For the avid foodie yet active traveller, Queensland, located on Australia’s northeastern corner, remains an alluring destination that has a great balance between good food, as well as adventurous activities such as surfing, paddle-boarding, kayaking, paragliding, skydiving, scuba diving, bushwalking, or just plain running along the beach. The availability and abundance of fresh seafood, local meats, organic fruits, vegetables and grains prepared by so many talented chefs provide comprehensive nutrition and delicious sustenance to anyone visiting or living on its soil.
That’s why, it is the perfect place for me. It has everything I like to do and more. This time, returning to its pristine shores with Tourism Queensland, I was determined to cross off a couple more things on my bucket list.
In total, Queensland is divided up into 13 unique regions and each one holds their own special charm, but with only 2 weeks on our side, our travels this time would bring us on a self driven road trip to these 2 main regions – The Sunshine Coast, and the Gold Coast, with a little bit of the Hinterlands thrown in.
Located to the North of Brisbane, and an approximate 2 hour drive, the Sunshine Coast is probably the less well-known of the two, but it is by no means any less pretty. It is a popular weekend getaway from the Queensland capital, and not unlike the Gold Coast, it serves as home to travelers, surfers, honeymooners, older couples and even multi-generational families. It is definitely less developed than its southern neighbour, the Gold Coast, and that is why I found it more appealing in many ways. It has a trendy sort of feel (like what Seminyak is to Bali) and offers a mix of low-rise resorts, surf shops, alfresco bars and residential homes. It is spacious and beautiful, but with a total population of only 330,000 (2010), it is definitely a lot smaller than the Gold Coast which has a population of 600,000 (2013).
We arrive in Brisbane late on Sunday night, and early the next morning, we head out to our first stop, Noosa, on Sunshine Coast.
Noosa is located approximately 2 hours by car, from Brisbane.
We arrive in resort town, Noosa Heads, and immediately it is apparent that the place has as lot of green, tropical rainforest, and a lot of white and blue – turquoise waters and powdery white beaches. With building height limits between 2-4 storey, you will find views of the sky, river or sea anywhere and everywhere. Noosa Heads is a hive of activity throughout the day, regardless if it is only a weekday. We have to agree that it is one of the most sought after locations, for many Australians to live in.
We check into Mantra French Quarter, and start to explore the area. This bit of the coast is lined with boutiques, restaurants, health cafes and some bars. It’s all very wholesome, if not a little small. We manage to walk across the entire strip in less than 20 minutes.
Mantra’s French Quarter apartments surround a large pool
It was after arriving that we realized that one of our mates lived right here in Noosa. We actually managed to look him and his family up later in the week, which was nice. Anyway we soon found out that Noosa encompasses three zones – Noosa Heads (around Laguna Bay and Hastings St), Noosaville (along the Noosa River) and Noosa Junction (the administrative centre)- enough to explore and keep us occupied till evening.
Yet another dramatic sunset that deserves to be shared
Live view vs Selfie
Cue theme from Endless Love (the classic movie not the new version)
That evening we dine at Locale, based on recommendations from the locals. The food isn’t 100% Italian per se, but more like a modern Italian trattoria, if you like. The deco is chic and we appreciated the fact that you were allowed to wear flip-flops to dinner – such is the casualness of dining in many Australian restaurants.
swanky but casual.. my kinda place
When in Noosa, one should always try the seafood, so we were told. This dish of Octopus tentacles, chickpea puree, and tomato salad was delicious, if not a little salty.
The Porchetta came highly recommended by the waiter who served us, and we could see why. High country, slow roasted pork belly, roasted butternut puree, hazelnut, caramelized baby onion, celery, cress and apple salad was a winner. Loved the way they rolled the belly into a tight medallion, which unraveled as you cut into it. Layer upon layer of crispy skin, soft fat, and succulent pork meat was to die for.
alcohol test.. walk the straight line.. don’t try this on your roads, at home!
Not yet accustomed to Noosa’s (and most of Australia’s) early closing hours, we walked the empty Hasting Street, looking at window displays until we were ready for bed.
some cool buildings spotted on Noosa
2. Marcoola – Noosa
The next morning, nice and early, we head out to accomplish the top item on my bucket list – Skydiving! This adventure would bring us out to Marcoola, a short 40 minute drive from Noosa, and we would be meeting Skydive Ramblers (tel: 07 54488877) for this next leg of adventure. These guys offer beach jumps over one of the most stunning coastlines in Australia, landing at Coolum Beach. How lucky were we, that it was blue skies, with just a light dusting of clouds that day.
Unfortunately, the nerves and butterflies in my stomach made it impossible for me to relax and enjoy the fine views. That was, of course till I actually jumped. And then, I did not want it to end. Jo’s friendly tandem jump master, Julien and my German tandem buddy, Phil, gave us the confidence we needed with their humour, and diligent safety checks. Susie the manager also made our experience a good one, with loads of interesting stories about her skydiving adventures and travels.
