The Sunshine Coast is a place that has it all. The rich diversity of enviable beachside culture, wonders of nature, fresh local food, immersive encounters and world-class events are all in abundance.
Come to life on the Sunshine Coast and make your story a reality with this incredible eight day itinerary.
Day 1: Brisbane to Montville (99 km)
Who doesn’t love a road trip? One of the many great things about the Sunshine Coast is its proximity to Queensland’s capital city, Brisbane. It’s the weekend playground for city slickers, who can literally duck up the road, greeted by views of the Glass House Mountains in less than an hour. Head north along the Bruce Highway and take the appropriately named Steve Irwin Way to Australia Zoo – home of the Crocodile Hunter. Alternatively, fly into Sunshine Coast Airport and hire a car from one of the many providers.
Feathered, scaly and furry friends abound in what really is a zoo like no other on the planet. Kickstart your visit by going behind the scenes at the Wildlife Hospital (gold coin donation for entry) and learning about the legendary Steve Irwin. This special insight typifies Australia Zoo’s ongoing commitment to conservation and saving animals around the world. Fun fact: Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital has treated nearly 70,000 animals! Time your visit around the midday show in the world’s ONLY Crocoseum – an epic amphitheatre where up to 5,000 visitors enjoy the Wildlife Warriors Show every day. Don’t miss the playful tigers, lemurs on Bindi’s Island and HUGE multi-species Africa exhibit.
If the ‘Feeding Frenzy’ or ‘Dingo Diner’ at Australia Zoo aren’t your thing, head up the Blackall Range to the charming hinterland town of Montville. This quaint village specialises in both long and late lunches. Flame Hill Vineyard and Restaurant is an absolute favourite for foodies, offering a paddock-to-plate experience, complemented by estate-grown Verdelho and shiraz, as well as views back towards Mount Coolum and the coast. Tip: for food that’s almost too pretty to eat, and just as delicious, give the spanner crab, tomato and avocado tian a go.
Stay: view Montville accommodation options
Day 2: Montville to Maleny (15 km)
Two things the hinterland does exceptionally well are spectacular natural surrounds (think mountain or valley views, rainforest peppering the landscape, waterfalls and walking trails) and exquisite foodie experiences. Kickstart the morning with a cheese tasting at Maleny Food Co. Yes, a cheese tasting in the morning. It’s never too early for cheese (or beer) and a visit to the famed fromagerie – featuring a selection of local, Australian and global cheeses – will impress the most legendary cheese connoisseur. This café gem is also home to Australia’s award-winning chocolate ice cream, and scones as big as your head. Not even kidding. It’s a good idea to stock up on relishes, preserves, cured meats and other goodies, too. The picnicker in us all comes to the fore in the Sunshine Coast hinterland! Next stop, discover ales and all things beer at one of Queensland’s hottest new breweries, Maleny’s very own Brouhaha Brewery. The craft brewing scene is blossoming here, with MacLeod Brewing Company at The Big Barrel just launching their first brew, adding to the well-established Wild Rocket at Misty’s Micro Brewery in Montville. Ok, now back to that picnic. Gardners Falls is located just east of the Maleny township. The grassy banks and gentle cascades of this rainforest paradise were made for cane baskets, cheese and all things nice. Finish of the day with a rainforest experience at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve on Mountain View Road – home to a brand new interpretive centre. This vantage point offers some of the most spectacular views of the Glass House Mountains.
Overnight: view Maleny or Glass House Mountains accommodation options
Day 3: Montville to Caloundra (39 km) and Caloundra to Mooloolaba (17 km)
Get up early and hit the beach, Moffat Beach to be exact. Getting up early on holidays, REALLY? Sunshine Coasters get up early, we enjoy the great outdoors, often watching the sun peep over the horizon. It’s just a thing that we do. If you ask a local they will more than likely mount a very solid argument that nothing is more refreshing than a morning swim. We live the enviable dream of beachside and hinterland living, which is the beauty of holidaying here in the Sunshine Coast – the proximity to beach and nature-based experience is unmatched!
Moffat Beach: coffee in your hand, feet in the sand, the re-energising feeling of strolling along the beach is what holidays are all about! The Pocket Espresso Bar will sort out the caffeine and breakfast hit (try Moffat Beach Brewing Co later in the day), before or after that morning swim to refresh. Norfolk Pines line this iconic patch of sand in Caloundra, which also form an epic sunrise backdrop. Caloundra is famed for its waterways and beaches, so exploring the wonders of the Pumicestone Passage by kayak, stand up paddle board (SUP) or jet ski comes highly recommended. Check out Blue Water Kayak Tours, Caloundra Jet Ski, Golden Beach Hire or Ocean Adventure Sea Kayaking. Mountain views, flat water and stacks of wildlife – you might even see a dugong or flock of black swans!
Overnight: Mooloolaba – options. Or stay in Caloundra with these options.
