Queensland’s Sunshine Coast stretches from Caloundra to Cooloola. The region to the north of Brisbane is one of Queensland’s top holiday destinations. Think sun-drenched beaches and green rolling hills. It’s a great combination for a relaxing holiday. It’s also easy to get there as it’s only a one-hour drive north of Brisbane. From beaches to national parks, laid-back seaside suburbs to hinterland towns, here are some things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
The sunny coast has long been a magnet for frazzled city dwellers who head north for the beautiful Sunshine Coast weather and stunning beaches.
The region is well-known for its beaches (there are over 100km of beaches) stretching from family-friendly Caloundra to the Cooloola Coast.
From the towering Glass House Mountains to the charming craft communities of the Blackall Range, the Sunshine Coast hinterland is a magical world of green rolling hills, lush farms, dramatic volcanic landscapes and pristine national parks.
In particular, the Blackall Range has breathtaking views of the coast.
Montville and Maleny are dotted with quaint craft shops, mountain cafes, galleries and wineries.
You can buy fresh pineapples, strawberries, macadamia nuts or custard apples from the farm gates in the Glass House Mountains. Or snuggle up in a cute cottage in the Noosa Hinterland.
Here are 10 places to visit on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
1- Things to do in Caloundra
If you’re looking for things to do on the Sunshine Coast with the family, head to Caloundra for family friendly beaches, water activities and wonderful coastal views.
What to do in Caloundra for families? Well, Caloundra has a fair share of patrolled beaches that are safe for children.
It also a number of dog-friendly beach with off-leash runs for your four-legged friends. This seaside city in the southern part of the region is the perfect spot for a good old-fashioned family holiday.
The kids can swim, surf and snorkel under the watchful eye of lifeguard patrols at Kings Beach, Bulcock Beach or Golden Beach.
The 25m sea water lap pool at Kings Beach is worth a visit. It has a children’s swimming pool and wading area. You can bring your own picnic or cook up a barbeque at a beachside park.
It’s also a hub of Sunshine Coast activities families can enjoy, such as fishing, kayaking, windsurfing and boating.
There’s a Greg Norman-designed golf course, Club Pelican, and the Caloundra Coastal Path is a walking trail that stretches from Golden Beach to Point Cartwright.
The walk takes you along the scenic shoreline and one of the best Caloundra things to do if you need to clear your head.
Best beaches: Moffat Beach, Shelly Beach, Dicky Beach and Kawana Beach.
2- Things to do in Mooloolaba
Mooloolaba has a north-facing beach, vibrant al-fresco precinct and aquatic lifestyle.
Mooloolaba Beach is a northern-facing crescent of white sand lined with picnic areas and playgrounds.
Across the road, Mooloolaba Esplanade is lined with luxury resorts, designer shops, trendy cafes and alfresco restaurants. So, there are plenty of Mooloolaba things to do on your SunshineCoast holiday.
Although, in Mooloolaba, the set up is so convenient you could end up doing nothing but swim, sunbake, surf, shop, sip and dine at a different restaurant each night. Or feast on a bounty of prawns, oysters and fish fresh off the trawlers.
You don’t have to snorkel or dive to experience the wonders of the ocean. One of the best Mooloolaba attractions for families is Underwater World Sealife Mooloolaba. There are four interactive levels filled with amazing ocean creatures.
Watch an exciting seal performance, meet the otters or dive with the sharks. There’s a thrilling walk beneath gliding rays and giant sharks through a transparent Oceanarium tunnel.
Mooloolaba is the spot for boating activities. You can kayak around the canals, cruise the Mooloolah River in a dinghy or sail the ocean in a yacht.
Humpback whales cruise past the coast on their way back to Antarctica. You can join a whale-watching cruise and there’s a fabulous opportunity to go swimming with the whales.
If you’re visiting at Christmas time, look out for the Mooloolaba Christmas Boat Parade.
Top spot: Feast on fresh seafood at the fisheries on Parkyn Parade.
