Sunshine Coast beaches spread along 59km of coast hugging roads from Caloundra to Noosa in Queensland Australia. This article gives an idea of individual beaches so you can plan your Sunshine Coast holiday.
We love the waterfalls, markets, national parks and food to table dining experiences of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, but this post concentrates on Sunshine Coast beaches from Caloundra to Noosa.
With plenty of time and energy, the whole coastline is walkable, but is best experienced with a mix of driving, walking and or cycling. Public buses connect all the beaches from Caloundra to Noosa and there are taxis and Uber, but nothing beats the flexibility of driving yourself.
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We’ve holidayed on the Sunshine Coast for more than 20 years and have lived here full time for the past 2.5 years. We are more impressed with this beautiful part of Australia every day.
Let’s dive in!
What You Will Find in This Post
- Caloundra to Point Cartwright
- Maroochydore to Noosa
- Caloundra to Noosa Map
Caloundra to Point Cartwright
93km north of Brisbane the Capital of the Sunshine State, Caloundra is synonymous with stunning coastal views and beaches that ooze individual character.
Caloundra Coastal Walk showcases those beaches to perfection. The 25 km walk goes south from Caloundra to Golden Beach and North from Caloundra to Point Cartwright. We’ve ridden our bikes along the path south to Golden Beach and it is best described as idyllic.
The path follows Pumicestone Passage, the sea channel separating Bribie Island from the mainland. Paddleboards and kayaks are available for hire from trackside vendors. It’s not uncommon to see dolphins frolicking and birdlife is prolific especially Pelicans and graceful swans.
Pelicans posing in the sheltered waters of Pumicestone Passage with Military Jetty in the right back and Bribie Island on the left.
Tiny white sand beaches are tucked away here and there and with no less than seven waterside parks to ride through, this is a peaceful easy and flat ride. The path meanders beneath tall trees, through tropical gardens and along an old military jetty from WWII.
Bulcock Beach Caloundra
Back in Caloundra and facing south to Bribie Island, Bulcock boardwalk has picnic tables with a fabulous view of the Glasshouse Mountains and a fish and chip shop just across the street.
Happy Valley Bulcock Beach Caloundra
Under the protection of Bribie, swimming conditions at Bulcock are normally calm. It can suffer when cold south-westerly winds blow, but the beauty of a Caloundra beach is the sheer variety of others on offer. You could say there is one for every occasion. Just keep following the coastal path north to find a more sheltered one – possibly Kings Beach.
Kings Beach Caloundra
With 500 metres of soft white sand, ocean facing shade pavilions and a hub of seaside cafes, this is the most popular swimming and surf beach at Caloundra. Kids will love the natural rock pools and an after lunch boardwalk stroll with an ice-cream is irresistible.
I love that cafe seating beneath the Pandanus trees is just metres from the sand. It’s quite European in that regard. One of two shade structures extend over the beach in front of Coffee Cat and Kings Beach Bar and there are shaded bench seats overlooking the beach.
At the northern end of Kings Beach is Pavilion Kiosk built in 1937 and on the Queensland Heritage Register since 1999. We sheltered there on a rainy day and loved this old school beach cafe with historical photos lining the cornices above. Pavilion beach tucker is up-to-date with Hamburgers served on Brioche Buns but for a retro price of only $12.50. Other typical beach foods like pies and toasted sandwiches keep lunch affordable.
Don’t like swimming in the unprotected ocean? No Problem.
Between Pavilion Kiosk and the shore is Kings Beach Ocean Pool. This free salt water pool complex at the waters edge, has a 25 m lap pool, kids pool and wading area. It’s wheelchair friendly with lifeguards on patrol in Summer.
The pool was drained for maintenance works in mid-June 2019, but normally it is drained and refilled twice weekly.
Beside is Kings Beach Water Park where kids of all ages play in random jets of water shooting into the air.
Kings Beach is the most versatile Caloundra Beach.
Kings Beach Surf Cam
You can check the surf before you arrive on Kings Beach Surf Cam. The same link works for all the major beaches north to Coolum Beach.
Shelly Beach Caloundra
Drive north on the hill past Centaur and Anzac Parks with their soldier memorials and flag poles. Stop and look for whales in season or ships laboriously making their way to the Port of Brisbane.