Morning walks are obligatory in the Sunshine Coast, and you’ll feel better for it. Trust us ☺. Mooloolaba Beach to Alexandra Headland is an absolute classic! This coastal pathway is only a 15 minute walk (well, 20 minutes if your stroll is super leisurely). Take it just that little bit further and continue on to Cotton Tree, where the Maroochy River meets the Indian Ocean. Grab a coffee from the Alex Heads Surf Club for the walk back and top it off with a dip at one of Australia’s Top 10 Beaches. Mooloolaba Beach has been named in TripAdvisor’s top 10 for the second year in a row. Not surprisingly, day time hangs in Mooloolaba are really easy, and totally relaxing. Nothing is too far away. Swim with a seal at SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast or swim, eat, shop, repeat your way up the Mooloolaba Esplanade. In season (July to October) you can even go swimming with a humpback whale – now THAT’S one for the bucket list! Do beach culture at its sandiest with a visit to The Surf Club Mooloolaba, perched right on the sand on this iconic stretch of beach. It’s the perfect place to meet a local, grab a bite to eat and have a pint with a surf lifesaver. Perhaps the hottest dining spot in Mooloolaba is Spice Bar. As the sun goes down this contemporary Asian hotspot shines, both in the restaurant and plush lounge bar. Local prawns and Hervey Bay scallops sit alongside more traditional dishes with duck and pork. Try one of the banquet options for a serious gastronomic journey. For something super cute check out the cocktail menu and ask the bartender which drinks are paired with a mini origami crane.
Day 5: Mooloolaba to Noosa (50 km)
The slight hustle and bustle of Mooloolaba seems a world away when walking through Buderim Forest Park, stepping across rocks, en route to Serenity Falls. Waterfall wanderings are only minutes away from here and even closer to the cosmopolitan foodie hub of Maroochydore.
Make your way to Noosa for lunch at Rickys o Wasabi, side by side smack bang on the Noosa River – fed by a catchment area primarily surrounded by national parks, which explains why it has that crystal blue tinge! Both Rickys and Wasabi score hats in the Good Food Guide, with the former receiving one for its beach chic vibe and seafood-centric menu, and the latter nailing two hats for fine Japanese cuisine complemented by produce from the Wasabi farm. Another incredible lunch option between Mooloolaba and Noosa is The Spirit House. This Queensland institution is in TripAdvisor’s Top 10 Restaurants in Australia and, like both Wasabi and Rickys, also receives hats in the Good Food Guide. Walk off lunch in the Noosa National Park, perfectly located only a few hundred metres from stylish Hastings Street with its Hamptons-esque feel. Tea Tree Bay is a favourite, as is Picnic Cove and Alexandria Bay. Tip: call into the Visitor Centre at the entry to the national park and lock your eyes on the blackboard for the daily koala spotter locations!
When dinner rolls around, the plethora of options along the shores of Noosaville, Hastings Street and Sunshine Beach can be overwhelming, but in the most delicious way possible. Be sure to start dinner just before sunset to make the most of those stunning Noosa waterways – whether you opt for beach or riverfront.
Overnight: View Noosa accommodation options
Day 6: Noosa to Lake Cootharaba (26km):
What’s better than waking up by the beach or in the hinterland? Well, watching Lake Cootharaba sparkle with its mirror-like reflections could quite possibly top it! This spectacular body of water is part of the Noosa Everglades – one of only two everglades system in the world, the other being Florida. More than 44% of Australia’s bird life flock to this magnificent part of the Sunshine Coast. These migratory birds have great taste. It truly is a wonder of nature that is just begging to be explored. Explore Noosa Everglades by kayak or on a cruise. Try Kanu Kapers Australia for kayak hire at Boreen Point. The Discovery Group or The Noosa Ferry Company can sort cruising needs from the Noosa River.
After a morning of exploring the Noosa Everglades, head off from Boreen Point or Noosa, onward to Rainbow Beach. This is the southern gateway to Fraser Island and so named because of the 72 coloured sands that feature in the sandy cliffs adorning the Great Beach Drive. If you have a 4WD, you can drive all the way to Rainbow Beach from Noosa North Shore (get the ferry across Noosa River at Tewantin). It is actually a gazetted road, where normal road rules and speed limits are observed. On arrival in Rainbow Beach, do sunset by horseback. Rainbow Beach Horse Rides even do full moon beach rides if your visit aligns perfectly!
Overnight: View Rainbow Beach accommodation options
Day 7: Noosa to Rainbow Beach (102km):
Hit Australia’s sandiest highway along the Great Beach Drive for a day out that is exactly what it promises – EPIC! The gang from Epic Ocean Adventures have really nailed nature, adventure and beach days all in one with their dolphin kayak tours and surfing lessons on Australia’s longest break. Give SUPping a try, too, as it’s pretty much a religion in this part of the world. Chilling out at the Double Island Point lagoon has to be experienced to be believed. This landmark is actually named after explorer James Cook, who believed the point and neighbouring ridge resembled two separate islands side by side when viewed from a distance, discovered them by boat! In other fun facts, Epic Ocean Adventures has just started day tours from Noosa. It’s now even easier to get some Great Beach Drive in your life. Woohoo!
Overnight: View Rainbow Beach accommodation options
Day 8: Rainbow Beach to Brisbane (240km) or Sunshine Coast Airport (149km)
Wake up early to experience the most mesmerising sunrise experience in the Sunshine Coast – watching the Pacific Ocean awaken from Carlo Sand Blow. This windswept sandy landscape sits atop the coloured cliffs of the famed beach drive experience, perched at the highest part of Rainbow Beach township. It is like an ancient moonscape, stretching for several hundred metres, fringed by a 600 metre forest walk. Watch dolphins dart into schools of fish as the waves roll in and enjoy the peace and quiet of this wonder of nature. There truly is nothing like it. Once you pick your jaw up off the sand, grab some breakfast on the main street before heading off back to Brisbane, or for your flight from Sunshine Coast Airport in Maroochydore.