My 5 Sunshine Coast top things to do

As I was out riding on Saturday afternoon (I’ve taken to stealing Miss SY’s beach cruiser bike while she’s otherwise occupied … and this time she was out in the surf), it dawned on me on this glorious autumn day that it was indeed the anniversary of my arrival on the Sunshine Coast – 23 years ago.

That’s a lifetime ago.

I was almost 23 myself. While you’re doing the maths, here’s a visual.

Nikki Parkinson and Guy Leech, Noosa 1990

I was but a baby in this game they call adult life and had a baby face to match. I was still being asked to show my ID before getting entry to Friday’s nightclub at the Wharf. Ridiculously, I was not happy at such requests. Now, I almost beg anyone to ask, flashing my licence around before they even get a chance to clock my wrinkles and wave me through. Not that I frequent nightclubs … but, you know, if I did.

In April 1990, I moved into an apartment with an ocean view, just down the road from where I live now. My flattie was a girlfriend – a teacher – who I’d met when we were both working our first jobs in Maryborough (a couple of hours’ drive north of the Coast).

1990 with my flattie, Ingrid

All these years later, that girlfriend’s son is a very good mate of my youngest son. They’d be besties if they went to the same school. It’s the kind of full-circle story that makes the world go round.

We lived the life. We embraced all that the Sunshine Coast offered.

We power-walked, swam or popped on our fluoro leotards to do a class at Tri-Fitness at Alex Surf Club each morning AND night. We each put in weekly the princely sum of $25 to shop for groceries. We ate healthily and handsomely on brown rice, chicken and vege stir-fries.

And in case you’re wondering. No, this did not equate to creating a surfer girl’s body on my part. Damn thyroid was doing its thing back then too. I just didn’t know it.

Don’t think going to a Hoodoo Gurus concert at Stewarts Hotel while sick with glandular fever helped set my immune system on the right path either.

Anyhoo, just like the Sunshine Coast, I’ve grown up a lot since those days. The reminiscing of the glory days flows easily as this will be my last year living on the Coast. At the end of the year we are moving to Brisbane.

I know. The opposite of a sea change. What do you call that?

For our family it will be a GOOD move. No more commuting for Mr SY and no more me being the only hands (and taxi) on deck in the mornings and evenings. It’s been five long years of this scenario and with the teens both studying in Brisbane next year, it’s time.

Yes, we will miss the beach lifestyle. It’s in us. I love the water. Always have.

And there’s something very, very special about this part of the world.

So, in honour of my celebrating my 23rd and last year on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, I thought I’d share my Sunshine Coast top things to do.

5 Sunshine Coast top things to do

My Sunshine Coast top 5

1. Have a long lunch at The Boat Shed. There was not much at Cotton Tree – except the pool and the caravan park – when I arrived. Cotton Tree is all kinds of beautiful and it’s my favourite place to hang out. It’s where the Maroochy River meets the ocean and the views north are to Mount Coolum. On the river, there used to be a boat hire kiosk. That kiosk, in a genius move in 1997, became a riverfront restaurant, anchored by the feel of the old kiosk and a massive Cotton Tree, which my girlfriends and I like to call The Tree of Truth. What is said under The Tree of Truth stays under The Tree of Truth :). Other restaurants we love include The Prickly Pinata (Cotton Tree), Ba Vigo (Cotton Tree), Spice Bar (Mooloolaba), Sakana Sushi Bar (Mooloolaba).

The Boat Shed Cotton Tree

2. Enjoy fresh food served up with a difference. Cafes can look and offer the same but some of my favourites on the Coast offer so much more.  Try the Silva Spoon (Cotton Tree) for some of the yummiest baked goodies you’ll find – plus a huge selection of teas. For good food served with a hint of goodness, try Get Fresh Cafe (Cotton Tree). Everything they serve up can be created at home using produce from the foodstore of the same name next door. New at Alexandra Headland is Elliott’s Fine Foods. The husband and wife team has worked at some of the Coast’s best restaurants – now they offer spectacular coffee, breakfasts and lunch – plus Friday and Saturday night dinners from their own venture. This chocolate and raspberry tart is just a tease of what they offer.

