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12 Top-Rated Things to Do in Mooloolaba

Written by Karen Hastings
Jun 27, 2021

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Lively Mooloolaba, on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast, is all about the water. Almost two kilometers of sun-soaked beach rim the curving coast, and a fish-filled river runs right through Mooloolaba’s heart, making this a dream destination for water sports.

Mooloolaba Beach is the crown jewel. Curving into a broad smile, this powdery arc of white sand and blue-green sea is one of the safest beaches on the Sunshine Coast. Surfing, swimming, fishing, stand up paddleboarding, and beach volleyball are all popular things to do here, or you can just relax and soak up the scene along the powdery shore. Need a break from the beach? Water-view restaurants and shops sit steps from the sand on the buzzing esplanade.

Aerial view of Mooloolaba
Aerial view of Mooloolaba

Anglers will be in heaven. The beautiful Mooloolah River flows out to sea between Port Cartwright and the Mooloolaba Spit, creating fertile fishing grounds for a dazzling diversity of species. It’s also the perfect setting for scenic cruises. And how about adding some exhilarating wildlife experiences? During the cooler months, humpback whales migrate along the coast here, and you can come eye to eye with them on a swim-with-the-whales adventure. Or head under the water and explore one of Australia's top wrecks just offshore.

Sightseeing is also enjoyable on land. Walking paths skirt the waterfront, and you can join the throngs of sun-kissed locals here, hiking, biking, skating, and strolling in the fresh sea air.

Get the scoop on the best places to visit in this Sunshine Coast hot spot with our list of the top things to do in Mooloolaba, Queensland.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Soak Up the Sunshine at Mooloolaba Beach

Mooloolaba Beach
Mooloolaba Beach | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Mooloolaba Beach is one of the Sunshine Coast’s best beaches. If you’re looking for a beach with a buzz, this is it. Alfresco cafés and restaurants lie steps from the sand, the scenic Mooloolaba boardwalk skirts its edge, and you can choose from an impressive array of sports both in and out of the water.

Sheltered by Point Cartwright, Mooloolaba Beach is also one of the Sunshine Coast’s safest beaches. Gentle waves wash the soft-sand shore, and the water is clear and warm, making it a great spot for a refreshing swim. Mooloolaba Surf Life Saving Club overlooks the shore, and surf lifesavers patrol here 365 days a year, working hard to keep everyone safe.

The gentle waves also make Mooloolaba Beach a popular spot for beginner surfers. Robbie Sherwell’s XL Surfing Academy and Maroochy Surf School both offer lessons, and you’ll see throngs of kids taking to the water with their boards during weekends and school holidays.

Mooloolaba Beach at sunset
Mooloolaba Beach at sunset | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Beach volleyball is another popular pastime. Practice sessions and tournaments take place each week along the shore, and night comps run under floodlights.

As if that wasn’t enough to entice you, Mooloolaba Beach has excellent facilities. Picnic shelters and viewing platforms fringe the beach, and you can wash the sand off at the beach showers overlooking the shore.

And if you want to stay right near the beach, you’ll find plenty of holiday apartments here, too. Oceans Mooloolaba offers five-star luxury apartments and penthouse suites overlooking the blue waters of Mooloolaba Beach. It’s also in the heart of the shops and restaurants along the esplanade.

2. Learn about Marine Life at SEA Life Sunshine Coast Aquarium

SEA Life Sunshine Coast Aquarium
SEA Life Sunshine Coast Aquarium | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Touch a sea star or a spongy sea cucumber, come face to face with a grey nurse shark, swim with a seal, and walk through an ethereal jellyfish kingdom. At SEA Life Sunshine Coast Aquarium (formerly Underwater World), you can immerse yourself in an underwater wonderland.

Explore 11 different zones at this family-friendly attraction, from the tidal touch zone to the coral reef and the seahorse sanctuary. Highlights include the 80-meter ocean tunnel, where sharks and rays glide just feet from where you walk; the adorable little blue penguins; and the entertaining seal show.

Animal encounters and hands-on activities keep little ones entertained. You can hand-feed the playful penguins; enjoy a seal encounter; or, if you’re a thrillseeker, sign up for the shark dive.

Wondering what to do in Mooloolaba when it rains? This tourist attraction makes a great wet-weather distraction. And if you want to see land critters, you can always take a day trip from Mooloolaba to Australia Zoo, less than a 30-minute drive away.

