Sunshine Coast on a student budget

23 ways to do the Sunshine Coast on a student budget

After being an A-list socialite or inventing Post-it notes, a perkier job does not exist than being a student. FACT.

Where else are you rewarded with 12 weeks of holidays a year after doing exactly the same contact hours? Allowed to eat mac ‘n’ cheese like it’s going out of fashion and not onto your thighs? Or party till you drop… on a school night?

But unlike those other mint career choices, after all the fun, freedom and flexiblilty, student shenanigans come with a financial-slap-in-the-face and not just in the way of student loans.

It turns out, aspiring to the student lifestyle and actualising it are two very different things – especially when it comes to travelling on a student budget.

That’s why we’re lifting the lid on 23 ways to pepper your Instagram feed with the Sunshine Coast’s sun, surf and sand, without tapping into any of your bevvy-budget:

1. Climb a mountain

Mt coolum

Photo by @j_kreiss

Own joggers? Good! Because that’s all you need to climb the Sunshine Coast’s lofty peaks – Mount Tinbeerwah, Mount Coolum, the Glass House Mountains, and Mount Cooroora. They range in scale from the sublime (Mount Coolum) to the ultra-adventurous (Mt Tibrogargan) – FYI do not tackle this one alone.

Of course, if you’re up for  more epic adventure, why not lace up for a section or the entirety of the Sunshine Coast Great Walk which promises 58.8kms of walking wonderland broken up with camping spots along the way.

2. Sensational SUP

What’s SUP? $25 worth of fun that’s what! Head to Cotton Tree and stand-up paddleboard along the Maroochydore River with Ocean Addicts.

After an hour on the water, you’ll be in good stead to follow the walkway to Picnic Point and around to discover Chalmers Island where you can have your own Gilligan-moment.

If SUP is so 2015, kick into overdrive and get bendy with SUP-yoga, as Ocean Addicts takes your weekly meditation ritual to its very own floating studio.

3. Surf secondhand

Surfing in Noosa

Just as a car loses half of its value as soon as it leaves the showroom floor, so too do surfboards. Why not learn to surf using a secondhand board and let the Sunshine Coast’s soft waves become your training ground.

What’s more, you can pick up a near-new board for a price comparable to hiring one if you’re really serious about surfing, which will keep your hip-pocket happy, become a great souvenir and also double as a rad prop for hashtagable moments. If you want to play by the rules, check out these surf schools to get you started.

4. Go fishing

Nothing tastes as good as the dinner you catch yourself – and with a hand reel and a bag of bait, you can have plenty of fishy fun.

Head to the boardwalk at Bulcock Beach in Caloundra for the best chance of catching your cook – think bream, whiting, flathead, which in case you are wondering, are best served dusted in flour with a squeeze of fresh lemon in case there’s a master chef in ‘da house.

5. Spend the Night(s) on Ocean

For a first course of live music and a second course of cheap street food, check out Nights on Ocean in Maroochydore.

This evening market takes over Ocean Street every second Friday of the month and you can grab anything from German sausages to crispy skin dumplings, and all for less than what the average visitor would spend on breakfast on this sunny coastline.

6. BBQ and boat

Create your very own Seadeck vibes onboard a BBQ Boat on the Noosa River. With a group of 15 friends, a packet of snags and an esky full of your poison-of-choice (except for the driver!), you can power up your 25 horsepower, 4 stroke engine floating party-deck.

Feel like kicking on in Noosa? Then check out this guide.

7. Pick yo’ own strawberries

strawberry fields sunshine coast

Photo by @sosarina

There’re no slim pickins’ at Strawberry Fields, which embraces the phrase “go your hardest” with its approach to strawberry picking. Here, the only thing you’ll pay is what you pluck off the plant.

The Bruce Highway location means it’s the perfect detour if you find yourself in traffic back to Brisbane. We can’t think of a better way to kill time than picking strawbs rather than riding the clutch for the next 100kms.

8. Keep an eye on the backpackers

Just as Hansel and Gretel left breadcrumbs to find their way back to safety, backpackers leave evidence of their own… only their trail leads to cheap drinks, discounted tour tickets and accommodation for less than the price of a movie ticket.

Here’s our tips for backpacking the Sunny Coast where you can find accommodation in Noosa for as little as $22, just sayin’.

9. Lose yourself in a National Park

Glass House Mountains

When you’re looking to get naturally refreshed on the Sunshine Coast, national parks are a good place to start. With everything from hikes with a view (Noosa National Park) to driving on sand (Great Sandy National Park), you can choose your own adventure within these national parks on the coast: Condondale, Kondalilla, Mapleton Falls, Noosa, Glass House Mountains, and Cooloola.

