When Mother Nature was doing her thing, we reckon she sprinkled a little something extra on the Sunshine Coast.
Home to some of Australia’s most pristine natural environments, here is the only place in Australia where you’ll find three UNESCO declared biospheres sitting side by side, one of only two everglades systems in the world, more than 100km of pristine beaches, pockets of sub-tropical rainforest and the Glass House Mountains - that are actually remnants of volcanic activity that occurred 27 million years ago. It’s fair to say we’re pretty blessed in these parts.
Hikers, casual strollers and lovers of natural beauty have all popped the towering Glass House Mountains on their bucket list, and for good reason - with 11 peaks to explore (some of the most recognisable being Mount Beerwah, Mount Tibgrogargan, Mount Coochin and Mount Coonowrin), the rugged formations and views at the top are some of the best in the world.
Hike around the base of Tibrogargan, trek to the summit of Mount Beerburrum and Mount Ngungun and walk in the footsteps of the Kabi Kabi and Jinibara people, the region’s traditional owners, as you embark on the Yul-yan-man track that traverses amazing country between Mount Tibrogargan and Mount Beerburrum.
Long before white settlement, the Glass House Mountains region was a special meeting place for Aboriginal people to gather for ceremonies and social activities. Events were planned for times of the year when local food sources were abundant, like the bunya nut festival.
The Noosa Everglades - one of only two everglades systems on Earth - is a genetically blessed 60km stretch of sparkling waterways, fringed by ancient tea tree forests and floating lily pads. In short: it’s seriously dreamy.
The almost imperceptible current and dark, tannin-stained waters combine to make the surface of this waterway so reflective that it has earned the nickname ‘the River of Mirrors’ so you’ll probably want to don some shades as you cruise along in a canoe or kayak.
Stretching across two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, this unique environment has remained relatively untouched for thousands of years, making it one of Australia’s most diverse ecosystems. In fact, more than 40 per cent of Australia's bird species call this spot home - which is understandable given its natural beauty. Within the watery labyrinth you’ll spot pelicans, eagles, osprey, and the rare jabiru and glossy black cockatoo.
We don’t want to brag or anything but the Sunshine Coast region is the only place in the Australia where three biosphere reserves sit side-by-side. The Sunshine Coast region received UNESCO status in June 2022, joining the existing Noosa and Great Sandy Biosphere Reserves. Together, they form an uninterrupted biosphere corridor that runs along our slice of Queensland paradise.
Explore the Great Sandy Biosphere by embarking on the Cooloola Great Walk - a bucket list adventure that spans 102km one-way and takes about five-days to complete, depending on how many times you stop to snap Instagram pics. On the track you’ll deepen your connection to land as you pass through towering sand dunes built up over 500,000 years, enchanting everglades and beautiful pockets of rainforest bursting with lush greenery. This isn’t a walk in the park, it’s so much better!
For day-trippers, the Great Beach Drive connects Noosa with Rainbow Beach in the Gympie Region and up to K’gari (formerly Fraser Island), making it one of the longest and most epic beach drives in the world. Accessible only by four-wheel drive, the beach highway takes you along the sand. With wide stretches of beach as your road, you’ll be cruising alongside humpback whales during the migration season, dolphins, turtles and rare bird species. But the best bit? The area is steeped in Indiegnous culture with sacred spots, rock art and places of Dreaming stories to be discovered.
When it comes to national parks overflowing with rich foliage and lush hideouts, not many do it better than the Sunshine Coast.
Make tracks to the coast and you’ll be hard pressed to miss a sighting of Mount Coolum National Park. Towering above the coastline is Mount Coolum, a greenery-strewn ancient volcanic peak that is second in rock size only to Uluru.The centrepiece of the sprawling national park, it rewards hikers who conquer it with spectacular views over the ocean. While any time of the day is beautiful to visit, there’s nothing quite like being the first to see the sun’s rays bounce off the glittering sea from up high.
A short journey inland, on the Blackall Range in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, you’ll find Kondalilla National Park and Mapleton Falls National Park. Here, dense rainforest and moss-covered granite boulders fringe hidden waterholes and rock pools that are just begging you to float away the day in them. You can stretch your legs with a range of walking trails too. From short hikes to multi-day walks, the more adventurous out there should lace up their boots and hit the Hinterland Great Walk which at 58.8km takes you through pockets of sub-tropical rainforest, eucalypt forests and waterfalls. That beats your morning workout at the gym on every level.
If you want to take the adventure up a notch, take a short break and make good use of your 4WD and head off the beaten track, exploring forestry roads of the rugged Conondale Ranges, where the everyday seems a lifetime away.
Disconnect from reality and plug into nature at Imbil and Amamoor state forests, where creek-side camping, walks, horse trails and roads for mountain-bike adventure are on the intinterary. While we don’t like to play favourites, Conondale National Park offers some of the most beautiful camping spots along Booloumba Creek where forest bathing at the base of the nearby waterfall is non negotiable. Hikers can also get amped with half-day, full-day or multi-day bushwalking options on the Conondale Range Great Walk.
Just a short stroll from buzzing Hastings Street but feeling like a world away, Noosa National Park absolutely deserves a spot on your must-visit list. Spanning 2883 verdant hectares incorporating Noosa headland and areas around Lake Weyba, Sunshine Beach and Peregian, opt for the coastal walk if it’s your first time here. Around 11km return, you’ll meander past sparkling beaches, watch the waves fizz over the rocks and listen to the soundtrack of whip birds. Pro tip: keep a lookout in the towering eucalyptus trees for the park’s resident koalas who are likely to be snoozing in them.
If you’re keen to get away from the crowd, jump in the car, roll the windows down and do the short drive to Tewantin National Park, Eumundi or Parklands conservation parks, where forest trails beckon walkers, mountain-bike riders and horse riders into their dreamy green surroundings.
Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, located in Maleny on the Blackall Range, is 55 hectares of sub-tropical rainforest that offers spectacular views over the Glass House Mountains. First, get a caffeine hit from their onsite cafe, expand your mind and learn about the region at their Rainforest Discovery Centre, before venturing deep into the heart of the rainforest, following the bubbling creeks to natural pools that are ripe for swimming.
To find some of the best waterfalls in Queensland, you’ll only need to venture a short distance inland from the coast - we’re talking less than the time it takes to binge your favourite Netflix show. Just 10-minutes from Mooloolaba beach you’ll find Buderim Falls. At this natural haven, walk amongst towering trees, listening for the sound of the water cascading over rocks to guide you to your swimming hole. The serene oasis is just begging you to throw in a floatie and while away the day there. If granite-strewn natural pools and swimming spots sound like your idea of heaven, add Gardners Falls in Maleny, Kondalilla Falls in Montville and Mapleton Falls on the Blackall Range to your hit list.