Recently released tourism data reveals the Sunshine Coast had more domestic visitors than the Gold Coast in the year ending December 2020. More and more people are calling the Sunshine Coast home, and many visiting are discovering the region for the first time, so we thought we’d let you in on a few secrets. Sure you can visit the beaches and the usual tourist hotspots while you’re here, but we have a few other places – some of them hidden gems – that are worth exploring to get a sense of the real Sunshine Coast. Here are our top 10.
- Sink a cold one
While the Sunshine Coast is known for its many beaches and seaside communities, the region’s prosperity and population was once based on farming and timber getting and our country towns are worth a visit. Many of these communities have a lot going for them, including their own HISTORIC COUNTRY PUBS that offer so much more than a schooner of beer and a greasy chicken parmi. For an authentic experience, great food and some Insta-worthy photo opportunities, visit The Imperial Hotel in Eumundi, Beerwah Hotel, Hotel Maleny, or the pubs in Palmwoods, Yandina or Woombye.
- Explore our arteries
Call us biased, but when it comes to artistic credentials, we think the Sunshine Coast well and truly punches above its weight. If you don’t believe us, just pop into one of our many ART GALLERIES and see for yourself. The Caloundra Regional Gallery and University of the Sunshine Coast Art Gallery have exhibitions, education programs and activities all year round. But if you can’t get to Caloundra or out to Sippy Downs, we can guarantee there will be an art gallery near you – privately owned galleries and artists’ studios are dotted around the region.
- Get a nature hit
If you’re staying by the beach and craving some GREEN SPACE and a bushwalk, you don’t have to go all the way out to the hinterland. The Sunshine Coast has pockets of greenery all around, and sometimes they are where you least expect them. The Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden is less than 20 minutes from Mooloolaba and is a stunning 82 hectares of native plants and wildlife. Buderim Forest Park and E J Foote Sanctuary, also in Buderim, plus Caloundra’s Ben Bennett Bushland Park are also bushland oases close to busy urban centres that are well worth a visit.
- Go retro in Nambour
The town of NAMBOUR isn’t the most obvious tourist destination, but we think it has a lot going for it. In town, there are cool cafes, the Nambour Book Exchange (the biggest and best second-hand bookstore on the Coast), pubs, vintage stores, a pinball parlour, comic book store, street art and friendly locals who are hugely passionate and proud of their town. Don’t leave without visiting Cilento Park – a pretty green space with a hidden waterfall.
- See the other zoo
Australia Zoo is world famous, but there’s another zoo in the region – WILDLIFE HQ – that we also love. Located near the Big Pineapple, the zoo doesn’t have the size and scale of Australia Zoo, but it has loads of animal species and at $89 for a family ticket, a visit here is affordable for most. You can take part in an animal feeding encounter or have your photo taken with a koala, before enjoying morning tea or lunch at the onsite cafe.
- Check out our public art
While there is plenty of natural beauty in our region, there’s also a fair amount of artist-made pieces that pull focus from the scenery. PUBLIC ART is popping up all over the region and there are a few places where you can get an artistic fix in the great outdoors. Nambour, Caloundra and Coolum have public art trails, plus there are loads of other pieces dotted around the region. To find out more and to download maps go to sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au, click on ‘Experience Sunshine Coast’, then ‘Arts and Culture’.
- Heritage pilgrimage
The region’s rich colonial history is preserved in several HISTORIC HOMES AND MUSEUMS. These include Buderim’s Pioneer Cottage, a circa 1882 home located on the top of Buderim; the Grigor family’s old home Bankfoot House in Glass House Mountains; and Maleny’s Fairview, built in 1907 by the Pattemore family. Yandina Historic House and Landsborough Museum are also great examples of old homes filled with memorabilia and charm.
- Peruse the passage
The pristine, narrow waterway that separates Caloundra from Bribie Island is home to dugongs, dolphins, turtles, fish and an incredible array of birds. If you’re in or near Caloundra, you really have to check out PUMICESTONE PASSAGE, and to experience it at its best, we recommend you hire a boat, kayak or stand-up paddle board from the Caloundra side, and cruise over to Bribie. If you prefer to stay on dry land, hire a bike and pedal your way along the path that hugs the shore.
- Get high
For a view of the region that few locals get to enjoy, take a SCENIC FLIGHT. Paradise Seaplanes offers flights that take off from Maroochy River in a vintage plane, which seats up to three passengers. Taking off from Caloundra, Oceanview Helicopters (pictured) also offers a range of flights – for a taste of the region, Oceanview’s Coastal Explorer is great – it takes you from Caloundra up and around Point Cartwright then back south.
- Have a whale of a time
The WHALE WATCHING season has begun and it runs until October/November, so tour operators are busy filling spots on their boats. A few companies offer whale watching cruises and some offer swim-with-the-whales experiences. If you’d rather not step on a boat, there is a chance you’ll see whales from land – head to Point Arkwright near Coolum, Point Cartwright or Moffat headland to see these magnificent creatures frolicking not that far off shore.
Other things to do and see:
- Need a holiday read? Support local booksellers in Eumundi, Peregian, Maleny, Caloundra and Palmwoods.
- Head out to one of the many farmers’ and collectors markets in the region.
- Distilleries and micro-breweries are everywhere, and these small businesses are producing lager and gin, ciders and whiskies that have gained fans around the country.
- Pick your own strawberries from McMartins farm in Bli Bli or Strawberry Fields in Palmview.