The Sunshine Coast is a jewel of the southeast Queensland region, showcasing vast stretches of spectacular beaches and boasting an inviting coastal vibe.
With the list of things to see and do long and extensive, we’ve selected 10 top locations visitors and locals alike can add to their must-do lists.
In no particular order, we start with Mooloolaba, featuring kilometres of beach with cream-coloured sand that links Maroochydore to the river mouth. Toilets are generally not something to brag about, but its famous Loo With a View certainly has one spectacular vista. The esplanade, packed with cafes, restaurants and speciality shops, also makes Mooloolaba one of the Coast’s more bustling hotspots.
Caloundra is next on our list. What was once a quieter town has really come to life over the years, transitioning into an equally bustling, family-friendly hub. Home to a number of beaches and passages, Caloundra’s waterways cater to people wanting to swim, surf, SUP and soak up the sum, and with many of its beaches dog-friendly, even the pooch can splash about.
If it’s a green, hilly experience you’re after, the Coast’s hinterland is for you. Dotted with quaint towns including Maleny and Montville, you’ll be sure to find somewhere to enjoy a good old-fashioned pub meal or decadent high tea. Then burn off those calories with any one of the area’s stunning walking tracks.
If it’s a surf experience you’re after, then Maroochydore has your name on it. Pack the surfboard and head to Maroochydore Beach. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, pick from a variety of food offerings from fish and chips, to juice and salad bars, delis, tapas and fine dining.
Also a great spot for surfing (and whale spotting in the cooler months), Coolum is also coming of age. Often overshadowed by more popular Coast destinations, Coolum really is a must-see location. Work up a sweat hiking up Mount Coolum, cycle along its boardwalk or grab a bite to eat at the local surf club.
Eumundi is up next and you can’t go past its colourful and lively markets. Packed with artisans selling their wares and trinkets, fresh produce and yummy delights, it’s certainly a fun day out. And no trip to Eumundi is complete without a stop off to The Ginger Factory or a visit to a strawberry farm to pick your own.
Next on our list and home to the Coast’s longest stretch of beach is Kawana. From surf, rock pools or calm water, you’ll find it here. Point Cartwright lighthouse boasts a stunning view back to Mooloolaba and straight out to sea. Depending on the season, spot all manner of sea life while enjoying a picnic with produce bought locally at the Kawana Waters Artisans & Farmers Market.
The Coast’s very own little food bowl, the Glass House Mountains area makes a perfect day trip. Dotted with fruit shops selling local produce, whet your appetite and work up a sweat climbing any one of its ancient volcanoes. Find barbecue and picnic areas, walking tracks and rock climbing, to the backdrop of uninterrupted coastal views.
No Coast story is complete without the Big Pineapple at Nambour, our next must-see destination. Home to Butterfly Hill and several lush parks, picnic areas and swings for the kids, it makes for a fun family-friendly day out.
As the saying goes, last but certainly not least is Buderim – an oasis among the trees. Its elevated position provides expansive Coast vistas, while tree-lined streets and manicured gardens provide something for the eyes at every turn. Its main street offers charming secondhand shops, coffee carts and shacks, and cafes for a drink and sweet treat.
And with so many attractions on offer, it’s no wonder locals and visitors alike are living it up on the Sunshine Coast. A recent article by Visit Sunshine Coast highlights data showing the region achieved record tourism expenditure in the region in the year to September 2019.
The latest National Visitor Survey (NVS) by Tourism Research Australia released in January showed 3.97 million domestic visitors travelled to the Sunshine Coast to the year ending September 2019, generating record expenditure of $2.6 billion, a rise of 12.5 per cent.
The International Visitor Survey showed international overnight visitor expenditure grew by 14 per cent to $284.3 million, exceeding the Australian average international expenditure growth rate of five per cent, with 319,000 overseas visitors coming to the Sunshine Coast in the year to September 2019.
Commenting on the NVS results, Visit Sunshine Coast CEO Simon Latchford says the figures reflect the benefits of increased, and enhanced, airline services to Sunshine Coast Airport, as well as the opening of Sunshine Coast Convention Centre.
“The rise in domestic visitor numbers has been building over the past three years, and also reflects the greater understanding and appreciation of the destination. In particular, the promotion of the region’s diversity – such as its evolving food and arts culture – is reaping dividends,” he says.
Events also play a very important part in attracting visitors to the region.