Photo 28-12-2013 7 58 52 pm

3. Shop at independent stores and boutiques. In 1990 there was little on offer except small boutiques when it came to fashion shopping. Maroochydore had The Big Top Shopping Centre and Sunshine Plaza was known as The Sands Shopping Centre (and was way smaller) but apart from that, it was all about the strip shopping along the Esplanade at Mooloolaba or in Hastings Street, Noosa. And I very much embraced it. Those hubs still remain but Buderim’s main street offers a great browse, as does Cotton Tree. I covered off on some of my fave stores in the segment I did recently with The Great South East. I’d like to also add Soul Diva Boutique, Buderim (for on-trend lifestyle clothes for a relaxed Coast life).

Willow and Bird Cotton Tree

4. Go for a bike ride or walk from Cotton Tree to Mooloolaba. I’m biased. This is the area of the Coast I first fell in love with as a child holidaying with my grandparents (who retired to the Sunshine Coast in 1979). I know there are so many beautiful spots in this region but it’s this part that has my heart. We live a 10-minute walk from this stretch of beach. And once you reach it, you can ride or walk in either direction with plenty of places along the way to take in the view or stop for a bite to eat.

Alexandra Headland | Sunshine Coast

5. Indulge at a spa. I really don’t get to do this enough but the Sunshine Coast is well served by spas. What was the Hyatt Regency Coolum opened Australia’s first day spa here in 1988. I worked briefly in PR there in the early ’90s and it was my first “taste” of such indulgences. Let’s just say, it only took one facial to have me hooked. Clive Palmer bought the property in 2011, ousted Hyatt in 2012 and it’s now known as Palmer Coolum Resort. I haven’t been back to sample the spa since that time so can’t vouch for it (I wrote this post not long before it changed hands). I also love Stephanies Ocean Spa (Noosa Heads) and Ikatan Balinese Day Spa (Doonan, just outside of Noosa).

Ikatan Balinese Day Spa | Sunshine Coast

This is by no means an extensive list. It’s SO hard to play favourites.

Now, it’s over to you. If you’re a Sunshine Coast local or have visited here, please share your favourite places to go and things to see in the comments below.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mish.young1 Mish Young

    The markets Cotton Tree on the weekend, only I can’t remember which cafe is my favourite!

  • samstone76

    I think a trip to the Sunshine Coast is in order. That all sounds wonderful.
    I hope the move to Brisbane goes smoothly for you :)

  • Workingwomenaustralia

    Every time I see a pic of The Silva Spoon I dream of drinking a chai there. So many gorgeous places! The good thing is, you’ll find new places in Brissy

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      We will Kim, we will!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Annie.Niemiec Annie Niemiec

    Nikki I love the coast and I adore your blog. But being whole heartedly in love with the city I call home I can’t wait for you to start exploring Brisbane next year! Xx

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I can’t wait either Annie … only really lived there while at uni, even though both our families do.

  • Alli @ ducks on the dam

    Just doing the maths in my head…… I have been to the sunshine coast twice. Both trips only a matter of months apart. First time was October 1994 with the then love of my life. It was a regular annual trip that their family took. Then again in January 1995 post a waterpolo nationals trip to Brisbane. Much more fun. Gang of girls sharing a house. Noosa both times. Nothing since. Reckon that needs to change. That is an awfully long time ago but I loved walkkng through the national park.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I think that needs to change Alli! Noosa National Park is indeed a treasure.

  • Katie Rainbird

    Nikki what a doll you were! That fringe was out of order though but you were true to the style obviously from the very beginning :) enjoy your last year, make a few more memories to take with you & how exciting for the new horizons awaiting you!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      That fringe went back almost to the back of my head!

