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The Top Things to do on the Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast lives up to its name with balmy weather and a plethora of beaches, family attractions, activities and tours; it’s a destination that will leave you spoiled for choice. Feel the sand between your toes at Noosa Beach, visit the Eumundi Markets, see wildlife at Australia Zoo and SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast, learn to surf and more. The Sunshine Coast is truly a destination that blends the natural beauty of the country and coast with great family attractions. Browse all the things to do and plan your ultimate Sunshine Coast getaway here.

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Top 10 Things To Do With Kids in the Sunshine Coast

Experience Oz Staff
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The Sunshine Coast combines stunning coastal scenery and some of the most relaxed locals on earth with a calendar full of sunny days to create one of Queensland’s best beachside getaways.

Perfect for families both young and old looking to escape the daily grind and smell the sea salt, the Sunshine Coast is a destination that is often overlooked when it comes to planning a family holiday, with places like Byron Bay or the Gold Coast typically sitting centre-stage for both domestic and international travellers.

The Sunshine Coast is in many ways a beautifully raw take on the more typical coastal getaway, offering fewer crowds and a less commercialised atmosphere, it’s well suited for families with kids in need of some room to play. In this article, we take a look at 10 of the Sunshine Coast’s best attractions for kids.

1. Australia Zoo

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Location: 1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah QLD

Made famous around the globe by the late, great Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, Australia Zoo is one of the Sunshine Coast’s top must-do experiences for first time visitors.

Often referred to as Australia’s best zoo, Australia Zoo is renowned for its balance of both variety of animals and quality of presentations, featuring some of the most passionate keepers in the world.

If your kids love animals and don’t mind a world-class show or two, Australia Zoo is sure to be a highlight of their trip, but even better, it’s likely to be a highlight of yours too!

"Australia Zoo is likely to be the highlight of your visit to the Sunshine Coast with world class shows and educational experiences and animal interactions available."

Purchase your tickets with Experience Oz and get additional entry to the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, where you can witness the wonderful team of vets as they treat and rehabilitate injured, sick or orphaned wildlife before releasing them back into the wild.

From the Crocoseum – where you’ll be able to see crocodiles quite literally chomping at the bit to entertain guests – to the open-range Africa exhibit, exotic Tiger Temple and many more, there is plenty to keep the whole family entertained throughout your visit.

2. Aussie World

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Location: 73 Frizzo Road, Palmview

If you’re on the Sunshine Coast with kids and can afford to squeeze a full days worth of entertainment into your itinerary, then you can’t go past Aussie World.

Located next to the Bruce Highway in Palmview, Aussie World is the Sunshine Coast’s leading theme park with over 30 rides and attractions suitable for all ages.

From Professor Boggleworth’s Illisionarium, to Redback, the Plunge or even Ballroom Blitz, Aussie World is packed with brilliantly entertaining rides and attractions to keep both you and your kids entertained for hours.

"Aussie World is the Sunshine Coast’s leading theme park with over 30 rides and attractions suitable for all ages."

Located just outside the park, ‘The Pub’ is one of Queensland’s leading tourist attractions and is more than worth visiting for a family photo or two.

Open from 9am until late, the pub serves lunch and dinner, specialising in the use of local produce, including a mouth-watering range of grilled steak.

3. SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast

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Location: Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba QLD

SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast is Queensland’s largest aquarium, with one of the most diverse collections of marine life on display both above and below the water.

With a state-of-the-art shark exhibit to go along with 10 other cleverly themed zones, from the Bay of Rays and Octonauts Zone, to the much cuddlier Seal Island, there’s truly something for everyone.

"SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast is Queensland’s largest aquarium, with one of the most diverse collections of marine life on display".

Beyond the obvious appeal of seeing the oceans most spectacular inhabitants up close, SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast also provides various informative and entertaining shows to captivate audiences (especially the kids!).

The Seal Show and Jellyfish Exhibit are some of the attractions most popular highlights, with the seals in particular drawing regular crowds.

4. Aqua Fun Park

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Location: Novotel Twin Waters Resort, Ocean Drive, Pacific Paradise, Sunshine Coast, QLD

Splash into fun this summer at the Aqua Fun Park located within the Novotel Twin Waters Resort in the Sunshine Coast.

Aqua Fun Park is the original inflatable water park and playground on the coast that offers an obstacle course of slides, walls and runways that will leave you feeling like a ninja warrior.

The inflatable water playground is a great family activity that puts a spin on the traditional water parks.

Aqua Fun Park will challenge you to not only keep your balance but to also climb up and down the slippery slides for a splashtastic entry to the cool waters below.

"Aqua Fun Park is the original inflatable water park and playground on the coast that offers an obstacle course of slides, walls and runways that will leave you feeling like a ninja warrior."

The park is located on a private saltwater lagoon near the Novotel with very little boat traffic to speak of and numerous lifeguards on duty to make sure everyone is safe.

Visitors do not need to be staying at the Novotel as the fun park trades separately to the resort and all are welcome.

Aqua Fun Park runs 50 minute sessions which start on the hour and are strictly monitored so make sure that you arrive early for the beginning of your session time.

The park is great for the young and the young at heart with the minimum age set at 4 years old. All participants are supplied with life vests that must be worn by everyone at all times throughout the session.

The fun park is seasonal with operating hours varying throughout the year so it is best to check the website for the most up to date opening times prior to your visit.

5. The Ginger Factory

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Location: 50 Pioneer Road, Yandina QLD

If you tried to combine delicious treats with a wonderland for kids, you’d end up with something like The Ginger Factory.

One of the Sunshine Coast’s most beloved attractions, The Ginger Factory has been delighting families for over 40 years with its large range of locally made ginger drinks, sweets, spreads and foods.

If you (or any member of your family) love ginger, you simply can’t go past The Ginger Factory!

"Beyond the ginger, visitors can also explore the beautiful nine-hectare property, which includes a number of exciting rides, boutique shops, a café, ice creamery, lush sub-tropical gardens and of course, the factory itself."

Beyond the ginger, visitors can also explore the beautiful nine-hectare property, which includes a number of exciting rides, boutique shops, a café, ice creamery, lush sub-tropical gardens and of course, the factory itself.

During your visit you’ll be invited to take a tour on Moreton, the 116-year-old ginger train, now retired from ginger deliveries and instead transporting families around the grounds.

You will also get to learn about bees in a live Bee Show & Tasting (the honey, not the bees), watch the process of ginger production, explore the beautiful sub-tropical rainforest gardens, and step aboard the Overboard, a water adventure with the Gingerbread Man.

Open seven days a week from 9am to 5pm, The Ginger Factory makes for the perfect family day out on the Sunshine Coast.

6. Bellingham Maze

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Location: 274 Tanawha Tourist Drive, Tanawha, QLD

Gather the kids and get lost for the day at Bellingham Maze on the Sunshine Coast. This iconic local attraction has been challenging families for years with a series of mazes, puzzles, games and mini golf.

The star attraction here is the huge 80m x 80m star shaped hedge maze that is made up of thousands of lilly pillies. Enter through the magic waterfall wishing well and over the bridge into the tropical garden where you will need to find your way to the centre of the star.

Along the way, adventurers will find a series of puzzles to keep you guessing and the mind busy as you walk through the outdoor garden.

The maze offers a fun way for kids to enjoy being outdoors walking through the garden as they try to find the right way through the maze.

The hedge maze is not the only one here though. Once you have navigated your way through that one then have fun on the timber paneled scrabble maze, get twisted in the rope maze and find your way to the middle of the tyre maze.

The venue also has a child friendly 18 hole golf course where mum and dad can practice their golfing skills alongside their children.

Whether you are looking to fill a couple of hours or the whole day with the family, Bellingham Maze is a great low budget option with tickets starting from as low as $20 per person.

Bellingham Maze is open Thursday to Monday from 10am to 4pm and everyday during the Queensland school holidays.

