Sea and do
Elizabeth Meryment checks out budget-savvy options on the Queensland Sunshine Coast
RACK or treat: One of the best ways to get to know a region is via its natural walks. Happily, the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane, has an abundance of nature trails to explore, from beachside strolls in Noosa National Park to four-day trekking expeditions through native wetlands near Rainbow Beach. An intermediate option is the halfday, 12.2km Kiniba track that winds through Cooloola, part of the Great Sandy National Park, north of Noosa. Walkers traverse mangroves, paperbark swamps and cabbage palm wetlands on this self-guided walk, some of which is on elevated boardwalks. Entry is free.
To market, to market: Held on Sundays on Webya Road, not far from popular Hastings Street, the bustling Noosa Farmers Market showcases the best of Sunshine Coast produce. Farmers arrive in trucks laden with freshly picked pineapples, bananas, mangoes, tomatoes, lettuces, herbs and more, while local butchers, fishermen and small-goods producers peddle their wares. Quality coffee makers and cake stalls lend a carnival atmosphere to the market. And trust me, it’s not possible to walk away empty handed. Entry is free. www.noosaproducemarkets.com.au.
History on show: Housed partly in a 1924 building that was once the Landsborough Shire Council chambers and partly in a purpose-built mud brick house added in 1988, Landsborough Museum showcases local history. The collection includes personal items that belonged to Sunshine Coast identities such as explorer William Landsborough and one-time Queensland premier Joseph Nicklin, as well as historic and indigenous artefacts dating back more than a century. Check out the collection of early cameras and telephones, as well as equipment used by the area’s first farmers. Adults, $8. www.landsboroughmuseum.org.au.
Vine host: You may be surprised to learn that Queensland wine, in the past decade, quietly has garnered a reputation for quality. Kenilworth Bluff Winery, in the scenic hinterland, is the oldest established vineyard on the Sunshine Coast and has a new deck positioned to capture a lovely view of the vines. Varieties on offer for tasting or buying include semillon, chardonnay, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and shiraz, all of which can be sampled with a variety of Kenilworth artisan cheeses. The winery forms part of the Sunshine Coast wine trail that stretches from Caboolture in the south to Pomona in the north. Entry is free but there’s a $2 wine-tasting fee, refundable on purchase of a bottle. Lot 13 Bluff Rd, Kenilworth. (07) 5472 3723.
For a song: Kings Beach, Caloundra, provides a gorgeous backdrop for the annual Opera on Kings, a night of open-air music. This year’s concert, to be held on April 18, will feature the voices of the Caloundra Chorale, arias from classic operas including Carmen, Don Giovanni and Rigoletto, and hits from popular musicals such as ThePhantomoftheOpera and Porgy andBess. The performance will start at twilight, finishing at about 8pm, making it suitable for younger operagoers. Entry is free. www.operaonkings.com.au.
Off and racing: A drawcard of the Queensland turf calendar, the Caloundra Cup Horeseracing Carnival not only offers great racing but an opportunity for glamorous partying. The annual event takes place on the last weekend of June (June 27-28 this year) and provides two days of racing and functions. The highlight is the Caloundra Cup, but with other quality races on the card the total prize money for the weekend is about $900,000. Many of the nation’s top jockeys will attend, with champion horses travelling from Brisbane and beyond. There will also be fashions on the field and free entertainment. Adults, $15. www.sctc.com.au.
Fishy business: The largest and arguably the loveliest river on the Sunshine Coast, the sandy-bottomed Maroochy River is a big attraction for families and fishermen. The waterway is teeming with flathead, tailor, dart, bream and whiting, and there are several excellent fishing points along its banks, as well as at the mouth, where the freshwater streams meet the surf beach. Some of the best fishing occurs at Cotton Tree and Pincushion in the south channel, where anglers can cast from the shores of two caravan parks.
Head to the hinterland: Set amid lush farms and pockets of rainforest on the Blackall Ranges, the scenic hinterland towns of Maleny, Montville, Flaxton and Mapleton offer great sightseeing. The four towns are located about 30 to 40 minutes from Noosa or Maroochydore and boast a plethora of cafes, galleries, boutiques and wholefood stores. The largest town, Maleny, has some quality shops, including the splendid Rosetta bookshop and the well-stocked Maple Street Co-op, selling organic and local produce. Montville really is the pick of the towns, though, with its glorious views of the coastal plains, happening cafes and trendy giftware shops. Don’t miss the 1.3km Wompoo circuit boardwalk in the Mapleton National Park. www.brbta.com.au.
Tasty attraction: The Ginger Factory at Yandina, with its processing facilities, restaurant, shop, rides and grounds, offers an interesting alternative to more mainstream Sunshine Coast attractions. There’s a terrific ice creamery, diverse range of ginger products to sample and buy, a heritage-style Gingertown and lovely gardens brimming with outlandish ginger flowers. Kids, especially, find the place enchanting. Entry is free but charges apply for some tours. www.gingerfactory.com.au.
Water worlds: The Sunshine Coast has a variety of excellent public pools, including the wonderful Noosa Aquatic Centre, with its shaded children’s wading area. But perhaps the best is at Cotton Tree, Maroochydore. Situated on the Maroochy River next to the Cotton Tree Caravan Park, the aquatic centre has 50m and 25m pools, a hydrotherapy bath and two shaded wading zones. Adults, $4.10; children and concessions, $3.30.
Come the raw prawn: Mooloolaba is a dining and shopping hub, with glamorous seaside restaurants and casual takeaway venues. The seafood here could not be fresher, with trawlers unloading their hauls daily. Before the best ones get away, try a kilo of fresh Mooloolaba prawns followed by fish and chips at the Spit, right where the trawlers come in. www.mooloolabaesplanade.com.au.
Beach and board: At $20 an hour, hiring a surfboard only just scrapes into this dollar-savvy series, but for the sheer thrill of getting out on the waves the splurge is surely worth it. From Noosa to Caloundra, surf companies offer hire of long boards (malibus), short boards and even body boards; individual or group lessons are also available. For novices, the best place to learn surfing is probably Noosa, where the surf is calm and small, and the water is sparklingly clean and warm. Good luck. www.learntosurf.com.au.
www.tourismsunshinecoast.com.au This is the third in a series of features on best-value options in popular Australian destinations. Next week: Dollarwise Darwin.
Noosa Main Beach, with its golden sand and calm, clean water, is the perfect spot to let energetic youngsters off the leash
Art and crafts: Montville, with cafes and boutiques, is a favourite hinterland destination
Step into history: Landsborough Museum