3- Maroochydore things to do
For a long time, Maroochydore was a low-key regional centre with a riverside lifestyle.
However, in recent years, it has started to take off and there are new restaurants and lots of apartment-style accommodation.
The commercial hub of the Sunshine Coast is wedged between the Maroochy River and the ocean.
Things to do in Maroochydore include hiring a boat and floating dreamily along the river.
The mouth of the river, near Cotton Tree, was once the site of a timber mill where local lumber was shipped to Brisbane by paddle-steamer.
Sunshine Plaza is the place for shopping. It’s built over Cornmeal Creek and has bridges linking the centre’s 200 shops and waterside cafes.
Maroochydore Beach is a short walk to the shops and cafes at the ocean-side suburb of Cotton Tree where there’s a choice of hotels, luxury apartments, holiday flats and a caravan park.
My favourite way to spend Sunday morning is to head to the market on Fisherman’s Road, grab a coffee and wander around.
4- Things to do in Coolum
Playing golf, surfing and diving are some of the things to do in Coolum and the surrounding area.
Coolum Beach is great for surfers but there are also quieter beaches, such as Mudjimba and Marcoola.
Sunshine Coast accommodation ranges from budget to luxury. The areas around Coolum are less expensive than Noosa or Mooloolaba.
Palmer Coolum Resort has a challenging 18-hole championship golf course but it’s currently closed and subject to some controversy. The world’s best golfers once played on this course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jnr.
Twin Waters course is a popular course where you’re almost guaranteed an audience of kangaroos.
Diving enthusiasts will love exploring the engine and boiler rooms of the ex-HMAS Brisbane.
The former Australian naval ship has been converted into a world-class diving site.
5- Things to do in Noosa
This stylish beachside resort has an international vibe and is one of Australia’s iconic seaside destinations.
Noosa’s Main Beach is one of the best north-facing beaches in Australia. As the beach is protected, calm conditions make it a popular place for families and beginning surfers.
Experienced surfers might prefer Peregian Beach or Sunshine Beach.
Other Noosa attractions are Hastings Street and Noosa National Park.
Hastings Street is a hub of luxury beachfront resorts and designer shops. The al-fresco restaurants are top notch but more expensive than restaurants in most other beachside regions.
Noosa National Park is a lovely place for a walk and the Noosa River meanders through a series of lakes to the Noosa Everglades, where a river cruise is a delightful and scenic way to spend the day.
6- Gympie and Cooloola
From Rainbow Beach to Cooloola National Park, the Cooloola area is a pristine part of the region.
The sub-tropical coastal country is a fishing, boating, crabbing and bird-watching paradise. Wild dolphins swim right to the edge of the water at tranquil Tin Can Bay.
Take a kayak trip through mangroves or a hike through the national park. Experienced hikers will love the 46.2km Cooloola Wilderness Trail, camping along the way.
A thrilling 4WD beach drive from Rainbow Beach is quite an adventure. Rainbow Beach is the gateway to the world’s largest sand island, Fraser Island.
Gympie’s historic heritage balances out the natural wonders of Cooloola. Fossick for gold, go on a heritage hunt for Victorian architecture on Mary Street, explore the Gold Mining Museum or watch local craftsmen at work in the WoodWorks Forestry and Timber Museum.
7- Top Sunshine Coast attractions for kids
Spectacular lookouts, bush trails and adventure activities, the Glass House Mountains are majestic and awe-inspiring.
While sailing past on his voyage along Australia’s east coast in 1770, explorer James Cook saw them. Little did he know they would one day be landmarks in one of Australia’s most popular lifestyle destinations, the Sunshine Coast Queensland.
He named them the string of 20-million-year-old volcanic plugs rising from the coastal plain after the glass-making furnaces in his hometown of Yorkshire.
The most well-known Sunshine Coast attraction is Australia Zoo, which was brought to the world’s attention by Steve Irwin’s wildlife documentary series The Crocodile Hunter. The kids will be in awe of the zoo’s thrilling live crocodile feeding sessions.