7. Strawberry Picking

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Location: 133 Laxton Road, Palmview

When it comes to outdoor experiences that are both entertaining and rewarding for the kids, picking their own strawberries at one of the Sunshine Coasts many Strawberry Farms is hard to beat.

Strawberry Fields in Palmview is one such farm. Run by the Carmichael Family since 1980 and open all year round, the farm offers educational tours to school groups, vacation care outings, and even platter and cake options for birthday parties.

"The strawberry farm will open your children's eyes to the wonders of farm life and teach them that food doesn't just come from the supermarket shelves."

The farm also includes a neat tractor playground for the kids to blow off some steam, with picnic tables for parents to relax and enjoy the peaceful setting.

When you’re satisfied that you’ve picked your last berry, head back to the café to enjoy a selection of strawberry treats, from homemade strawberry ice cream to pancakes with freshly picked strawberries, along with a range of merchandise to remember the day.

Prices: PYO Prices fluctuate, following current wholesale market pricing.

8. Learn to Surf

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Location: Beach Access Track 11, Noosa Beach

Why not add learning a new skill to the itinerary for your next family getaway?

There are few activities more popular than surfing on the Sunshine Coast, and no better place to learn to surf than in the stunning surrounds of Noosa Beach.

"Surfing is a beloved hobby for so many locals and when you take a look at the pristine beaches it is no surprise why. Noosa is a fantastic place to learn to surf."

A beloved hobby for so many locals throughout the region, going for a morning stroll along any one of the coasts pristine beaches will often include a handful of enthusiasts taking to the waves.

If you’re heading to Noosa with kids, then you have the perfect excuse to book them (and yourself!) in for a lesson!

Lasting around two hours and including equipment and some extremely talented instructors, surfing lessons with Go Ride a Wave in Noosa are sure to be a hit with the whole family.

9. Big Kart Track

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Location: 2310 Steve Irwin Way, Landsborough

Located on Steve Irwin Way in Landsborough, the Big Kart Track is perfect for kids both young and old.

Home to Australia’s largest commercial track – along with its very own kids track – the Big Kart Track has something for every age and ability to enjoy on what will inevitably be a fast paced day out.

Kids rides start at $20 for 10 minutes on a junior go-kart, or $25 on a Double Seater (seats an adult and small child), while adults ride start at $45 (15 minutes) or $70 (30 minutes), with $30 for every 15 minutes extra.

"The Big Kart Track has something for every age and ability to enjoy on what will inevitably be a fast paced day out."

The ride times are relatively short and explosive, so you’ll be able to pair your day at the track with another activity either in the morning or afternoon if the kids are up for it.

The Big Kart Track is the perfect excuse to let your competitive side run wild with the whole family. For those who love the thrill of racing, this is a can’t-miss experience you’re sure to love!

10. Eumundi Markets

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Location: 80 Memorial Drive, Eumundi QLD

Well known for its locally made artisan treasures – from handcrafted furniture, home wares, and artworks to ceramics, fashion and jewellery – the Eumundi Markets sit at the top of the list when it comes to market-sourced arts and crafts.

If your kids aren’t jumping out of their seats (more than usual) at the thought of some hand made artwork, however, then maybe the seemingly endless supply of fresh produce and gourmet delights on offer throughout the market will widen their eyes or raise a few brows.

"Baked or grown by local farmers and bakers, the markets have a range of delicious and nutritious goodies to fill you up while you browse the various stalls."

Baked or grown by local farmers and bakers, the markets have a range of delicious and nutritious goodies to fill you up while you browse the various stalls, enjoying live music and performances along the way.

Top 10 Restaurants on the Sunshine Coast, QLD

by Experience Oz
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The Sunshine Coast‘s culinary scene has grown rapidly with the region’s popularity and population, and from north to south this warm and welcoming part of South East QLD now boasts an impressive array of restaurants on both the high and low ends of the budgetary scale.

Its coastal location and proximity to a verdant hinterland means the Sunshine Coast’s expert food craftsmen have access to plenty of top-notch fresh local produce with which to ply their trade, and as a result a number of new and upcoming restaurants have carved their name out alongside some of the coast’s more long-running dining establishments.

While the majority of the Sunshine Coast’s eateries reside in and around tourist hub Noosa, many of its elite dining offerings can be found dotted around various other suburbs to the point that travellers will be able to choose at least one excellent go-to destination for a memorable meal. But which Sunshine Coast restaurants rank the best of the best?

We take a look at 10 of the best Sunshine Coast restaurants in detail below, covering a range of cuisine types and budget levels.

1. Spice Bar

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Location: 123 Mooloolaba Esplanade, Mooloolaba

Cuisine: Asian fusion

If there was a single word to describe this outstanding Mooloolaba restaurant, “evolution” may bit it. Having seen multiple incarnations and several locations since its original inception, the innovative and creative Spice Bar continues to strut its outstanding range of intermingled Asian flavours.

It’s this lack of hesitation to experiment and keep things fresh that makes a meal at Spice Bar enjoyable no matter how many times you’ve visited in the past. Its newest location overlooking the water simply adds an extra touch of enjoyable ambience to what is one of the Sunshine Coast’s top eateries.

Spice Bar is a restaurant that’s nearly eternally busy, yet manages to remain well run without ever becoming chaotic and possesses a buzz that’s both trendy and cosy. The menu at Spice Bar is an exercise in adventure that prides itself on being exciting and interesting with a hint of unusual thrown in, as exotic combinations abound and a surprise awaits around every taste-filled corner.

As a result, adventurous eaters will find themselves right at home, while more timid diners are encouraged to branch out as the combinations often surprise. One minute you can find yourself sipping on crab soup, while the next will have you sampling kangaroo or duck okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake).

There are plenty of sharing options on the menu for indecisive diners, which have the added benefit of making Spice Bar an ideal venue for larger groups to ensure that no taste sensation goes missed – the phrase “the more, the merrier” definitely applies here. Menu standouts include beef tataki done thinly sliced with a tangy marinade, fish fillet done in Sichuan broth, and a gorgeous lamb rump that falls apart in the mouth.

"If you’re the type who doesn’t mind branching out and embracing new tastes, Spice Bar is a spot on the Sunshine Coast that’s impossible to beat."

As with many other menus on this list, Spice bar offers a comprehensive degustation menu with a number of course quantities available. Although individual portions of items are small, there’s enough of them to leave diners full at the end, especially if opting for the 10-course extravaganza.

The experimental theme of the food here extends through to dessert as well. It’s one of the only places on the Sunshine Coast you’ll experience anything close to a frozen espresso coffee liqueur and the peanut butter jelly cake & ice cream is likewise a surprise delight.

Beverages on offer befit an Asian themed restaurant, with Asahi beer on tap, a range of other imports and a variety of exotic cocktails available for those looking to expand their range. In all, the food on offer here is emblematic of a “dining experience” – nearly none of this is something you could replicate at home, and it’s all the more memorable for the fact.

Spice Bar also boasts a great interior with Asian-inspired decor that is beautiful without being overwhelming. It’s another dining spot that incorporates an open kitchen into the proceedings that adds rather than detracts from the experience and provides a firsthand look at the well-oiled machine that the management and cookstaff have running. The business of the restaurant also never detracts from the service, as there’s always smiles and friendly acknowledgements and interaction from the staff.

Lastly, while it’s another restaurant that is often booked out, the option to dine at the bar exists for those who aren’t fussy, so if you’re unable to book a table in advance it never hurts to try your luck with a walk-in. If you’re the type who doesn’t mind branching out and embracing new tastes, Spice Bar is a spot on the Sunshine Coast that’s nearly impossible to beat.

2. Tides Waterfront

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Location: 26 The Esplanade, Caloundra

Cuisine: Seafood/Modern

Seafood is a longstanding hallmark of the Sunshine Coast and those after a seafood orientate meal can head to this favoured Esplanade restaurant. Provides enjoyable fine dining with Caloundra’s best waterfront views, Tides Waterfront overlooks Bulcock Beach.

