The essence of the Sunshine Coast is perhaps never clearer than from the bow of a yacht in full sail off Mudjimba, with a glass of bubbles in hand and some freshly peeled Mooloolaba king prawns.

Gliding through the midnight-blue waters of the Coral Sea, Old Woman Island (aka Mudjimba) looms closer to the left, and the building waves near the shoreline turn from azure to turquoise, to curling white water pounding kilometres of deserted golden sands. Inland to the right is unmistakea­ble Mt Coolum – a 26-million-year-old, dome-shaped rock that rises 208m and lays claim to being Australia’s second-largest monolith after world-famous Uluru. Further afield, a 15km virtually straight stretch of heavenly coastline ends at the Devil’s Kitchen and Hell’s Gates, jutting out like a set of horns across Alexandria Bay in the sanctuary of Noosa National Park.

Paradise found.

But that’s just the beginning of the magical mystery tour of natural wonders. The Sunshine Coast has seven national parks (more than any other region in the state of Queensland) and bragging rights for other ecological­ly significan­t state forest, marine and scenic reserves. Those include the craggy peaks, walking tracks and panoramic lookouts that have earnt the Glass House Mountains their listing as a landscape of national significan­ce.

The region is best known for world-class surf beaches (including Noosa Heads, which has been declared among the historical­ly significan­t National Surfing Reserves in

Australia), where swimming is all-year round and the water temperatur­e rarely drops below 20°C.

Bodysurf, stand-up paddleboar­d, surf, float, fish, snorkel, cruise, jet-ski, dive, sail, skydive, hike, dive, wakeboard, kayak, kitesurf or simply loll on waterways from Rainbow Beach, Double Island Point and Noosa Main Beach on spectacula­r Laguna Bay in the north, through rocky headlands, little coves and open stretches to the calm waters of Bulcock

Beach on Pumiceston­e Passage in the south. And if you’ve always wanted to learn to surf, this is the place. You’ll also learn how to understand how waves break, how to spot a sweep or rip, and what to do if you are ever in trouble in the ocean.

The Sunshine Coast as a holiday destinatio­n is like nowhere else ... and nothing proves that more than its rare or unique gems within. The Noosa Everglades wilderness area with its majestic mirror reflection­s is one of only two everglade systems in the world (and the only one without alligators). This pristine area – full of banksias, tea trees, melaleucas, reeds and water lilies and home to more than 40 per cent of Australia’s birdlife – is best viewed on an eco-cruise or in a kayak. Try Kanu Kapers or Everglades Eco Safaris.

The Coloured Sands of Rainbow Beach have formed a unique natural art gallery. Mother Nature and erosion have created 72 differentl­y coloured sands within the enormous sandy cliffs rising as high as 200m by the shore. The coloured layers have developed as a result of iron oxide and vegetable dyes leaching into the sand, probably since the last Ice Age. The Coloured Sands are on the Great Beach Drive that connects the Sunshine Coast and the Gympie region with Fraser Island (K’gari) in part via the “great sand highway”. As well as the opportunit­y to spot whales, dolphins, turtles and rare birds, the tourist drive takes in two UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, a World Heritage Area, national parks and the largest sand island in the world. Operator Epic Ocean Adventures is your chauffeur on the Great Beach Drive and can also tell stories of the area’s Indigenous and pioneering history.

Each quaint Sunshine Coast village or rural town and every suburban coastal area varies greatly from the next, with its own charm and history. In just over a 30-minute drive from the surf, visitors could be on top of the world on the Blackall Range – hugging an Australian red cedar tree reaching hundreds of metres into the sky, checking in to their romantic, cosy cottage by Lake Baroon at Montville or marvelling at Mapleton Falls where Pencil Creek plunges 120m into the valley below.

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 ??  ?? Clockwise from far left: Noosa Everglades; Snorkellin­g off Mudjimba Island; Coloured sands on Rainbow Beach; Jet skis on Pumiceston­e Passage at Caloundra; Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny.
Clockwise from far left: Noosa Everglades; Snorkellin­g off Mudjimba Island; Coloured sands on Rainbow Beach; Jet skis on Pumiceston­e Passage at Caloundra; Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny.

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