“The Sunshine Coast offers a diverse range of experiences, and events are a crucial part of that mix. To put into context the value of events to the region, they generate in excess of $70 million in growth to the Sunshine Coast economy annually,’ Mr Latchford says.
“The Major Events Board will continue to seek out appropriate new event opportunities that complement the region and provide a good return on investment. These events will range from sport to culture, food, music, arts, business and unique events.
“Business events is another very important market for the Sunshine Coast and is growing at a rapid rate. Business events play a significant role in delivering mid-week and off-peak visitation to again help combat any seasonality.”
And it’s not just events attracting tourists in their thousands, it’s also the Coast’s natural beauty, world-class amenities and unique offerings.
Mr Latchford says, “From our sandy white beaches to the lush subtropical hinterland, the Sunshine Coast offers a truly unique experience. Our natural landscape is really what sets us apart, with people looking to escape the bustle of modern life and get back in touch with nature.”
He says ease of accessibility to the Sunshine Coast has helped drive our interstate visitors, with people choosing the region for a relaxing break. “We offer a diverse range of experience for visitors, from beachside culture to farm-gate tours, health and wellness experiences, whether it be relaxing in one of our award-winning spas or getting out in nature with a hike through one of our national parks, exhilarating events and immersive encounters.”
And while it’s easy to get lost in the serenity of green rolling hills or sandy beaches, Mr Latchford says the strong tourism numbers and dollars are a result of a combined and strategic approach of key Sunshine Coast and government efforts.
“Visit Sunshine Coast works very closely with Tourism and Events Queensland both domestically and internationally. Our significant upcoming New Zealand campaign to extend Air New Zealand’s direct seasonal service between Auckland and the Sunshine Coast is a joint partnership between Visit Sunshine Coast, Air New Zealand, Tourism and Events Queensland, Sunshine Coast Airport and Tourism Noosa.
“The extension of this service to six months of the year is expected to bring an additional 3000 visitors and inject $11 million into the local economy over a three-year period,” Mr Latchford explains.
He says Tourism Australia is another important partner and plays a significant role in creating awareness “of our country, our state and our region”.
“Tourism Australia partnered with Visit Sunshine Coast and Australia Zoo in Los Angeles in 2018, 2019 and will again in 2020 to support the Steve Irwin Gala Dinner and one-week of marketing activities to promote the Sunshine Coast to the American market, of which we have experienced significant growth.”
As Visit Sunshine Coast continues to market the region in key domestic and international markets, Mr Latchford says it will also continue to strive to grow new markets, and in particular markets that will deliver a higher yield. “We will also continue to grow our developing international markets, which is important for reducing the dependency on the domestic market and assists to combat seasonality.”
And while it’s not yet known what impact the national bushfire crisis may have on Sunshine Coast tourism, Mr Latchford says they are developing a significant domestic marketing campaign to minimise fall-out. He says the campaign will be promoted until Easter “to ensure the Sunshine Coast tourism industry performs as well as is possible in challenging circumstances and any potential fall-out is minimised”.
“Anecdotal reports suggest the Sunshine Coast was at near to full capacity over the current summer holiday period, with some operators reporting an increase in numbers on the year before.”
He concludes with additional findings: “Anecdotal reports also suggest the summer period has so far been strong and this is expected to continue until the end of the Australia Day long weekend, at which point we expect the market to soften, which is customary.”
At a glance
Snapshot of key survey results
National Visitor Survey (Year ends September 2019)
Key figures included (yearly growth):
Overnight Visitor Expenditure: $2.6 billion (up 12.5 per cent – record)
Total Nights: 14.2 million (up 17.4 per cent – record)
Total Visitation: 3.97 million (up 14.8 per cent)
Holiday Visitation: 2.1 million (up 9.5 per cent)
Business Visitation: 379,000 visitors (up 34.6 percent – record)
International Visitor Survey (Year ends September 2019)International overnight visitor expenditure grew by 14 per cent to $284.3 million with 319,000 overseas visitors.
Best performing markets to the Sunshine Coast included (yearly change):
- New Zealand: 78,000 (up 7 per cent)
- UK: 60,000 (down 1.8 per cent)
- Nth America: 39,000 (up 11.7 per cent)
- Asia: 36,000 (up 12.5 per cent)
- Germany: 31,000 (up 1.6 per cent)
- US: 25,000 (up 23.6 per cent)
The Coast’s top 10 hot spots
• Sunshine Coast hinterland (including Montville and Maleny)
• Glass House Mountains