The Sunshine Coast – the stretch of Queensland coastline running north from Brisbane to Cooloola – is one of Australia's favourite holiday destinations for Kiwis, not least because the weather is sunny and mild right through the winter months. From charming historic towns to spectacular white sand beaches (plus some truly memorable places to eat), these are five don't miss Sunshine Coast destinations.
They started in 1979 with just three stalls; 38 years later the famous markets have stretched to cover most of the centre of Eumundi, a lovely town 15 minutes' drive out of Noosa. Australia's biggest and best markets are famous for their artisan wares – from jewellery and clothing to wooden furniture and toys – but are worth a visit for the food offerings alone. Start your day with a flat white from Flying West Coffee and a bacon and egg pizza to share from Jungle Oven Pizza, and don't leave without trying the incredible Nutella doughnuts from Hot Jam Donut Kitchen. The markets might be the jewel in Eumundi's crown, but there's plenty more to explore in this charming and historic township, including craft shopping and some great cafes. End your day with a pint at the heritage-listed Imperial Hotel, where they've been slaking the locals' thirst since 1911.
The Queensland coastline isn't short of stunning tropical islands, but Fraser Island is something special. At first, the fact that it's the world's largest sand island might not mean much, but when you're floating on Lake McKenzie – created by an indented dune, fed only by rainwater, and encircled by pure white sand – it really hits home. Taking a 4WD for a spin on 75 Mile Beach is a famous Fraser Island experience, but there are so many ways to explore this slice of paradise. If you're into tramping, the Fraser Island Great Walk takes you through the island and around its gorgeous coastline, passing many of its scenic highlights, like the stand of ancient rainforest known as The Valley of the Giants. The entire Great Walk takes around six days, but there are plenty of short sections that make ideal day hikes.
The Sunshine Coast's 'CBD', Maroochydore is the area's largest urban centre and its cultural heart. While nearby Noosa may have a more glamourous reputation, in-the-know holidaymakers tend to stay in affordable, accessible Maroochydore and save Noosa for daytrips and dinner. That's not to say there aren't lots of great places to eat in 'The Dore', like the well-regarded Middle Eastern food at Zahtar and the excellent coffee and big breakfasts at the hipstery Velo Project. A day in town could include some quality beach time (try centrally located Maroochydore Beach or the Alexandra Headland a short drive south) and a stop at the 220-retailer strong Sunshine Plaza shopping centre. If you're in Maroochydore on a Sunday, spend the morning browsing the wares at the Cotton Tree Markets, located just off the Esplanade in the central beachside suburb of Cotton Tree.
Located high in the Blackall Range, around an hour's drive inland from Noosa, the charming village of Montville must be one of Queensland's most romantic spots. Where the coast is brash and busy, Montville is sophisticated and laidback, a perfect weekend getaway for couples seeking a change of pace. By day, wander the historic 19th century buildings – now housing an array of excellent galleries, boutiques and cafes – or drive to the Kondalilla National Park and hike to the falls for a swim. When the evening draws in, head to the acclaimed Long Apron restaurant at nearby Spicers Clovelly Estate. Chef Cameron Matthews' seasonal menu has won plaudits from the Good Food Guide and Gourmet Traveller, and currently boasts dishes like Fraser Island spanner crab with carrot gnocchi and duck breast with pear and fennel puree.
It's become a cliché to say so, but Noosa really does have it all. With stylish shopping, acclaimed restaurants and cool cafes, all nestled between lush tropical rainforest and crystal-white sandy beaches, it's hardly surprising that Noosa has become Australia's premier seaside resort. The site of one of the country's top food and wine festivals, Noosa's reputation as a fine dining destination is well deserved – local foodies sing the praises of restaurants like Wasabi, Thomas Corner, Embassy XO and Sails – and there are lots of more casual cafes, burger joints and bars throughout the township, particularly in Noosaville and Noosa Junction. But there's much more to Noosa than just food. Surrounded on all sides by stunning natural scenery, you'll be itching to get out and explore as soon as you land. One must-do is Noosa National Park, a short drive from downtown. There are walking trails throughout the park but the most popular is the one-hour-40-minute coastal route from the park's main entrance around the Noosa Headlands to Sunshine Beach.