For a summer holiday combining European Chic and the best of Australia’s climate and relaxed pace, you can’t beat Noosa, one of Australia’s secret treasures in the sun. Queensland Tourism Commission figures indicate that domestic visitors to the area far outweigh international visitors, who prefer Sydney, Cairns, and the Gold Coast.
There probably isn’t a place in Australia that has changed its entire personality as much as Noosa. Whereas the Sheraton Mirage Resort put Port Douglas on the map (but did little to change the town itself), Noosa’s change has been a breezy but radical evolution.
There was a time hardly ten years ago that there was just a single road from the coastal highway to the Heads. The only food was the obligatory holiday ice cream and hamburger, the only clothes were surf T-shirts and swimsuits, and the only really different thing to do apart from the beach was visit the House of Bottles (yes, 70’s tourist-trap fans, a house made entirely of bottles cemented together) and the Big Shell Museum, located in nearby Tewantin.
Nowadays, Noosa is among the top spots in Australia, not just for holidays, but for food, fashion, and lifestyle in general.
The roads have become big-city class, the fashion rivals Paris or Milan, and the main road, Hastings Street, is often acknowledged as the best restaurant & cafe strip in Australia, ahead of both Lygon & Oxford Streets.
Noosa truly caters for all tastes and budgets of holiday maker. You’re just as at home in Noosa whether you’re a backpacker hoping to cram all the sights and action into your visit, or spoiling yourself with the sumptuous delicacies on Hastings Street and the latest trendy fashions. It has the rare quality of being perfect for a quiet, romantic break with someone special or a family of hyperactive children.
The gorgeous beaches surrounding the Noosa River and Heads system are what Noosa’s popularity was built on, and with ample space, they’re never what you could call ‘overcrowded’, even at the height of summer. Some beaches, particularly around the point, are virtually empty outside holiday season.
Main Beach, by far the most popular, runs parallel to Hastings Street, and is home more to shoppers and families rather than dedicated swimmers or surfers. Sunshine Beach, a short drive out of Noosa, is a lot longer and less crowded, but it can get a little rough. On the southern peninsula of the Heads is the national park, home to some lovely walks with breathtaking ocean views which lead you to handfuls of tiny, more private beaches and lovely Alexandria Bay (be prepared for an eyeful at the nude southern end).
For those who prefer a surf-free environment, Noosa River offers a placid, serene dip, and is just as popular for a lesuirely boat or fishing trip (there are dozens of tinny & speedboat hire establishments along the banks), as well as countless river tours.
Whatever your culinary taste, there is at least one restaurant or cafe you’ll fall in love with. Betty’s Burgers has been in Hastings Street since long before the first trendy cafe, and the Tewantin/Noosa RSL offers a cheap and delicious bistro menu.
The recently refurbished Noosa Reef, halfway over Noosa Hill, is the perfect place to go for a delectable bistro lunch overlooking Laguna Bay. Then head downstairs for coffee at Coffee Cosmopolitan or Mocca Jam, which, along with the Rolling Rock on Hastings Street, transforms into one of Noosa’s hottest nightclubs after hours.
You can delight over a lobster or seafood smorgasbord lunch at the Lobster Trap, in town, or take a boat tour up the river to The Jetty for a lazy lunch overlooking the water.
However, the stuff of legends is found in and around Hastings Street, a diner’s paradise. As twilight descends into night, Hastings Street is a tapestry of colour, vibrant with the sounds of laughter and clink of cutlery, tantalising smells & sights and a sultry, relaxed ambience.
Whatever your international taste, look no further. Romantic Lindoni’s Italian restaurant spills right to the edge of the street under marquees, lit by soft candles; Indochine Thai/Malaysian sports the trendiest decor with spicy temptations to match, Wok on Inn and So Wok are the best in contemporary Asian Noodle bars, and if you aren’t full by then, there’s La Plage French, Magic of India, Soleil at Sunshine Beach or Saltwater. Artis (1995 Good Food Awards Restaurant of the Year) is found on Noosa Hill, and the Sheraton Noosa’s Laguna Bay Beach Club on Hastings Street turns from a fine dining experience into a pre-rage drinks bar by late evening.