With it’s crisp linen tablecloths, stainless silver cutlery, attentive service and Michelin star-worthy food Tides Waterfront is an ideal choice for diners looking to treat themselves. Tides is upmarket, but still carries with it the laid-back nature that is reflective of the Sunshine Coast as a whole.

As might be expected from its combination of both location and name, Tides’ menu revolves predominantly around seafood with dishes featuring scallops, prawns, salmon, and other delights. However dishes covering meat and vegetarian options are also available for those with different tastes and dietary persuasions.

Presentation of the food here warrants a special mention, with a mixture of artistic and impressive dishes served with enough creative touches that act as a visual representation of the extra effort put in across the board. Meals here are quite inventive too, making the most of ingredient mixtures to drum up some original tastes. Highlights include figs with beetroot, an incredibly smooth blue cheese mousse, pork belly with fetta, and a truffle jus that is incredibly moist and mouth-watering.

"The Sunshine Coast is fairly lacking in high-end restaurants as a whole, however Tides does a solid job of carrying the card."

Tapas and lunch time specials are a viable and enjoyable option for those looking to keep costs down when visiting Tides Waterfront, however the star of the show is the elaborate 7-course degustation on offer that represents great value for money.

The mixture of seafoods done in all of smoked, baked, fresh and croquette forms (accompanied by divine artichoke sauce), wagyu beef and mixed desserts such as Panna Cotta and chocolate mousse make for a great cross-section and comes highly recommended. Should you decide to go with a la carte, you’ll not be disappointed.

The choice available on the menu is extensive and there’s enough variation so that even those with fish allergies will be able to enjoy a meal for lunch and dinner alike without feeling shortchanged. A substantial wine list with a number of big names caps things off for those looking to splurge and advice on accompaniments is freely, happily and expertly dispensed by the staff.

Service at Tides Waterfront is as one might expect from a restaurant both of this standing and price point, which is to say there’s just the right amount of staff engagement that it walks the line between being attentive while staying unobtrusive. Given its location, Tides is a wonderful spot to use as a “special occasion” restaurant that’s more ideal for couples than families (although they do cater to children).

If you’re able to request a table on the balcony it provides a view out to Pumicestone Passage and the tip of Bribie Island. The Sunshine Coast is fairly lacking in high-end restaurants as a whole, however Tides does a solid job of carrying the card. If you’re after an evening of fine dining with a casual elegance, then this is a spot that’s sure to satisfy.

3. Embassy XO Restaurant

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Location: Bryan Street, Sunshine Beach

Cuisine: Asian fusion

Relatively hidden in little Sunshine Beach just a short trip from the heart of Noosa comes this little gem that offers big-city standards in a relatively small part of the Sunshine Coast region. Embassy XO is a smart and modernly decorated Asian-themed restaurant that carries with it an atmosphere of sophistication and an upmarket feel across the board, incorporating a mixture of largely Chinese and regional Asian tastes on the menu.

This resulting blend provides a mixed bag of flavours that allows diners to sample the best of multiple parts of the Far East all in one sitting and as a result one does not have to be a strict fan of traditional Asian dishes to enjoy a meal here.

Situated upstairs in a sleek and tasteful dining room, it’s a professional and retro-chic example of decor that contains elements of its Asian influence without being gaudy or cheesy. The kitchen at Embassy XO is open and visible with diners able to see the food being prepared, which adds to the immersion and provides transparency.

There’s also a great little bar area for enjoying a drink before or after your meal, which some truly innovative cocktails on offer that are made with some creative ingredients such as intermingling chilli and lychees – unconventional, yes, but it simply works, and sets the stage for the food to come.

"Embassy XO is a smart and modernly decorated Asian-themed restaurant that carries with it an atmosphere of sophistication and an upmarket feel across the board."

This innovation and creativity carries over to the dining aspect as well; Yum Cha features prominently on the menu, so if you’re a fan of dumplings you’ll have plenty of selection. However other dishes such as pork rolls, duck buns and their great oysters serve as tasty alternatives. Embassy XO offers a number of different banquet options (with both seafood and meat as their key focus) as well as a la carte, and the menu offers a great range of choices for vegetarians as well.

One of the highlights is a Local’s Menu which continually changes and offers 3 courses at a reduced price, making Embassy XO a great spot for residents as well as travellers from afar. Dishes here carry with them a number of delicate flavours made from delicious produce, this is true “fusion” style cooking where everything has a little modern twist – the restaurant’s take on a creme brûlée is particularly refreshing.

All of this comes wrapped in a package that would feel comfortable in the likes of one of Melbourne’s dining hubs. Little touches like the cosy fireplace great during the winter months, a thoughtful wine list, the ability to order while enjoying drinks beforehand and a number of unfamiliar menu entries all make for a quality experience.

Don’t let its inconspicuous location throw you off, this is one of the Sunshine Coast’s best restaurants, and the standout spot to dine out in Sunshine Beach in particular.

4. Spirit House

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Location: 20 Ninderry Road, Yandina

Cuisine: South-east Asian

Another restaurant in which its setting features prominently – albeit for more unconventional reasons – is the unique and wonderfully immersive Spirit House at Yandina. Located within a distinct and greenery-rich layout that focuses on mixing in escapism with quality food, this restaurant and cooking school feels akin to dining in the jungles of the likes of Thailand or Vietnam rather than a popular coastal seaside getaway region.

The restaurant takes roughly a 30-minute drive to reach from Noosa Heads, however the extra effort is well worth it. You’ll be surrounded by bamboo in a setting so rich in atmosphere with candles flickering over water and pathways that wind through immaculately-kept gardens with Buddhist sculptures.

The cuisine on offer at Spirit House reflects the surroundings, with an Asian-themed menu incorporating influences from Thailand and a diverse array of tastes and textures that create an adventure for the tastebuds. This variety means that there’s always something new to try for most guests willing to experiment, with dishes including kingfish, coconut soup of salmon and the highly recommended pork belly with a light citrus caramel sauce.

Sharing dishes is encouraged here to allow patrons to sample the widest possible array of flavours and for the indecisive among us the banquet menu is an excellent choice. The banquet provides a great and thorough cross-section of the various spices and flavours for which the cuisine is renowned and is highly recommended for first-time diners.

"Located within a distinct and greenery-rich layout that focuses on mixing in escapism with quality food, this restaurant and cooking school feels akin to dining in Thailand or Vietnam."

There are a lot of small and subtle additions that the Spirit House chefs make to the dishes that add to the depth of flavour. Many of these are complimented by the large wine list that offers wines by-the-glass rather than bottle only; a wise choice for most, given the need to drive back into the heart of the Sunshine Coast.

Dining at Spirit House is a peaceful affair, aided by the way its layout does a great job of concealing your table from that of other diners, helping create a secluded feel that is less prone to disturbances.

This is only broken up periodically by the waitstaff checking on diners to both ensure they do not lack for anything or bring the meals to the table coupled with detailed descriptions of each dish, with the bringing out of courses well spaced.

Booking a table alongside the pond comes highly recommended if possible, as the extra level of ambience it adds to an already impressive location is magnificent. Spirit House is another Sunshine Coast restaurant that is frequently booked out due to its positive reputation, so be sure to make a reservation well in advance.

If you’re looking for a dining experience that allows you to escape for a few hours at both lunch and dinner set amongst memorable surrounds that make the simple act of dining feel special, then Spirit House ticks all the boxes.

5. Sails Restaurant

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Location: 75 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads

Cuisine: Modern Australian

While food is obviously going to be the main focus of any dining experience, there are plenty of other elements that go into making a culinary affair wholly enjoyable. External factors such as decor, atmosphere, service and location all contribute to a solid and memorable meal.