Shelly Beach faces east for sunrise and has rock platforms and pools to explore. It is off-leash dog friendly between 4pm and 8 am in May through October and picnic friendly with undercover tables. Shelly Beach is majorly less crowded than Kings and possibly Moffat on either side.
The coastal path connecting Shelly and Moffat beaches, is the Des Dwyer Walkway named after the councilman, life-saver and resident of 69 years.
Moffat Beach Caloundra
Moffat Beach is my favourite Caloundra beach. Backed by tall pine trees, it sits in a sheltered bay with a beachside parking area behind. With the tide in, the beach drops away quickly to invitingly deep water, with extensive rock platforms to the north and south at low tide. Interesting geometric designs score the rock surfaces and pools capture many different sized fish. Fishermen cast their long beach rods out into the ocean from these platforms.
I’ve never seen the ocean angry at Moffat, but when waves reach over one metre, I’m told rips form at either end of the beach.
In Seaview Terrace on the hill behind the carpark is a playground and an interesting block of cafes and shops.
Pocket Espresso bar is usually full to the brim with eager patrons. Front bar stools have ocean views, the interior an eclectic mix of furnishings while the back courtyard is protected and sunny – good for those with kids and doggos. Award winning Moffat Beach Brewery is in the same block and at the top end, Bliss Furniture & Homewares can keep me occupied for hours.
Walk past two way creek, around the northern rocky outcrop and arrive at Dicky Beach. When driving from Moffat, back track to the bridge and cross Twoway Creek, before turning down Cooroora Road to Sir Leslie Wilson Park overlooking Dicky Beach.
Enough sniggering about the name… In case you’re wondering, this beach was named after the steamship SS Dicky which run aground here, not once but twice in a storm in 1893. Even stranger, it then became a dance venue before catching fire and burning out.
Since 2014 the shipwreck has been dismantled and dangerous parts removed. As sands shift, more sections of the wreck become exposed.
Dicky Beach Surf Club lies north of the Dicky Beach Family Holiday Park. One long sand beach runs north from Dicky Beach to Currimundi Lake Surf Beach.
Currimundi Lake opens out onto a beautiful under utilized surf beach, but the lake itself is a favourite place for families, some of which return each year for summer school holidays.
I think of it more as a wide river, with shallow swimming areas protected by a sandbar at the mouth. It’s SUP and kayak heaven, with a 6km paddle trail. The drive through Suburbia to get here is worth it.
A short walk leads from Cliff Hargreaves Park to extensive views over Currimundi surf beach.
Currimundi comes from the aboriginal word Garrimundi meaning place of Flying Foxes. I’ve not been here at dusk to see if this is still the case, but the northern shore is a conservation park so it might well be. The southern shore has two cafes, grassed parks, walkways, picnic tables and an amenities building beside the lake.
A beach shop hires out Surfboards, Body Board, Kayaks and SUP boards.
We like to come here for morning tea, lunch or brunch at either cafe.
Between Currimundi Lake and Point Cartwright is another long beach bordering the suburbs of Warana and Kawana. The suburbs are quite built up in this area and it’s a surprise to find the beach so close by.
We like to leave the highway behind and cut to the beach road, Oceanic Drive. There are houses all the way along Oceanic Drive but it is relaxed driving and I like looking at the houses and guessing their worth. Many small parks and access points lead to the beach if you want to stop and investigate.
There is a big open area around the Kawana Surf Club and shortly after entering Pacific Boulevard you’re at the Point. Kawana is one of the few surf clubs on the coast that we haven’t been to. I hope to remedy that soon.
Point Cartwright, the end of the Caloundra Coastal Walk incorporates a headland walk to Point Cartwright Light and Beacon Lighthouse Reserve. Views back to the coast are spectacular on a good day and you can see the potential even when it’s not. A sign shows which areas are off-leash dog areas between 4 pm and 8 am.
Timber stairs lead from the top of the point carpark down to the golden sands of the beach.
La Balsa Park on the southern shore of the Mooloolah River is a busy week-end picnic area so arrive early to secure a spot. River craft come so close to the on-shore picnic areas, that a conversation with the skipper seems crazily possible. Throw in a fishing line for the kids.
Speaking of fish, Mooloolaba Fish Market is just across the water, but it takes 15 minutes to get to by road. Take Port Cartwright Drive to Nicklin Way, cross the river and follow signs to Brisbane Road and Mooloolaba.
