The best things to do in Noosa

Hit up the Sunshine Coast for golden beaches, cool cafés, verdant countryside and everything else good about Australia
Photo: Jen Dainer
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Located smack on the Sunshine Coast, Noosa is one of Australia’s most beloved travel destinations for a reason: it’s blessed with warm waters, a breezy sub-tropical climate and acres of lush rainforest. The town – with its chic cafés, shops and restaurants, book-ended on one end by the Noosa River and Noosa National Park headlands on the other – is frequented by surf fanatics and fashionistas alike.

If you want to know the best time to visit, consider heading over in May during the Noosa Food and Wine Festival. That’s when the town is at its most buzzy: expect more than 50 chefs and 30 sommeliers from the world over to descend, bringing with them champagne brunches on the beach, pop-up restaurants in tipis, and myriad tastings. Of special note is the annual Long Table Lunch served al fresco along the length of Noosa’s iconic Hastings Street.

The best things to do in Noosa

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What to do

Always wanted to attempt a headstand on the water? Sunshine Coast yoga teacher Kat Harding offers yoga classes along Noosa’s Little Cove – with a difference. Rather than the now done-to-death beachside yoga, Harding’s lessons takes place on the river itself, adrift your own paddle board (from $35 including board hire). Both paddle board experts and newcomers are welcome – Harding happily provides basic instructions on how to control the board. To boot, if you fall whilst attempting a particularly difficult one-handed downward dog it won’t hurt. 

No visit to Noosa is complete without a walk in the Noosa National Park. There’s something for everyone here: from hardened hikers to casual strollers. Wander along the Coastal Track for epic views and make sure to take the paths down to the many tucked away beaches, favoured by surfers. Look out for the animals – including koalas and dolphins – you might see along the way.

For most visitors to Noosa, the beach itself is the main attraction. Learn how to ride the waves with Noosa Surf Lessons (classes start from $65) or watch the pros at the Noosa Festival of Surfing held next year in March. Alternatively, jetski or kayak along Noosa River and drop into one of the gorgeous riverside cafes at Noosaville for a post-water flat white. If staying dry whilst marvelling at the ocean’s wonders is more your thing then take a trip down to Sea Life Sunshine Coast aquarium at Mooloolaba, a 40-minute drive away.

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Where to eat

Stroll down modish Hastings Street to find a plethora of different restaurants, from fine dining to burger joints. Ruling the roost is Noosa Beach House run by celebrity Aussie-Sri Lankan chef Peter Kuruvita. Kuruvita is a beach-lover – he owns no less than eight surfboards – a fact reflected in the seafood-heavy menu. Whilst serving a fusion of European and Asian tastes, many of the recipes – including the Sri Lankan snapper curry and the must-have watalappan, a baked coconut custard desert served with brown bread ice cream, burnt orange, cashew and macadamia – are based on Kuruvita’s childhood watching and learning from his grandmother cook.

For hard-to-beat views visit either Sails Restaurant for a 180-degree panorama of Laguna Bay and an epic wine list or the more causal Noosa Boathouse, which floats on the River Noosa itself. Don’t leave without sampling the seafood platter, featuring freshly shucked oysters, Mooloolaba prawns and Moreton Bay bugs.

And if you’re here in May during the Food and Wine festival, don’t miss a visit to The Woods, a foodie’s haven located in a clearing in the trees at one end of Hastings Street. There’s a bunch of pop-up champagne, oyster and cheese bars, and a stage delivers excellent live music.

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Where to stay

Peppers Noosa Resort & Villas – which offers self-catering villas in a leafy setting and has a heated lagoon pool – is just a short walk to Noosa National Park, Hastings Street and Laguna Beach. If fishing is your thing, get a group together and charter a houseboat with Luxury Afloat Noosa (from $1,150 for two nights). Boats boast their own kitchens, BBQs, dinghies and outside decks. For out and out luxury stay at Richard Branson’s private Makepeace Island, advertised as his Australian home. The island is only available to hire in its entirety for a maximum of twenty people and rates include your own personal chef. If $5,500 a night for up to four guests sounds a bit much, Makepeace opens its doors for one day only during the Food and Wine Festival for an annual extravaganza: after eating your full, you can walk around the grounds and even take a peek into the luxury Bali-style wooden villas.

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Around Noosa

One of the best things about Noosa is the surrounding countryside. The Mary Valley, in particular, boasts picturesque scenery and is charmingly off-the-beaten track.

First pop by the quaint village of Cooran, a 45-minute drive from Noosa Heads, for a turmeric latte at The Vintage Junction: a café-cum-curiosity store, stuffed with all sorts of Australiania, from old retro fridges to magazines dating back to the 1950s. If you love craft beer, have a drink at the Bonsai Brewhouse run by young Queensland couple Matt and Cassidy Vanderveen in a heritage-listed building that was once Alfredson’s Joinery and Sawmill. Try the quirky beers, including Archie’s Ale and Layne’s Lager – named after the Vanderveen’s two young children – and The Accountant, named after, well, their accountant.

For an evening meal with a difference make the extra 25-minute drive to Melawondi Spring Retreat. Couple Tanya and Tony Fisher offer outdoor cooking classes in their own property, located in 30 acres of bushland (expect plenty of kangaroos). If you don’t want to make the journey back to Noosa that evening, spend a few days exploring the countryside. You can stay on Melawondi itself – the modern Spring Retreat’s Luxury Studio boasts gorgeous views over the valley – or in one of the old Queenslander buildings in the historic local railway town of Imbil. Rent the holiday home Elsie of Imbil, a cosy old worker’s cottage in the town proper, or for something more peaceful, Imbil Bridge Farm. The latter is a white 1920s farmhouse whose spacious verandah overlooks Yabba Creek, perfect for a spot of fishing or even a swim. You might even see a platypus or two playing in the water.

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Getting there

Cathay Pacific offers direct flights to Brisbane for around $4,750 and a journey time of 8.5 hours. Noosa is just under a two hours drive from Brisbane.

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