10. Have a BBQ

If fish and chips are too pricey to feed your #beachsquad, swap fries for a fry-up and make use of the council’s free BBQs along The Esplanade at Mooloolaba. With a packet of snags and a supermarket pre-made salad, you’ll be cooking with, well, gas.

11. Stock up on cheap supplies

Why shop when you can forage? Enter Eumundi Markets, which are open every Wednesday and Saturday. Don’t have your own wheels? Catch the 631 from Noosa and get delivered right to the door.

If Eumundi isn’t in your line of sight, check out the Farmers Markets at Kawana for a raw smoothie that will blow your clean-eating mind.

12.  Play Ping Pong!

Introducing a beach with its own baller status, literally. At Cotton Tree, you’ll find not only free ping pong tables by the water but basketball too.

13. Have a camping adventure

Inskip Point

The words camping and budget travel go together like sausages and bread, which is ironically what you’re likely to eat on this camping adventure. For little more than $5 per person, you can camp in national parks across the Sunshine Coast.

For the scenery of Fraser at a fraction of the cost, book a campsite at Double Island Point or Inskip Point.

Of course, if camping is not your cup of International Roast, don’t forget to check out this accommodation guide where you can still bag a bed bargain without resorting to tent pegs.

14. Get your Ninja Warrior on

This could be as close as you get to being an Australian Ninja Warrior – Bli Bli Aqua Park, where your mission is to make it to the other side without falling into the drink.

Bounce, jump, wrestle – it’s all about making it to the other side of this inflatable amusement park.

15. Chase Waterfalls

Buderim Falls

Buderim Falls | Photo by @benmuldertravels

Chasing waterfalls around the Sunshine Coast isn’t just something reserved for Instagrammers. This free amusement can take you from Gardeners Falls in the south to Mapleton Falls in the north.

Looking for more #inspo? Don’t forget to check out these waterfalls on the Sunshine Coast.

16. Big Kart Track

Have your own Mark Webber moment and go-karting at Big Kart Track . You pay by the 15-minute interval so you can buy as much fun as you can afford – putting you in the driver’s seat for adventure.

Hairpin bends, chicanes and Mario Kart-inspired race names and calls, guaranteed. “I’m-a Luigi, number one!”

17. Pour your own beer

Australia’s first pour-your-own-beer venue needs no further introduction when it comes to bevvies on a budget. You’ll find Taps at Mooloolaba a stone’s throw from The Esplanade and stumbling distance from your accommodation… if you’re hearing what we’re putting down.

Of course, if you’re a craft beer connoisseur – wash down our craft beer tips from this post.

18. Mountain Biking Trails

Swap four wheels with two and saddle up for self-guided mountain biking trails in the Noosa Trail Network. The best part? It’ll cost ya’ nothing at all to experience this mixture of hard and soft trails. All views with compliments of Queensland Parks.

19. Discover the waterways on the back of a jet-ski

Maroochydore River

Photo by @lukedrader

The world looks better on the back of a jet-ski, especially one cruising the racetrack of canals with Caloundra Jetskis. Hop on board to snake your way through 60km of narrow mangrove-lined canals, which put you in the heart of the Pumicestone Passage Marine Park.

Expect to see dolphins, dugongs, turtles and lots of birds as you make your way closer to the Glass House Mountains on horsepower-back.

20. Horse riding at Lake Weyba

For not just your standard trail ride, canter through the water at Lake Weyba, just west of Noosa with Noosa Horse Riding.

This trail ride hugs the bends of the Noosa River, with views to Noosa Heads, Sunshine Beach and down to Noosa National Park.

21. Go off-road

Rainbow Beach

Four wheels and a sense of adventure is all you need to pack if you want see the sand highway and coloured cliffs of Rainbow Beach.

From a five-minute jaunt just to see the cliffs, to five days making your way up the coast, this Great Beach Drive is an off-road oasis. Be sure to check out this guide before discovering this sandpit.

22. Fisherman’s Road Market

Pick up thrift-shop threads and cheap plants for your pad at the Fisherman’s Road Market, held every Sunday from 6am-noon.

With apparel and accessories out the front and organic fruit and veggies out the back, this market in Maroochydore has all the hallmarks for an Instastory worthy of the raise-the-roof emoji.

23. Catch ‘dem Vitamin D rays


It’s a no-brainer to go to the beach when you’ve got 60km of coastline to cocoon you in its golden sand embrace. Looking for the best beach? We got you with this post!

Looking for more cheap thrills? Here’s something we prepared earlier:

Have you been to the Sunshine Coast? What’s your favourite thing to do?