It’s the latter factor that is one of the main contributing factors that makes dining at Noosa’s Sails Restaurant such a standout, as its raw location on Hastings Street overlooking the absolute beachfront makes it hard to beat.

Clocking in at #4 on our list of Australia’s Top 10 Beaches when we polled the Australian public back in 2013, Noosa Beach has a well-deserved reputation as a stunning stretch of sand and Sails Restaurant capitalises upon its location by augmenting the outlook with a high quality, upmarket dining experience.

Ironically, the picture-perfect location of Sails makes it quite unlike other restaurants on this list as it comes recommended to dine here during the day as the bright and beautiful panorama of the beach will be in full view. Regardless of when you choose to visit, you’ll be presented with an excellent and balanced menu selection that tends towards the pricey end of the scale but is sublime in its offerings.

This is a place to splurge, with high-end dishes in abundance and seafood featuring bugs, oysters, scallops and various other bounties of the ocean. The scallop ceviche in particular is a testament to both the quality of the ingredients and skills of Sails’ chef. Dishes here are well portioned and presented without being overly large and the menu tastes as good as it reads across the board.

"While dining at Sails requires a not-insignificant monetary investment, the return you get for your money will result in one of the region’s most memorable meals."

Of particular note is Sails Restaurant’s wine menu, which features a dizzying array of wines both imported and local found within, and it’s thick enough to be almost a “book” in itself. As a result, wine aficionados will be in their element here, while the uninitiated can query the knowledgeable staff who are able to advise on pairings and descriptions for each type.

Families who initially may be concerned about bringing the little ones along to a classy establishment need not worry; the restaurant does a good job both catering for and dealing with children and there’s a surprisingly wide range of choices for kids on the menu compared to other similar restaurants.

While the dress code at Sails is smart casual, the restaurant carries with it a premium feeling, which emanates both from the high-end decor and the friendly yet professional attitudes of the staff. It’s a positive reflection of the quality of the establishment that many of the waitstaff have remained in their roles for long periods of time. They truly know how to make their patrons feel special and are always willing to go the extra mile to accommodate certain needs or requests.

In all, this is a long-running and “signature” restaurant that provides a unique experience unlike almost any other on the Sunshine Coast. While dining at Sails requires a not-insignificant monetary investment, the return you get for your money will result in one of the region’s most memorable meals.

6. Elements at Montville

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Location: 38 Kondalilla Falls Road, Montville

Cuisine: Cafe/ Tea House

This charming little hybrid cafe/tea house nestled in the Sunshine Coast hinterland is both quaint and full of character. Featuring innovative and tasty food that is overall inexpensive given both its quality and lovely aspect it is set in a location just a short drive from the centre of hinterland town Montville. Elements offers a combination of wonderful rural views that compliment its dining nicely while being one of the Sunshine Coast’s best spots for high tea.

While this isn’t the place to go if you’re looking for a full degustation-style meal, it’s a great way to finish off an afternoon of hiking and exploration in the hinterland. Combining the best parts of outlook, food quality, decoration and service Elements at Montville makes for one of the hinterland’s go-to spots for breakfast and light refreshments.

The food on offer here is more traditional British/Australian morning tea style than hearty restaurant – think fresh, warm scones, French toast, grilled sourdough etc. However Elements do each of these and more with some interesting takes and ingredients incorporated to make them something of a break from the norm.

Traditional sandwiches have added ingredients that make them more memorable than their namesake and the exquisite home-made desserts come straight from the oven. Add to this a range of wonderful home-cooked pastries and there’s enough to satisfy all but the biggest of appetites here.

"Elements offers a combination of wonderful rural views that augment its dining nicely with being one of the Sunshine Coast’s best spots for high tea."

Those after a beverage will likewise find Elements sublime, as there are extensive tea offerings of various types both herbal and miscellaneous.

From such far-flung places as Madagascar and beyond as well as excellent coffee for those who need their caffeine fix. Early risers will also be happy to know that excellent breakfasts are also on offer, with many of the staple favourites served along with some extra little surprises.

Lunch is a similar affair, and while the menu is not extensive each item it features is both well crafted and filling enough – especially when accompanied by the various sides most order. Presentation of dishes is above-average across the board and it’s clear that plenty of care is taken in the preparation and delivery of dishes from kitchen to table. High tea, however, remains the star and its lovely tiered offering is a favourite for those looking to indulge.

Decor at Elements on Montville also exudes charm, while it trends slightly towards the feminine, the wonderful table decorations with a funky, retro-style feel make for dining with a difference to the standard city cafe. Service also reflects this, conducted in a kind and relaxed manner that is still prompt and with minimal wait times.

The cafe also has a charming gift shop at the front that features all sorts of unique handcrafted goods that’s a pleasure to explore and grab a keepsake. If you’re in the hinterland area or planning to explore the nearby Kondalilla Falls, be sure to stop by Elements at Montville when the stomach starts to rumble.

7. Noosa Cruiser Restaurant & Bar

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Location: Noosa Marina, Noosa

Cuisine: A La Carte

Part restaurant, part entertainment experience, part sightseeing journey; Noosa Cruiser Restaurant & Bar (formerly the Noosa Cruising Restaurant) is an excellent go-to dining option for first-time visitors to the region. Given that the Noosa River is one of the region’s most picturesque natural highlights, the marriage of eat-and-see is a logical one and the picturesque nature of the route the cruise takes makes it an obvious choice for special occasions.

Couple the fact that the dining offered on board Noosa Cruiser is on par with quality land-based restaurants and not simply a finger-food or a half-hearted buffet, and this smooth journey up and down the river becomes a wholesome evening out.

While there are a variety of cruise options the restaurant offers, the main standout is the dinner cruise. With its quality three-course a la carte menu, guests are offered choices between steak, seafood, chicken and vegetarian, all of which are prepared and cooked on board. Due to the intimate setting and limited number of tables, meals on offer are able to be properly hand-crafted rather than mass produced and generic.

Eye fillet in particular is a standout for meat lovers due to its exceptionally tender nature and comes guaranteed to be cooked exactly how you order it. Tables on the vessel are well spaced out and the dining area is spacious enough to ensure that the dining experience never feels overly crowded and carries with it an enjoyable and luxurious atmosphere.

"There are few experiences in the region that so succinctly sum up what visiting Noosa is all about, and as a result of booking here you’re in for a treat that delights both the eyes and tastebuds alike."

Being a cruise, the evening isn’t merely just about dining. Throughout the journey plenty of educational and entertaining information about Noosa that ranges everywhere between history and gossip is dispensed with wit and enthusiasm without being intrusive. The hosts go out of their way to make guests feel at home, interjecting friendly banter and insider knowledge about the Noosa region as a whole upon request.

In addition, the timing of the cruise coincides with the added benefit of taking in a wonderful Noosa sunset, with the vessel’s spacious windows seemingly designed to capitalise upon this. The option also exists to ascend to the boat’s top deck to take in the sunset’s glow uninhibited while your meal is being prepared – a nice touch that makes the wait for food far more bearable than many other dining establishments.

Those prone to bouts of seasickness mostly need not fear, given the nature of the river, the cruise is gentle and calm so that motion sickness is rarely a problem. Reasonable wine prices round out Noosa Cruiser's overall offerings, with a selection that keeps costs down while still complimenting the dishes on offer.

Given the relatively limited kitchen size and restricted space in which the kitchen staff and hosts have to operate, this is a highly impressive outing that’s ideal for groups who are gracing the Sunshine Coast for the first time. There are few experiences in the region that so succinctly sum up what visiting Noosa is all about, and as a result of booking here you’re in for a treat that delights both the eyes and tastebuds alike.

8. Periwinkle Restaurant

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Location: David Low Way, Peregian Beach, QLD

Cuisine: French

This little slice of France at Peregian Beach on the Sunshine Coast emanates quality in all forms. Periwinkle is run by people who obviously take pride in their cuisine, with the restaurant's French influences obvious and shining through in its mixture of menu, decor and staff. With a welcoming and calm atmosphere, this is a welcome respite from some of the busier bustle of Noosa with a range of dishes that are on-par with equivalent sister restaurants back in Europe.