  • Johanna at Zigazag

    Ohh it all looks so lovely. The massage in an exotic environment looks spot on to me right now. I hope you’ll be super happy in Brisbane and enjoy finding out about and exploring all the best spots … to bring to us on SY ;)

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      We will be very happy Johanna … and there will just be many weekends away at the beach!

  • bec twoworlds

    the noosa national park walk is a must, coco & bliss at noosaville for beachy wares, coffee and people watching at cafe la monde in hastings st, retro delights at the cat & the canary at sunshine beach and kayak on the noosa river….from a hinterland girl. Bec x

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Lovely Bec … would make a beautiful weekend for anyone!

  • http://twitter.com/mellieclang Melanie Lang

    On our first ever visit to the coast on a recce trip to find a place to live, and our first glimpse of Alex, we said ‘this is it, we’ll live here’. Having been here for 8 months, we definitely made the right choice. I love walking from Mooloolaba, past Alex with a stop to watch the surfers, and onto Maroochydore and Cotton tree. Next favourite thing is stand up paddling from Cotton tree and surfing the waves where the river meets the ocean and then off to Cotton tree for food and coffee afterwards. Lastly, it’s great discovering new things hidden away waiting to be discovered.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Oh, that’s my favourite area too! How have we not run into each other?!

  • Ali

    So many faves it’s hard to narrow down, but I think sitting on one of the front seats at Bistro C would be it… Your feet are almost on the sand (and the kids can be), and the food never misses. Any time of the day works, but for me a Sunday arvo is the best.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Such an amazing spot Ali. Sunday breakfast/brunch is good too!

  • Jen ( SE qld)

    Hi Nikki,

    Another North Coast lover here too! We used to stay at Pacific Paradise Caravan Park in the little cabins there as fresh faced 16 – 17 year olds and used to catch a lift to Mudjimba beach with the owner of the Park until one of us, me I think, finally got her license and freedom meant we could go all over the coast. It was a wonderful time to be a teenager for sure.

    I was only thinking about this yesterday as one of my fondest memories was seeing Chrissie Amphlett and the Divinyls :( at good old Surfair in it’s heyday) I loved the Royal Mail in Tewantin and yes Stewarts for New Years Eve was always the place to be.. Oh to be that age again.

    One thing we do like doing when we are up there is shooting over to Noosa Northshore for a hike up the beach and a picnic of prawn sandwiches always tastes so much better sitting on the beach. Definitely going to try Silva Spoon next time we are up there, look at those gorgeous cakes.

    I am sure it will be a bittersweet experience for you Nikki at the end of this year…

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Ahh, Jen … yes the Aussie bands that used to come to venues here – Surfair, Stewarts, the Mooloolaba Hotel. So many fond memories. RIP Chrissie Amphlett. I interviewed here in my first or second year here at the paper ahead of one of those tours.

  • Bev Williams-Krause

    As a newbie,I still pinch myself on a daily basis. I feel so lucky to call the sunny coast my new home. My favourite beach walk is still Cotton Tree, Alex down to Mooloolaba – its is such a social walk too {especially if you have a dog}. I also love walking at Pt Cartwright and at Currimundi beach. For special occasions I love to eat at Ebb – the food is always incredible and the view is perfect. Love the Boatshed as well, especially early evenings as the sun goes down…pure bliss :) Still need to try the Silva Spoon – the cakes look yummy!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Well, if you ever see me on my bike or walking that track, make sure you say hi! x

      • Bev Williams-Krause

        Of course I will x

  • Cindy F

    One of THE best restaurants we have ever been to is located at Coolum Beach. Harvest Restaurant has been our favorite place to go along the Noosa – Mooloolaba stretch for years. Do yourself a huge favour before you leave Nikki. We are due for our annual 8 week break in 10 weeks time! Can’t wait.
    Cindy F
    xx

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      An annual 8-week break is a score Cindy – and you do come at the best time of year, weather-wise. I know it’s crazy we’ve never tried Harvest – heard such good things but we go out so rarely that when we do it’s close by.