Address: Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba, Queensland

Official site: https://www.visitsealife.com/sunshine-coast/

3. Stroll along the Mooloolaba Boardwalk

Mooloolaba boardwalk
Mooloolaba boardwalk | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Strolling along the sun-splashed coast is one of the best free things to do in Mooloolaba, and you’ll find plenty of scenic paths to follow. From Mooloolaba Beach, you can walk along the coast to Mooloolaba Spit, another fantastic spot to watch the sunset. While you walk, you’ll enjoy beautiful views over the coast almost the entire way.

Recently upgraded, the boardwalk skirts Mooloolaba Beach; passes by one of Mooloolaba’s best caravan parks; and juts out over the rock wall, a favorite fishing spot. Joggers, dog walkers, families, and bike riders all love exercising along this scenic trail, but if you’re traveling on wheels, you’ll have to walk through some of the busier sections.

Along the way, you’ll find strategically placed benches and lookouts to soak up all the views. Walking with kids? They can run wild at the excellent children’s playground.

Enjoying Mooloolaba Beach views along the boardwalk
Enjoying Mooloolaba Beach views along the boardwalk | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

And if all that salty air is making you hungry, stop off at the marina on Parkyn Parade for a seafood meal. Here you can buy fish fresh off the boat, perfect for a seaside picnic. You’ll also find one of Mooloolaba’s best seafood restaurants here: Pier 33.

Save time to stroll to the end of the rock wall for panoramic ocean views and beautiful vistas of Point Cartwright, capped by its lighthouse. The rock wall is a favorite spot to cast a fishing line, and it’s also another prime place to watch the sunset.

From the Mooloolaba Surf Life Saving Club, it takes about 45 to 60 minutes to do a round-trip walk to the Spit, depending on how many times you stop along the way. Best of all, the path is lit 24/7. If you’re up for a longer hike, you can follow this trail all the way north from Mooloolaba Spit to Alexandra Headland.

4. Visit The Wharf Mooloolaba

Mooloolaba Wharf
Mooloolaba Wharf | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Mooloolaba Wharf is a hive of activity during the day and night. A five-minute stroll from Mooloolaba Beach, this buzzy little marina is home to one of the area’s top tourist attractions: SEA Life Sunshine Coast, as well as some of the best restaurants in Mooloolaba. It’s also the departure point for many of Mooloolaba’s cruises and fishing charters.

Dining is a highlight here. Many of the restaurants offer beautiful views over the marina and the Mooloolah River, and you’ll find everything from seafood restaurants to Italian cuisine at Il Vento, Greek specialties at Spero Greek Street, and mouthwatering Asian street food from the super popular Riceboi. After dinner, treat yourself to some tangy gelato, or pick up a sweet treat from Fudgees.

Ready to splurge? Shopping is another fun thing to do here. Chic boutiques feature local designers, and you can also purchase unique gifts, jewelry, and home decor. If shopping is top of your things to do list. You can also spend a day at Sunshine Plaza in nearby Maroochydore — a sunny outdoor mall bisected by a scenic waterway.

Want to get out on the water? The Wharf Mooloolaba is the place to come for whale watching cruises, snorkeling and scuba diving trips, sunset cruises, and fishing charters.

Address: 123 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba, Queensland

Official site: https://wharfmooloolaba.com.au

5. Hike the Point Cartwright Loop

Point Cartwright Lighthouse
Point Cartwright Lighthouse | Photo Copyright: Brian Hastings

Strolling the Point Cartwright Loop is one of the best ways to appreciate Mooloolaba’s stunning scenery. Fanning out at the mouth of the Mooloolah River, the fish-tail-shaped wedge of land looped by this 1.8-kilometer trail juts into the sea, capped by Point Cartwright Lighthouse.

Point Cartwright Loop is part of the 96-kilometer Sunshine Coast Coastal Pathway, one of the top attractions on the Sunshine Coast. It sits at the northern end of the Caloundra section of the trail. From here, you can soak up spectacular views of the river, the ocean, and the white sands of Kawana Beach.

Start your stroll at the Reserve Carpark on Pacific Boulevard in Buddina. Alternatively, you could start from La Balsa Park near the river. Follow the pandanus-fringed path around the point through the parklands, skirting the riverfront, and soak up the panoramic views from the 32.4-meter-high lighthouse. Kids love clambering up some of the trees in the parkland.

Planning to take your pooch? You’ll be pleased to know this trail is dog-friendly, and you can let your furry-friend off leash in designated areas after 4pm. But be sure to pick up after them.