Periwinkle offers their own take on modern French-Mediterranean cuisine that orients itself around a relatively limited menu - but one which has been limited intentionally in order to focus on what they do best. Dishes served here are both wonderfully-presented and full of flavour, with even relatively "standard" offerings such as the French Onion soup highly memorable in terms of taste.

The menu is constructed with an emphasis on fresh and locally-sourced Sunshine Coast ingredients - particularly seafood - which is used in a number of imaginative ways throughout its dishes. Seafood pot pie and crab souffle are standouts in particular, and both come in ample portion sizes that are quite large compared to many other similar restaurants of such a high standard.

Periwinkle offers a respectable selection of wines available by-the-glass that make for ideal pairings with its flagship dishes, too. Those with a sweet tooth should be sure to try the Creme Brulee to cap off a meal, as it's not only impressively large in size but light and airy while retaining the signature crispiness on the surface that makes the dish so appealing.

"Periwinkle is run by people who obviously take pride in their cuisine, with the restaurant's French influences obvious and shining through in its mixture of menu, decor and staff."

Despite its high quality, Periwinkle also offers a relaxed and friendly atmosphere that could perhaps be best described as "beachy, yet classy and intimate", which sets the scene for the restaurant as an ideal venue for a romantic or "special occasion" dinner equally. Breakfast here is also well worth a visit, with top-notch coffee and a location in which to kick back and watch the world go by.

The restaurant's central location means it does a good job of accommodating for children too; not only inside the restaurant itself, but also due to its adjacent playground just outside that allows the little ones to blow off some steam while you kick back and enjoy the fare on offer.

Service is likewise hard to fault; it's friendly and attentive without being overly so, and meals come surprisingly quick given its high level of popularity at most times of the day. This popularity does mean that bookings are pretty much essential during dinner times, however.

Price-wise, Periwinkle is reasonable (but of course not cheap) given the overall high level of quality, making for a venue that can be visited multiple times throughout the year. The combined variety and quality of the menu makes every visit here a different, yet no less enjoyable adventure.

Combine all of the above, and you've got perhaps the Sunshine Coast's best overall European restaurant.

9. Amici Cafe

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Location: 80 Lower Gay Terrace, Caloundra

Cuisine: Italian

Don’t let the name fool you – Caloundra’s Amici Cafe is more than just a nice location to grab a coffee. This is a full-blown Italian restaurant that brings along with it friendly service and a quality menu from what is one of dining’s staple cuisines. Located in the Aspect Caloundra resort, this is another value-packed entry on this list that’s based around a casual, relaxed and familial atmosphere as opposed to fine dining.

Add to the value of the regular menu the ability to get even more value for money on Amici’s Wednesday discount “Pasta Nights”, and it’s a great go-to dining spot on the Sunshine Coast.

The positives of what Amici offers are far more than simple price, however there’s a robust menu of Italian dishes that include some non-traditional twists. If you’ve got a tried and true favourite or are after something a little different, you’ll be sure to find it here and find it cooked exceptionally well and wonderfully presented. Main dishes are packed with their selected meats, as this isn’t a restaurant that serves a few meagre prawns in order to justify the price of the dish.

Risottos in particular are very well done here; it’s a genre of dish that can sometimes tend to range between “bland” and “uninspired” at many establishments, but Amici has the formula for a thick and flavourful risotto down to a tee. The Fettucine Al Bacio was a personal standout for us, very flavourful as opposed to the sometimes overly minimalist aspect of the dish.

"Main dishes (at Amici) are packed with their selected meats – this isn’t one of those restaurants where you receive a few meagre prawns in order to justify the price of the dish."

Amici Cafe’s pizzas are a favoured meal with locals and some of the best you’ll get on the Sunshine Coast, especially if you’re after takeaway. All pizzas are made from bases that walk the perfect line between thick and thin and come with characteristically generous toppings. This carries over to dessert as well (assuming you can fit one in), with their Bailey’s Creme Brulee being a wonderful spin in particular.

These portions are reflective of meal sizes at the restaurant as a whole, as they’re typically large enough for the average diner to have some left over. If this does happen your food will not go to waste as the staff will always provide a neatly presented version of your leftovers to bring home.

Capping things off are the staff who manage to be exceptionally friendly and personable despite the almost eternally-busy nature of the restaurant, and they are always willing and accommodating when catering for various dietary requirements. Likewise, their timing between courses is impeccable and done with obvious practice, so even on the busiest of nights you’re never left waiting for a meal for overly long periods.

Add in the welcoming and warm decor with nice “fairy light” decorations and you’ve got an unpretentious and down-to-earth dining option in Caloundra that’s an excellent all-rounder with its combined trifecta of price-quality-service.

10. Blue Orchid Thai

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Location: 22 Bulcock Street, Caloundra

Cuisine: Thai

Thai is a cuisine that sometimes carries with it a somewhat generic, takeaway-oriented image due to its increasing prominence across the Australian dining scene; as a result, those Thai restaurants that do the food authentically and well truly stand out. One such restaurant is Caloundra’s Blue Orchid Thai, a long-running establishment that sits upstairs in a nice locale right on the esplanade.

There’s a reason this award-winning restaurant has stayed in business for so long and has satisfied diners for many years, all of which starts with the authenticity of its food. While the menu is fairly conventional as far as Thai offerings go, all of the staples such as green curry, coconut and black sticky rices, massaman beef and various others are prepared using wholly organic ingredients which when combined with the talents of the experienced chef leads to meals that seldom disappoint.

Curries in particular are packed with flavour without being overly spiced, and the signature Blue Orchid Duck dish is a standout that incorporates a wonderfully flavoured sauce that’s enjoyable without being overpowering. Regular chef specials on the menu are available to help keep the costs down at what is already a very reasonably-priced venue to dine at, and it’s rounded out by a number of well-priced wines and a great assortment of exotic beers.

Dishes are served in huge portions too, which adds even more value for your money; you’ll never go away from Blue Orchid with a grumbling stomach.

"This rates as one of the Sunshine Coast’s best restaurants as far as the balance between price and quality goes."

The atmosphere in the restaurant is subdued and fairly dim, with mood-style lighting in the evenings which can be a little dark. Decorations and decor in general is quite well done and appropriately Thai-themed without being over done, while the waitstaff are decked out in traditional outfits for an additional sense of atmosphere.

Service here is also extremely prompt; it’s obvious they have their operations running smoothly from years of practice and as a result wait times are almost never a negative factor.

Due to Blue Orchid’s popularity, if you’re planning on dining in reservations made in advance are essential, and as a result of its reputation amongst locals the restaurant can be noisy as it’s always packed with loyal customers.

In all, however, this rates as one of the Sunshine Coast’s best restaurants as far as the balance between price vs. quality goes, and if you’re looking for an enjoyable meal all for a very modest price – whether you’re eating in or simply picking up a takeaway – Blue Orchid Thai comes out with full marks in the “budget dining” category of this list.

The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast, QLD

by Experience Oz staff
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One of South East Queensland’s favourite escape destinations due to an overall laid-back atmosphere, an array of wonderful beaches and some incredible weather, the Sunshine Coast is a popular choice for those looking to take the family to a lovely natural spot without the excessive crowds that are common in many other holiday hotspots in the state.

The Sunshine Coast is as diverse as it is beautiful – home to an array of man-made and natural attractions, it’s a location that provides a great balance of things to see and do; those who love the water will be in their element here, however the coast is just one of the region’s highlights.

There’s a great hinterland area, vibrant markets, winding inland waterways and animal attractions that cover the spectrum of tourist activities in order to truly provide “something for everyone”.