Mooloolaba is holiday grand central with multiple high-rise apartment blocks overlooking the Esplanade and drop-dead gorgeous beach. Despite the holidaying crowds we too are often drawn to Mooloolaba. There is a lot on offer and it’s not surprising it is such a popular Sunshine Coast destination.
The Esplanade is full of cafes and shops and Mooloolaba Surf Club is probably the most impressive on a coast full of impressive Surf Clubs. In good weather whole walls open up to let the beach scene in or sit out on the deck.
There is a beachside one way carpark but when coming down Brisbane Road, take a right into Parkyn Parade and into The Wharf Mooloolaba complex. There is plenty of parking in this restaurant and tourism hub and from there it is only a short walk to the esplanade.
My favourite restaurant at The Wharf is Asian Street Food inspired Rice Boi. I keep on returning to Rice Boi because it is so damn good, but with more than 15 Bars and Cafes waterside there are plenty of other choices. Raw + Rice is our friend’s favourite cafe here. Even though they lived in Japan for five years and are spoiled by the fresh beautiful food in available in Japan, they rave over how fresh and beautiful the food at Raw + Rice is. Their fish is caught and delivered fresh each day. If the fishermen don’t catch tuna, there is no tuna!
Mooloolaba Aquarium otherwise known as Sea Life Sunshine Coast Aquarium and Underwater World, shares the same car park as The Wharf Mooloolaba. The Aquarium is a big draw card and buying tickets online saves time and money. An ordinary day ticket is $40 but buy online and receive a 20% discount in Off-Peak and 10% in Peak.
Whale One whale watching tours and swimming with whale tours leave from The Wharf. I’m keen to swim with whales and have checked it out. The season starts on 1st July and tickets are $160 per person. Their boats venture out onto the so called Whale Highway before going north or south depending on the whales.
Actually most things water-based can be arranged from The Wharf, including snorkelling, fishing, scuba, river cruises and water craft hire.
From the Surf Club take a walk along the curved beach to the spit and Mooloolaba Fish Market or north along the Esplanade shopping strip or that gorgeous beach.
The Esplanade has grassed picnic areas and undercover picnic tables and BBQ’s, with a huge concrete viewing deck and amenities block mid Esplanade.
Local Tip: Coffee at the Velo Project.
Drive north from Mooloolaba taking the coastal road. Alexandra Parade leads from Alexandra Headlands to Maroochydore. This is a far better route than the highway. The view north from Alexandra Headlands is worth stopping for and a path leads down from the headland to Alex Surf Club or jump back in the car and drive on down.
Alex Surf Club
Alex Surf Club has a beach bar downstairs and a restaurant up. We’ve tried them both, plus the casual Beach Kiosk take-away/eat in area on the ocean front. Nothing is better than their beachside burgers eaten al fresco on a typical Sunshine Coast day. Bathers are suitable attire in the front courtyard but you must cover up to step inside.
Next door is a skate park and a seaside path leads right in front of the cafe for people watching.
Cotton Tree Maroochydore
Follow Alexandra Parade toward Cotton Tree Maroochydore. The walk from Cotton Tree Park to the mouth of the Maroochy River is legendary. Around the iconic Boat Shed Restaurant, park and swimming pool area there are riverside Information Boards telling the history of this area. It’s a protected sunny spot with picnic tables on grass and beneath shade trees.
Between Cotton Tree Park and the Maroochy River mouth there are piers, sheltered beaches, fishing spots and the sprawling Cotton Tree Caravan Park. When the weather is right, waves roll right into the river mouth and everyone surfs up the river – it is an amazing sight.
Cotton Tree camping has a history leading back to the very beginnings of Maroochydore and has some of the best caravan and tent river front and ocean sites. Although we only live 20 minutes from Cotton Tree our neighbours pack up their caravan and go there for a staycation. It’s that kind of place.
We love to ride our bikes riverside from beyond the Maroochy River bridge all the way to the mouth. There are picturesque old boathouses on the river and a footbridge to midstream Chambers Island with it’s sailing club and yachts.
The River Esplanade runs into Cotton Tree Parade and is home to many enticing cafes, our favourite being Envy Cafe. Inside is rustic chic and outside seating overlooks the river. The juices are divine, as is the coffee and we’ve had some classy burgers here too. They are known for their healthy alternative menu but it seems we’re burger addicts. They serve a great vegan burger too.