Outrigger canoes near Point Cartwright
Outrigger canoes near Point Cartwright | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

You’ll find plenty of places to sit and soak up all the beauty along the way. Listen to the splash of the paddles from the fleets of outrigger canoes; scan the waters for seals, dolphins, and whales; or capture a beautiful photo of the lighthouse. You can also cast a fishing line off the rocks, enjoy a picnic, or paddle in the rock pools.

But what really steals the show are the sunsets. This is one of the best places in Mooloolaba to watch nature’s last light blaze through the sky.

6. Book a Mooloolaba Cruise

Sunset cruise off Mooloolaba
Sunset cruise off Mooloolaba | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Mooloolaba is surrounded by water, so it makes sense to do some of your sightseeing by boat. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to get out on the water, from relaxing cruises to heart-pumping jet boat rides.

One of the most popular trips is a sunset cruise. Coastal Cruises Mooloolaba runs two-hour cruises year-round, and if you want to feast on the fresh catch of the day while you’re cruising, sign up for a seafood lunch cruise. Whale One also runs sunset cruises from September through May.

Prefer something a little shorter? Take a family-run one-hour Mooloolaba Canal Cruise. You’ll cruise the canals aboard a 1963 timber ferry the MV Mudjimba, accompanied by an informative and entertaining commentary.

Wildlife is another highlight of cruising Mooloolaba waters. Choose from exhilarating whale-watching cruises or dolphin spotting trips. Whale One, Sunreef, and Sunshine Coast Afloat offer these cruises. Whale watching season usually runs from June through October. Snorkeling and scuba diving cruises also get you up close to marine life.

And if you really want to get your adrenaline flowing, book an open ocean jet boat adventure with Sunshine Coast Afloat or Adventure Rafting. Both of these tour operators also offer whale watching cruises in season.

7. Dive HMAS Brisbane

HMAS Brisbane
HMAS Brisbane

Marine life thrives on the HMAS Brisbane. After a long and storied history, this decommissioned guided missile destroyer was scuttled to form an artificial reef in 2005. Today it sits a short 15-minute cruise from the coast of Mudjimba and is one of the top wreck dives in Australia. More than 200 species of fish have been spotted around the wreck.

Sunreef Mooloolaba and Scuba World both offer dive trips out to the wreck. Turtles, rays, leopard sharks, octopus, and a kaleidoscopic array of other fish make their home around this artificial reef. Other species you might see here include Queensland groupers, snapper, lionfish, batfish, yellowtail kingfish, and red emperor. Look closely, and you’ll also see beautiful hard and soft corals and nudibranchs amid the corals.

The 133 meter-long hull sits in waters ranging in depth from 15 to 18 meters, making it an ideal dive site. Best of all, warm waters year-round mean you can dive this wreck comfortably at any time of year. Visibility is usually excellent, ranging from 15 to 20-plus meters. The dive is suitable for those with open water certification and above.

Prefer to snorkel? Sunreef Mooloolaba also offers trips out to snorkel the reefs around Mudjimba Island, also known as Old Woman Island. Among the marine species you might spot here are turtles, wobbegong sharks, reef fish, and colorful corals.

8. Soar over the Coast in a Seaplane

Aerial view of Point Cartwright Lighthouse and Mooloolaba
Aerial view of Point Cartwright Lighthouse and Mooloolaba

Flying high above the coast is one of the best ways to appreciate Mooloolaba’s spectacular serpentine coastline and the web of waterways flowing out to the sea. And what could be more exhilarating than taking off and landing on the water in a seaplane?

On the Seaplane Adventure Flight, you’ll take off from the Maroochy River, swoop over the white sands of Mooloolaba Beach, and see the Mooloolah River flowing out to sea between the Mooloolaba Spit and Point Cartwright. Along the way, you’ll learn more about what you’re seeing through the live commentary.

Paradise Seaplanes operates the flights in a Wilga warbird. Every passenger gets a bird’s-eye view of the glistening blue waters and coiling coast through the wide windows. The flights only last about 10 minutes, but you’ll remember it for a lifetime.

9. Swim with Whales

Humpback whale diving off the Mooloolaba coast
Humpback whale diving off the Mooloolaba coast

Every year from May through November, migrating humpback whales swim the warm waters off Mooloolaba. And you can score a front-row seat to see them aboard an exciting whale-watching cruise.

