February 19th, 2024
8 minute read
Laden with iconic surfing beaches, stunning hikes around every corner, waterfall circuits galore, and handfuls of laid-back farmers markets and live music hotspots, it’s easy to see why East Coast backpackers and their wallets love the Sunshine Coast!
The name truly does say it all! The Sunshine Coast, located 100 km north of Brisbane (Queensland’s capital city), is home to sunny days and epic sights that create a chilled out, coastal atmosphere some can only dream of! Stretching approximately 50 km from Caloundra to Noosa, the Sunshine Coast is brimming with free things to do!
Swimsuits are a must, stress is a no-show, and adventure-seeking is highly encouraged! Keep your East Coast budget happy, and enjoy the iconic free things to do on the Sunshine Coast like a true local!
At 208 metres high, you really can’t miss Mount Coolum once you’ve arrived on the Sunshine Coast! A lush 25 million-year-old volcanic dome, Mount Coolum boasts incredible panoramic views of the entire Sunshine Coast and an impressive hike that is sure to get your heart racing! From Caloundra to the South, Double Island to the North, and the Sunshine Coast Hinterland to the West, you’ll be able to capture it all from the top!
A 1.6 km return walk through lush coastal vegetation, it is advised to allow 90 minutes to complete the track and to walk during the morning in the Queensland summer months. Located 3.5 km south of the coastal hub of Coolum Beach, Mount Coolum Car Park is best accessed from Tanah Street West, off David Low Way.
Photo: Visit Coolum
Easily one of the best ways to spend a day on the Sunshine Coast, the Noosa National Park is a renowned World Surfing Reserve and natural haven filled with off the beaten track gems! The best trail in the Noosa National Park for first-time visitors is the Coastal Walk, which leads from Noosa Headland day-use area to Alexandria Bay. Along the way we recommend stopping for a swim at the scenic Tea Tree Bay, keeping your eyes peeled for koalas in the surrounding eucalyptus trees, and taking in the incredible stretching views from Hell's Gates!
To reach the Noosa National Park simply follow the coastal pathway from Hastings Street around the Main Beach headland. The Coastal Walk stretches 5.4 km each way, therefore we recommend you allow approximately 4 hours to complete the full return walk at a leisurely pace. If you don’t have time to complete the full track, simply go as far as you desire and turn around!
Dotted in between the beach and hinterland gems is a multitude of farmer's markets, offering fresh local produce and eclectic hand-made treasures that showcase the best of the Sunshine Coast! We recommend you rise early with the locals to start your day off the right way!
For the budding green thumbs and the best of local produce, we recommend the Yandina Country Markets on a Saturday morning. If you’re seeking vintage one-off threads make sure to check out the Fishermans Road Markets, located on the Maroochydore River, on a Sunday morning. And finally, renowned throughout South-East Queensland is the Eumundi Markets, offering locally made arts & crafts and the best street food on the coast - every Wednesday and Saturday!
It’s no secret that the Sunshine Coast hinterland is home to numerous enchanting waterfalls that are guaranteed to make any avid adventure-seeker drool! Without a doubt, one of the best destinations for a hiking venture and pristine freshwater swim on the Sunshine Coast is on the Kondalilla Falls Circuit. Take a day from the saltwater, and immerse yourself in the dense rainforest to reach the breathtaking cascading falls and naturally-formed rockpool - an East Coast adventure you won’t be forgetting anytime soon!
A car is needed to reach the Kondalilla National Park, which is located a 10-minute drive from Montville, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. The Falls Circuit is a 4.8 km return walk that takes roughly 2 hours to complete. We recommend you leave an hour or more to swim, relax, and reconnect with Mother Nature at the base of Kondalilla Falls!
Easily the best way to enjoy a golden hour on the Sunshine Coast and a beloved Sunday tradition amongst locals and travellers alike is the quintessential sunset picnic by the seaside! Gather your friends, spread the picnic rug and fire up one of the many free beachside BBQs!
