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 100km of Sunshine Coast beaches stretching from family-friendly Caloundra to the Cooloola Coast and stunning coastal views of the hinterland. One of my favourite things to do on a weekend is to visit the Sunshine Coast markets.
- 35 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast
- Things to do in Caloundra
- Things to do in Mooloolaba
- Things to do in Maroochydore
- Things to do in Coolum
- Things to do in Noosa
- Things to do in Cooloola
- Top Sunshine Coast attractions for kids
- Things to do in Sunshine Coast hinterland
- Where is Sunshine Coast?
- What’s on Sunshine Coast
- Accommodation Sunshine Coast
35 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast
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.
Bring your own picnic or cook up a barbeque at a beachside park. There’s also a Greg Norman-designed golf course, Club Pelican.
1- Visit Caloundra’s beaches
Caloundra has a fair share of patrolled beaches that are safe for children and a number of dog-friendly beaches 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 and has a children’s swimming pool and wading area.
Caloundra’s beaches are also a hub of Sunshine Coast activities families can enjoy, such as fishing, kayaking, windsurfing and boating.
Best beaches: Moffat Beach, Shelly Beach, Dicky Beach and Kawana Beach.
2- Walk the Caloundra Coastal Path
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.
3- Visit the Queensland Air Museum
The Queensland Air Museum has a fantastic collection of aircraft on display and is one of the best air museums in Australia.
From time to time, the museum fires up its collection of engines and aircraft on their Aero Engine Run Days, which is a great day out for families.
The museum’s operational engine and aircraft collection consist of engines ranging from 40 hp up to 1,500 hp and dating from 1930, including a fully operational CAC Wirraway aircraft.
- CA-16 Wirraway aircraft used for training in WWII
- 1500 horsepower 14 cylinder Pratt & Whitney R-2000 radial engine out of a RAAF Caribou aircraft
- A hand started 40 horsepower 4 cylinder Continental A40 engine
- An Armstrong Whitworth Meteor TT MK20
- Several different kinds of helicopters
It has an impressive collection of historical military and passenger aircraft, aircraft engines, equipment, photographs, models and books.
Collections are arranged in themed displays, such as Charles Kingsford Smith, women in aviation, World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, Qantas Airways and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
A highlight of the museum is the General Dynamics F-111, which is on loan from the Royal Australian Air Force.
The F-111s were best known for their fiery dump and burn exhibitions at air shows around Australia.
They could fly at two-and-a-half times the speed of sound and when they retired was still one of the fastest strike aircraft in the world.
The Queensland Air Museum is open every day from 10 am to 4 pm. Go here for more details. Admission: Adult $15, Concession $10, Child $8 and Family (2 adults, 3 children) $35. Address: 7 Pathfinder Drive, Caloundra Airport, Sunshine Coast
Things to do in Mooloolaba
4- Spend the day at Mooloolaba Beach
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 Sunshine Coast 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.
5- Visit Sealife Aquarium
One of the best Mooloolaba attractions for families is Sealife Mooloolaba, which has 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.
6- Kayak the canals
You can kayak around the canals, cruise the Mooloolah River in a dinghy or sail the ocean in a yacht.
7- Go on a whale watching cruise
Humpback whales cruise past the coast on their way back to Antarctica after migrating north months earlier.
They swim past the Sunshine Coast around May and June to head to Townsville and tropical north Queensland to give birth.
Around late July and August, they migrate south and arrive in Hervey Bay before moving south towards Antarctica to feed on krill.
You can join a whale-watching cruise and there’s a fabulous opportunity to go swimming with the whales.
8- See the Mooloolaba Christmas Boat Parade
If you’re visiting at Christmas time, look out for the Mooloolaba Christmas Boat Parade.
It’s a glittering affair with a flotilla of boats gliding around the canals past the waterfront homes.
A good place to get an eyeful is the Kawana Waters Pub on Nicklin Way or if you happen to know someone who owns a house on the canal, that’s even better.
9- Eat fresh seafood
Feast on fresh seafood at one of the many fresh fish places on Parkyn Parade, where the fishing boats are docked.
It’s a favourite spot for locals to line up for their Christmas prawns.
At other times of the year, this is the place on the Sunshine Coast to eat fish and chips.
