As beach loving locals Marty and I have walked, swum, dined and imbibed coffee at the best beaches Sunshine Coast has to offer. We’ve visited them in every season, from Caloundra to Noosa and even further north to Rainbow Beach to bring you the best attributes of a glittering array of Sunshine Coast beaches.
The best beaches Sunshine Coast has to offer are sure to please even the most discerning beach goer, but if restricted by time or specific requirements, this post will point you in the right direction.
You might also like to join and ask questions at our new Queensland Travel Group.
Read on to find the perfect beach for your needs.
What You Will Find in This Post
- Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Couples
- Best Family Beach Sunshine Coast
- Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Dogs and Sky-Diving
- Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Picnics
- Best Sunshine Coast Beach for Markets
- Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Coffee Lovers
- Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Shopping
- Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Snorkelling
- Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Surfing
- Best Sunshine Coast Swimming Beaches
- Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Clothing Optional/Nudists
- Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for 4 Wheel Driving and Dolphin Spotting
Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Couples
First, Second and Third Bays Coolum
While Coolum Main Beach with it’s two surf-patrols, surf club and playgrounds is ever popular with families, just a few hundred metres south along the boardwalk past Point Perry are three very different bays.
First and Second bays with their rocky alcoves are as intimate as Coolum Main Beach is expansive and further along still, Third Bay is a treat for rock loving recluses.
They are surfing beaches it is true, but with surfers working the surf breaks, couples can cosy up in relative seclusion. At low tide, First and Second Bays also stage the occasional beach wedding.
There are limited road-side car parking areas behind First, Second and Third Bays.
Best Family Beach Sunshine Coast
All Sunshine Coast Beaches are family friendly but there are three that stand out from the crowd.
Cotton Tree Beach Maroochy River
Cotton Tree Beach on the southern bank of the Maroochy River at Maroochydore is fantastic spot for families. Cotton Tree is the name of the riverside suburb including King Street shopping district with it’s Sunday market, riverside park and pier.
Cotton Tree beach runs from The Boat Shed restaurant (Fish and Chip takeaways available) to the mouth of the Maroochy River and Maroochydore Beach. Cotton Tree Holiday Park borders the river beach and is the place to camp or caravan.
While the kids are playing, Mum and Dad settle into their folding chairs beneath beach shades to make a day of it. The river is calm here and great for families to swim, kayak or SUP (available for hire). Try fishing from the shore and when the prevailing south-easter is blowing just right, surf or boogie board up river from the groin at the mouth. River surfing is so unique and fun to watch.
Walkways hug the shoreline providing access to playgrounds, picnic areas and Cottontree Aquatic centre, the local public swimming pool.
If picnics aren’t your style, peruse the Cafes on Riverside Esplanade opposite Cotton Tree Park.
Kings Beach Caloundra
Kings Beach has a loyal following of Sunshine Coast families and as the closest town to the Brisbane, sees an influx of visitors on weekends. It also sees interstate visitors who return year on year.
At low tide natural rock pools entertain the kids and the long stretch of sand is easily accessible. If the surf is a little rough, adjourn to the free Kings Beach Saltwater Swimming Pool. Kings Beach pool features a shaded kids swimming pool, 25m lap pool and BBQ facilities. In the park nearby kids can play in the water fountains.
Pavilion Kiosk located in the 1937 Spanish Style Bathing Pavilion is a step back in time. Originally a dressing shed, it now serves up beach burgers and more, directly behind Kings Beach Pool. Bathers and bare feet are welcome and look for the heritage black and white photos inside.
The rock ledges at Kings Beach can be fun to snorkel but care is required when the current is strong. Behind the beach are grassy parks, water park and alfresco beachside dining. A boardwalk, suitable for strollers, wheelchairs and bicycles leads to Bulcock Beach, an enjoyable 20 minute walk away. No wonder families have been coming here for years.
Main Beach Noosa
Main Beach is super popular for families and with good reason. The waves are regular and easy to read for swimmers and boogie boarders. The beach itself is long, wide, flat and like all Sunshine Coast Beaches, clean, despite the large volume of visitors it receives during school holidays.