Sunreef Mooloolaba offers whale watching cruises from June through November. Cruises typically last from 2.5 to three hours, depending on the conditions. Passengers will be pleased to know that each cruise comes with a whale watch guarantee: if you don’t see whales on the first cruise, you can hop aboard another one for a second chance.

Want to get even closer to these magnificent mammals? You’re in luck. Sunreef Mooloolaba offers a 3.5-hour swim with the whales experience from July to October. This is your chance to really get eye-to-eye with a whale.

Outside of whale season, you can sign up for a Marine Discovery Lunch Tour, where you can scour the waters for turtles, dolphins, and other marine creatures. You can also book a two-hour Dolphin Discovery Cruise with a buffet lunch.

Coastal Express also offers whale watching cruises in season, as does Sunshine Coast Afloat.

Whale watching tours depart from the marina at The Wharf Mooloolaba.

Official site: https://sunreef.com.au/whales/

10. Go Fishing

Tuna caught off Mooloolaba
Tuna caught off Mooloolaba | Photo Copyright: Brian Hastings

Surrounded by water, Mooloolaba offers plenty of fantastic fishing opportunities. Whether you prefer river fishing, deep-sea fishing, reef fishing, big-game fishing, or beach fishing, you have a chance to catch the "big one" here.

Mooloolaba fishing centers around the Mooloolah River. Here, the Mooloolaba Rock Wall and the platform on Point Cartwright are favorite fishing spots. Possible catches include bream, tailor, and during the cooler months, jewfish and mulloway. You can also target Australian bass upstream in the Mooloolah River. In the canals, mangrove jack and bream are popular catches.

Offshore fishing in Mooloolaba is also excellent. During summer, typical catches include queenfish, trevally, and tuna — both mac and longtail. Emperor, tuskfish, pearl perch, and Spanish mackerel are also around. During the cooler months, you can cast for snapper, and year-round, cobia and yellowtail kings swim these waters.

Big-game fishing is also an option. Head even farther offshore, and you can target mahi-mahi and sailfish.

The best way to catch fish in Mooloolaba is to sign up for a guided fishing trip. Mooloolaba Fishing offers half-day and full-day trips. Or you can choose from a range of trips with Deep End Fishing Charters, including half-day deep sea reef fishing trips, full-day deep sea fishing tours, night fishing, and river fishing trips. Both companies supply all the gear and bait.

11. Shop and Dine along the Mooloolaba Esplanade

Dining along the Mooloolaba Esplanade
Dining along the Mooloolaba Esplanade | Photo Copyright: Karen Hastings

Mooloolaba’s Esplanade is a happening place to visit year-round. Shops and restaurants line the broad walking street, and alfresco cafés spill out onto the sidewalk, giving the area a European feel.

Here, you are only steps from the floury-soft sands of Mooloolaba Beach. After a few hours swimming and sunning on the beach, you can hop across here and refuel with a mouthwatering lunch or dinner. One of Mooloolaba’s simple pleasures is sipping a coffee and people watching at a table on the sidewalk, with glistening views of the nearby beach framed by palms and Norfolk pines.

Dining options are varied. You’ll find everything here from Italian and seafood cuisine to casual cafés. Top it all off with an ice-cream from Ben & Jerry’s.

Need a shopping fix? You can treat yourself here. Boutiques, surf shops, and jewelry stores line this strip, and you’ll find a few more of Mooloolaba’s hidden gems down the side streets, like First Avenue.

12. Hop aboard the Aquaduck

The Aquaduck on a canal cruise in Mooloolaba
The Aquaduck on a canal cruise in Mooloolaba | Photo Copyright: Brian Hastings

Looking for a quick and affordable sightseeing tour? The Aquaduck is a great option. This one-hour amphibious tour takes you by Mooloolaba’s highlights, both on land and sea.

Board the duck and buckle in for an informative tour of Mooloolaba Beach, the Esplanade, and the “Sunshine Strip.” Then hold on tight as you take to the water. Instantly, the Aquaduck transforms itself into a boat for an entertaining cruise around the key sights. See Point Cartwright, cruise up the tranquil Mooloolah River, ogle the opulent waterfront homes, watch the fishing trawlers bringing in their catch, and look for wildlife.

Along the way, the informative commentary shares interesting information about the area and key attractions, keeping wriggly kids entertained. This is a great way to get an overview of the area so you can zero in on the areas you want to spend more time at later during your visit.

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