What to do in Sunshine Coast

On the southeastern corner of the state of Queensland, the popular Sunshine Coast stretches from the family-friendly town of Caloundra, through the central heart of the coast at Maroochy, all the way north to the deserted beaches of Cooloola. Inland, the lush hinterlands include mountain towns like Maleny, Montville, and Mapleton, which lead to the otherworldly, spire-like Glass House Mountains. But the ocean is the real star of the region. Less developed than its southern neighbor the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast presents a nice mix of sophisticated beach towns and first-class lodgings (many in the form of holiday apartments), wrapped up in a laid-back surfer, beach bum culture.

Maroochy is the center of the action, and is made up of the towns of Mooloolaba (with its impressive aquarium, Mooloolaba Underwater World), Alexandra Headland, Cotton Tree, and Maroochydore. It's the most developed part of the coast, but that's relative since the area is still very mellow and is actually becoming a permanent living destination for Aussies. On the northern part of the Sunshine Coast, the cool and chic enclave of Noosa, a surfers' mecca since the 1960s, joins the gorgeous and lush Noosa National Park. It's now a stylish retreat, where yuppies dine on gourmet snacks in mostly open-air cafes and eateries, while tanned surfers haul their boards to their cars and chic girls stroll by in Aussie beach fashions. For landlubbers, Noosa is also a good place to take surf lessons—try Learn to Surf, started by champion Aussie surfer Merrick Davis.

Even in winter (June through August in this part of the world) the water temperatures remain bathtub warm, and with its easy-going lifestyle and stunning beauty, you'll want to spend a good chunk of time soaking up the ambience of this gorgeous region.

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