The top things to do on the Sunshine Coast

Discover the best Sunshine Coast activities from aquariums and zoos, cruises, jet boating, whale watching, treetop adventures and exclusive winery and brewery tours.

The top things to do on the Sunshine Coast

Discover the best Sunshine Coast activities from aquariums and zoos, cruises, jet boating, whale watching, treetop adventures and exclusive winery and brewery tours.

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Top 10 Things to do Sunshine Coast

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 coastline and golden beaches are just one of the region’s highlights.

There’s a great hinterland area, vibrant Eumundi markets, winding inland waterways and animal attractions such as Australia Zoo and the SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast aquarium 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. The Sunshine Coast is a destination that attracts visitors year after year and after a visit, you'll soon understand why.

1. Aquatic entertainment at SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast

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.

Queensland’s largest aquarium, SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast, is home to thousands of curious sea creatures. Come face to face with predators in the shark tunnel, say hello to the seals and penguins and sit down and enjoy the animal talks.

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.


2. Go Whale Watching

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 high whale numbers, reliable weather and gorgeous scenery. You can even jump in the water for an unforgettable swim with majestic Humpback Whales.

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.


3. Aquaduck Sunshine Coast

Cruise the Mooloolaba waterways and explore the Esplanade and Sunshine Strip on a fun 60 minute Aquaduck tour through the Sunshine Coast.

4. Noosa Everglades

Location: 186 Gympie Terrace, Noosaville, Queensland

Experience the untouched Noosa Everglades on a tranquil cruise along the mirror-like waters. See a variety of stunning beaches, pristine waterways, majestic headlands and forested sand dunes on this breathtaking journey.

5. Get Lost At Amaze World

At Amaze World, you'll find a series of mind-boggling puzzles and mazes including an 80m x 80m living hedge maze.

6. The Ginger Factory

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 with 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.


7. Take a Mooloolaba Cruise

Location: 123 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba

While the coastline is the most obvious star drawcard for visitors to the Sunshine Coast, be sure not to turn a blind eye to its inner 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 waterways aiming to showcase the highlights of the Sunshine Coast.

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.


8. Skydiving

Location: Sunshine Coast, Queensland

Looking to live your best life and experience an unbeatable rush on the Sunshine Coast? Tick skydiving off your bucket list once and for all with locations at Bribie Island, Caloundra and Noosa to choose from.

9. Treetop Challenge

Location: 76 Nambour Connection Road, Woombye, Queensland

Suspended in the rainforest, take the kids on a treetop adventure on Australia’s highest courses. Ranging from easy to difficult, the treetop challenge in the Sunshine Coast features 100 obstacles and ziplines to tackle.

10. Maleny Botanic Gardens & Birdworld

Wander the manicured pathways of Maleny Botanic Gardens and make some furry new friends at Bird World in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.
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