Another great post from our friends at http://www.unearththeworld.com/
Relaxing. Charming. Chic without being stuffy. Noosa Heads on the Sunshine Coast really delivered.
Mike and I chose to spend our last days in Australia beach hopping and exploring towns along the east coast of the country: Gold Coast (towns just South of Brisbane), Sunshine Coast (those just north of Brisbane), and the Whitsunday Islands. The Gold Coast is likened to Miami Beach: nightclubs, high rise apartments and hotels, and beaches. The Sunshine Coast is a little more chill. And the Whitsunday Islands stand in a class of their own. They are a chain of 74 islands off the coast that mark the southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef. While we experienced each destination, I have to say that my heart is with the Sunshine Coast in a small resort town called Noosa Heads.
But, let me start by briefly describing the “runners up” because they aren’t too shabby….
We arrived to the town of Byron Bay in the Gold Coast via overnight train. Byron Bay is a relaxed surf town geared towards back packers and known to have a big bar and party scene. We stayed at a backpackers hotel just outside of town and spent the day strolling the shops and walking the beach. We ventured on a jog (too hilly for my liking) to the lighthouse and even saw the easternmost point of Australia. At night, trying to embrace the party scene, we manufactured our own bar crawl which we quickly realized was lame by Byron’s standards as we ended up gravitating towards the calmer bars/restaurants. One highlight of the visit was a nice dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant while listening to live music….there are musicians everywhere in Byron Bay adding to its eclectic ambiance. While we liked the city, we ultimately felt we were better matched for a quieter, more relaxed scene…we were probably ten years too late to truly appreciate Byron’s merits.
Another stop on our beach hopping tour was the town of Airlie Beach, the jumping off point for every boat tour of the Whitsunday Islands. We thoroughly enjoyed our time sailing the Whitsunday Islands (3 days, 2 nights and several snorkels of the Great Barrier Reef) but I could have done without seeing Airlie. To be fair, we visited when the main street was completely torn up and being repaired. The lagoon is actually quite pretty but I was disenchanted with the strip of gaudy bars, hostels, and construction. However, a night or two’s stay in Airlie is necessary if you are going to take a sailing trip so my advice is to find a cheap meal, drink a cold beer, and relax as best you can before heading out to sea.
And now we have our final destination in Australia…the town of Noosa Heads. We took a bus service from Brisbane airport to our Air Bnb accommodation in Noosa and I fell in love immediately. It may have been the fact that we had just spent 72 hours on a sailboat with 27 people or the fact that we had been staying in inexpensive hostels that Noosa felt so perfect. Whatever the reason, I immediately felt a connection with this sleepy resort town. Mike and I were using our Noosa holiday to rest up and rejuvenate before heading to India and that is exactly what we did. We strolled Hastings Street, the main thoroughfare of shops and restaurants, watched the surfers while cracking beers during sunset, and enjoyed Noosa National Park’s pristine coastal walk from Sunshine Beach to Noosa Beach (if you do go, be warned that there is a large nude beach along the way. You may or may not run into naked locals in a fist fight…no joke. Just keep your eyes forward and your bathing suit on).
Noosa was more of a family town and is historically where Australians go to vacation. Even with the Surfers Festival going on while we were there, the town seemed serene and inviting. I also think that the sandy, sprawling beach was one of my favorites in Australia: soft sand, big waves, and plenty of space to stretch out. I would love to visit again and hope to have the chance to further enjoy the glorious Sunshine Coast.
For sample itineraries click here.