Noosa. Just the name of this sparkling epicentre on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, two hours’ drive north of Brisbane, conjures balmy sea breezes, squeaky white sand and creature comforts galore, from beachside cocktails to coconut lattes. There are more than 10 reasons to love Noosa, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Maybe you already have your own? Here are my top 10 things to do in Noosa.
Noosa’s now-legendary right-hand point break, and the intrepid surfers who drove up the east coast in search of the perfect wave, put this little seaside town on the tourist map. But there are more than nine beach and point breaks between Sunshine Beach and Noosa’s North Shore, and you can still get amongst it.
New to surfing? Take a surf lesson in the warm, shallow waters at main beach or First Point. Or, in true Noosa style, head out of town on a luxury surfari.
If you really want to see how it’s done, visit during the Noosa Festival of Surfing, the world’s biggest surfing festival, held every March.
2-Noosa National Park
One of the things that most surprises first-timers to Noosa is how green it is, thanks to its 4000-hectare Noosa National Park, which covers Noosa Head and assorted other spots such as Noosa Woods at the northern end of town.
The best introduction to the national park is to follow the coast-hugging boardwalk from main beach, which is sealed all the way to Dolphin Point, at the easternmost tip of the headland.
Keep your eyes peeled for koalas and kookaburras, dolphins and turtles and, between July and November, migrating humpback whales. And bring your swimmers; several walking tracks end at secluded, perfect beaches.
Noosa is often characterised as Mosman (in Sydney) by the sea, largely because of Hastings Street. But a stroll up and down Noosa’s tree-lined boulevard is a must.
Sure, it’s full of chichi boutiques, real estate agents, souvenir shops and French-style cafes (Aromas is a popular spot, its cane chairs all facing the footpath for prime people-watching). But there’s something about Hastings Street that transcends its excesses: the endless-summer vibe, the kaftans on sales racks fluttering in the breeze, the fairy lights twinkling in the trees after dark…
When a restaurant claims to be “right on the beach” in Noosa, it really is. At Bistro C, Berardo’s and Sails, for instance, you can literally slip off your shoes and wriggle your toes in the sand.
At the very least expect to have your hair ruffled by the sea breeze; Noosa does casual and classy like nowhere else.
Then there’s Noosa Beach House, which brings the beach to Hastings Street with its wide-open windows, all-white décor, hanging pot plants and quietly whirring ceiling fans.
5-Surf Club Restaurant
Cafes, kiosks and restaurants run by surf clubs don’t always have the best reputation. But this is Noosa.
The Surf Club Restaurant’s upstairs deck really does have the “best seat on the beach” – and the advantage of height, unlike Noosa’s other beachside restaurants.
There are even high tables with stools at the rear of the deck to ensure everyone gets an ocean view.
The menu has surf-inspired sections such as “big wave burgers” and “for the nippers” at very un-Noosa prices. The magnetic table numbers are a thoughtful touch, built to resist a stiff onshore breeze.
6-Outrigger Little Hastings Street Resort & Spa
For a break from sea, sand and sun, retreat to this eco-conscious luxury apartment complex, which was recently acquired by Mantra Group. Outrigger Little Hastings Street is the only accommodation that lies within Noosa National Park. Or come for breakfast, lunch or dinner at Outrigger’s industrial-chic, open-air restaurant, View on Little Hastings, just a short walk from Hastings Street and the beach.
7-A reason for every season
You’d be hard pressed to find a beach town with more events or festivals than Noosa. Between January and October, there’s at least one a month, most notably: the Noosa Festival of Surfing in March, the 4-day Noosa International Food & Wine Festival in May, the 13-day Noosa Long Weekend arts festival in July, Noosa Jazz Festival in September and the Noosa Triathlon and Multi Sport Festival and Reality Bites Literary Festival, both in October.
8-Riverboats and gondolas
Behind the hustle of Hastings Street and the busy beachfront lies a quieter Noosa best experienced from on the water.
Puttering up the Noosa River at a stately six knots, the Noosa Ferry offers a chance to calm down to a pelican’s pace, all the better to take in the natural surroundings: undeveloped foreshore, islands, hinterland hills.
There are also wilderness tours of Noosa Everglades by canoe and, for the romantics, gondola cruises on the canals of Noosa Sound.
One of the best things about Noosa is that it’s low-rise; no building is allowed to rise higher than the tallest pine tree. But you can still get high: by walking to one of the many lookouts within Noosa National Park.
Or do the 20-minute trek up Mt Coolum, 208m, about half an hour’s drive south of Noosa – the views along the coast looking north to Noosa are worth it, and you can reward yourself with breakfast in a beachside café in Coolum and a dip in the sea.
Half an hour’s drive inland, Noosa’s more down-to-earth sibling, Eumundi, is the place to be on Wednesday and Saturday mornings (8.30am-1.30pm and 7am-2pm respectively) when you can browse the largest arts and craft market in Australia, which has been going since 1979. The historic little town itself is worth a wander too, for its eclectic shops, galleries and cafes.
For more ideas on things to do in Queenland see www.Queensland.com.
Explore the forest on a hike in Kondalilla National Park. Read this to find out where to go.