Looking for a family beach vacation that isn't too expensive? The Sunshine Coast is a 100-kilometer stretch of glistening coastline lined with beautiful family-friendly beaches, busy cities, and a plethora of low-cost activities for kids of all ages.
AM: Kick start your trip with a slice of serenity
Packing for a family holiday can be frantic, so once you arrive on the Sunshine Coast, head somewhere the pace is a little slower.
Sunshine Coast QLD, Australia
That somewhere is Habitat Noosa Everglades Eco Camp, a camping and glamping haven located in the Great Sandy National Park, just a short 30-minute drive from Noosa.
Great Sandy National Park
Great Sandy National Park, Cooloola QLD, Aust...
On the banks of Lake Cootharaba, this is family holiday paradise with fishing, sailing, kayaking, SUP, bike riding and a playground at your fingertips. Not to mention the friendly locals (of the kangaroo kind) wandering through the grounds throughout the day - or the opportunity to explore the Noosa Everglades, one of only two everglades biospheres on earth.
Lake Cootharaba, Queensland, Australia
The icing on the cake for parents? Habitat Noosa produces their own speciality craft beer from the on-site micro-brewery.
Prefer to stay right by the beach? Sunshine Coast Holiday Parks operates the best family-friendly holiday parks in the region, from Dicky Beach in Caloundra to Cotton Tree, Coolum, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore and Mudjimba - there's a range of powered and unpowered sites and villas to suit families of all travel styles.
AM: Explore the national park
Rally the troops and head to Noosa National Park. Boardwalks wind their way along the coast track to viewing platforms and rest stops for little legs, as well as additional access points to the beach for when you need to cool off. And while it might be hard to take your eyes off the views ahead, don't forget to look up every now and then; koalas are often spotted hanging out in the trees here.
Noosa National Park
Noosa National Park, Palm Grove Circuit, Noos...
With free entry, this national park is the ideal spot for your budget Sunshine Coast holiday. For your guide to the sights and trails of Noosa National Park head here.
After exploring, take a dip at Little Cove or calm Main Beach before grabbing lunch at one of the family-friendly cafes along Hastings Street. If the kids still have more energy to burn, there's plenty more to do in Noosa.
Little Cove Beach
Little Cove Beach, Queensland, Australia
(Photo by @the.wandering.bulls)
Main Beach QLD, Australia
PM: Go cruising
The sunsets here are a kind of magic. And in Noosa they're best enjoyed from the water. Jump on board Noosa Ferry and Cruise Co for an affordable sunset cruise; at just $25 per adult and $12.50 per child.
Sit on the top deck and watch the fairy floss sky transition through a palette of orange, pinks and purples.
(Photo by @noosaferry)
Hit the beach (on four wheels)
A great day out is pretty much guaranteed on the Great Beach Drive.
Located on Australia’s Nature Coast, this epic journey can be experienced as a day trip from the Sunshine Coast driving from Noosa to Rainbow Beach: and it's a triple-threat of beaches, national parks and World Heritage-listed beauty.
From Noosa, jump in a hire 4WD and board the vehicle ferry to Noosa North Shore to access one of the most scenic beach highways in the world. Wind down the windows and let the sea air in.
Noosa North Shore
Noosa North Shore QLD, Australia
Stop for a picnic lunch at the coloured sands of Teewah, then continue north to Inskip Point via Leisha Track (be sure to check tide times before proceeding any further) before making a U-turn and heading back via the same route or the sealed inland road.
If hiring a 4WD sounds too daunting, splurge and visit with Great Beach Drive 4WD Tours, offering daily tours.
AM: Step into the Sunshine Coast hinterland
It's fair to say the coastline hogs most of the attention, but there's a world of adventure waiting in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland perfect for an affordable family getaway.
Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk
Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk, Mapleto...
