Holiday at Home – Sunshine Coast Style
Tricia Welsh discovers the advantages of enjoying a sun-kissed holiday closer to home.
It’s no secret that Queensland enjoys a relaxed, laid-back lifestyle that is the envy of many.
With travel plans disrupted, locals are appreciating what is on their doorstep to enjoy a ‘staycation’ – a holiday you have while staying home or nearby.
The Sunshine Coast is dotted with resort towns along its 60km stretch of beaches from Caloundra through to Noosa with a stunning hinterland backdrop features rolling fertile farmlands, historic villages with strong arts and crafts communities.
For one young Yandina couple, a recent two-day break at the newly refurbished Loea Boutique Hotel on the Maroochy River proved the perfect escape for a well-earned beak from their four active children. With a secluded magnesium swimming pool and a vintage food truck serving coffee and cocktails, they had little reason – apart from romantic dinners, to leave the tranquil haven. The former motel has morphed into a ‘calm, light and luxurious’ hotel offering coastal chic accommodation for families and couples and was the stylish location for our first fashion shoot for Hello Sunshine!
Nearby, in Maroochydore, an older couple wanted to ‘air’ their long-unused campervan so booked into the Cotton Tree Caravan Park for a week. In its ideal location on a sandy spit with Maroochydore surf beach on one side and the quiet waters of Cotton Tree family beach on the other, they especially loved having their grand-children come stay – ‘easy meals, early nights and no sand in the house!’
The clear, pristine waters produce an abundance of fresh seafood, much of which is snapped up by local restaurants before going interstate and overseas. Look for Mooloolaba prawns, Fraser Island spanner crabs, Moreton Bay bugs, local lobsters, sashimi-grade tuna and fabulous reef fish. For fresh or cooked seafood, head for the Mooloolaba Fish Market at The Spit, where trawlers pull up with the night’s catch. Nearby, The Wharf houses fun eateries such as Rice Boi, The Dock, See Restaurant and Speros. Consider a sunset cruise along the Mooloolah River or watch the boats while enjoying a cocktail at Pier 33. Sea Life at The Wharf with its 11 themed zones gives an insight into our amazing underwater world – the latest exhibit being a colony of Little Blue Penguins, while internationally-known Australia Zoo, about half an hour away by car, is popular for its displays of indigenous animals and general wildlife.
Close proximity to the beach and ocean views seem to be the prerequisites for a seaside holiday in Caloundra, according to Sarah Wilson who has been property manager with Caloundra Holiday Service for seven years. With one of the largest portfolios of holiday accommodation in Caloundra, options range from affordable family houses to modern penthouse units with rooftop spas.
Visitors to Caloundra are spoilt for choice with seven beaches to choose from. Stand Up Paddle boarding is popular at Happy Valley (between Kings and Bulcock Beaches) and at Currimundi Lake where you can hire them. Surfers head to popular Moffatt Beach while families opt for Currimundi Lake.
Anglers know there are usually good catches of flathead, whiting and bream to be had in the deep waters of Pumicestone Passage between Bribie Island and the mainland. Public facilities are provided so fishermen can clean, fillet and prepare their catch. Other popular fishing spots include Golden Beach jetty and Currimundi Lake.
Pack your own drinks and nibbles for a daytime or sunset cruise along picturesque Pumicestone Passage with Caloundra Cruises; and browse myriad market stalls and buy great casual food as you enjoy the local holiday vibe at the Twilight Markets on Bulcock Beach waterfront on balmy summer evenings.
Conveniently located between the two coastal hubs at Birtinya is the enormously popular new weekend entertainment venue, the NightQuarter Markets with local artists, performers and musicians, great street food and market stalls. Almost immediately behind Caloundra stand the imposing landmark Glasshouse Mountains, named by English explorer Captain James Cook in 1770 while navigating the eastern coast of Australia. Today, the 13 freestanding volcanic mountainous rocky outcrops are surrounded by pineapple, avocado and small crop farms – many with roadside stalls. The Glasshouse Mountains are home to the region’s only camel farm that produces premium certified organic camel milk, QCamel. Take a Camel Cuddles tour and sample camel milk products such as tangy feta and decadent chocolates.
If you can tear yourself away from the relaxed beach culture along the coast, take a drive through undulating hills to the hinterland via Dulong and Mapleton, browse appealing boutiques in Montville before continuing on to Maleny with spectacular views through to the coast and the Glasshouse Mountains. Pick up the makings for a picnic from the town’s gourmet shops, sample award-winning local cheese on a tour of Maleny Dairies, stroll through lush rainforests and tropical gardens and consider staying overnight in one of the area’s welcoming cosy B&Bs with open fires in winter.
The fertile soil along the coast produces a cornucopia of tropical fruits and vegetables from mangoes, passionfruit and custard apples to chokoes and micro-herbs. Look for locally grown produce, artisanal breads, fabulous local cheese, locally-made smallgoods, fresh juices and more at markets such as the ever-evolving Eumundi Market with more than 200 artisan stalls selling hand-made toys and furniture, funky fashion and jewellery with ethnic and regional food stalls to satisfy the munchies.
The Sunshine Coast is well-known for its championship golf courses such as Twin Waters, Coolum and Peregian Springs, the Greg Norman-designed course at Pelican Waters ranked #25 of the top 100 public access courses in Australia, and the scenic links-style Maleny Golf Course occasionally graced by local coastal resident Adam Scott, the world’s number six-ranked golfer and 2013’s Master’s Champion.
Elsewhere, join a cooking class at the celebrated Spirit House Cooking School in Yandina, indulge in a craft beer trail sampling top local tipples, take a regional food tour or simply head back to the beach, relax and chill out. For more inspiration: