11 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions on the Sunshine Coast, Australia
True to its name, the Sunshine Coast, in South East Queensland, basks in year-round sunshine, and its mild, subtropical climate and squeaky-clean beaches make it one of the state's most popular tourist destinations. A quieter alternative to the glitzy Gold Coast further south, the Sunshine Coast stretches north from the popular beaches of Caloundra to the sweeping sands of Noosa North Shore, where 4WD vehicles plow a wild stretch of dune-backed beach. Along this beautiful stretch of coast, you can feast on fresh-caught seafood at buzzing Mooloolaba Beach, look for snoozy koalas in the national parks, hike to the summit of Mount Coolum, surf some of the country's best breaks, or shop for designer clothes on Noosa's chic Hastings Street. Families will find plenty of fun attractions to keep the kids entertained, including Underwater World, the Ginger Factory, and the famous Australia Zoo. Not far from the coast's glamorous beaches, the emerald-hued hinterland offers its own sleepy charm, with quaint mountain villages, artisan foods, and colorful markets.
1 Noosa National Park
Noosa National Park is one of the Sunshine Coast's natural jewels. The park encompasses more than 9,800 acres of paperbark forests, pristine beaches, rainforest, dunes, and heathlands. The most popular section of the park is the Noosa Headland section, with 15 kilometers of hiking trails, including a scenic coastal track that offers a great introduction to the park for first-time visitors. Before you set out, stop by the information center near the entrance at the end of Park Road and check for recent animal sightings. Along the coastal track, you'll see spectacular sea views framed by eucalyptus, banksia, and spiraling pandanus trees. Look up every now and then, and you might spot a koala snoozing in the crook of a tree or a glossy black cockatoo. After about a kilometer, a lookout at Dolphin Point offers panoramic coastal views and sometimes even glimpses of whales and dolphins. Tea Tree Bay or Granite Bay are the perfect spots for a picnic or a paddle in the rock pools. Continuing even further, Hell's Gates offers breathtaking views of pounding surf and Alexandria Bay. If you're feeling energetic, you can also hike to the park entrance from Noosa Main Beach. The coastal track is accessible for wheelchairs and strollers all the way to Dolphin Point. Bring sunscreen and plenty of water.
2 Australia Zoo, Beerwah
About 22 kilometers west of Caloundra, Australia Zoo is one of Queensland's most popular attractions. Steve Irwin, the late croc-loving Aussie conservationist, and his wife Terri helped the park grow into a world-class attraction on 110 acres, with a strong emphasis on conservation and education. The zoo provides plenty of fun encounters with Aussie animals, including kangaroos, koalas, snakes, and lizards, as well as a striking lineup of exotic species such as elephants, rhinos, cheetahs, and the crowd favorite; Sumatran tigers. While you're there, try to attend one of the popular live animal shows in the Crocoseum. Depending on the schedule, you can see everything from croc-feeding demonstrations and birds of prey to otters and koalas. Kids will love hand feeding kangaroos and giraffes, petting koalas, and riding camels. For an additional fee, you can also visit the animal hospital and support their healing work. A visit to Australia Zoo is usually a full day adventure. Wear your walking shoes, and be sure to bring sun protection, a refillable water bottle, and a rain jacket.
Address: 1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, Queensland
3 Noosa Main Beach and Hastings Street
Squeaky-clean sands and glistening surf breaks lure both visitors and locals alike to the glorious stretch of north-facing coast at Noosa Main Beach. The gentle surf makes it a popular hangout for families and beginner surfers, and it's a lovely spot for a swim, with beautiful views of Noosa National Park cloaking the headland at the eastern end of the beach. If you need a break from the Aussie sun, Hastings Street, Noosa's main drag, is only a short stroll away with chic designer shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Noosa Main Beach is patrolled every day of the year and is safe for swimming year-round. If you have little ones in tow, the sandy bays along the Noosa River are only five minutes away by car and are the perfect place for a paddle, a picnic, or to cast a fishing line.
Other popular beaches on the Sunshine Coast include nearby Sunshine Beach; Peregian Beach; busy Mooloolaba Beach; and Coolum Beach, with its popular beachside boardwalk. Kings Beach in Caloundra is also a favorite; kids love the fun water fountain and beachfront swimming pool.
4 The Original Eumundi Markets
About 20 kilometers southwest of Noosa, the Original Eumundi Markets are the perfect place to soak up some local color. The markets are held every Wednesday morning and Saturday in the cute hinterland town of Eumundi. Artisan foods, organic produce, designer clothes, home goods, plants, jewelry, skincare, natural therapies, and toys are just some of the items on offer. This is a fantastic place to buy Sunshine Coast souvenirs or enjoy lunch from one of the food stalls, which sell everything from Thai food to Turkish kebabs. Fun kids activities, such as camel rides, complement the fabulous shopping. Roving performers keep everyone entertained, and the kids can burn off steam at the playground adjacent to the market.
Address: 80 Memorial Drive, Eumundi, Queensland
5 The Charming Mountain Villages of Montville and Maleny
For a change in scenery from the coast's sun-splashed beaches, you can take a scenic drive across the Blackall Range, through the picturesque hinterland, to the cute mountain villages of Montville and Maleny. These quaint sister towns lie a little more than ten minutes' drive away from each other, but most tourists visit them both on a day trip from the coast, where the temperatures can often be a little cooler, thanks to the higher elevations. The drive is part of the Blackall Range Tourist Drive, and offers spectacular views of the plunging valleys below. In Montville, art galleries, gift shops, boutiques, and cozy cafes huddle along the tree-lined streets, and you'll notice some European-inspired architecture.
