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 things to do in Noosa, where do you start?
Once you’ve been you’ll see why visiting Noosa is high on the list of things to do in Queensland, and, if you love Noosa and would like to explore further, here are the top things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
- Things to do in Noosa – The Hinterland
- 1- Go on the Cooroy Heritage Walk
- 2- See an exhibition at the Cooroy Butter Factory
- 3- Beer tasting at Copperhead Brewery
- 4- Eat croissants at Circa
- 5- Picnic in Noosa Botanical Garden
- 6- Step back in time at the Kin Kin General Store
- 7- Taste local mead at Amrita Park Meadery
- 8- Lunch with the cows at Kandanga Kitchen
- 9- Explore Cooran
- 10- Discover Pomona
- Where to stay
- 7 Classic Things to do in Noosa
- Things to do near Noosa
- Things to do in Noosa on the water
Things to do in Noosa – The Hinterland
At the mention of Noosa, most people picture Noosa’s main beach and Hastings Street packed with cafes, restaurants and boutiques but there’s a lot more to the Noosa region beyond this famous strip.
Noosa Shire covers a much wider area, which includes hinterland towns like Cooran, Cooroy, Doonan and Kin Kin. Here are some of the fantastic things to do in the Noosa countryside.
1- Go on the Cooroy Heritage Walk
Cooroy, which means “possum” in the language of the Gubbi Gubbi people, has a rich history. Discover Cooroy’s timber history on the Cooroy Heritage Walk.
Soak up the country town vibe as you discover how the timber industry played a huge part in Noosa’s early years.
Two historic sites in Cooroy to put on your list of places to visit are:
Fenwick’s Sawmill at the Lower Mill Site
Fenwick’s Sawmill Lower Mill Site showcases the historic processes used in the timber milling industry.
The boiler house and kiln were added to the Queensland heritage register in 2008.
2- See an exhibition at the Cooroy Butter Factory
Originally built from timber in 1915 the Butter Factory was rebuilt using bricks and had a butter roller, churn room, cold storage and pasteurising room.
It operated as a butter factory between 1930 and 1975 and is now an arts centre for local and Australian artists to show off their talents.
Exhibitions range from local community displays to national exhibitions.
An example of a recent show was First Nations art – Hear My Voice, where 18 indigenous artists displayed an impressive range of artworks.
See a list of current and upcoming exhibitions here.
Cooroy Butter Factory Arts Centre is at 11A Maple Street Cooroy. It’s open from 10 am to 3 pm (Tuesday to Sunday). It is closed on Monday, public holidays and in between exhibitions).
Distance from Noosa Heads to Cooroy: 21 km (24 minutes).
3- Beer tasting at Copperhead Brewery
Even though Cooroy has a country town vibe, there’s a growing foodie scene in the Noosa hinterland.
Copperhead Restaurant Brewery in Cooroy is one of a new wave of Brew Pubs that has a creative beer menu and quality food.
Dig into a Copperhead Platter of pate, smoked pork sausages and smoked meats served with stout onion jam and pickles.
Mains range from $27 to $45 and are sophisticated creations served in country-sized portions while the beer menu is fun and creative.
The Copperhead Tasting Paddle ($13) has five of their most popular beers: Guava Sour beer (soured with organic yoghurt culture), Summer Ale (grapefruit and white peach) and Chocolate Stout (yes, it tastes like chocolate).
Copperhead Restaurant Brewery is at 52 Kauri Street Cooroy. It’s open from 1130 am until late at night, seven days a week.
Distance from Noosa Heads to Copperhead Brewery: 22km (24 minutes).
4- Eat croissants at Circa
According to my foodie friends, Circa (in the main street) makes great woodfired pizza and the best croissants outside of Paris.
I have yet to try their croissants, but I’ll be popping into Circa next time I’m in the area.
Distance from Noosa Heads to Circa: 22km (24 minutes).
5- Picnic in Noosa Botanical Garden
A few kilometres from Cooroy on the shores of Lake Macdonald is the lovely Noosa Botanical Gardens.
The garden is a serene place to take a walk, have a picnic on the lawn or go fishing, birdwatching (spot the tawny frogmouths, galahs and butcherbirds) and kayaking.
In 1950, 8hal of farmland was turned into Noosa Botanical Gardens, which now has native and exotic plants, a bush chapel, fern house, lily pond, winding paths and perfect lawns to have a picnic.
Besides spotted bower birds, buff banded rails and brush turkeys, bird watchers might also see black swans and black cockatoos.
Noosa Botanical Gardens is at Lake MacDonald Drive, Lake MacDonald.
Distance from Noosa Heads to Noosa Botanical Garden: 25km (26 minutes).
6- Step back in time at the Kin Kin General Store
With beautifully plated food and an authentic old-style General Store concept, the Kin Kin General Store is a portal into the past.
Chef Jodie Williams has done a fantastic job of creating an atmosphere in what was the old Kin Kin General Store.
What started as a takeaway joint for locals has evolved into a popular spot for brunch or lunch.
There’s a BBQ lunch on Sundays and wood-fired pizza on Friday nights.
It’s also a unique place to hold a small function (party prices from $11 a head, $30 a head for two courses up to $96 a head for a premium package).