Noosa Surf Club with it’s public amenity block below, holds prime position overlooking the beach. Noosa Surf Club deck is the place for a relaxed lunch or a refreshing drink. With Fraser Island and beach views, the Surf Club is a welcome retreat from surf and sand. Arrive at 11 a.m. when the Club opens, to grab a table on the deck without a wait.
Things to know about Noosa Surf Club:
- You can freshen up in the shower amenities below the Surf Club.
- Photo ID or proof of membership from another club is required to gain entry.
Behind Noosa Main Beach is a wide timber boardwalk incorporating seating and Pandanus Palms. The boardwalk provides an enjoyable stroller and wheelchair friendly walk and is an easy way of accessing the beach without traipsing along the sand. There are several options for accessing restaurants and Hastings Street from this boardwalk.
Running parallel is the Hastings Street Shopping Precinct. Lined with restaurants, cafes, bars, boutiques and art galleries, Hastings Street is the place to chill, people watch and shop up a storm.
Noosa is a foodie mecca, and Peter Kuruvita’s Noosa Beach House restaurant and bar, specialising in fresh local Seafood and Sri Lankan curries is right in the middle of Hastings Street. After 5.30 pm on Tuesdays diners can BYO wine, corkage free. See a photo of flowering Poincianas outside Noosa Beach House in the bes Shopping Beaches below.
Families will love the three (or more) street-side ice-cream shops located in Hastings Street. Nothing screams seaside holiday more than an after beach treat.
Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Dogs and Sky-Diving
Stumers Beach Coolum
Stumers Beach Off-Leash area is north of Coolum Beach, but still very much part of the Coolum Beach locale. Stumers Creek enters the ocean here, although it is mostly closed off by sand.
Find more Sunshine Coast Off-Leash dog areas here.
From Stumers Car Park it is possible to beach walk north to Peregian Beach or South to Coolum Beach. If the creek mouth is open, a beach walk to Peregian necessitates getting wet to knee level.
Stumers Off-Leash Beach has a car parking area, dog washing facility, doggy-doo bag dispenser, undercover picnic facilities and a modern amenities block and outdoor shower facility.
Sunshine Coast Sky Diving
With brilliant blue skies, a deep blue ocean and a never-ending beach line, the Sunshine Coast is a great venue for tandem sky dive.
Every day, beach goers at Coolum are treated to a colourful parade of tandem sky-divers floating down to land at Stumers Beach. If you see a no go zone marked on Stumers beach, hang around to see them land.
Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Picnics
La Balsa Park Buddina
While not strictly a beach, the southern shores of the Mooloolah River at La Balsa Park is a great place for a picnic. You will find plenty of car parking space and a wide grassed riverside park with a choice of picnic spots.
BYO chairs and fishing gear to try your luck, or just watch the river traffic go by.
After your picnic why not walk off those picnic calories. Try the path up to the mural covered Unity Water Reservoir and the close by Point Cartwright Lighthouse. The views from up there are amazing and you can also walk down to Point Cartwright Beach as well.
Dogs are allowed on a lead in La Balsa Park and on the Nature Walk above at Point Cartwright certain trails are off-leash at certain times of the day.
See Link to Details in the Sunshine Coast Beaches for Dogs section above.
50 Minutes north of La Balsa Park, the banks of the Noosa River leave a permanent welcome mat out for picnic lovers. There is no need to brave the traffic of Noosa Heads in order to visit Noosa River which is an important consideration at Peak holiday times.
Picnickers want for nothing on the banks of the Noosa River. There are cafes, there are boutiques, there are restaurants, you can hire all kinds of watercraft or ride a river ferry. You can picnic at tables, undercover, on the grass, on a river beach, or explore by bicycle. In fact you could be doing it right now.
Best Sunshine Coast Beach for Markets
Peregian Beach Markets
There are many markets on the Sunshine Coast but the best market held directly on the beach is at Peregian. Situated between two fabulous beach communities of Noosa Heads to the north and Coolum Beach to the South, Peregian has a desirable village atmosphere.
The Market is held on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month in the Peregian Beach Front Park. In keeping with the village feel, the market is small but value packed with local artists and entrepreneurs selling beach inspired creations.
This is the place to buy stylish and creative gifts or things to make your home beautiful and yourself happy. The beach is unspoiled, beautiful and seconds away from the market. Across the street is the village baker and a selection of coffee shops and cafes to rest and regroup in.