Things to do in Maroochydore
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.
10- Cafe hopping at Cotton Tree
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.
11- Shop at Sunshine Plaza
Sunshine Plaza is the place for shopping and a new wing has recently opened with new big-name department stores like David Jones and BigW.
It’s built over Cornmeal Creek and has bridges linking the centre’s 200 shops and waterside cafes.
12- Sunbake on Maroochydore Beach
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.
13- Explore the local market on Fisherman’s Road
My favourite way to spend Sunday morning is to head to the market on Fisherman’s Road, grab a coffee and wander around.
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 and the areas around Coolum are less expensive than Noosa or Mooloolaba.
14- Play golf at Twin Waters
Twin Waters has a challenging 18-hole championship golf course where you’re almost guaranteed an audience of kangaroos.
15- Dive the HMAS Brisbane
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.
Luxury resorts, fine food and a world-famous beach are the main drawcards of Noosa.
This stylish beachside resort has an international vibe and is one of Australia’s iconic seaside destinations.
16- Go surfing
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.
17- Hit the Noosa restaurants on Hastings Street
Hastings Street is a hub of luxury beachfront resorts and designer shops.
Noosa restaurants are top notch but more expensive than restaurants in most other beachside regions.
18- Noosa National Park
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.
Things to do in 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.
19- Kayaking in Cooloola National Park
Take a kayak trip through mangroves or a hike through the national park.
20- Hike the Cooloola Wilderness Trail
Experienced hikers will love the 46.2km Cooloola Wilderness Trail, camping along the way.
21- Rainbow Beach
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.
22- Fossick for gold in Gympie
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.
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.
23- Australia Zoo
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.
24- Woodford Folk Festival
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.
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.
25- Do the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Gallery Trail
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.
The Sunshine Coast Hinterland has amazing views that have been the inspiration to many artists who call this place home.
You can view art by following the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Gallery Trail. Several galleries display the works of talented local and international artists.
From bronze and marble sculptures to oil and watercolour paintings; from wood to hand-blown glass and ceramics, there’s bound to be something to suit your taste.
You can even join an art class.
There are several available, including sculpting, glass blowing, woodcraft, pottery and even writing and music. Joining a class is a great way to clear the mind, relax and let your creativity flow.
As you drive around, you’ll come across cafes, craft shops and boutiques.
Montville has a European ambience and interesting shops where you might pick up a locally made souvenir or two. Maleny is less touristy and has some fabulous galleries.
26- Glass House Mountains
You can buy fresh pineapples, strawberries, macadamia nuts or custard apples from the farm gates in the Glass House Mountains.
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 such as the walking trails through the lush rainforests of Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny.
28- Hike to Kondalilla Falls
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.
29- Mapleton National Park
Go bushwalking 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.
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.
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.
33- Drive the Mary Valley
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.
34- Hike the Conondale Range
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.
35- Unleash your creativity at the Australian Body Art Festival
The Australian Body Art Festival is the eye-popping event of the year on the Sunshine Coast.
If you’re looking for a colourful and creative event in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, head to the festival and you’ll be amazed at what you see.
There are painted bodies everywhere, decorated with Australian mammals, reptiles, birdlife and delicate wildflowers.
Some are painted with fantasy landscapes, while others are tributes to ANZACS, swagmen and flying doctors.
Entrants come dressed up according to the theme of each year’s festival.
There’s usually a “Wearable Art” fashion show filled with stylish designs made from recycled treasures.
Models paraded in dresses made from of all kinds of recyclable materials, such as Australian stubby coolers, an inflatable air bed and even the canvas from a 1920’s tent!
Body Art is an art form in which people modify, change, decorate and adorn their bodies.
The main forms of body art are tattooing, shaping, scarring and painting. Some of these art forms are thousands of years old.
The oldest tattooed body known to man was Ötzi the Iceman, a frozen human discovered in the Austrian Alps with 57 tattoos.
The body dates back 5,300 years ago and some of the tattoos were thought to have been used as a treatment for arthritis in the ankles, knees and lower back.
The Australian Body Art Festival is held in May each year at Apex Park at 2 Maple Street Cooroy on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. For the latest details go here.
Horse-riding trails cut through three kinds of forests – eucalypt forest, plantation forest and rainforest – in a single ride.
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.