But if you’re travelling to the Sunshine Coast for the first time, with such a diverse range of offerings, how should you best spend your time there? To lend a hand, we’ve put together a detailed list of the Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast and surrounds to ensure you get the most out of your trip to this South East QLD oasis.

1. Noosa Main Beach

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Location: Noosa, QLD

Of all places on the Sunshine Coast you'll likely see used in promotional material touting its beauty, there's one that stands out among the rest. While it's home to many quality beaches and breaks throughout its 70+ kilometres worth of coastline, Noosa's Main Beach is a picture-perfect example of a quality beachfront area while still offering convenient facilities – simply put, it's an example of a wonderful natural stretch of sand coupled with quality city planning done right.

Picture-perfect sand, pristine water, waves that are ideal for swimming, easy access and well-patrolled are all contributing factors as to what makes this spot (and its surrounding suburb as a whole) such a desirable place to visit. Boasting a relatively rare north-facing aspect that provides outstanding sheltered conditions as compared to many other beaches in similar circumstances, it's a spot that's as ideal for enjoying watersports as it is for pure relaxation.

The lack of surrounding highrises adjacent to the beach also serves to give an open, spacious feel without feeling overcommercialised that is uncommon so close to development and holiday accommodation.

All the staples of a perfect beach are there – vivid turquoise water contrasts against clean, white sand that's generally free of litter, a reflection of the fact that taking care of their beaches is a point of pride for Sunshine Coast locals. Pods of dolphins can also often be found just off the beach's main strip, with the ability to spot whales during their annual migratory season also an added bonus for beachgoers.

"All the staples of a perfect beach are there – vivid turquoise water contrasts against clean, white sand that's largely free of litter."

Introductory surfers will likewise be in their element here, as the beach boasts some great conditions with gentle breaks that pick up some around the Noosa Park Headland – there's a reason why this spot serves as the home of the annual Noosa Festival of Surfing. Fisherman and enthusiasts looking to drop a line also tend to be big fans of Noosa Main Beach as it's possible to come away with a decent haul of flathead, bream, dart, whiting and many other popular species without having to venture offshore.

Those sticking to the land can enjoy a nicely laid-out boardwalk that offers a meandering route along the shorefront and into the surrounding National Park, while an array of restaurants lie just across from the sand that provide the ability to enjoy some lovely seaside dining with a great view – particularly when the moon is at its fullest.

An added bonus that Noosa Main beach has over many other popular Aussie beach destinations is its large, free all-day carpark that makes getting a decent spot without having to pay through the nose a viable option – assuming you arrive early enough. Due to its popularity, the beach can often become exceedingly busy, particularly during school holiday times, and while this doesn't detract from the beauty of the beach it can make fighting for a parking space somewhat of a chore.

Once you've successfully parked, however, you'll be presented with plenty of activities both on the beach and in the surrounding area which offer enough variety to enjoy a full day in the sunshine.

Lastly, the local Surf Life Saving Club do an admirable job of ensuring the beach is regularly patrolled and provides numerous dedicated lifeguards to oversee the proceedings. The club even has the added benefit of offering relatively cheap lunches for those looking for a good value meal. Good quality public restrooms and showers round out the facilities, while local wildlife and exotic birds only help serve to add to the ambience.

One of Australia's top beaches, Noosa Main Beach is the top dog when it comes to attractions on the Sunshine Coast, and living proof that when it comes down to it, nature often trumps all.

2. Wildlife & fun at Australia Zoo

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Location: 1638 Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, QLD

There are few wildlife parks in the country more famous than the Sunshine Coast's iconic Australia Zoo, given a worldwide spotlight in large part due to the efforts of late, great Aussie icon Steve Irwin and carried on by the continued passionate efforts of the Irwin family.

As such, it's an attraction that isn't just an essential stop on any Sunshine Coast itinerary – in many cases, it's the main reason for families making the trip to the Sunshine Coast in the first place. While it's become more and more commercialised throughout the years, it's never lost touch with the its original messages and core values of conservation and respect for the animal world that were established from the beginning, and this is obvious throughout the facility from staff enthusiasm through to animal care and welfare.

Australia Zoo boasts an incredibly diverse array of animals from all parts of both the animal kingdom and the globe – all the typical Aussie favourites such as kangaroos, koalas, wombats and, of course, crocodiles are here in full, but it's the likes of the massive and comprehensive African exhibit that truly make this feel like a world-class wildlife attraction.

It's also continually growing, with its massive grounds still featuring plenty of opportunity for expansion, and it's due in large part to this scale of grounds that the animals are treated to large and spacious enclosures that give them enough freedom to enjoy their lives while still offering quality viewing angles for visitors. The animal's habitats are also impeccably clean, and all the animals look both happy and well taken care of – a testament to the efforts of the staff and management.

"Given the scale of the zoo, the number of shows and presentations, and the sheer variety on offer, Australia Zoo is a place that can be truly considered an all-day attraction."

Given the scale of the zoo, the number of shows and presentations, and the sheer variety on offer, Australia Zoo is a place that can be properly considered an all-day attraction rather than just a few hours, which means despite the price you end up getting considerable “bang for your buck”. The zoo's crocodile show is one of its most iconic daily presentations, and it's got a well-deserved reputation as the experienced staff aren't shy about getting up close to feed these massive reptiles.

Other interesting shows provide an emphasis on individual animals – koalas, otters, tortoises and the impressive birds of prey are all given their own moment to shine, and help round out the day as well as providing the chance to rest your legs from walking through the large grounds of the zoo. For those feeling a little worn out, the zoo also offers a shuttle bus to travel from one major section to the next, which is a nice touch.

As far as design and facilities go, Australia Zoo also scores high marks here; it's got a huge sheltered food court with a great variety of food – this isn't your typical small attraction's cafe. In addition, the zoo's open and wide design makes visiting in crowded time periods of the year less of a hassle than other similar facilities, and there's also ample parking that can help reduce the typical headaches associated with finding a spot.

There are also plenty of optional extras – such as animal encounters with otters, zebras, giraffes and more – as well as feeding, photos and tours which are all enjoyable and only limited by how deep you're willing to reach into your wallet.

There's a reason Australia Zoo has such a strong reputation on both the global and international stages - as one of Australia's premier wildlife facilities, there's no reason a first-timer to the Sunshine Coast should miss visiting here unless they have absolutely no interest in wildlife. A definite Sunshine Coast must for all ages.

3. Aquatic entertainment at SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast

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Location: Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba, QLD

The Sunshine Coast shines when it comes to animal attractions considering its relatively small population, with one of the prime examples of this being expansive and popular aquarium SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast (formerly UnderWater World).

Having been in existence since back in 1989, it's been a staple attraction of the Sunshine Coast for a substantial amount of time yet has been continually revamped and renewed to stay fresh and modern while adding a number of exhibits and new sea creatures to form a comprehensive marine-viewing experience. The attraction is of a surprisingly high quality that competes – and even exceeds – that of similar aquariums in bigger cities around Australia, and puts an emphasis on interaction and education that ends up being great for both adults and kids alike.

Located in the Sunshine Coast suburb of Mooloolaba on the waterfront, UnderWater World provides the chance to look at numerous different facets of the underwater kingdom while hopefully learning something in the process – there are plenty of facts and opportunities to acquire some new knowledge dotted throughout, combined with a range of informative talks and demonstrations.

There's a touch pool with the ability to get hands-on with some reef creatures, an otter presentation that goes into detail about these fun aquatic mammals, a detailed look at jellyfish and more. The undisputed highlight, however, is the wonderful seal show that's always a hit with the kids – it's great to see these intelligent creatures interact and perform, and the staff manage to stay enthusiastic and upbeat despite no doubt having repeated the same performance and jokes hundreds of times.

"The aquarium is of a surprisingly high quality that competes – and even exceeds – that of similar aquariums in bigger cities around Australia, with an emphasis on interaction and education."