This same park is home to Peregian Originals, a community funded music event staged on the second Sunday of the month from 1 pm. Bring jingly coins for raffles and relax or dance with the family and meet up with friends.
Visit Eumundi Markets from Peregian
Just 22 minutes inland from Peregian are the famous Eumundi Markets. These markets are huge and as first timers it’s hard to know where to begin, but never fear because we love Eumundi Markets, have been a gazillion times and know all the tricks.
Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Coffee Lovers
While the coast is full of great coffee venues, one Beach we think particularly attractive for coffee lovers is Moffat Beach.
Moffat Beach Caloundra
The Pocket Espresso Bar came onto our radar one cold, wet winter’s day. Chased from Kings Beach by the weather we drove north before finding a bay protected by Moffat Headland.
Wedged between Shelley and Dicky Beach, Moffat Beach is in a small bay with a special hidden away feel. Leave your car in the beachside car park and walk up Seaview Terrace to Pocket Espresso.
They have great coffee and the bustling vibe is appealing. Meals are inventive with quite affordable cafe pricing.
With a Togs, Tattoos and Walking Sticks slogan, the ambience is welcoming too. The welcome extends to kids and puppies in the rear courtyard. Across from Pocket Espresso is a renovated playground and the same row of shops includes Moffat Beach Brewing Co.
Moffat Beach and Pocket Espresso are firm favourites of ours, regardless of the weather.
Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Shopping
Hastings Street Noosa Beach
Hastings Street at Noosa Heads has an Australia-wide and possibly World-wide reputation as a great place to shop.
A new swimsuit or beach wear is the perfect reminder of a Noosa Beach holiday and if you are here after Christmas, check out the boutique Boxing Day Sales.
At the top of the hill (you can walk there) at the junction of Sunshine Beach Road and Arcadia Street is Tres Noosa, a beach decor shop with sand on the floor.
Sunshine Plaza Maroochydore
If you are looking for a large all in one shopping experience, Sunshine Plaza at Maroochydore is the place to go. It is spacious with a soon to be opened outdoors ropes course.
Quirky Face: The shopping centre incorporates a natural flowing mangrove creek, which can be overlooked from within the centre while it’s banks are used as walkways. It is unique in my experience and definitely worth a look.
Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Snorkelling
Rocky Points, Noosa National Park and Kings Beach rocks
Sunshine Coast Beaches are sandy with not a lot to look at underwater. But don’t despair, because every rocky headland from Kings Beach Caloundra to Point Cartwright Mooloolaba, Point Perry and Arkwright at Coolum and in Noosa National Park offer the chance of a snorkel in calm weather.
From November to May the water is warm but visibility reduced, while in Winter visibility is good but the water cold.
All the rocky headlands are subject to strong currents, but I’ve personally seen people snorkel and spearfish at Coolum’s Point Perry and Point Arkwright.
You will find amenity blocks at both places and a walkway down to Yaroomba Beach from Point Arkwright. At Coolum Beach the rocks are accessed by walking along either Main Beach or First Bay, depending on which side of the Point you’re snorkelling.
At Point Arkwright you might even meet a baby whale, like this kayaker did. Read more about Sunshine Coast Beaches Caloundra to Noosa here.
See the Kings Beach Caloundra post for more snorkelling opportunities.
Mudjimba Island otherwise known as Old Woman Island
Drive your Jet Ski or boat over to Mudjimba Island, moor and snorkel on the 3 to 5 metre deep coral reef. The reef attracts fish and sometimes a swim with a turtle or two.
During school holidays, commercial boat operators Scuba World run snorkelling tours to Old Woman Island from Mooloolaba.
Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Surfing
Noosa Main Beach Laguna Bay
This is where our kids had their very first Surf Lessons. Noosa Main Beach has very safe and regular waves for learners.
Surf Lessons are run by the experienced staff at Go Ride a Wave and include an unhurried safety and basic instructions on the beach before entering the surf. They guarantee you will stand on the board by the end of the lesson.
