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The Top Things to do on the Sunshine Coast

The Sunshine Coast lives up to its name with balmy weather, a plethora of beaches and family-friendly attractions. You’ll be spoilt for choice with all the best things to do in the Sunshine Coast available to book online here. Feel the sand between your toes and learn to surf at Noosa Beach or get up close with incredible wildlife at Australia Zoo and SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast. A hot lap around the go kart track is a great activity for all ages. The Sunshine Coast is truly a destination that blends natural beauty with a host of family attractions. Browse and book all your tickets to the top Sunshine Coast attractions here.

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The Top 10 Things to do on the 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.

The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast - Wildlife & fun at Australia Zoo

1. Wildlife & fun at Australia Zoo

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.

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

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.

The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast - Aquatic entertainment at SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast

2. 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.

The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast - Aussie World

3. Aussie World

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. With over 30 amusement rides, it's impossible for kids not to have a good time.

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.

The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast - Go Karting at the Big Kart Track

4. Go Karting at the Big Kart Track

Location: 2310 Steve Irwin Way, Landsborough, QLD

Sunshine Coast’s Big Kart Track is one of the easiest go-to suggestions for those travelling with kids in tow. The 1.2 km track will put their driving skills to the test and drive out their competitive spirit too.

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.

The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast - Noosa Everglades

5. 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.
The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast - Go Whale Watching

6. 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.

The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast - The Ginger Factory

7. 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.

The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast - Take a Mooloolaba Cruise

8. 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.

The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast - Skydiving

9. 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.
The Top 10 Things to do on the Sunshine Coast - Treetop Challenge

10. 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.