Travel & Culture

Spoiled On The Sunshine Coast

March 6, 2024

Escape to the sun, sand and surf of Australia’s famed Sunshine Coast playground. —Claudia Laroye


Getting to Australia’s Sunshine Coast is as easy as boarding a direct flight from Canada’s west coast. Air Canada operates six weekly non-stop departures, taking off from Vancouver International Airport and landing 14 hours later in Brisbane, Queensland.


A big part of the mystique of the Land Down Under is its incredible wildlife. More than 80 per cent of its mammals, reptiles, amphibians and plants are unique to the country. During our stay in a comfortable glamping tent at Habitat Noosa Everglades Eco Camp, we woke to the cackling call of a kookaburra and the sight of wild mobs of grey kangaroos and their joeys, wandering freely in the camp’s 65 acres of protected land in Great Sandy National Park.

For luxurious interactive wildlife immersion, book a family-friendly cabin at The Crocodile Hunter Lodge, built by the Irwin family next to the iconic Australia Zoo. Guests receive admission to the wildlife preserve made famous by Steve Irwin, including the chance to go on a behind-the-scenes tour of the zoo’s renowned Wildlife Hospital, which to date has treated more than 100,000 native animals, including many affected by Australia’s 2019/20 wildfires.


The Sunshine Coast is home to three connected UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, and within them are some of Australia’s most pristine landscapes, including Great Sandy National Park, the Glass House Mountains and K’Gari, the largest sand island in the world. In Great Sandy, dip a kayak or canoe paddle into the beautiful Noosa Everglades, a 60-kilometre network of waterways and one of only two everglades systems in the world. In this protected environment, ocean water is sifted by sand and turned into freshwater, made dark and fragrant thanks to tannins from the surrounding forest of tea trees.


The Sunshine Coast’s 100 kilometres of glorious shoreline is a popular playground for sand and surf sports. The Noosa World Surfing Reserve is a 5-kilometre stretch of crystal-clear waves stretching around the Noosa National Park headland. Established in 2020, the reserve offers five world-class point breaks with waves suitable all surfers, from learners to champions.

Out of the water, buckle up for a thrilling guided Great Beach Drive 4WD tour along the expansive 70-kilometre beach from Noosa to Rainbow Beach. This is an official “gazetted” road, complete with speed limits and jaw-dropping views of pounding surf, trotting dingoes, multi-coloured rainbow sand cliffs and visits to the historic 19th-century Double Island Point Lighthouse. In laidback Rainbow Beach, keep an eye out for celebrities like Chris Hemsworth and Sir Richard Branson, who own properties in this quiet sub-tropical beach town.


The stellar cuisine of this popular coastal region is influenced by the abundance of fresh seafood caught just offshore in the Coral Sea. After strolling past chic boutiques on Hastings Street in upscale Noosa, enjoy modern Australian cuisine beachside at Sails Restaurant. The local catch features prominently on executive chef Paul Leete’s menu, including butter-poached Moreton Bay “Bug,” a small lobster-like shellfish that can also be enjoyed in a legendary “bug roll”’” at many local restaurants. For a more casual dinner, grab a bucket of prawns and a cold beer at Noosa Heads Surf Life Saving Club and enjoy watching surfers hang ten on their longboards.


Board the ferry from Hervey Bay to K’Gari (the K is silent), the world’s largest sand island and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Formerly known as Fraser Island, its Indigenous name was officially reinstated in 2023, acknowledging K’Gari’s deep connection to its original inhabitants, the Butchulla People.

Stay at the Kingfisher Bay Resort, a luxury eco-resort property tucked into K’Gari’s lush rainforest habitat. Enjoy brilliant sunsets and learn about Indigenous bush “tucker”’” like lemon myrtle and finger limes. Tour the island’s turquoise blue, essential-oil-infused lakes and tall temperate rainforests along ever-changing sand roads with a 4WD guided excursion. The tour includes an exhilarating ride on Australia’s most famous beach drive: 75 Mile Road, and the chance to take off and land on one of the only beach landing strips in the world. Heaps of fun.


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