  • Lisa Mckenzie

    No I am afraid I have never lived on the coast Sunshine or otherwise ,though i do indeed love the beach,when I am rich my sister and I are going to buy a beach house ,(don’t know when that will be exactly) but we can dream.I have lived in Sydney all my life, inner city as a child and then outer west near the mountains as a grown up.How ironic that we both have a significant day on april 20th yours moving to the coast to live and mine my 28th wedding Anniversary….. Yes I was a child bride :)I love how you have summed up where you live so beautifully ,there is a geuine love in your writing,yes you will miss it but you can always go back to visit and live later on if you so wish ,you have to sometimes do things that are right for the whole family unit.When I get to your part of the world I am going to CottonTree and Silva Spoon and Willow and Bird and I love that your daughter works at your fave coffee shop now.Thankyou Nikki for sharing this story.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Lisa, thank-you! And yes, we’ve all got to have those dreams!

  • http://twitter.com/26YearsCounting 26 Years & Counting

    Well you can’t go past Bli Bli castle for some creepy dolls! I live so close to the Sunshine Coast and I can’t think of the last time I went there. Looks like some day trips may be in order!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Hahaha! I loved the Bli Bli castle … when I was 9!

  • http://vicky-lifeonthehill.blogspot.com.au/ Vicky Finch

    Oh how I miss the coast…
    I lived there for nearly 15 years, arriving in Mujimba and slowly going further north.
    Love the boat shed. Have had many decadent lunches there, and a few dinners too. I love mooloolaba, and having lived at the Noosa end of the coast for the last 8 years every time I would go to the beach there I would proclaim people pay lots of money to come and holiday here and I’m lucky enough to live here.
    I have rediscovered caloundra in the last six months as it is the closest part on the sunny coast to where I live now. The beaches are gorgeous and I love walking along the beach that has the boat skeleton.
    Feeling rather nostalgic now…. One day I hope to be able to call the coast home again

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Yes, a lot of people do pay a lot of money to enjoy what we can take for granted … until we leave. Not sure we’ll be back before retirement but you never know!

  • SubversiveReader

    We moved to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in the same year, when I was still in Primary school. My favourite things – Be a passenger in a car going up the Peachester Range (you can’t enjoy it as much when you’re concentrating on driving the 30 bends in 3 kms), climb one of the Glasshouse Mountains, spend some time at the Caloundra Beaches (A lot of people love Kings Beach, but I loved walking at Shelly Beach), shop in Maleny (Rosetta’s Books!) Ride the train between Beerburrum and Beerwah around sunset – the views of the Glasshouse Mountains are just beautiful

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Ooh, I know what you mean by that Peachester range drive – I’ve only ever been the driver!!

  • http://twitter.com/sarahjoypierce Sarah-Joy Pierce

    I love the Sunshine Coast…perhaps one day I shall settle there. Next time I visit though, I’ll be sure to check out these spots! :)

    http://www.thelovebites.com

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Thanks Sarah!

  • Sha

    I used to live there and my heart still belongs there. My favourite thing to do is head to mooloolaba beach on a summer’s night….it is all lit up and the beach takes on a whole new dimension. We either barbecue our dinner or buy fish and chips and then sit on the grassy picnic area while the kids play on the beach. There’s always a breeze and everyone seems happy and relaxed.

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      That’s pretty much the easiest way to feel like you’re on holidays when you live here x

  • Sonya

    Do the Kondalilla Falls walk and then enjoy a picnic feast of local cheeses and wine!

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      I don’t get up to the hinterland enough – such a lovely contrast to the beach.

  • http://www.redcliffestyle.com/ Rachel from Redcliffe Style

    I love all these things but I also love sitting on the beach, digging my feet into the sand, watching the waves and smelling the salt. Followed by a nice meal and a crisp NZ wine. Rachel x

    • http://www.stylingyou.com.au/ Nikki | Styling You

      Oh, I’m there Rach. So simple but so good!