If a light snack lunch or just a drink is your kind of thing, there are plenty of relaxed and casual lunch cafes and bars along Hastings Street, including the Sheraton Tea Tree Cafe, Aqua Cafe Bar (where you can get a Bloody Mary complete with an oyster!) And for the late night coffee-goer, Aroma’s cafe has the widest range of aromatic & exotic coffee and the most tempting cabinet full of cakes.
If your idea of a great holiday is to blitz the activities scene and fill your days (and nights) with the most exciting and different things there are to do, Noosa is a paradise. Main Beach offers parasailing, jet skiing, surf skiing and surfing lessons. Fishing is available here there and everywhere, and scuba diving is popular outside the mouth of the Noosa River.
Air tours are a great way to see the area, and several operators, including the Red Baron biplane, fly regularly for less than you’d think. Abseiling and rock climbing are available around the many mountains in the Noosa area, but for the more relaxed activity-seeker, there are endless tours on Noosa River, north to the river wetlands. Sports clubs & facilities, golf courses & driving ranges, horse & camel riding also abound.
For you party animals, the night life hots up in the bars by eleven, when the nightclubs come alive, and by 2am it’s standing room only and you’re surrounded by euphoric techno ravers.
A must-see is the National Park, where you can walk through or around the peninsula, the paths looking over the ocean from a paradise of Pandanus Palms, Gum trees & wildlife. They lead to scatterings of deep blue beaches and — at the peninsula’s tip — to Hell’s Gates, an awesome cavern eroded from the cliff by the surf.
And for the best view of Noosa itself, fifteen minutes from town on the Cooroy Highway is a very picturesque drive and walk leading to the top of Mt Timbeerwah lookout. Be prepared for sweeping views all across Noosa Shire, from the ocean to the mountains, with expanses of farm and bush in between. Have good binoculars!
The accommodation is very much geared towards tourists, and your hotel (and the many tourist information centres in town) will be able to provide you with any information you need about what to see and how to get there.
The variety of accommodation is also as diverse as the mosaic of things to eat and see. At one extreme, the beautiful Sheraton Noosa Resort offers the most luxurious features and packages in the area (and some of the coolest restaurants and bars in town). It also has all the features you’d expect from a five star hotel.
At the other end of the scale is Halse Lodge at the bottom of Noosa Hill, providing hostel-style accommodation for less than $10 a night.
There are literally hundreds of holiday units, caravan parks and hotels, in town and on the beachfront. Accom Noosa is a composite business with several different hotels and flats across Noosa. At the peak of Noosa Hill is the Noosa International, a hideaway-style hotel spread throughout acres of tropical gardens. And the ultimately chic French Quarter sports holiday units, but in a hotel resort setting, surrounded by trendy boutiques and (yes, even more) restaurants and cafes.
Real Estate agents are also a good place to go for leasing holiday flats.
What to Pack
Swimmers & beach towel or sarong — definitely!
Sunscreen — of course!
Book/Walkman — for lazing in the sun on the beach.
All your surf/summer gear — Noosa is very casual.
Comfortable shoes i.e. thongs/sandals — staple footwear for post-beach shopping.
Casuals — To look and feel the part frequenting the culinary smorgasbord or trendy cafes. Club and nightclub dress rules like those at home apply.
One set of warm clothes — just in case. Noosa is not in the tropics.
Camera and camcorder — can be cumbersome, so plan their use. Check with tour guides or organizers.
The Aerogard — (remember, no aerosols on planes. In environmentally-friendly Noosa, have a roll-on). Some natural areas will irritate the certified civilisation-junkie.
Queensland Tourism — 13 18 01. For advice on accommodation available, current events & what to see, and flight/travel information (they can also act as your travel agent).
Ansett Airlines — 13 13 00. Approx $250-$290 between now and early January, return to Maroochydore.
Qantas Airlines — 13 13 13. As above.
Maroochydore & Brisbane airports — Shuttle/coach services to Noosa (half hour drive) available for all flights for approx $10.
Whale Watching, Hervey Bay; Excellent, but avoid if prone to seasickness and don’t bother videoing (your playback will make you sicker).
Eumundi Markets, Eumundi; Bigger and better than ever. Several separate markets, restaurant, and the best handmade fare in Australia.
Sunshine Plantation, Nambour; Very touristy but cute. Home of the Big Pineapple!
House of Bottles, Tewantin; Daggy, but cool fun.
Coloured Sands, Teerwah; Boat tours show you the richest coloured cliffs ever.