King Street Cotton Tree closes on Sunday mornings for Cotton Tree Markets. The markets are just one more thing making this area so attractive.
Away from Cotton Tree we can recommend beautiful Vietnamese food at Nguyen Bros. Vietnamese Restaurant.
Maroochydore to Noosa
The road to Noosa Heads and famous Hastings Street is littered with gorgeous surf beaches and prime beachside real estate.
North facing Noosa Main Beach is the place to hang out when the water is rough elsewhere. On a Sunshine Beach to Noosa walk it is easy to see how protected Noosa is once the corner from Hells Gate toward Granite Bay is turned. The Kauri and Hoop pine covered headland protects Noosa from South Easterly winds.
Being one of the safest sunshine coast swimming beaches is just part of Noosa’s appeal.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
First of all there are the beaches north of Maroochydore around Coolum our hometown, starting with Mudjimba Beach.
Mudjimba Beach is just a hop step and jump across the Maroochy River.
We’ve house-sat at Mudjimba and exercised the dog every day on the beach, walked to Pincushion Island, and spent hours at the delightful corner bar at High Tide Bar & Grill Cafe. Arrive by 4.30 pm for the Sunday Session.
The Island Surf & Espresso bar and MJ’s Fish and Chippery feed the picnic crowds and Florentina’s Trattoria has a loyal night time clientele.
Mudjimba Caravan Park has one of the very best locations on the coast. With grass and treed sites it is a beautiful park to stay in. Within easy walking distance of the Esplanade Shops, bars and restaurants, park and beach, it is situated on a quiet street making it all the more enjoyable.
One uninterrupted stretch of pale golden sand stretches from Marcoola with it’s high-rise apartments, (including the original “Surf Air”) to Yaroomba Beach. The coastal walking path and bikeway is wide and stretches from Mudjimba to Noosa. As the path moves along Marcoola beachfront, it passes Marcoola Surf Club and the Cafes and shops adjacent to beachside Felix Parry Park.
Little Boat Espresso and Bulli Cafe, are two to look for in this complex. Little Boat serves a great coffee and gourmet breakfasts while Bulli Cafe is a Pizza Restaurant – BYO – I just love that.
On Friday nights Marcoola Twilight Market sets up on the corner of Petrie and Lorraine Avenues. Food Vans and balmy nights bring out the crowds and diners flow over into Felix Parry Park and Little Boat Espresso. On Saturday morning the Marcoola Farmers Market takes over the same space with fresh local produce.
Away from the beach on David Low Way, Marcoola adjoins the Sunshine Coast Airport which is currently being upgraded to enable more international flights.
The coffee at Cuba Street Espresso Flagship on David Low Way Marcoola is fantastic.
Mount Coolum is the name of a hill that attracts fitness lovers in droves to climb it’s 208 metres. You will see it’s brooding presence behind the Mount Coolum Shopping Centre where you will find Bao Down Asian Restaurant.
At 6 Breezeway Street on the other side of David Low Way is Curly’s on the Boardwalk. This is a beautiful stretch of bikeway and Curly’s is a hidden treasure for breakfast or lunch. They are licensed and cope well with our rather large and noisy gym group lunches. It is wise to book for breakfast and lunch on the week-end and it’s not open at night.
Mount Coolum Boardwalk
The access point for Mount Coolum Boardwalk Beach is Beach Access Point 96. The boardwalk has great views of Mount Coolum and the beach and is seasonally patrolled. Read more about it here. The boardwalk is suitable for pedestrians or bicycles.
Situated between Mt Coolum and Coolum Beach is Yaroomba Beach. There is a mini headland overlooking the beach with picnic facilities and an Amenities Block.
The photo of Yaroomba beach is taken from Pt. Arkwright Picnic and Lookout facing south toward Marcoola Beach.
Yaroomba has been in the news for years now about the Sekisui Development. Local environmentalist groups protest that it contravenes the Town Plan.
Just minutes away from Mt Coolum, Coolum Beach community has the right proportion of holiday makers to locals and beach living is a dream.
I’ve written a post about what to do in Coolum here.
The award winning Coolum Beach Surf Club has prime position overlooking the beach, but there are some good casual eateries including Si Suphan whose Asian Menu is diverse and delicious.
Coolum Beach Hotel caters for the whole family but specialises in tribute bands which the locals love, plus it rocks a superb covered outdoor sports bar.