- 2 hours of fun lessons
- Long-sleeved rash shirt or wetsuit
- Soft and light easy to ride beginner surfboard
- Sunscreen for Sun Safety
- A trailer to lock up personal items
Book your 2 Hour Surf Lesson at Noosa Main Beach here.
Noosa National Park from Little Cove Beach to Granite Bay
Basically the closer you are to Main Beach at Noosa, the easier the surfing is. As you move out past Boiling Point and into Granite Bay more experience is required. A National Park walkway leads all the way from Noosa Beach to the Point at Hell’s Gates.
Read this post for a more in depth review of Sunshine Coast Surf Spots.
Learn to Surf North of Noosa at Double Island Point
If you have six hours to spare why not learn to Surf on Australia’s Longest Wave. 4 WD Pick up is available from Noosa and Double Island Point is reached by 4WD via Great Sandy National Park.
Run by Epic Ocean Adventures, this is more than just a learning to Surf experience. It is a back to nature experience in a pristine environment where the learning waves can carry you for 100’s of metres while still being close to shore.
This is a special place to learn to surf.
Best Sunshine Coast Swimming Beaches
Beautiful Mooloolaba beach stretches in a gentle arc from the rocky point north of the shopping strip past Mooloolaba Lifeguard tower and Mooloolaba Surf Club before curving through Mooloolaba Split Beach with it’s foreshore reserve and fringing she-oaks leading to Mooloolah River mouth.
Dressing rooms can be found in front of the shops on the Main Beach foreshore and again behind Mooloolaba Spit BBQ area in the Playground opposite Mooloolaba Fish Market.
Protected by Point Cartwright, this is one of the safest swimming beaches on the Sunshine Coast. Serious swimmers should check out the Mooloolaba Swim Festival 7/8 March 2020.
Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for Clothing Optional/Nudists
Alexandria Bay or A-Bay
This beautiful long beach with rock ledges at the southern end is not an official Clothing Optional Beach but is as close to one as you will get on the coast.
Apart from the occasional surfer or Noosa National Park bush walker you will have this deserted beach to yourself. The only way to access the bay is by an hour long walk.
Things to know about clothing optional A-Bay
- The Southern End of Alexandria Bay is the accepted clothing optional area.
- The Beach is not surf-patrolled.
- Although used by Surfers it is not a safe beach to swim at.
- There are two emergency phones at Alexandria Bay. One toward the southern end of the beach and another at the northern end.
- Take plenty of water and sunscreen.
This is quite well known as a clothing optional beach and basically works by Nudists using the top of the beach and through walkers staying close to the water’s edge.
Best Sunshine Coast Beaches for 4 Wheel Driving and Dolphin Spotting
Cooloola Recreational Area, Great Sandy National Park Beaches
Self-Drive 4WD Beach Experience
The beaches of Great Sandy National Park can be accessed by 4WD vehicle after crossing the Noosa River on the Noosa River Ferry. This drive-on drive-off car ferry takes only minutes to cross the river. Passengers stay in their vehicle whilst on-board.
Buy a National Parks beach driving pass at the National Parks office at the ferry departure point. Once on the North Shore of the Noosa River, it is a case of:
- Reducing tyre pressure
- Driving along the beach as far as Double Island Point.
- Road Rules apply.
- The best and safest time to beach drive is at low tide.
For those who don’t own or hire a 4WD there is another option:
4WD Tour Beach Experience from Rainbow Beach
Meet at Rainbow Beach at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast for a three hour 4WD tour taking in the Great Beach Drive in Great Sandy National Park. The drive leads to Double Island Point, the coloured sands of Rainbow Beach and Double Island Point with views of Fraser Island.
It includes a guided kayak tour with the chance of seeing bottlenose dolphins, turtles, manta rays or stingrays, crabs, birds and migrating whales (June-November).
The tour that departs from Rainbow Beach includes:
- 4WD experience
- Equipment hire
- Guided kayak and wildlife tour
- National park entry fee
4WD Tour Beach Experience from Noosa
The same experience can be had departing from Noosa. It takes 6 hours instead of three, the difference being the Noosa River Ferry Crossing and beach drive from Noosa.
This Tour includes:
- 4WD Beach experience
- Hire of Equipment
- Guided kayak and wildlife tour
- National park entry fee
- Snacks and refreshments