The Sunshine Coast is not just about beaches. Just a few short minutes away from the dreamy waterfront mansions and luxury yachts of the Mooloolaba canals there is the secret nature hideaway of the Mooloolah River National Park, where kangaroos and birds still find solace in their natural habitat. Queensland is full of beach towns that have kilometres of soft white sand and clear blue skies but what makes Mooloolaba attractions extra special is the combination of those extravagantly opulent canal homes that flash past at you as you drive over the canal bridges along Brisbane Road and the proximity of the beaches to luxury, great shopping, good food and most up to date modern conveniences.
This once sleepy fishing village has transformed into a lifestyle playground with massive luxury waterfront mansions and expensive marine toys.
The majestic mansions flaunt crisp modern architectural lines using glass to capture sparkling water views, private jetties that dominate the waterfront, colours that range the full gamut from neutral creams and beiges to striking bright blues and yellows.It’s a dream lifestyle, and some would say at a pretty reasonable price compared to waterfront living in Monte Carlo, Seattle or Barbados.
The Mooloolaba holiday strip always buzzes with excitement.
The alfresco cafes and coffee shops are jam-packed with couples and families; the shops blast loud pop music as holidaymakers weave through the aisles of bikinis, thongs, trinkets, postcards and CDs.
The best thing about it is that you can sit and watch the waves crashing into the beach while you dine on calamari and sip white wine.To catch more than a fleeting glimpse of the canal homes, you could try driving around the streets of the suburb of Minyama where many of these substantial homes are located.
Some of them are even visible from the Mooloolaba Wharf; but to get the full impact you would need to navigate the waterways on a boat or a kayak.There are boat cruises that float pass homes as big as concert halls, with waterfront pontoons and small private sandy beaches.
The private water craft moored at the jetties come in all shapes and sizes from large ocean going sailing yachts to power boats, catamarans and groovy jet-skis.
A local fisherman paddles down the canal in a small tin shanty eyeing the sleek, speedy looking, newest and latest power model tied to a jetty as the relaxed owners clamber out of the impressive craft content with the morning’s sail out in the open ocean.
Mooloolah River National Park
However, just a short few minutes ride up the river by boat from this lavish lifestyle is the secret nature hideaway of the Mooloolah River National Park.
Although it is located only minutes away from the Minyama Canals, it is a world away from its opulence and glamour.The wooded coastal lowlands of the Mooloolah River National Park with protected remnants of wallum heath, open eucalypt woodlands and tea-tree swamps is a quiet out-of-the-way nature lovers refuge with no facilities or walking tracks; but don’t be surprised to glimpse the occasional local hiding amongst the bushes soaking up the tranquil atmosphere.This serene part of the world was once home to the Aboriginal Undanbi tribe who foraged amongst the woodlands for cotton tree flowers (that taste like lettuce) and fished for oysters along the river banks.
This tribe along with others of its kind disappeared through the passage of time as the area became populated by industry and civilization.The name ‘Mooloolaba’ is thought to have derived either from ‘mulu’ the Aboriginal word for snapper fish, or ‘mullu’ red-bellied black snake.
In 1864, William Pettigrew’s purchase of land at the mouth of the Mooloolah River put him in the position to dominate the timber trade in the Maroochy District over the ensuing thirty years. He established a timber depot and wharf to ship timber from Cotton Tree and Buderim to his Brisbane sawmill.From 1870-1884, Mooloolah Heads served as the main gateway to the Maroochy District. Protected by Point Cartwright, it was favoured as a port over the Maroochy River, where the ocean swell and sand bars often made access hazardous.
Pettigrew’s steamers continued to operate in the Mooloolah and Maroochy Rivers, regularly carrying produce and passengers as well as timber between Mooloolaba and Brisbane.
By 1919, Mooloolah Heads was more of a fruit growing area than a seaside resort. Fishing was also developing as an industry of some importance.
Thomas O’Connor bought Pettigrew’s land and surveyed the first allotments of what was to become Mooloolaba; the first sale of allotments was held on 1 January 1921.
It was then that the name ‘Mooloolaba’ was adopted to differentiate between this developing area and the Mooloolah Township on the North Coast Railway.
The section of the Mooloolah River that runs through the National Park looks like it has not changed much from the days of the Undanbi tribe when aboriginals camped, built their fish traps and gathered bush tucker.As you cruise along, it would not be uncommon to spot local birdlife such as a pair of Brahminy kite birds perched on an overhead branch eagerly watching for fish.
Brilliant blue kingfishers flutter around the mangroves as kangaroos laze by the river bank watching.A pair of wild ducks splash in the river, droplets of water on their shimmering blue wings glisten under the suns rays.
It is so easy to forget the opulence of the civilised canal front as you drift along for hours in a dreamy reverie, while this lost pocket envelopes your senses and you leave all your responsibilities behind.Not far from Mooloolaba is Kawana Beach. Click here to find out all about this beach:
Mooloolah River National Park straddles the Sunshine Motorway near Mooloolaba and is accessible from Claymore Road, Sippy Downs past Sunshine Coast University. The Mooloolah River forms the south-eastern boundary of the park. No vehicle access is allowed.
Wondering where else to go on the Sunshine Coast? Check out this post.