Nearby, you can stop at farm gates to buy fresh pineapples, custard apples or pick your own strawberries.
If you’re considering a visit during an event, one of the biggest Sunshine Coast events is Woodford Folk Festival. The festival attracts international performers and is a colourful multi-day festival worth visiting.
8- Things to do in Sunshine Coast hinterland
A driving tour of the towns and villages is one of my favourite things to do in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
The Blackall Range is are dotted with galleries, clothing boutiques and craft shops.
There are also plenty of cosy B&Bs, where you can snuggle in front of an open fire.
The drive from Maleny to Mapleton has jaw-dropping views and should be on your Sunshine Coast to do list.
Looking for things to do in Maleny? There’s a lovely walking trail to Gardner’s Falls and Maleny has enough galleries and cafes to fill a few hours.
There are also plenty of nature trails.
The Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk is 58km of trails that traverse scenic areas of the hinterland through Maleny Forest Reserve, Kondalilla National Park and Mapleton Falls National Park.
Go bush walking or bird-spotting in Mapleton National Park where the spectacular cascade of Mapleton Falls tumbles off the western escarpment of the Blackall Range into the Mary Valley.
The walking trails through the lush rainforests of Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny.
9- Things to do around Noosa
If you’re looking for things to do around Noosa, take a step back into history on a drive in the countryside.
It’s easy to fall in step with the laid-back country beat. Stop for lunch in a historic pub, visit a herbal tea plantation or detox at a health retreat.
A driving holiday could include Pomona, home to the Majestic Cinema. The cinema is the oldest continuously running silent movie cinema in the world. The region is home to artists.
The Old Pomona Railway Station Art Gallery is housed in the original town railway station and exhibits works by local artisans.
The Cooroy Butter Factory is now an arts centre with an exhibition space that displays works by local artists. The Cooroy Heritage Walk is a journey back into history to explore the region’s timber logging past.
Meet the growers and producers at the Noosa or Big Pineapples Farmers’ Markets.
While planning your list of things to do in Noosa, make sure to include Eumundi Market.
Eumundi’s market is a juggernaut of 350 stalls beneath towering heritage-listed fig trees and one of the main drawcards of the region.
Here, you’ll find everything from timber handicrafts to organic produce, local art to fresh bread. You can have your face painted, palm read or foot massaged. There are performances of tranquil electronic new age music, didgeridoo and bush poetry.
10- More things to do on the Sunshine Coast
Mary Valley is all about good old-fashioned country hospitality.
It’s a scenic part of the world offering winding country drives through country towns like Dagun, Amamoor, Kandanga and Imbil.
Stop for lunch at a local cafe or an authentic country pub such as the Railway Hotel in Imbil.
The Kenilworth Country Foods factory offers free tastings of award-winning hand-made cheese.
The leisurely Kenilworth Forest Drive winds through pine plantations and open eucalypt forests of grey ironbark, grey gum and white mahogany.
You can hike the picturesque Conondale Range with its rainforests, mosaics of plantation forests, lookouts, waterfalls, cascades and boulder-strewn creeks. Or stop for a picnic at Little Yabba Creek and Booloumba Creek.
Horse-riding trails cut through three kinds of forests – eucalypt forest, plantation forest and rainforest – in a single ride.
Christina Pfeiffer lives on the Sunshine Coast and continues to discover new things to do in the Sunshine Coast.
Visit Sunshine Coast
How to get there
Where is Sunshine Coast? The region is located north of Brisbane. The road trip from Brisbane to Sunshine Coast takes anywhere between one to two hours. It’s an hour to Caloundra and about two to Noosa.
What’s on Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast has a growing programme of events. Sunshine Coast Tourism and Sunshine Coast Council are good resources to find out what’s on Sunshine Coast and other new things to do on Sunshine Coast.
Accommodation Sunshine Coast
Looking for more things to do on the Sunshine Coast? Here’s why you should consider visiting the hinterland.