From Point Perry at Coolum Beach, Peregian Park, Noosa Main Beach, and Cotton Tree Park, the options really are endless. However, if you’re after our favourite picnic location on the Sunshine Coast, Alexandra Headland is the winner! Located between Maroochydore and Mooloolaba on the coast’s southside, the headland overlooks rolling waves and the humming main street of Alex - afternoon’s simply don’t get much better!
Wondering what to do once the sun starts to set on the Sunshine Coast? Well, you’re in luck! From the live music events at Maroochydore’s popular Ocean Street to the biweekly Peregian Originals event, the coast is sprawling with live music events. Time to gather your friends, show off your newfound tan, and hit the town!
If you’re on the hunt for free live music, the Imperial Hotel beer garden at Eumundi, Sol Bar acoustic afternoons at Maroochydore, Hump Day Sessions at El Capitano Noosa, and the biweekly Sunday Peregian Originals are worth a visit! We recommend checking out the upcoming gigs at the Solbar, NightQuarter, and Eleven Dive Bar, for the best of upcoming national and international names - and the perfect excuse to open your wallet!
Photo: Sol Bar
Nothing says a day trip on the Sunshine Coast quite like Kenilworth, a picturesque country town surrounded by lush national parks as far as the eye can see! Approximately a 45-minute drive from Coolum Beach, Kenilworth is home to the renowned Kenilworth Country Bakery, family-run Kenilworth Dairies, and the picture-perfect waterholes of the nearby Conondale National Park!
After checking out the sites of the town, we recommend taking the 35-minute drive from Kenilworth to the Conondale National Park to reach Booloumba Creek. A four-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle is a must, to drive through the low-level creeks to reach the camping and day-use areas. With bell-bird songs overhead, an enchanting crystalline waterhole, and thriving eucalypt and hooping pine forest hikes it’s no wonder why Kenilworth is the top day-trip destination amongst the locals!
Most visitors to Australia’s Sunny Coast often head straight for the world-renowned bays of Noosa, however, Caloundra on the coast’s southside is a lesser-known beachside gem filled with gentle beach breaks, coastal walks and bustling main streets that boast a seemingly endless summer vibe. For first-timers, a beach day at Kings Beach is a must-do!
Situated on the charming rocky foreshore of Kings Beach is a free 25-metre ocean pool, perfect for a few laps, relaxing under the shade sails, and soaking up some rays. Afterwards, take a stroll along the Caloundra Coastal Walk, or check out a few of the surfer's favourite beaches around town, including Moffat Beach, Bulcock Beach, and Happy Valley!
Whilst you’re on the south side of the Sunshine Coast, you’ll be sure to notice the stunning 11 peaks of the Glass House Mountains to the west. Formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, the Glass House Mountains are culturally significant to the traditional custodians and owners, the Gubbi Gubbi and Jinibara people.
For this reason, whilst Mount Tibrogargan and Beerwah are open for climbing, the traditional owners request visitors not to climb them.
By far the most popular hike in the Glass House Mountains National Park and the best place to get your ultimate Sunshine Coast sunset photo, Mount Ngungun is a 2.4 km return walk that takes roughly two hours to complete. Offering jaw-dropping 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and coastlines, a camera is a must-bring for this adventure!
Photo: Visit Sunshine Coast
If you’ve been searching far and wide for the best ‘secret’ beaches on the Sunshine Coast, you’re guaranteed to find a hidden corner of paradise at one of Coolum’s three secluded bays along the Point Arkwright Trail Walk. We recommend visiting at low tide to enjoy the naturally-formed rock pools to the left of First Bay, and soak up the best of beachside living!
Begin your adventure at Coolum Main Beach and make your way up the boardwalk, with a stop at Point Perry to take in the magnificent views! To your right, you will notice the three stunning bays wrapping around the headland to Yaroomba. For those chasing your ultimate zen mode, we recommend checking out the secluded Second or Third Bay! Make sure to remember that the Coolum Bays are unpatrolled beaches.