine Coast has to a traditional theme park. And it is traditional! Its 30 plus rides are mostly old-school favourites given a distinctly Australian twist. Another local favourite is The Ginger Factory at Yandina. Besides being a working factory producing ginger treats loved all over the country, The Ginger Factory offers factory tours, beekeeping demonstrations, a number of family-friendly rides, and of course, plenty of opportunities to taste and purchase the goods!

Crocodile Display at Australia Zoo, Queensland, Australia
Crocodile display at Australia Zoo

Following the Artists’ Trail

The Sunshine Coast’s natural beauty and unhurried pace has lured many to settle here, and talented artists are no exception. Drive a little way inland to the enchanting towns of Maleny and Montville, and you’ll soon find yourself on streets lined with shops and galleries – all surrounded by the stunning rainforest that makes the Sunshine Coast hinterland so special. Browse a dazzling array of functional, wearable, and decorative locally produced art, stopping to recharge at one of the many cafes and restaurants showcasing local flavours. On your travel to Australia, you can also spend a day (provided it’s a Wednesday or Saturday) at the Original Eumundi Market, where original arts and crafts can be found alongside boutique gifts and fresh local produce.

Eumundi Market Stall, Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
Eumundi Market stall

Kicking Back for a Longer, Local Stay

A big part of the Sunshine Coast’s appeal is that it’s as much a lifestyle destination as a tourist one. People raise families or retire here, enjoying the laidback coastal pace 24/7. Globetrotters booking with Goway can enjoy a taste of this in two ways. They can opt to “snowbird” for a month or two, staying at Centrepoint Apartments, just steps away from tranquil Bulcock Beach in Caloundra. The Sunshine Coast’s idyllic weather means this can be done year-round, and it’s a great way to let the Coast’s charms sink in slowly. For those wanting to take the next step and really feel like a local – even in a shorter space of time – Goway offers its exclusive Live Like A Local package. Like the long escape, this 15-day trip conveniently bases Globetrotters at Centrepoint Apartments in Caloundra. However, it also includes a grocery starter pack (because who wants to spend their first day on a short vacation grocery shopping?), and a welcome kit detailing local clubs, activities, and sporting organizations, along with a booklet of discount vouchers to help get the best value out of the Sunshine Coast, the way the locals do.

Suggested Itineraries:
Sunshine Coast Long Stay
15-Day Live Like a Local: Sunshine Coast Australia

View from a Balcony at Centrepoint Apartments on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia
View from a balcony at Centrepoint Apartments on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland

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Christian Baines
Christian Baines

Globetrotting Contributing Editor -
Christian’s first globetrotting adventure saw him get lost exploring the streets of Saigon. Following his nose to Asia’s best coffee, two lifelong addictions were born. A freelance writer and novelist, Christian’s travels have since taken him around his native Australia, Asia, Europe, and much of North America. His favourite trips have been through Japan, Spain, and Brazil, though with a love of off-beat, artsy cities, he’ll seize any opportunity to return to Paris, New York, or Berlin.

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