Food is free-range and organic, pastries are baked in house and they serve organic coffee.
Kin Kin General Store is at 56 Main Street, Kin Kin. It opens at 7 am every day of the week and closes at 5 pm (Monday to Thursday and Saturday), at 9 pm on Fridays and 3 pm on Sundays.
Distance from Noosa Heads: 42km (41 minutes).
7- Taste local mead at Amrita Park Meadery
Pop into Amrita Park Meadery for a free mead tasting at the cellar door.
Recipes are inspired by international award-winning mead maker Dennis “Poppo” Coates, who was well-known in the 1940s for his expertise in mead making.
Mead is made from local honey and a variety of ingredients sourced from local farms are added such as ginger from Yandina, pink grapefruit, citrus and passionfruit from local farms.
There’s a Pink Grapefruit Mead, an aromatic Passionfruit Mead and a Ginger and Lime Mead, which is perfect for drinking with Asian food.
The Traditional Christmas Mead ($30 a bottle) is made with a citrus and spice recipe and makes a lovely Christmas gift.
The shop sells handmade gifts, local artworks for sale mad, of course, bottles of mead.
Amrita Park Meadery is at 417 Pomona Kin Kin Road, Pinbarren.
Distance from Noosa Heads: 38km (36 minutes)
8- Lunch with the cows at Kandanga Kitchen
A drive in the countryside through the lush Mary Valley is a great way to explore beyond Noosa.
Kandanga Kitchen is a farm café with a simple, yet creative menu and the food is prepared using chemical-free local produce.
Proponents of the Slow Food movement, meat and eggs are procured from within 10km of the kitchen.
The food is really tasty and I’m still dreaming of Bec’s Spicy Xian Pork ($21), which is a delicious dish of Forage Farms pork mince marinated in cumin, coriander and Asian spices.
It’s a wholesome meal served with fragrant rice and what makes it really special are the local ingredients of Mary Valley Asian greens and farm fresh eggs from Forage Farms.
Kandanga Kitchen is at 93 Main Street Kandanga.
Distance from Noosa Heads: 55km (47 minutes).
9- Explore Cooran
Vintage Junction in the cute village of Cooran is an organic coffee shop that has a treasure trove of vintage wares for sale.
From collectables to recycled furniture, the shop is stacked with intriguing items that will take you back into the past.
Walk up the hill to Bonsai Brewery, which is a brewhouse and beer garden serving craft beer.
Vintage Junction is at 2 King Street, Cooran. Bonsai Brewery is open on Thursday and Friday (3 pm to 9 pm), Saturday (1130 am to 9 pm).
Distance from Noosa Heads: 38km (38 minutes).
10- Discover Pomona
Pomona Railway Station has been converted into an art gallery, with a series of halls that have displays of local arts and crafts.
Next to the station, green thumbs will love chatting to the volunteers at Noosa & District Landcare in their retail store and small nursery.
Are you looking for good coffee? Spill De Beans looks like a typical country town cafe but walk through to the back and you’ll find a lively Caribbean-style cafe with yummy desserts and plenty of character.
Distance from Noosa Heads: 32km (32 minutes).
Where to stay
Surrounded by forest and kangaroos on your doorstep, Alaya Verde has pavilion-style accommodation 15 minutes from the beach.
Guests have access to yoga, local organic skincare products and meals are prepared with local and homegrown produce.
Alaya Verde is at 355 Ringtail Creek Rd Ringtail Creek. See the latest rates here.
Amamoor Lodge has self-catering studios or traditional bed and breakfast accommodation in a historic Queenslander.
It’s an excellent place to stay if you’re thinking of riding the Mary Valley Rattler from Imbil to Gympie.
Other activities around the area include hiking, horse riding and country drives. Degustation dinners are available for guests as well as during special events.
The lodge has a Snail of Approval from Slow Food Noosa and the food philosophy is to seek out ethically grown ingredients sourced locally.
Amamoor Lodge is at 368 Kandanga Amamoor Road, Amamoor. See the latest rates here.
7 Classic Things to do in Noosa
By Louise Southerden
11- 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 want to see how it’s done, visit during the Noosa Festival of Surfing, the world’s biggest surfing festival, held every March.
12- 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.
The park covers Noosa Head and 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 the main beach, which is sealed 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.
13- 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 chic 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.
14- Dine on Noosa 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.
15- 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 does have the “best seat on the beach” – and the advantage of height.
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.
16- 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 Food & Wine Festival in May, Noosa Alive in July, Noosa Jazz Party in September and the Noosa Triathlon and Multi-Sport Festival in October.
17- 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
18- 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.
19- 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).
If you only have time to visit one Sunshine Coast market, Eumundi is it.
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.
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.
20- Surfing and 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!
21- Stand Up Paddleboarding
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.
22- 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 Eco Noosa River Adventures.
23- Noosa 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 are 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, check out Noosa River Fishing Safaris.
25- 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.
A gondolier skippers the gondola (a la Venetian style); it plies the river waters.
Grab a bottle of bubbly, sit back and enjoy the glide with Gondolas 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.
Keen waterbirds 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.
27- 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, 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.