Dis­cover the en­vi­able nat­u­ral as­sets that draw sun­seek­ers to Noosa

Australian Traveller - - Contents - WORDS LARA PI­CONE PHO­TOG­RA­PHY EL­IZ­A­BETH ALL­NUTT

Full dis­clo­sure: as a first-time Noosa vis­i­tor I some­how ar­rived with­out expectations and, per­plex­ingly, with­out a swim­ming cos­tume. But my lack of pre­pared­ness was not due to a lack of aware­ness. Over the years I have un­avoid­ably heard nu­mer­ous re­counts of Noosa hol­i­days; plus sto­ries from a friend who spent her teens pimp­ing ice-cream to sun-dazed tourists on Hast­ings Street; and the usual ob­ser­va­tions of what the re­gion is and isn’t com­pared to Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. Be­fore my flight, I even jumped onto TripAd­vi­sor (yes, I know) to check out what the largely dis­grun­tled masses had to say. In­vari­ably, there were com­plaints about over­priced knick-knacks, se­niors clog­ging up the board­walk, and streets swollen with daytrip­pers, all pep­pered with the disclaimer: ‘…but the beach is great’. Given that was all I had to base an as­sump­tion on, I chose to dis­re­gard ev­ery­thing. All I was left with were imag­ined vi­sions of fab­u­lously kaf­taned ladies sip­ping Veuve Clic­quot at sun­set, and the in­abil­ity to pre­vent my­self from pro­nounc­ing Noosa with elon­gated vow­els. In short, I ar­rived a novice and was im­me­di­ately and wholly sur­prised. My first thought: ‘why on earth is this my first time?’ Fol­lowed by: ‘how could any­one pos­si­bly com­plain about this?’ Noosa is stun­ning. Dis­lo­cate, for a mo­ment, from pre­con­ceived no­tions about Hast­ings Street (the source of the on­line ire) and the idea that it’s sup­pos­edly the hol­i­day spot of the well-to-do. The sim­ple rea­son peo­ple wind up here on re­peat is be­cause Noosa is an in­dis­putable nat­u­ral beauty. From the gen­tle, pro­tec­tive curve of Main Beach to the in­cred­i­ble Noosa Na­tional Park, the river, and a col­lec­tion of invit­ing beaches, to say Noosa of­fers only a oned­i­men­sional ex­pe­ri­ence is a yawn­ing in­jus­tice. A re­gion, not just a town, Noosa is about to cel­e­brate its sec­ond birth­day as a shire all on its own af­ter a pe­riod of los­ing it­self within the con­glom­er­ated Sun­shine Coast Re­gion. This re­form­ing of Noosa Coun­cil is sig­nif­i­cant in that it means the area can more eas­ily be reg­u­lated for sus­tain­abil­ity and pro­tect the rea­sons both lo­cals and visi­tors love Noosa. That means low-rise build­ings, no traf­fic lights and on­go­ing con­ser­va­tion of na­tive flora and fauna. Hav­ing been recog­nised as Queens­land’s first UNESCO Bio­sphere Re­serve in 2007, Noosa is fiercely pro­tec­tive of its of­fi­cial par­adise-on-earth sta­tus. A sure sign that you’re in a spe­cial place is when even the lo­cals can’t be­lieve their good for­tune. Wind­ing through the na­tional park as the sun pushes up from the hori­zon di­alling up the wattage on the soft dawn light, early morn­ing ex­er­cis­ers, of which there are many, wave en­thu­si­as­ti­cally as I pass. Their wide smiles re­mind me of some­one who’s wo­ken up from a great dream, only to re­alise the dream is their real,

wak­ing life. Later, I stop by the Vis­i­tor Cen­tre and find my­self chat­ting to Jenny, a vol­un­teer who speaks of her home­town as though it were an en­dur­ing ro­mance. Jenny must hand out at least 100 brochures a day, re­peat­ing the same in­for­ma­tion, and yet her eyes are ablaze with tire­less pas­sion as she speaks about the many dif­fer­ent types of hol­i­days to be en­joyed at Noosa. In­deed, Jes­sica Rowe, a long-time Noosa devo­tee and the rea­son I fi­nally find my­self here, had ex­pressed ex­actly that sen­ti­ment as we chat­ted over cof­fee one morn­ing (read Jes­sica’s story on page 66). “I’ve been think­ing about all the dif­fer­ent stages of my life that I’ve been here,” Jes­sica said be­fore launch­ing into a list. “As a sin­gle girl; com­ing back with my hus­band, Peter [Over­ton]; then hav­ing New Year’s Eve here with my sis­ter and her hus­band; com­ing back preg­nant, and with my daugh­ter, Al­le­gra, as a weeny baby; then Peter and I rented a place at the end of Hast­ings Street when I was preg­nant with (sec­ond daugh­ter) Giselle. And now we come back with the girls... It’s al­most full-cir­cle.” Jes­sica tal­lies her Noosa trips at around the 14 mark and ad­mits she didn’t tell her daugh­ters she was com­ing for the Aus­tralian Trav­eller pho­to­shoot lest they get up­set. They did – and rightly so. To smooth things over with her girls, Jes­sica picked up a few lit­tle gifts on Hast­ings Street (check out her top five tips on page 69). Strolling the shop­ping strip, I’m glad to have ig­nored the Hast­ings Street cyn­ics from TripAd­vi­sor, de­spite the fact they’re ab­so­lutely cor­rect. Un­less you’re in the mar­ket for a plas­tic beach bucket, you’re un­likely to find a bar­gain. And, right again, due to its lo­ca­tion par­al­lel with the beach, it does get busy. Yet, I would ar­gue that if you’re look­ing for a sleepy, cheap hol­i­day, Noosa Heads isn’t nec­es­sar­ily go­ing to be your ticket. Like most towns that be­come pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions thanks to their nat­u­ral at­tributes, Noosa is making the most of it and ca­ter­ing to the clien­tele. You do get the sense there is pride in its cos­mopoli­tan of­fer­ings, from chic bou­tiques to in­cred­i­ble restau­rants, and while it still at­tracts and wel­comes a wide range of hol­i­day­mak­ers, you will definitely find the kaf­tan and Clic­quot set here. Af­ter all, it is the per­fect place for both. That’s not to say Noosa is a town with­out a real soul, over­run by Prue and Trude types, fam­i­lies in match­ing Crocs, and re­tirees with small dogs. This is a coastal town like any other, with a surf club at its heart and a lo­cal pop­u­la­tion go­ing about their lives in what hap­pens to be a very pop­u­lar hol­i­day spot. And that does change things a lit­tle by el­e­vat­ing of­fer­ings to draw crowds away from other des­ti­na­tions ly­ing in wait to snare sun-seek­ers, such as Byron and the Gold Coast. So the next time I come to Noosa, I will be pre­pared. Not just with a more ap­pro­pri­ately packed suit­case, but with a knowl­edge that I am head­ing to one of the east coast’s most mag­nif­i­cent re­gions. And if that comes with a slightly higher price tag and a swathe of peo­ple who are here for the very rea­son I am, then so be it. Be­sides, I’ll need an au­di­ence for my new kaf­tan.

You do get the sense there is pride in its cos­mopoli­tan of­fer­ings, from chic bou­tiques to in­cred­i­ble restau­rants.

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