Maleny is also an artsy town, with many galleries, studios, and workshops. Its nearby attractions include Maleny Botanic Gardens & Bird World, with a miniature animal enclosure, aviary, and Devonshire tea; and Maleny Dairies, where you can milk a cow, commune with farm animals, and taste some creamy yogurts and cheeses after the tour. Avid hikers and wildlife lovers can hike to Kondalilla Falls near Montville or look for pademelons and fruit bats on the trails in the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve near Maleny, which offers gorgeous views of the Glass House Mountains.
6 Glass House Mountains National Park
Popular with nature lovers and hikers, the distinctive peaks of Glass House Mountains National Park are listed on the Queensland and National Heritage Register. The area also holds spiritual significance for the Gubbi Gubbi people, who used this site for trading and sacred ceremonies. According to aboriginal legend, Mount Beerwah, the highest peak, is the mother that gave birth to the smaller surrounding peaks, and Mount Tibrogargan is the father peak. Rising like giant witch's hats and rounded anthills, the peaks are volcanic plugs, the center of extinct volcanoes.
Mount Ngungun and Mount Tibrogargan are the only two peaks open to the public for hiking, and they offer trails catering to all abilities, from easy base trails to more challenging summit hikes with spectacular coastal views. Abseiling, mountain biking, horseback riding, and rock climbing are other popular activities, and the park is home to a rich diversity of plant and animal life including koalas, echidnas, and grey kangaroos. Before exploring the area, stop by the Glass House Mountains Visitor and Interpretative Centre. The popular Lookout Cafe, near the Glass House Mountains lookout, is a lovely spot to start or end a gentle hike with Devonshire tea and delightful views. Keep an eye out for kangaroos under the mango trees here.
Address: Glass House Interpretative Centre, Settler's Rotary Park, Reed Street, Glass House Mountains
7 Noosa North Shore and Rainbow Beach
The gateway to World Heritage-listed Fraser Island, Noosa North Shore is an 80-kilometer stretch of powdery white sand and gently rolling dunes just across the river from Noosa Heads and Noosaville. This seemingly endless stretch of beach is especially popular with 4WD enthusiasts, anglers, and beachfront campers, who come here for the stunning sea vistas and typically uncrowded stretches of sand. Wildlife is prolific around the camping areas and includes kangaroos, goannas, and rainbow lorikeets. When the tides are low, you can drive along the beach past Teewah and the Colored Sands, ochre-hued cliffs, until you reach Rainbow Beach and Double Island Point, where the car ferry departs for Fraser Island. You can access Noosa North Shore on the daily car ferry from the end of Moorindil Street in Tewantin. Note that vehicle permits are required to drive along the beach and on some of the inland tracks.
8 Mooloolaba Beach
Bristling with high-rise apartments, Mooloolaba Beach is more developed than other Sunshine Coast beaches, but that's part of its popularity. Surf shops, boutiques, galleries, organic eateries, and restaurants beckon just across the street from this sun-drenched north-facing stretch of sand, offering plenty of opportunities to refuel and take a break from the sun. Popular activities on the beach include surfing, swimming, sunbathing, or strolling along the beachfront promenade. If you're feeling energetic you can walk all the way to Mooloolaba Spit, about a 40-minute hike, where calmer waters lap the shores, and fishing boats bring in their catches. Not far from Mooloolaba Beach is Underwater World Sea Life, a popular family attraction. Nearby Alexandra Headland is also worth visiting, with its patrolled beach, great point break, and popular skatepark.
9 Coolum Beach
Coolum Beach is a popular base for Sunshine Coast tourists, thanks to its beautiful stretch of beach and plentiful holiday apartments. Surfing, in particular, is a favorite pastime, and many beginners take lessons at the surf schools here. Locals and tourists alike stroll along the boardwalk and gather by the beach for picnics. Across the street from the beach are a string of health-food cafes and restaurants, where you can stock up on picnic items or enjoy a casual lunch. The most distinctive landmark in the area is Mount Coolum, a dome-shaped volcanic rock rising 208 meters above the coast. Fitness enthusiasts and nature lovers hike the 800-meter track to the summit for breathtaking views of the coast. It takes about 30-40 minutes and is best tackled in dry weather as the steep rocks at the top become slippery after rain.
10 Underwater World Sea Life, Mooloolaba
Underwater World offers a fascinating glimpse at life under the sea and in Australian freshwater habitats. It's organized around themed zones with related exhibits, which include a tidal touchpool, where little ones can feel the bumpy skin of sea stars and learn about stingrays; a jellyfish kingdom; freshwater streams; billabongs; a seahorse sanctuary; and an ocean tunnel, where the rays and sharks glide all around you. Shark dives, educational presentations, children's play areas, and live shows add to all the fun; the seal show is a particular favorite. This is a great rainy day attraction, although the exhibits will wow pint-sized animal lovers at any time. After a fun morning touring the exhibits, you can take the kids to nearby Mooloolaba Beach for a picnic.
Address: Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba, Queensland
11 The Ginger Factory, Yandina
If you're looking for a few hours of fun with the children, the Ginger Factory in Yandina fits the bill. Kids will love riding the little train through the tropical gardens and learning about bees at a special beekeeper presentation. They can also hop aboard a cute around-the-world boat trip and look for the gingerbread man among the interactive puppets. Parents will enjoy the ginger factory tour and tastings and a stroll through the beautiful gardens, filled with ginger plants, orchids, and bromeliads. The large gift shop sells all sorts of ginger-related items as well as local treats and souvenirs, and a cafe and ice-creamery are on hand for hungry visitors.
Minutes from here is the famous Spirit House Restaurant and Cooking School, one of the country's best authentic Thai restaurants, in an evocative rainforest setting with fragrant incense and tinkling wind chimes.
Address: 50 Pioneer Rd, Yandina, Queensland