Top 10 reasons you can't stay away from the Sunshine Coast
From April to October, Air New Zealand flies non-stop from Auckland to Maroochydore airport on the Sunshine Coast. At all other times, Brisbane is your launch point. The drive from Brisbane airport to Sunshine Coast is easy (80 minutes to Caloundra; two hours to Noosa Heads) or you can catch a shuttle.
With its gorgeous tropical climate and huge range of attractions, it's easy to see why so many Kiwis just can't stay away from this handy part of the world.
1. Find the perfect Noosa beach
There's nothing nicer than a beach in Noosa, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Noosa Main Beach is great for families, Noosa Groyne is the ideal spot for surfing practice and Noosa National Park has a selection of beautiful coves for peace and quiet. For a special treat stretch out in the fresh ocean air on your yoga mat - either amongst the trees, on the sand, or even on a stand-up paddle board.
2. Cool off at a waterfall
Beautiful waterfalls are the Sunshine Coast's best-kept secret. From the rural town of Maleny you can discover family-friendly Gardners Falls, which has a large pool perfect for swimming. Inland from Mooloolaba is Serenity Falls in Buderim Forest Park, an easy walk and a gorgeous spot to explore. And in Kondalilla National Park near Montville, marvel at the scenic views over Kondalilla Falls after a refreshing rainforest hike.
3. See the amazing Glass House Mountains
Head for the hinterland to discover the Glass House Mountains, spectacular volcanic landforms with equally fantastic names - Tibrogargan, Ngungun, Beerburrum, Beerwah, and Tibberoowuccum, just to mention a few. You'll get a cracker view of the landscape from Maleny, a friendly little heritage town with great cafés, a thriving art scene and the Sunshine Coast's famous Brouhaha Brewery.
4. Paddle the Pumicestone Passage
Separating Bribie Island from the main land is a wondrous stretch of water called the Pumicestone Passage. It's sheltered and full of wildlife, so just perfect for exploration by paddleboard, kayak or canoe. The ultimate encounter here is meeting a dugong (manatee). These gentle, seagrass-grazing animals are up to three metres long and weigh as much as 450kg.
5. Giddy up at Rainbow Beach
Horse riding along Rainbow Beach is one of those mind-blowing life experiences that will be with you forever. It's all happening - awesome scenery, wind in your hair and the back-to-nature freedom of horseback riding. Even if you've never ridden a horse before, this is one of the most fun things to do on the Sunshine Coast. Choose from a range of routes, including beach, country and full moon night rides.
6. Discover the Carlo Sand Blow and Cooloola Sandpatch
Wind and weather can do amazing things with sand, as you'll see at the Carlo Sand Blow at Rainbow Beach. From this moonscape of sand shapes, you get spectacular views of towering coloured sand cliffs, Double Island Lighthouse and Inskip Peninsula. Any time's good for a visit, but at sunrise and sunset the landscape is especially impressive. Equally impressive is the 2km-long Cooloola Sandpatch at the southern end of the five-day Cooloola Great Walk between Noosa and Rainbow Beach. This towering sand mass gives panoramic views over the upper Noosa River.
7. Rise early and get to Eumundi
Open every Saturday and Wednesday, the market at Eumundi buzzes with creativity, energy and friendliness. It's one of the most popular places to go on the Sunshine Coast, so arrive early to make the most of the craft shopping, wellness products, yummy food and unique services, such as a relaxing shoulder massage or having a tarot card reading.
8. Watch whales in winter
One of the best times to visit the Sunshine Coast is winter. You can count on sunny weather and you won't need a wetsuit for swimming. What's more, winter is the season for spotting humpback whale families as they enjoy a holiday in the warm waters of Queensland. Mooloolaba's a particularly good place for whale watching because there are local companies who'll take you offshore for a closer look and you even have the opportunity to swim with these captivating creatures.
9. Treat yourself to sensational flavours
From delicious food market eats to fine dining signature dishes, the Sunshine Coast serves all kinds of heaven on a plate (or in a glass). Its climate is perfect for growing a wide range of fruit and vegetables, and the ocean provides a smorgasbord of fresh seafood daily - be sure to try some Mooloolaba prawns! Boutique craft breweries are now dotted along the coast and up into the hinterland, adding to the region's flavour sensations. Apart from the ever-popular favourites, they're producing tasty innovative brews for more adventurous palettes.
10. Follow the Great Beach Drive
When you're planning a trip to the Sunshine Coast, consider hiring a 4WD. It means you'll be ready to explore the Great Beach Drive, an off-road beach experience from Noosa's north shore all the way to Rainbow Beach. The perfect add-on to this adventure is the World Heritage-listed Fraser Island. A vehicular ferry runs from Inskip Point at the northern end of Rainbow Beach.