The coast with the most

Sunny side up in Noosa and be­yond

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - PHIL JAR­RATT

1. North Shore beach­comb­ing: Tem­po­rar­ily fed up with my lot in life, I once got dropped off at the Noosa River ferry and set off to walk to Rain­bow Beach at the other end of the vast Cooloola Wilder­ness. It took me three days, sleep­ing in the sand dunes and eat­ing what I could catch in the surf gut­ters. It was rough and gritty — and the most ex­hil­a­rat­ing thing I’d done in years.

I don’t rec­om­mend a solo beach trek for ev­ery­one, but I do think that a lit­tle taste of the raw salt air of the Noosa North Shore is the per­fect coun­ter­point to lazy lunch­ing on Hast­ings Street.

You don’t need a four-wheeldrive or even a plan; just catch the ferry and fol­low your nose to the first cut­ting, park the car, walk on to the beach and turn left.

In hol­i­day sea­son the 30km Cooloola Beach can be a night­mare of ma­cho fish­er­folk in mus­cle trucks, but on a week­day morn­ing out of sea­son, it is bliss. Dol­phins frolic in the in-shore gut­ters, seabirds hover above the dunes, drift­wood trea­sures await you along the tide line. And that lazy lunch is only half an hour away. More: vis­it­noosa.com.au. 2. Ikatan Spa: I’m not re­ally a spa kind of guy. It might have some­thing to do with once too of­ten be­ing slapped into sub­mis­sion with a gritty mix of sand and cook­ing oil in Bali in the 1970s, but it’s just not my cup of dan­de­lion tea. But this much I know: no mat­ter how much mar­i­tal strife one may find one­self in, help is at hand, and it’s a lot cheaper than a di­vorce.

Ikatan Spa is your favourite lit­tle piece of Bali, hid­den away in the hills of Doo­nan, about 15 min­utes into the Noosa hin­ter­land. Ikatan looks, smells and feels like a gor­geous Ba­li­nese vil­lage. I can tell you that much, hav­ing been there to pur­chase re­demp­tion cer­tifi­cates. For the rest, I must de­fer to my long-suf­fer­ing wife, who says a body treat­ment is the most won­der­fully re­lax­ing yet en­er­vat­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to be had out­side of the mar­i­tal bed. (OK, I added that last bit my­self.)

The treat­ment vil­las are sur­rounded by trop­i­cal gar­dens and the dreamy whiff of frangi­pani mixes with nat­u­ral oils while time stands still. Note for surfers: if you’ve spent your en­tire Noosa hol­i­day surf­ing the points while the rest of the fam­ily won­ders what you look like, treat­ing them here is your get-out-of-jail card. More: ikatanspa.com. 3. Visit the mar­kets (not Eumundi): Which is not to say you shouldn’t visit Eumundi, but there are lesser-known mar­kets with their own charm and plenty to dis­cover. Make Sun­day your mar­ket day and get started early be­cause stuff sells out fast.

Noosa Farm­ers Mar­ket is held from 7am to mid­day ev­ery Sun­day on the footy oval on Weyba Road, Noosav­ille. More than 100 traders sell goods rang­ing from or­ganic ve­gies and frozen cur­ries to skin­care prod­ucts and bush tucker.

On the first and third Sun­days of the month ( ev­ery week in sum­mer hol­i­days), you can move on to Pere­gian, an arts and crafts mar­ket in a beau­ti­ful beach­side set­ting. And as the mar­ket winds down, the Pere­gian Orig­i­nals winds up. This fam­ily-friendly free con­cert, brain­child of muso Jay Bishoff, show­cases some of the best mu­sic ( lo­cals and tour­ing acts) you’ll ever see for noth­ing. Food ven­dors all af­ter­noon, and full bar at the ad­ja­cent surf club. More: east­coas­to­rig­i­nals.org.au; noosa­farm­ers­mar­ket.com. au. 4. Noosa Woods: Ev­ery­one knows about the fab­u­lous walk­ing trails through the Noosa Na­tional Park, tak­ing in five breath­tak­ing bays and some magnificent stands of rain­for­est. Few but lo­cals take ad­van­tage of the other patch of green at the op­po­site end of Hast­ings Street. Noosa Woods has an in­ter­est­ing his­tory.

Once a lit­toral rain­for­est bor­dered by river and beach, it was de­clared a re­serve in the 1920s but by the 50s it had be­come a coun­cil­op­er­ated camp­ground, and for the next cou­ple of decades the for­est was pro­gres­sively cleared to al­low for more campers. At the same time the ad­ja­cent Woods Bay be­came a safe haven for yachties, nude beach par­ties and dope deals. All this came to an end in the 90s when a pro­gres­sive con­ser­va­tion­ist coun­cil threw out the campers and the yachties and be­gan a reveg­e­ta­tion pro­gram to re­turn the woods to what they had once been.