Ditch the sleep-in, jump in the hire car and head south-west to Mapleton National Park. As the coast falls further into your rearview mirror, breathe in a big gulp of the fresh air. You’ll feel like you're a world away driving through the dense greenery with nothing but your family and good tunes. The drive takes under an hour so you can be sure that ‘are we there yet?’ is kept to a minimum.
Mapleton National Park
Mapleton National Park, Gheerulla QLD, Austra...
Follow the hinterland drive, take the Obi Obi Road and travel 3km further to the signposted turnoff to Mapleton Falls National Park. After you’ve been mesmerised by this hinterland hotspot, head to another.
Mapleton Falls National Park
Mapleton Falls National Park, Mapleton Falls ...
The walk to Kondalilla Falls is achieveable for kids of most ages (though the track down to the falls isn't stroller friendly) The reward? Cool off under the waterfall, splash in the rockpool, and picnic once you get back up to the parkland. An artisanal scoop of gelato from Maleny Food Co is another great way to cool off afterwards.
Kondalilla Falls Picnic Area
Kondalilla Falls Picnic Area, Sunshine Coast ...
PM: Feast on seafood in Mooloolaba
On the way home, detour to Mooloolaba and grab a family-sized serving of fish and chips to eat on the beach. Or for a slightly fancier option, head to Pier 33 for fresh seafood and excellent views.
AM: Make new friends at Australia Zoo
Going to the Sunshine Coast without visiting Australia Zoo is like having a meat pie without tomato sauce – a missed opportunity. This is one of the best zoos in Australia, the legacy of the Irwin family, and a wildly entertaining day out for kids and parents.
Meet native Aussie animals, some gentle giants from further afield, and watch the squeal-inducing croc show. Check out this guide to getting the most out of your visit and take a sneak peek at some of the baby animals you’ll see as well.
Australia Zoo, Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah QLD, ...
PM: Go strawberry picking
A short 20-minute drive from Australia Zoo is the Strawberry Fields at Palmview; a charming spot where you can pick your own berries right from the patch.
Entry is free and you pay for what you pick - the kids will love hunting for the biggest, juiciest berries. After working up a sweat in the field, indulge in a handmade strawberry ice-cream at the onsite cafe.
Picking season normally runs from June to October each year. Call ahead to check before visiting.
Strawberry Fields, Laxton Road, Palmview QLD,...
AM: Find thrills at Aussie World
This morning you'll visit a Sunshine Coast family favourite.
Aussie World is a family-friendly theme park that is packed full of slides, coasters and other attractions suitable for kids (and adults) of all ages. Make sure you give ‘the redback’ a whirl which is often voted as Aussie World’s most thrilling ride.
(Photo by @aussieworldfun)
Aussie World, Downunder Drive, Palmview QLD, ...
PM: Clock up serious beach time
Spend the afternoon taking it easy at the beach. The most popular family-friendly options are dotted along the coastline from Moffat and Kings Beach (and Kings Beach Ocean Pool) in Caloundra to Coolum and the Mooloolaba Spit with enough playgrounds, cafes and shallow inlets for kids to safely swim in. The tidal rock pools at Mooloolaba's main beach will keep curious little ones entertained for hours as they search for crabs, fish and seashells.
Sun, surf and sand don’t cost a thing.
Mooloolaba Beach, Queensland, Australia
AM: Head to the markets
Does your family go wide-eyed at the sight of a good market? There's no market quite like the Original Eumundi Markets - the biggest art and craft market in Australia.
It's your final morning on the Sunshine Coast, so get one last beach fix then head to Eumundi mid-morning. The markets are open on Wednesday and Saturday each week, and from mouth-watering bites and fresh produce to local art, fashion and entertainment, this is a playground on a massive scale. There's even a playground here, too.
The kids will love the plant stall where they can pot their own herbs, or meeting the roving entertainers while you grab yourself a well-deserved coffee (or craft beer) and split a cronut or Dutch poffertjes.
Once you've had your fill, it's time to head for home. Wave goodbye to this family paradise, knowing you’ll be back sooner rather than later.