by Gary Dickson
It’s about this time of the year, when the weather starts to turn to custard, that thoughts of a quick jaunt overseas enter the grey matter a little bit more often than normal. The Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane, is an ideal playground. It is a far cry from the hustle and bustle and cosmopolitan colour of the Gold Coast and that’s what makes it so popular with Kiwi tourists.
The hardest part is to decide which part of the Coast to visit – Noosa, Maroochydore, Mooloolaba, Caloundra – they all offer a variety of activities, fine dining locations and a veritable pot pourri of accommodation options. The hinterland areas of Nambour and Gympie are further options.
I started my trip at the southern end of the Sunshine Coast, at a place called Beerwah – famous for Australia Zoo. This year is the 40th anniversary of Australia Zoo. Opened in 1970, as the Beerwah Reptile Park, the park consisted of a mere four acres, a few species of wildlife and a caravan – which the Irwin’s called home. Today the facility is spread over an amazing 70 acres, houses over 1,000 animals, and is Australia’s Number 1 tourist attraction. Steve’s legacy lives on, quite clearly, in the passion and enthusiasm that emanates from the staff.
Just up the road and heading North is the Big Kart Track. At 1.2kms in length and 8m wide it is the largest commercial go-kart track in Australia. The perfect place to blow the cobwebs out after sitting in a plane. I must have made a terrifying sight to the people already on the track when I joined in. Capable of running 50 go-karts at any one time, Big Kart Track is an international standard race track – big sweeping bends, challenging chicanes, hairpins and a long straight all add to the fun and excitement.
At the end of March each year, thousands of competitors flock to Mooloolaba for the annual triathlon. Mooloolaba puts up the FULL HOUSE signs and celebrates its picturesque scenery with competitors from far and wide. It is the 2nd biggest triathlon in Australia, behind Noosa, which is just up the road anyway, so once again Queensland tops the favouritism stakes. The Parade along the Mooloolaba waterfront is abuzz with spectators and competitors alike all encouraging people they know and don’t know with a similar passion.??As with almost every place you visit the options for dining are huge.
Now I know there are many fine establishments in Mooloolaba but I have to say I have found the World’s Best Seafood Chowder at Fish on Parkyn. Personal preference? Maybe – but my ravings about it were so pronounced the couple next to our table ordered it and came to the same conclusion. Like many restaurants in the region fish is a mainstay of their menu, so don’t just stop at the chowder – Moreton Bay bugs, Swordfish, Barramundi, prawns are all favourites of mine, or you can go the whole hog (pardon the misplaced pun) and order the Seafood Platter. Make sure you are very hungry before you arrive though.
Golf doesn’t come much better than playing a round at the Hyatt Regency Coolum, home of the Australian PGA. The course was designed by the renowned Robert Trent Jones Jnr (who also designed Gulf Harbour) and covers a third of the Resort. Located to the northern parts of the Sunshine Coast this immaculate 72 par, 6,263 metre course is worth the walk just for the scenery alone. My playing partner, Club Pro Greg Cusack, certainly has one of the best “offices” I have seen. Even at my level of capability the course was tough.
The Sunshine Coast is renowned for its surfing but if you are looking for something a little different try Stand Up Paddle Surfing. It’s a lot of fun. The guys at Stand Up Paddle Surf, Noosa take you through about 45 minutes of what to do, in a quiet flat location, and then it’s “Surfs Up”. The boards are a lot more stable than a normal surfboard, and longer, but there is still a good degree of balance needed. One of the guys in my group, who was a “real” surfer fell in love with it and has probably followed through with his promise to buy on of the boards by now.
No story about the Sunshine Coast would be complete without reference to a fishing charter. Unfortunately the area did not live up to its name the day we were supposed to go out so our charter was cancelled. Only happens once a year (apparently) but that day was our day. Anyway, there are choices here too, but we were recommended to use Noosa Blue Water Charters. I will have to pencil that one in for next time – the fishing is supposed to be sublime around here.
If, like us, you find yourself cancelled on that one day, head to Suncoast Cable and Waterpsorts at Bli Bli. Skipping along the river behind a jet boat knee boarding, skiing, skurfing or wakeboarding is certainly worth an adrenalin rush. And the variety of obstacles makes for a very different experience indeed.
And how does one finish a sporting holiday? An afternoon sailing out of The Mooloolaba Yacht Club will do the trick. You can join a boat on Wednesday afternoons and either sit back, have a drink and relax (my option) or get amongst it and test your sailing skills.
So next time you’re sitting at your desk and thinking of different things to do for that much earned vacation, think The Sunshine Coast – the sporty coast. ??My thanks to Air New Zealand (who were fantastic) and Tourism Queensland, Auckland for getting me there.
Australia Zoo, Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah, www.australiazoo.com.au
Big Kart track, Glass House Mountains Drive, www.bigkart.com.au
Fish on Parkyn, 25 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba, www.fishonparkyn.com.au
Browns of Mooloolaba, 21 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba, www.brownsofmooloolaba.com.au
Robbie Sherwell’s Surfing Academy, Moloolaba, www.robbieshrwell.com.au
Gusto Riverfront Restaurant, 257 Gympie Terrace, Noosaville, www.gustonoosa.com.au
Stand Up Paddle Sufing, Noosa Heads Lion Park, www.standuppaddlesurf.com.au
Noosa Blue Water Charters, Noosa Marina, www.noosabluefishing.com.au
Suncoast Cable and Waterpsorts, 367 David Low way, Bli Bli, www.suncoastcablewatersports.com
Mooloolaba Yacht club, www.mooloolaba.yachting.org.au
Oaks Seaforth Resort, Alexandra, www.oakshotelsresorts.com
Crown Plaza Resort, Pelican Waters Golf Resort & Spa, Caloundra, www.crowneplazapelicanwaters.com.au
Hyatt Regency Coolum, Yaroomba, www.coolum.regency.hyatt.com
The Sebel Noosa, Noosa Heads, www.sebelnoosa.com.au
Shearwater Kings Beach Resort, Caloundra, www.shearwaterresort.com.au