From the plane, you could see, Sunshine Beach, Sunrise Beach, Peregian Beach and Coolum Beach, where we would land
I always thought that free fall would be this sudden, lurching feeling you get, sort of like when you wake up from a nightmare or a drop from a roller-coaster ride. Well, it was quite the opposite. Free fall is a unique felling in itself – you need to experience it to understand it. You actually feel rather weightless up there, when you are free-falling from 10,000 feet for approximately 35 seconds, before the parachute is deployed. And don’t be mistaken the speed is incredible – we plummeted at a rate of over 200km per hour!
If you want to get technical about it, during free fall, your body experiences zero acceleration, because of the retarding force known as air resistance. Air resistance exists because air molecules collide into a falling body creating an upward force opposite gravity. This upward force will eventually balance the falling body’s weight. You will continue to fall at constant velocity known as the terminal velocity. Anyway, it was a terrific experience – something everyone should try at least once in their lifetime. Me, I don’t mind doing it again, really!
Back in Noosa, it was time for lunch at a beach front restaurant, called Seasons.
The Seafood antipasto was pretty delectable.. succulent Scallops, Snapper, Tempura oysters (a bit soggy), Prawns, Atlantic salmon and Squid that was great for sharing, and went down well with a nicely chilled, Pinot Grigio. The only complaint was the salt on the fish. For those sensitive to salt, we suggest informing the waiter beforehand, not only for this restaurant but in general. We noticed, many of the restaurants here were a little heavy-handed on the salt especially with fish.
scallops and oysters were my staple on Noosa.. can’t go wrong with seafood
The lamb cutlets, served with greens, potatoes and carrots. The lamb was a little overcooked
The best part was dessert. At Season Noosa their food obviously reflects the freshest produce in season – from locally caught fish to the freshest of fruit and vegetables, and here was testament to that fact. A super tasty, citrus tart, served with caramelized figs, double cream, pistachio praline, raspberry coulis and ice-cream. The fresh figs were sublime.
a walk back along the beach is the best thing, after an eventful lunch..
The next morning, we met super fit, Nikki Fogden-Moore, from Life’s a Gym, to go for a run in the Noosa National Park. Noosa National Park encompasses an area of more than 4,000 hectares, including sections surrounding Lake Weyba, Peregian and Coolum. Noosa National Park is a gorgeous green lung and it was a mere 2 minute jog from Mantra, where we were staying.
Noosa National Park used to be mostly trail running, but now, there is a path for runners. It does go off path at the 5km mark, and then it’s just trail running. The view is stunning, and that have many look out points for you to stop and take photos, or do some meditation. I wish we had more of this at home!
Surfers paddling out to seek the best waves to ride on
Pristine running paths and great views
Regardless of a belly or a six-pack, you can be an awesome surfer if you put in the time
I like her bikini!
Are you a watcher? or a do-er?
Noosa National Park .. a great place for surfers, runners, families with little ones even to get in touch with nature
they start them young here!
Family friendly Noosa National Park
3. Boreen Point
The next morning, we take a 40 minute drive to Boreen Point, a small township next to a marsh land of the Noosa River. Hidden within the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park is one of the Sunshine Coast’s best kept paddling secrets, the Noosa Everglades. Best explored by canoe or kayak, the upper reaches of the Noosa River and the Everglades represent an ancient waterway that has existed unchanged for thousands of years.
With Vivienne Golding of the Kanu Kapers, we embarked on a half day guided tour in easy to paddle and stable sea kayaks. The view that unfolded before us, was of course, incredibly inspiring. The shallow watered Noosa Everglades is situated within Noosa Biosphere. The term, Everglades, describes a wetland with reeds, as explained by Vivienne. This reserve encompasses 150,000 hectares of land and sea that is teeming with bio diversity, as well as a myriad of eco-systems. A wetland of international importance, it is the only river system in Australia that has its entire upper catchment protected in National Park.
Vivienne – another inspiring guide who asked us, “What is your goal in life?”
Her answer… “One must always head towards the high point, and keep one’s focus at all times! “
Kayaking at the everglades not only provides an encounter with the wilderness, a nice lunch (if you opt for the guided package), but you get a good workout under the sun and wind, practicing your kayak strokes. It’s an easy to moderate adventure where a family with young children can participate. The water levels are never too high. Even myself, a beginner, had learned to paddle in a short time in harmony with Cumi and was able to endure several hours of paddling and sometimes against the current.
Dinner that night was back at Noosa at Berardo’s Bistro At The Beach, where we dined at the beach front once again. This time, we sat facing a finely carved sand castle. Passerbys would stop to admire, take a photo and occasionally throw spare change into an unmanned donation collection box.
Almost every place we visited for food in Noosa had a great view of the ocean.
We would definitely miss the fresh seafood..
After dinner that cloudy night, we took a walk on the wooden beachwalk and was blessed with a few minutes of a full moon view
Next up… a visit to one of the most amazing outdoor markets in Queensland.. the Eumundi Markets!
We were visiting the Sunshine Coast as part of #room753 & #thisisqueensland campaign, in conjunction with Tourism Queensland.