How to Do a Sunshine Coast Road Trip
There are so many things to see and do on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia's Sunshine State, it's nearly impossible to list them all. Ready to explore? We help you get under the skin of this region with this ultimate Sunshine Coast road trip itinerary:
Sunshine Coast itinerary
Here's a break down of the best places to stop-off on a Sunshine Coast road trip:
- Rainbow Beach
- Fraser Island
- Hervey Bay
- Noosa Everglades
- Noosa Heads - the 'Relaxation Capital of Australia'
- Glass House Mountains
- Australia Zoo
- Sunshine Coast
Find out more information on each destination below. Ready to book your holiday? Contact us and let our Travel Experts build this tailor-made itinerary for you, or book our Queensland flight and campervan package.
As an area that receives over 260 days of sunshine a year, the Sunshine Coast is certainly very aptly named. Whilst this is surely more than enough to warrant a visit, it is not the only reason to spend some time in this stunning corner of Australia. The region is home to some of the most inspiring and diverse natural attractions in Australia, as well as some of the best places to experience Australia's superb cuisine and burgeoning foodie scene.
This article, pulled together by Flight Centre's Travel Experts, provides a detailed Sunshine Coast road trip itinerary so that you can see (almost) everything this marvellous region has to offer.
Begin in Mooloolaba, a place that is easily accessible from Brisbane via the M1 or, if you prefer, you can fly into Sunshine Coast Airport, which is served by Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Auckland.
Sitting on a spit of land between the Mooloolah River and the azure hues of the Pacific Ocean, Mooloolaba is the ideal point to first experience the Sunshine Coast's outdoorsy and laid-back lifestyle. Laze around the town and ping between the beach and a plethora of excellent seafood restaurants, such as Fish on Parkyn or See Restaurant.
The first journey is to Rainbow Beach, a stretch of sand named after the 72 different colours of silica which can be seen in the cliffs that hem in this stunning spot. Here you can take your pick of ways to get to know the exquisite landscape, from stand-up paddleboarding - 'SUPing' for short - to laying back and soaking up the rays, trying to spot one of the pods of dolphins which call this part of the Pacific Coast home.
Unless you are ignoring your senses completely you will notice the abundance of wildlife, from the birds - parrots, quails and emu - to the plentiful marine life. The sheer volume of wildlife here is partly due to the fact that Rainbow Beach falls under the Great Sandy Biosphere Reserve. This is the only place in the world where two UNESCO Biospheres are joined.
From one world-class natural phenomenon to another, the next stop is Fraser Island - UNESCO World Heritage-listed and the largest sand island in the world. It was recently renamed K’gari, pronounced “gurri” which is the Aboriginal word for paradise. It is absolutely deserving of its title.
Visitors can drive along the beach ‘highway’ - otherwise known as 75 Mile Beach - to get up and down the length of the island and through the lush rainforest vegetation, admiring some of the world-renowned biodiversity. Indeed, this is one of the best places to spot the Australian dingo in the wild, while the waters that surround the island are home to dolphins, sea turtles, great white, bull and tiger sharks and even humpback whales.
Landscape highlights include the many pristine freshwater lakes, which are some of the clearest and least polluted in the world. The most famous of these is Lake McKenzie, which is lined with sand that is almost 100% silica - much like the sand on Whitehaven Beach. This assists water filtration and is also an excellent exfoliator or, if you are brave enough to try it, toothpaste!
The same marine wildlife abundant in the waters surrounding Fraser Island is the reason for the next stop on this Sunshine Coast road trip itinerary: Hervey Bay. It is undeniably a mecca for marine life. If you missed the humpback whales on Fraser Island then never fear, this is one of the best points on the Queensland coast to catch a glimpse of these gentle giants.
In fact, you are near-guaranteed to see whales here from mid-July to early November. You can even take a dip with these enormous creatures as they migrate from the Great Barrier Reef to Antarctica! Queensland's tourism board has a superb article which compares a few different whale-watching tours, and you can also speak to your Flight Centre Travel Expert about adding an excursion to your itinerary.
One of Queensland’s - and possibly Australia’s - best-kept secrets can be found just north of Noosa Heads. The Noosa Everglades is one of only two identified Everglade environments on the planet, and is a wilderness in every sense of the word. Nearly 40 miles of pristine waters, magnificent flora and fauna and narrow waterways, ripe for exploration with kayak, sail boat or paddleboard, will take your breath away.
If you would like to fully experience the genuine serenity of this peaceful environment, chat to a Travel Expert about arranging a stay at one of the full-service campgrounds offered by the Queensland Department of National Parks.
Noosa is the 'Relaxation Capital of Australia' and, as of December 2017, is the newest World Surfing Reserve. As such, it’s a superb place to get on the board and ride the waves that come with that famous Eastern Australian surf.
However, Noosa is no one-trick pony. If you are looking for a break from the beautiful natural surrounds and thrill-seeking activities, you couldn’t pick a better spot for some serious relaxation. Former Master Chef Australia favourite Matt Sinclair is a Noosa local and a "Visit Noosa" ambassador, while the city has five restaurants included in the Australian Good Food Guide Top 100 list.
The luxury lifestyle doesn’t stop at gastronomy either; take a day to stroll along the trendy Hastings Street for some retail therapy, pausing only to pop into a beachfront coffee shop for yor caffeine fix. To really top off your day of pampering, why not book a romantic private gondola ride through the Noosa backwaters?
Speak to a Flight Centre Travel Expert (call the number at the top right of this article) to find out how to do this, or see our great-value Queensland Campervan package.
Journey south from Noosa Heads and marvel at the Glass House Mountains which frame lush forest and farmland. Here you'll find some epic walking trails, varying in length from 45 minutes to three hours. On your way round, take a break from gazing accross the eucalyptus forest and grab some locally produced pineapples, avocados or macadamia nuts for some much-needed fuel.
In the event that you missed any of Australia’s iconic wildlife species, make sure that you complete the set at the final stop-off point on this Sunshine Coast road trip itinerary: Australia Zoo.
The zoo is owned by Terri Irwin, widow of the late-great Steve Irwin, and is a fabulous homage to his memory. The centrepiece is the ‘Crocoseum’, which is home to some of the largest crocodiles in captivity.
If you prefer your animal life less deadly, you can also get up-close with koalas and wallabies here.
We return to our starting point at the Sunshine Coast for you to pause and take stock of all the incredible scenery, natural encounters and food that you’ve just experienced. A self-drive Journey through Queensland and the Sunshine Coast is truly an unforgettable one...
Has this itinerary inspired you? Get in touch with a local Flight Centre Travel Expert (call the number at the top right of this article) or do the itinerary independently with our flight and campervan package.