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 so many reasons to love Noosa, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Maybe you already have your own? Here are some fabulous things to do in Noosa.
Things to do in Noosa
By Louise Southerden
1- Surfing 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- Hike 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.
3- Wander Hastings Street
Noosa is often characterised as Mosman (in Sydney) by the sea, largely because of Hastings Street.
A stroll up and down Noosa’s tree-lined boulevard is one of the popular things to do in Noosa.
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…
4- Dine on the beach
When a restaurant claims to be “right on the beach” in Noosa, it really is.
At Bistro C or 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- Enjoy the view at the Noosa Heads Surf Club
Cafes, kiosks and restaurants run by surf clubs don’t always have the best reputation. But this is Noosa.
The Noosa 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- Have fun at a Noosa Festival
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.
There’s 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.
7- Ride a Riverboat
Behind the hustle of Hastings Street and the busy beachfront lies a quieter Noosa best experienced 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.
Things to do near Noosa
8- Look for a view
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.
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.
9- Shop at Eumundi markets
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).
This is 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.
More things to do in Noosa on the water
by Kate Armstrong
Noosa is well known for its sunny settings and cuisine scene, clear waters and surfing spots. It’s not surprising that water-based activities are big on the list of things to do in Noosa. Whether you’re learning how to hang ten at one of the many surf schools, taking a leisurely cruise on the local ferry, or paddling your way across a wilderness lake, you can soak up the water views in a variety of ways. Here are eight Noosa things to do on the water.
10- SURFING (AND, AHEM, SURF DANCING)
Ever since the 1950s, when Noosa Heads appeared on the tourist maps, surfing was the big thing here.
Little has changed.
So grab a board and learn how to ‘pop up’ and err, carve.
Beginners can start on simple rollers on the main beach and Noosa Spit, while the more experienced can tackle the bigger breaks around the headland, especially at nearby Sunshine Beach.
Many learn-to-surf operators are based out of Noosa.
Merrick’s Noosa Learn to Surf and Go Ride a Wave offer packages and multi-day courses.
Surfers take note:
You might know how to ride a wave, but don’t think you need to skip over this entry. Experienced surfers can perfect their moves surf dancing.
That’s right: performing dance and acrobatic movements while on a wave!
11- SUP IN NOOSA
SUP: It may be the lazy way of saying “stand-up paddling”, but the actual activity is anything but lax.
This all-over-core-strengthening activity has come and gone from some coastal resorts, but is not just a fad in Noosa. And why should it be?
Conditions are perfect here. Beginners can practice on the many kilometres of Noosa River while others can opt for calm ocean conditions beyond wave breaks, catching the perfect roller when you’ve got the hang of it.
Try Noosa Stand Up Paddle and Adventure Sports Kite Surf Australia.
12- ELECTRONIC BOATS IN NOOSA
These small electric boats are among the greenest and quietest way – as far as machines go – of enjoying the Noosa River (we’re not keen on jet skis).
Known as “Duffy” boats, you can rent these nifty little barges for around $25 per person for several hours. It’s a DIY (do-it-yourself) exercise, though a short safety briefing is provided.
Rent one from Malu Os Eco Boat Hire Noosa.
13- LOCAL FERRY AND SUNSET CRUISE
The local ferry service, Noosa Ferry, is the main service between Tewantin, to Noosa’s west, and central Noosa.
The 90-minute round trip is a cheat’s way to do a tourist cruise – informative commentary gives you a run-down of what’s up and who’s who in the area.
Or, head off as the sun goes down for a colourful sunset cruise.
Two-hour Biosphere Reserve cruises also available.
From deep sea fishing around reefs of the Sunshine Coast, to dangling hand lines and rods from more sedate tinnies on the Noosa River, anglers – experienced or beginners – can reel in any number of fish species here, from saltwater to freshwater varieties.
Catch (and cook) anything from tuna and marlin to bream and reefies.
For more see Noosa River Fishing Safaris.
15- Noosa gondola
Warning: this comes with the ‘R’ word: romance. A trip on Noosa’s gondola is promoted as “a tranquil and romantic interlude on the beautiful and iconic Noosa River”. And it’s just that.
The gondola (a la Venetian style) is skippered by a gondolier; it plies the river waters.
Grab a bottle of bubbly, sit back and enjoy the glide with Gondola’s of Noosa.
For the die-hards, private dinners can be arranged.
These come at a cost but are unsurprisingly popular for marriage proposals and romantic interludes (yes, there’s a curtain between you and your skipper).
If you’re less interested in the couples’ component, you can head off with friends in the gondola; it takes up to six people.
16- KITE SURFING
Keen water birds should consider this exhilarating sport (though it’s not to be taken lightly; it’s for those with confidence in the water).
Kitesurf Australia Noosa and Kitesurf Noosa both offer beginners courses covering the basics.
This is everything from choosing the best location and what the weather (and wind) are up to, to board retrieval, body dragging and how to get yourself well and truly launched.
With sheltered waters to full-on wind-blown ocean expanses, conditions around Noosa are excellent for beginners and experienced kitesurfers alike.
17- CANOEING AND KAYAKING THE NOOSA EVERGLADES
A great way to see the coastlines, lakes, flora and fauna is on the water itself from a canoe or kayak.
You can glide along the Noosa River, around the Noosa headland, or through the waters of the stunning Noosa Everglades within the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park.
The Everglades, a stunning ancient wetlands, is home to rare animal species including sea turtles and dugong.
You can rent canoes for a few hours, or do self-guided or guided tours for anywhere between half and three days.
Check out Kanu Kapers and Kayak Noosa.