Despite stretching some 7000km from north to south, the friendly and fierce battle fought along Queensland’s coastline boils down to the 300km shoreline which separates Noosa on the Sunshine Coast and Byron Bay just south of the Gold Coast. And the pressing question is this: Which is the Coast with the most?
Sunshine Coast: Sophisticated and Serene
One of the poster girls of Australia’s holiday destinations, the Sunshine Coast has built its reputation around an intoxicating blend of beach, hinterland, luxury and laid-back lifestyle experiences.
Stretching from Caloundra in the south to Noosa in the north, and framed by the rolling hills of Maleny and Montville to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, it’s little wonder travellers are unable to resist her allure. While world-class restaurants and luxury accommodation options have been added over the decades, the undeniable beach village vibe prevails and despite her sleek sophistication, this remains a sarong and thongs kind of place.
Abounding with natural beauty and an abundance of outdoor activities, markets, shops and festivals and events, the Sunshine Coast simply sparkles. If you only had one day to experience this slice of paradise, there’s plenty of ways to maximise a visit, from breakfast beachside through to cocktail hour.
Yes you're on holiday but few things beat waking up to the sound of the surf. To maximise any Sunshine Coast experience, sunrise is arguably magic hour. Wake up at Netanya Noosa Resort, overlooking Main Beach, and choose between a morning walk in Noosa National Park or a SUP yoga and Pilates session on the Noosa River.
Starving Sunshine Coasters adore Seasons for breakfast, due to its absolute beachfront locale. Arrive early for a prime position and listen to the gently crashing waves while dining on a Seasons ‘classic’ of poached or scrambled eggs with home-made chilli jam on classic white toast and a freshly squeezed juice.
Beat the bargain hunters and drive out to the Eumundi Markets, every Wednesday and Saturday. Amid the hundreds of colourful stalls, head to Eumundi Square which supports emerging Sunshine Coast micro businesses such as Lily and Jordan, Yumcha Child and Dolly Did It. Browse Berkelouw Books for some beautiful tomes.
Continue the journey west into the lush green hinterland, which denotes the townships of Montville and Maleny. Enjoy a morning Cup ‘o Joe at Maleny Coffee, take a farm tour of Maleny Dairies and check out the Clock Shop and local skincare range Mukti. Wander the main street for arts and crafts.
Hook back slightly along this picturesque ridge to Montville in time for lunch at Flame Vineyard and Restaurant. Snatch a seat on the deck and enjoy home-grown grassfed Angus beef served with home-grown herbs and vegetables, washed down with a Montville shiraz while overlooking the vines and a distant sea view.
Head southeast towards Caloundra and choose from King’s Bulcock or Golden Beach for a refreshing afternoon dip. Paddle in the Pumicestone Passage, tackle the 28km Caloundra Coastal Pathway which starts at Pelican Waters and ends at Tewantin or simply laze in the shade under a tree.
Drive north towards Mooloolaba for a mid-afternoon wander along the vibrant esplanade. Check out Carmel’s Designs for great local fashion that captures the ocean lifestyle before heading to Taps Mooloolaba for a cold craft beer. Choose from eight flavours weekly or the two regulars on tap.
To truly embrace the sunset, head to the Noosa River and the west-facing Noosa Boathouse and enjoy the ‘sunset bar menu’ on the top deck. Once the sun goes, head downstairs for some truly innovative dining on regional cuisine, such as the Mooloolaba prawn salad and seafood platter.
It would be criminal to end a Sunshine Coast day without a cocktail back at Noosa and Miss Moneypenny’s has arguably the best list in town. Start with a champagne cocktail or head straight to the hard hitters such as the $39.50 Bloody Mary share cocktail with house-made Bloody Mary mix.
Seeking a new perspective?: Queensland by Air: Get High in the Sunshine State
In case you're wondering where to stay: Ravishing Resorts of Queensland
Gold Coast: Glitzy and Glamorous
This is a tale about itsy bitsy bikinis and where surfers discovered their paradise. It’s about a bloke who made a living spraying tourists with golden tans even before they braved the beach, and a gaggle of glittery gals who have been feeding parking meters for more than 50 years.
For this is a place in which the more things change, the more they stay the same. Sure, the white-shoe brigade, who turned the Goldie into a major mecca with their skyhigh ambitions and developments to match are no longer walking the strip, but their spirit lives on.
This is a destination of dichotomies and delights. From the salty-haired surfers who call these warm waters home, to first-class shopping, dining and accommodation, it is a haven for every kind of traveller. Lovers of clean and green flock to the hinterland for its walks and waterfalls. Those who crave nostalgia head to the southern Gold Coast and beyond to Byron Bay for their retro fix.
The only rule? Bikinis rule.
With so many great sunrise vantage points, the only difficulty is working out where to start the perfect day. The best bet, let the weather conditions dictate your decision as there’s an ideal spot for any scenario.
Wake up at Palazzo Versace and head for sunrise at The Spit where the first surfers are making their appearance, just as the last blush of seafood trawlers return through the Gold Coast seaway with last night’s catch. Sit on the seaway wall and enjoy the cool quiet.
Drive to Broadbeach and Elk Espresso for a dirty chai and some hearty, spicy breakfast nachos. Watch the cool crowd fill this cavern with chatter and read the Gold Coast Bulletin before hitting the road, west towards Nerang and up to Lamington National Park.
Choose from one of the many walking circuits at Lamington National Park before the heat of the day and the crowds set in. Admire the black land mullet that calls Lamington home and take a wander along the Treetops Walk before heading back down the mountain.
Drive southeast until you hit Currumbin Creek and grab a coffee at the laidback Currumbin Boatshed before hiring a kayak or SUP from Currumbin Bait and Tackle. Take your time and enjoy this waterway which is only accessible to non-motorised water craft and is flanked by mangroves.
Arrive at Point Danger in time for lunch. High on the hill sits Cafe D’Bar which specialises in affordable seafood and great fresh juices. Admire the eclectic art in this establishment before sitting on the hill and watching the surfers below at Duranbah Beach.
If inspiration hits, you could head further south to Byron Bay for a surf or just down the hill from Point Danger to Snapper Rocks where the likes of Mick Fanning like to hang ten. Spend the afternoon strolling along Coolangatta with its coffee shops and antique stores.
Head back north towards Burleigh Heads. Time permitting take the ocean view circuit in Burleigh National Park. Stop at the bottle shop and grab a stubbie of the local Burleigh Brew. Sip on the 28 Pale Ale and watch the sunset from Burleigh Hill.
At the foot of the hill sit two great dining options: Oskars, which overlooks Burleigh Beach, or The Fish House, just across the road. Whichever way you go, both offer fresh local seafood, inspired drinks menus and some of the best service on the Gold Coast.
End the evening at Gold Coast institution Melbas on the Park. Serving cocktails to the Surfers Paradise set since 1981, it’s hard to go wrong with a post-dinner drink here. Take a stroll along Cavill Mall and slip your shoes off and into the sands of Surfers Paradise beach before heading home.