Just north of Coolum is Stumers Creek a spacious and friendly off-leash dog area. When the wind blows, kite surfers come out in numbers.
Stumers is also where sky divers land several times a day.
Not to be confused with the new inland suburb of Peregian Springs, Peregian Beach is the original classic beach village. It is classy, with high priced real estate and some new fangled bars, cafes and shops mixed in with some old favourites.
The park near the now closed Peregian Surf Club House has a skate park and is home to Peregian Beach Markets every 1st and 3rd Sunday morning. On the 2nd Sunday Peregian Originals, a live music event fills the park.
We are long time Peregian Beach holiday makers and have added to our favourites cafes and bars now that we live on the Coast. Sushi Wave have good quality sushi, Pizzami Restaurant and Bar do a special red rum cocktail and mean hot chips.
Opposite the Surf Club is the original square containing some fine restaurants and shops. Hand of Fatima serves a tasty coffee and turkish muffins that defy description. French Restaurant Periwinkle is delightful and Poets Cafe has a loyal customer base.
Otilly & Lewis homewares has some gorgeous pricey stock that I dream about and in true Peregian style it rubs shoulders with the local Endeavour Op Shop. They’ve been operating side by side for years.
Peregian beach is a classic and beautiful Sunshine Coast beach – dogs are not allowed on the patrolled swimming beach, but are OK outside of that.
Emu Mountain (aka Peregian Mountain) is an easy climb. It can be reached by car or on foot from the southern end of Peregian Beach.
Sunshine Beach sits just below Noosa and the real estate is high accordinlgy. The suburb sits on a hill above the stunningly beautiful beach. The surf club here is being rebuilt and I can’t wait for it to re-open.
Staircase leading from the cliff top to Sunshine Beach, the start of the Noosa National Park walk from Sunshine Beach to Main Beach Noosa.
Sum Yung Guys in Duke Street Sunshine Beach is a desirable Asian Restaurant. One of the four guys at the helm is Matty Sinclair of Masterchef fame. We’ve tried several times to dine here but haven’t managed to secure a spot yet. From all accounts it is that good.
Duke Street is also home to one of the best coffee shops on the coast in Costa Noosa Espresso Bar & Cafe. In winter you can cosy up inside beside the roaster and in summer catch the cool ocean breeze on the extensive timber deck.
Start your Noosa National Park walk from Sunshine to Noosa Beach here on the beach. Read about it here.
Every gushing superlative you’ve read or heard about Noosa is true. Although locals like to complain about lack of parking, all that’s needed for success is patience.
Our tip to get the best out of a Noosa Day Trip is to arrive early and spend the day exploring. I promise you won’t regret.
If beaches, dining and shopping are not your thing, read this article and bring your bicycles too!
But Noosa is first and foremost famous for the natural beauty of Noosa Main Beach and the Noosa National Park. The new boardwalk and older walking tracks offer the chance to experience the beauty of ocean views across to Fraser Island and a pine covered headland. Watching surfers on a sparkling wave through through Pandanus leaves is mesmerising.
Noosa National Park taken from above.
Noosa is a place to laze on the beach, flaunt your beach bod, surf, have fun, dine cheap but well at a burger joint or indulge at Peter Kuruvita’s Noosa Beach House. I dream of eating there, Peter’s reputation speaks for itself. Then Boutique shop till you drop, revive with a cocktail and do it all again.
Sounds good doesn’t it?
Best Food Noosa – Hastings Street
Noosa Surf Club has a fantastic deck with views of Main Beach, Noosa National Park and Fraser Island. Arrive at 11.30 a.m. to secure prime position on the deck. Try the Calamari and Chips, Bruschetta washed down with a cold glass of Peroni. But with that view anything will do.
Betty’s Burgers across the street from the surf club is a good budget eating option as is Laguna Jacks on an upstairs deck around the corner. Jacks overlooks the busy Hastings Street traffic roundabout and watching that is a fun past time.
Aromas the European inspired cafe on Hastings Street has sidewalk seating Paris style. Although it is large, service is on-point they are well staffed and the coffee is good.
10 Hastings is a more on the pricey side, but the small plates are creative and the Sangria one of the best I’ve tried.
There are so many good eating options in Hastings Street – choice is governed only by your credit card limit.
Caloundra to Noosa Map