On the exhibit side of things, the aquarium also shines – its key drawcard is its great walk-through tunnel that follows a path underneath the multi-million litre oceanarium that gives an up-close look at the likes of grey nurse and Wobbegong sharks, massive yet graceful stingrays, large turtles and numerous kinds of fish of varying colours and species.

Couple this with some lovely displays of coral reef environments and sixteen different themed “zones” in total each highlighting a different part of the marine world, and there's more than enough to keep even those with the shortest attention spans occupied for several hours.

In addition, SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast offers a range of optional animal experiences for those looking to directly interact with various animals – visitors have the chance to do a variety of experiences with the seals (including face-to-face encounters, swims and even a full-blown “trainer for a day” behind-the-scenes tour), while there are also shark snorkel and dive adventures for those brave enough to come face to face with these oceanic predators.

Given the quality of the facility and the reasonable ticket prices given the quantity of things to see and do (tickets are cheaper when purchasing online rather than at the counter), plus the ability to receive a pass out to exit and enjoy lunch in one of the surrounding restaurants before returning, it's a solid all-round animal attraction that's one of the key items on any itinerary for Sunshine Coast first-timers.

4. Maleny Botanic Gardens

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Location: 233 Maleny-Stanley River Rd, Maleny, QLD

The Maleny area of the Sunshine Coast's hinterland is perhaps the best overall showcase of the region's non-beach nature, and its lovely Botanic Gardens are a microcosm of this all contained within a single delightful hub.

Set out over a spacious 14 hectare area, the gardens are nestled amongst some wonderfully lush rainforest surrounds and provide a stunning outlook towards the iconic Glasshouse Mountains range – with their host of unique and unusual formations – in the distance. The gardens boast an incredibly diverse array of plant and floral life and emits an undeniable aura of peace, while the sections featuring mass-planted flowers help to add a dazzling amount of vivid colours to the grounds.

Simply put, the grounds here are immaculate – given its expansive size, nothing is overgrown or unkempt, and the modest entry fee that visitors pay goes directly towards keeping the gardens in this degree of tip-top shape.

Bodies of water such as water features, waterfalls and ponds dotted throughout are an additional lovely touch that helps add to the relaxing atmosphere, while winding pathways that span an impressive 6km in total take you on a lovely on-foot journey involving everything from scenic lookout points to treks into the heart of the rainforest greenery.

Upon entering you'll be given a map of the grounds that helps point out various highlights and ensures you won't get lost along the way, and tour guides are also available to take you on a informative journey into one of the best surprises of the gardens.

"Set out over a spacious 14 hectare area, the gardens are nestled amongst some wonderfully lush rainforest surrounds and provide a stunning outlook towards the iconic Glasshouse Mountains range."

This surprise would be the sub-section featuring the “Bird World” walk-in aviary that's well worth the price of admission and an impressive showcase of a huge number of species of different colours, sizes and shapes. Everything from huge and colourful Macaws to various parrots and smaller species such as quails are here, and many of them are quite tame and friendly, allowing kids and interested adults to get hands-on with some of the more social birds.

Tours of the aviary last roughly 40 minutes, and the guides are available to explain and curate all the bird species for you along the way – they're extremely knowledgeable and obviously passionate about what they do, and you'll no doubt come away from the walk having acquired some new avian knowledge.

In terms of other ways to spend time here, in general it's a wonderful spot to enjoy a cup of fresh tea and perhaps some scones in one of the gazebos while soaking in the view overlooking the mountains, and there are also plenty of benches and picnic tables to enjoy a BYO lunch and help keep costs down.

While it takes a fair amount of effort to get out there – expect around a 45 minute drive from most central Sunshine Coast suburbs – the Maleny Botanic Gardens are a great, budget-conscientious option for enjoying a day on the Sunshine Coast that can be combined with other highlights of the Maleny area (such as wineries) for a full and relaxing day out.

5. Aussie World

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Location: 1 Downunder Drive, Palmview QLD

Aussie World on the Sunshine Coast is part theme park, part country fair combining all the thrills and feed good laughs for the entire family to enjoy.

It is impossible to miss Aussie World as it is conveniently located on the Bruce Highway near Caloundra.

Aussie World’s motto is ‘fun is our thing’ and it would be impossible for kids not to enjoy themselves here with over 30 amusement rides that range from tame ferris wheels, bumper cars, merry go rounds to rollercoasters and scarier thrill rides.

And while the park is marketed to younger children, don’t overlook the place because there are plenty of activities, thrill rides and attractions for the adults too.

And while the park is marketed to younger children, don’t overlook the place because there are plenty of activities, thrill rides and attractions for the adults too.

Once you have tackled the rides take a scary walk through the Mayhem Maze or have your mind boggled in Professor Bogglesworth’s Illusionarium.

Then there is the Platypus Ponds Mini Golf and how could we forget the iconic Pub serving ice cold beer and delicious grub (food).

Aussie World is an ideal place to visit on the Sunshine Coast whether you are looking for a half day or full day activity and is open daily from 10am to 3pm. Extended hours apply on weekends and public holidays.

6. Go Whale Watching

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Location: Various locations, Sunshine Coast, QLD

With a developing whale sightseeing industry and a number of factors working in its favour such as high whale numbers and reliable weather, the Sunshine Coast makes for an excellent whale watching spot during the annual migratory season.

As the Sunshine Coast recently continues to become more popular as a tourist destination, so too does the quantity of its whale watching tour options, with visitors now spoiled for choice of itineraries and operators with which to see these gentle ocean giants up close.

Companies such as Australian Whale Watching, Noosa Blue Fishing Charters, Sunreef Mooloolaba, and Whale One all offer their own variation on the whale watching formula, with departure point the main differentiating factor.

The Sunshine Coast’s whale watching tour and cruise options are typically divided up into two separate categories – those which depart from Mooloolaba, and those which head out from Noosa.

"The Sunshine Coast's whale watching scene has a number of factors working in its favour, such as high whale numbers and reliable weather."

With a shorter peak season (typically only lasting from August to October) the Sunshine Coast offers a briefer window for seeing whales, however if you happen to be there during those three prime months it makes for one of the most viable spots in Queensland in which to do so.

One of the key points that differentiates the Sunshine Coast from other whale watching destinations is that you are more likely to encounter the sight of Killer Whales than many other locations; while the whales themselves are not that rare, getting a glimpse of them doesn’t tend to happen very often off Australia’s east coast. It's also one of the first places in Australia to offer a "swim with the whales" experience that allows you to get a fish's eye view of the whales behind a boat.

Couple this with the simple fact that the Sunshine Coast is a great destination to holiday for various other reasons, and if your holiday coincides with the three month whale watching window be sure to make a slot for this experience on your travel schedule. Expect to pay around $99 per adult for a standard Sunshine Coast whale watching experience, although sales do pop up regularly.

7. The Ginger Factory

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Location: 50 Pioneer Rd, Yandina, QLD

One of the Sunshine Coast's longest-running family attractions, the Ginger Factory at Yandina is actually far more interesting and upbeat than its name suggests. Far more than just a conveyor belt that cranks out ginger-related goods, the Ginger Factory is a veritable theme park of sorts in its own right – it's a complex that features tours, relaxed rides, good food and some lovely gardens all wrapped up in a decidedly ginger-y package.

Obviously, this should all be prefaced with the disclaimer that if you don't like the taste of ginger, then you likely won't get the most out of your experience here, however there's enough non-taste-based entertainment so that even anti-ginger crusaders should find enough to keep them busy within the facility's increasingly-growing grounds.

The Ginger Factory sits along the Bruce Highway (the “main vein” road of the inner Sunshine Coast) and can be entered completely free of charge, with enough things to see and do within that can be enjoyed without paying a cent if you so choose. Kids will obviously get the most out of this – there's a decked-out playground that little ones will love, while simply exploring the expansive and exotic gardens is pleasantly enjoyable for all ages.

