Located about 100km north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast has established itself as one of Australia’s most popular holiday destinations. In addition to its thriving tourism industry, the Sunshine Coast is home to a growing community of permanent residents who enjoy the laid-back lifestyle and warm culture that characterise this cluster of suburbs. The Sunshine Coast is often compared to (and confused with) the nearby Gold Coast, which is situated to the south of Brisbane. Although there are plenty of similarities between these two coastal regions, the Sunshine Coast maintains a quieter and slower pace of life in contrast to the glamorous social scene and nightlife that reigns in the Gold Coast.
If the family-friendly, nature-centric and peace-inspiring qualities of the Sunshine Coast sound like a dream come true, take a look at these incredible places to visit in this area!
Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve
The Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve spans 55 hectares of subtropical rainforest. With multiple circuit tracks that are open daily from 7 AM until 6 PM, a trip to this stunning reserve is the perfect way to restore your inner peace. The walking trails are all under 2km, making them suitable for young kids. Also on-site amid the impressive trees is the world-class Rainforest Discovery Centre where visitors can engage in multi-sensory learning experiences through thematic displays, workshops and environmental exhibitions. A pristine view of the famous Glass House Mountains can be enjoyed from the centre’s viewing deck while the Mountain Cafe offers spectacular views of its own. The 150m-long elevated boardwalk provides an immersive look into the rainforest mid-storey. Mid-morning is typically the best time of day to visit the reserve if you want to beat the crowds and even catch a glimpse of the red-legged pademelons who roam the forest.
Hastings Street is one of the Sunshine Coast’s most famous attractions for a reason. Situated in the centre of Noosa Heads, Hastings Street is known and loved for its amazing dining and shopping scene. Home to an eclectic mix of world-class restaurants, charming cafes and atmospheric bars along with a fine selection of local shops and art galleries, this part of town offers everything you can dream of for a relaxing night out. Don’t leave the Sunshine Coast before treating yourself to a culinary experience underneath the fairy lights lining Hastings Street!
You can’t complete a visit to the Sunshine Coast without spending some time in the water. Visitors are spoiled for choice with countless beaches and quiet swimming spots along the coastline. One of the Sunshine Coast’s most idyllic swimming locations is the tidal saltwater swimming pool located on the rocks on the northern end of Kings Beach in the Caloundra suburb. The dreamy beach below is a gem on its own and the stunning 25m-long natural seawater pool is the cherry on top! This is the ideal place to enjoy a refreshing swim underneath the shaded sails. The children’s swimming pool also features a water fountain for added entertainment.
Mount Coolum is a must-visit destination along the Sunshine Coast. Get your heart racing with a scenic hike (or jog, if you’re feeling up for it) while breathing in the fresh mountain air and admiring the natural beauty of the native vegetation around you. Although the hike isn’t too demanding, the path becomes rather steep after a while and the rocky part of the track may be slippery after rain. Wear closed shoes and don’t forget to pack your water bottle. From the 208m-high summit, this 25-million-year-old volcanic dome offers unmatched views of the surrounding landscapes, including Coolum Beach, the Mount Coolum National Park and the Glass House Mountains. Reaching the top typically takes around 45 minutes while the way down could take up to 90 minutes.
The Sunshine Coast is known for its weekend markets. The Eumundi Markets, hosted in the hinterland town of Eumundi on Wednesday and Saturday mornings, have been around for over 40 years and have become a local institution. With a diverse selection of artisan foods, organic produce and locally crafted products, the market offers something for everyone. In addition to the 100+ stalls to shop from underneath Eumundi’s prized fig trees, the market also caters to families with kids by offering activities such as camel rides and a glorious playing area. This is the perfect midweek or weekend activity on the Sunshine Coast!
The Ginger Factory
If you’re looking for unique places to visit on the Sunshine Coast, add The Ginger Factory in Yandina to your list. This family-friendly institution offers a host of activities, from live beekeeping shows and honey tastings to guided tours of the Buderim Ginger Factory and a heritage-style shopping village. Also on offer is a picturesque tour through the nine hectares of subtropical gardens on the iconic sugar cane train, Moreton, that is well past a hundred years old. The Ginger Factory is open every day and is free to enter — a great budget-friendly activity to enjoy in the Sunshine Coast region.
Get your daily art dose in by visiting a few of the many art galleries dotted along the Sunshine Coast’s art gallery trail. Exploring the region’s arts scene is the perfect excuse to visit the smaller towns along the coast while scoring a front-row seat to the diverse showcase of local creative talent. A few suggestions for art galleries to visit include the Art Nuvo in Buderim, the environmentally immersive Secrets on Lake Gallery in Montville, the Caloundra Regional Gallery, the stunning David Linton Gallery in Maleny, the Artisans Gallery Eumundi and Nissarana Galleries in Noosa’s Hastings Street.