Your ultimate Sunshine Coast travel guide

A healthy lifestyle, laidback surf town vibes, and enviable local produce are just three of the things locals love about living on the Sunshine Coast, Australia.

But for holidaymakers, the list goes up a notch when you factor in world-class events, the majesty of the Glass House Mountains, and the fact the only skyscrapers here are still in the dreams of developers.

Spreading 100km from Bribie Island in the south to Rainbow Beach in the north and extending out through rolling hinterland, it can be hard to pinpoint exactly where to base yourself and which adventures to have first when planning a Sunshine Coast holiday.

Take the guesswork out of the equation with this Sunshine Coast travel guide.

Why go

Glass House Mountains | Sunshine Coast Australia guide

Glass House Mountains | Photo by @wildly__well / @stimages via @visitsunshinecoast

While the ‘Sunny Coast’ is a firm favourite with Australian families, on the world stage, it does still fly a little under the radar. (Although we are home to Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo.)

If you love uncrowded beaches, exploring charming hinterland villages, meeting makers at local markets, hiking national parks and filling a basket with fresh produce, this is the slow travel destination for you.

Pack your yoga pants, a swimsuit and a Keep Cup and you have everything you need for a sunny sojourn.

When to go

Not too tropical, not too dry, the climate on the Sunshine Coast is comfortable year-round (save for a few sticky summer days). It’s a popular spot during school holidays and on weekends as Brisbane locals escape the city for a couple of days at the beach.

Expect average temps of 24–27°C (75-80°F) in the spring months of September – November, which is when you’ll also experience the least rainfall.

You’ll find plenty of festive vibes throughout the year (and may need to book accommodation well in advance) when the likes of the Noosa Food and Wine Festival, Mooloolaba Tri, Horizon Festival (the coast’s premier multi-arts festival), Gympie Music Muster and Caloundra Music Festival come to town. (Psst. For a full calendar of Sunshine Coast events, head here.)

What to do there

Surf, hike, eat, drink, repeat.

Active holidaymakers are spoiled for choice with surf breaks found the length of the coast; lakes and creeks – from Pumicestone Passage in Caloundra to the Noosa Everglades – primed for kayaking and other water sports; and hiking trails designed to take you up mountains, along five-day Great Walks, and along stunning coastal boardwalks.

There’s boating, diving, mountain biking, and cycling. And if you prefer your activity to happen behind the wheel, there’s also one of the most impressive beach driving experiences in Australia.

If you’re more of a ‘totter and tipple’ kind of traveller, you’ll be kept well occupied by the cafe strips, booming craft beer scene, art trail and lesser-known hinterland haunts.

Here’s 100 things to do on the Sunshine Coast to help you plan, plus a list of the best things to do with kids. Unfortunate enough to be visiting when it’s raining? No bother, this post will help.

Where to eat and drink

From fine dining institutions like Spirit House to more casual, yet still plane-ticket worthy eating houses like Sum Yung Guys in Sunshine Beach, you’ll find every flavour on the Sunshine Coast (because much of it is grown here or pulled from the ocean out front!).

Most of the restaurant action centres around Hastings Street and Gympie Terrace in Noosa, The Wharf in Mooloolaba and Ocean Street, Maroochydore but there are plenty of unassuming neighbourhood joints and beachfront surf clubs that will surprise you. This list will help.

Of course, there’s no more quintessential Sunshine Coast food experience than fish and chips by the beach. This post pinpoints the best seafood options on the coast.

Thirsty? Seek out happy hour with this list of bars only locals know about or join a tour to taste-test your way around the multitude of craft breweries.

Where to stay

Cotton Tree Holiday Park | Sunshine Coast Australia

Cotton Tree Holiday Park | Photo by @jenniferennion via @visitsunshinecoast

Are you looking for low-key beachside digs in Caloundra, Cotton Tree or Coolum? Or perhaps you’re celebrating and only the best in five star accommodation in Noosa or Montville will suffice? This accommodation guide will help you out.

To book Sunshine Coast Hinterland accommodation for all budgets, this post will point you in the right direction.

Of course, the coast is also awash with great camping spots.

Best day trips to take

Noosa Everglades | Sunshine Coast Australia

Noosa Everglades | Photo by @photobohemian via @visitsunshinecoast

There are enough day trip options to fill a year of weekends on the Sunshine Coast, whether you’re heading to the hinterland to chase waterfalls, packing the kayak for a paddle up the Noosa Everglades (here’s why), or going off the beaten track in the Mary Valley.

But to make it easier, try these Sunshine Coast day trips we prepared earlier.

Prefer to explore with the lycra brigade? Test out these cycling trails.

Things you need to know

While there is public transport, taxis and Uber available, the easiest way to get around on the Sunshine Coast is by hiring your own car.

If you want to stay somewhere that allows you to do as much on foot as possible, opt for places like Bulcock Beach in Caloundra, Mooloolaba, or near Hastings Street in Noosa.

Local’s tips

Beyond the famous 3Ms – MalenyMontville and Mapleton – there are oodles of lesser-known spots worth sniffing out in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. Like this.

Are you planning a holiday to the Sunshine Coast Australia? What else would you like to know? Comment below and we’ll help you out.