In such cases you can never truly go home again; Noosa Woods is a lit­tle too man­i­cured in places for my­taste, and a decade of sand-pump­ing from the river mouth to Main Beach has re­sulted in a badly eroded fore­shore. But it’s still hard to beat it for pic­nic pri­vacy, walk­ing the dog, gen­tle cy­cling, trevally fish­ing, swim­ming and sip­ping wine at the edge of the bay, watch­ing the sun set over Mt Tin­beer­wah. 5. Hu­mid: Hid­den above a con­ve­nience store on the back road around the man­grove shal­lows of Noosa River, it could have been a case of out of sight, out of mind for Hu­mid. Why search the back­blocks for a feed when there is so much on of­fer on Hast­ings Street?

Well, if you’re a se­ri­ous trav­eller you know to fol­low the lo­cals, and we have been beat­ing a path to Hu­mid since it opened half a dozen years ago.

For­mer Mel­bur­ni­ans Michelle Gor­don-Smith (chef) and Mary Mor­ri­son (man­ager) took over the non­de­script premises in Noosav­ille first made fa­mous by Paul Blain’s ground­break­ing Chilli Jam Cafe back in the 90s, and put their own south­ern sen­si­bil­i­ties into a decor most com­monly de­scribed by food crit­ics as ‘‘semi-in­dus­trial’’.

Well, I like the open-plan eat­ing and the pol­ished con­crete floor, but I don’t go to Hu­mid for the decor or the view (there isn’t one). I go there to eat the best food in town, served ef­fi­ciently and with­out pre­ten­sion.

If it’s about be­ing in Noosa, eat at the beach or on the river. If it’s about the food, find Hu­mid. More: hu­mid.com.au. 6. Pad­dling the Noosa wa­ter­ways: Stand up pad­dle (SUP) surf­ing has be­come so pop­u­lar that at many beaches re­la­tions be­tween surf­board rid­ers and ‘‘stick surfers’’ are at flash­point. Still-wa­ter pad­dlers face no such prob­lems, and Noosa’s var­ied wa­ter­ways have be­come a pad­dling nir­vana.

Us­ing a pad­dle to sup­port your­self while stand­ing on a surf­board was orig­i­nally a trick of the Waikiki beach boys so they could take pho­to­graphs of tourists plung­ing down the waves in outrig­ger ca­noes. Lead­ing beach boys Leroy and Bobby Ah Choy turned it into an art form in the 50s, but it took an­other half cen­tury to catch on.

In Aus­tralia it was pi­o­neered by Noosa water­man Chris De Aboitiz, him­self a for­mer Waikiki beach boy, and in­tro­duced as a com­pet­i­tive sport at the 2007 Noosa Fes­ti­val of Surf­ing.

These days Trop­ic­surf runs the best SUP school on the coast, and af­ter mas­ter­ing the flat wa­ter ba­sics on the canals of Noosa Sound, you can take off on your own with end­less kilo­me­tres of rivers, creeks and lakes to ex­plore. And not only is this a great way to see Noosa from the wa­ter, but SUP in­volves a full work-out of mus­cles you didn’t know you had. More: trop­ic­surf.net. 7. Alexandra Head­land Surf Club: When the Noosa Heads Surf Club went from quaint to gi­ant, it joined the rev­enue su­per league but sac­ri­ficed a lot of its charm. Un­kind ob­servers have likened it to a car park with an Ikea cafe­te­ria at one end and a TAB at the other. For­tu­nately, other Sun­shine Coast surf clubs with beach frontage have been more thought­ful. Take Alexandra Head­land, that tiny strip of for­got­ten coast be­tween Ma­roochy­dore and Mooloolaba, for ex­am­ple. The Alex surf club’s view stretches from Point Ark­wright to Point Cartwright, with a fore­ground dot­ted with surfers at The Bluff and Mooloolaba-bound yachts.

It’s a beau­ti­ful spot for a ca­sual break­fast at the down­stairs kiosk or lunch or sun­set din­ner up­stairs in the un­pre­ten­tious but stylish Look­out bistro.

Also, un­like many other surf clubs, ser­vice is efficient with­out be­ing of­fi­cious and guests are wel­come. If you trea­sure the tra­di­tions of the old-school surf club, then at Alex they still raf­fle a meat tray ev­ery Fri­day and Satur­day. More: alex­sur­f­club.com.au.

queens­land­hol­i­days.com.au Phil Jar­ratt is a res­i­dent of Noosa; his most re­cent book, Salts & Suits, was short-listed for the Blake Daw­son Busi­ness Lit­er­a­ture Prize. More: backbeach.net.au. Next week in our se­cret seven se­ries: Dar­win.

LONELY PLANET IM­AGES/CATHY FINCH

Noosa’s net­work of rivers, creeks and lakes is a nir­vana for stand up pad­dle surfers of all lev­els of skill

TOURISM QUEENS­LAND

In the off-sea­son, Noosa’s beaches are bliss­ful

Ve­gies at Noosa Farm­ers Mar­ket and zabaglione at Hu­mid

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