The gardens are kept in great condition and are immaculately kept, and feature a range of tropical plant life and spacious grassed areas ideal for relaxing in the sun. There's a great range of food and ice cream on offer (featuring a variety of unique flavours made from seasonal Sunshine Coast produce), as well as a range of smaller stores which offer various trinkets and souvenirs.

"Far more than just a conveyor belt that cranks out ginger-related goods, the Ginger Factory is a veritable theme park of sorts in its own right – it's a complex that features tours, relaxed rides, good food and some lovely gardens."

To get the most out of your time at the Ginger Factory however, you'll likely have to reach into your wallet at least a little – the main “stars” of the show here are its two rides and its excellent ginger tour. At the bare minimum, it's highly recommended to hop aboard “Moreton”, the 100-year-old cane train that takes guests on a leisurely tour around the perimeter of the facility to a relaxed look at the grounds and gardens; this can be purchased standalone or as part of a package.

Meanwhile the “Overboard” boat ride takes passengers on a miniature 'around the world' adventure as the vessel chases the gingerbread man that's sure to be a hit with younger kids. Likewise, the attraction's ginger factory tour is both interesting and detailed, providing a closer look at how ginger is made and packaged before culminating in some taste-testing, while the beekeeping and production show details the process behind that sweetest of syrups.

While each of these can be purchased individually, there's also the option to buy a combined pass that includes all of the above for a reduced price, and thus comes highly recommended if you're looking to spend a solid amount of time here.

An attraction that all ages can enjoy, the Ginger Factory is a highway-stop style family attraction done right – even minor elements such as its cafe are surprisingly good, and the chance to buy all kinds of ginger-related sweets, powders and other goods makes for a day out that's sure to at least be a break from the norm for most families.

8. Take a Cruise with Coastal Cruises Mooloolaba

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Location: 123 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba

While the coastline is perhaps the most obvious star drawcard for visitors to the Sunshine Coast, be sure not to turn a blind eye to its inner waterways – the region boasts a wide network of rivers and canals that serve to provide an entirely new perspective that simply exploring the beach can't.

It's in this regard that hopping aboard a vessel for a journey into its inner reaches truly shines, and few offer a better dose of this than Coastal Cruises Mooloolaba who provide water-borne adventures through a blend of harbour, river and canal environments aimed to showcase the best of two of the Sunshine Coast's major highlights - its sunsets and fresh local seafood.

Based out of the suburb of Mooloolaba's central wharf, the trips head out along the river mouth and out along the waterways with views reaching all the way down to Noosa's headland. During the cruise, the vessel winds its way on a leisurely course and features comprehensive commentary on the local bodies of water including prominent residents, marine life and more that strikes an ideal balance between being entertaining and informative.

Along the way, the cruise stops at the fish markets at Mooloolaba's Spit to pick up a bevy of fresh seafood – those taking the lunch cruise option here will have the option of choosing between four different adult lunch meals (fish and chips, calamari, king prawns or a burger with sides), and also have the option to upgrade to a fully-fledged seafood platter featuring this aforementioned fresh catch.

"Few offer a better dose of relaxation than Coastal Cruises Mooloolaba who provide water-borne adventures through a blend of harbour, river and canal environments aimed to showcase the best of the Sunshine Coast's major highlights."

Along the way you'll travel along more man-made canals and get a firsthand look at some of the exclusive and gaudily ostentatious waterfront properties belonging to the rich and famous – some of the pricing figures paid for these pieces of real estate are truly staggering and some of the ritziest the Sunshine Coast has to offer.

Add to this the chance to see marine life (dolphins can occasionally be seen jumping in the bay at the mouth of the river) and get some great snapshots of the glowing sun on the water if taking their sunset cruise option, and its a variety of spectacles on offer that prevents the trip from getting boring.

The ability to grab yourself a wine or other drinks on board from the licensed bar while watching this spectacle pass by is a welcome one, and the entire atmosphere of the cruise is made warm due to the attitudes of the friendly, helpful and jovial staff. Given that it's also great value to money – lunch cruises are priced at $35 with your choice of mains while sunset cruises are a mere $25, with both options lasting 90 minutes – there are few better and more relaxing ways to do a bit of Sunshine Coast sightseeing without having to tire your legs than this.

9. Glass House Mountains

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Location: Glass House Mountains, Sunshine Coast, QLD

Nestled discreetly behind the Sunshine Coast in the hinterland are the Glass House Mountains which are perfect for those seeking a quiet retreat in the countryside.

The Glass House Mountains has many unique and charming villages and cosy bed and breakfasts with Montville and Maleny being the most popular places to stay. While these villages have become more and more commercialised over the years, the towns are a great place to grab a bite to eat and refuel as you explore the region.

Pick your location right and you could be dining on the outdoor deck with a jaw dropping views of the rolling countryside and distant ocean views.

As you drive through the hinterland, stop at scenic lookout points, take it easy on the slow tourist drives, wander into the rainforest in search of wildlife and waterfalls or stop by at Maleny Cheese before indulging in some wine tasting at Maleny Mountain Wines.

There are many hidden gems off the beaten track which are best explored by car with no public transport to these areas.

The main draw for most visitors, however, are the outdoor walks to view the prominent and striking peaks that attain the name of the ‘Glasshouse Mountains’.

Walking tracks lead visitors through dense forest to lookouts with panoramic views of the region. Avid outdoor enthusiasts will find the challenge of abseiling and rock climbing along the summit tracks exciting.

For those who aren’t keen on walking but still love to visit natural landscapes then you can cheat a little and drive yourself to The Glass House Mountains Café for a nice warm coffee, sandwiches or Devonshire tea overlooking Mount Coonowrin.

Nature lovers can explore the Sunshine Coast hinterland and Glass House Mountains further with full day and half day bushwalking or bird watching adventures.

View a selection of Sunshine Coast Hinterland tours below.

10. Go Karting at the Big Kart Track

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Location: 2310 Steve Irwin Way, Landsborough, QLD

One of the easiest go-to recommendations for those travelling to the Sunshine Coast with kids along for the ride, the Sunshine Coast's Big Kart Track is the largest commercial track in the country and features 1.2km of asphalt-laden surface on which to put your driving skills to the test.

Capable of running up to 50 go-karts at any one time, the Big Kart Track can be found inland from the main coastal hubs of the Sunshine Coast (roughly a 20 minute drive from Caloundra) and sits amongst some pleasant Aussie bushland.

After arriving and booking in your go on the track – there are a variety of minute-based options available including 15, 30, and 60 minutes to choose from - you'll be given a briefing on driving techniques and safety from the friendly and enthusiastic staff, who are always careful to go into detail without being overly complicated for the kids taking part to follow.

The large and spacious nature of the track means that first-timers will have plenty of room to manouevre while still providing the ability for faster drivers to pass without fear of collisions, making it a truly “family-friendly” option ideal for beginners or nervous drivers. Kids looking to get in on the driving action need to be at least 12 years of age to drive, and as long as they meet this and the minimum height requirements (152cm), they'll be presented with a great way to spend half a day.

"The large and spacious nature of the track means that first-timers will have plenty of room to manouevre while still providing the ability for faster drivers to pass without fear of collisions, making it a truly 'family-friendly' option."

Karts at the Big Kart Track are both safe and well-maintained while still retaining a decent sense of speed, and the track itself is both very well constructed and kept in tip-top condition. The track offers a solid balance of corners and longer straights with the occasional hairpin, which can make for some fun challenges when tackled at higher speeds for the more experienced or daring drivers.

While it's perhaps not the cheapest activity around – and it's definitely a good idea to go at a time either earlier or later than the middle of the day as it can get quite hot in the warmer seasons – the Big Kart Track is a must for racing enthusiasts and families alike visiting the Sunshine Coast, particularly those with young teenagers.

If you've ever wanted to try go-karting, there are few better places in Australia to take the plunge and do so.