I know these are strange times and that the kind of travel that we took for granted is no longer available to many of us but if you can, please do travel to regions in your state and support local tourism operators after what’s been a very trying and stressful time. It’s what found us visiting Noosa in winter and wondering why we’d never done so (at this time of year) before.
We had originally booked for Easter but it had to be cancelled. When restrictions eased in Queensland, I hopped on the phone to Beach Holidays Noosa* through which had had our Easter accommodation booked to see if the same house was available for our mid-year break. It was.
And the rest is the kind of history that saw us as a family putting a pause on the adrenalin-fuelled previous few months, stopping just long enough to take a breath and dose up on some much-needed Vitamin Sea.
It will be some time until Noosa is open to everyone and I know how much it is loved by Victorians, so I hope that things get back on track very soon. In the meantime, save this post and come back to it when you’re planning your next trip.
As someone who’s been holidaying at Noosa since there was a camping ground at the end of Hastings Street and lived on the Sunshine Coast for 23 years, the beauty of this region still gets me at every turn. When you visit Noosa in winter, you see it at its best with clear blue skies, turquoise waters and mild sunny days. In short, you can enjoy the outdoors for longer than in the heat that comes with mid-summer holidays. As a fair-skinned beach lover with an aversion to sweat, this is my kind bliss.
Yes, the nights and early mornings are definitely on the chilly side but rugging up is totally ok, knowing that you’ll be swapping the beanie and Ugg boots for a sun hat and slides by 9am.
What to do in Noosa in winter
In a nutshell, if you’re visiting Noosa in winter, you can do pretty much what you’d otherwise do in summer. The water temperatures may be a little cooler but they’re still balmy compared with southern waters, so it’s very much about your personal comfort levels!
Visit a spa
I’m a spa “rat” from way back and Noosa is blessed with plenty of options for you if you are similarly disposed. For me, a visit to Ikatan is a must. Stepping into this tropical oasis still blows my mind because I remember visiting and meeting the owners Katrina and Nicholas Thorpe just as the gardens were being planted. To look at the gardens now, it’s difficult to believe it didn’t always look that way – and that you’re actually not in Bali, not minutes from Noosa! I love that you can have time before or after in one of the outdoor pavilions (perfect if visiting with friends) and then be whisked away into your own (heated in winter) bure.
I was hosted by Ikatan for this visit and having the Mantra massage and mini facial treatment on Day 1 of our Noosa escape really did take me from frazzled to floating, fast-tracking that holiday feeling. The Mantra was just what my body and mind needed – the massage was like no other I’d experienced, with a combination of flowing, continuous movements combined with yoga-like body stretches reducing me to a drooling, snoring former version of my stressed self. Do take the anti-ageing oil upgrade option. You’ll also want a bottle of it to take home. I’ve used it every day since in the hope of holding on to that Ikatan feeling – the subtle scent will forever anchor me back to this holiday. The Environ facial included a peel (I went the lowest strength as my menopausal skin remains super sensitive) but having a facial added on was definitely the icing on the cake because it meant your whole body was massaged. Bliss.
Get out on the river
I’m ashamed to say that in all the time I lived on the Sunshine Coast, I never hired one of the many pontoon boats available for a day out on Noosa River. It was simply one of the most glorious days out we’ve ever experienced. You can’t miss Pelican Boat Hire along the Esplanade at Noosaville – there’s a big pelican out the front – and they can set you up with the size and type of craft you need for your day out. Pelican hosted our family for a half day on a luxury barbecue pontoon. There were six of us on a 12-person maximum vessel and it felt just right, with enough room for us all to sit/lounge and move around. You don’t need a boat licence and the team at Pelican gives you a briefing and instructions before you head out.
We went both up the Noosa River to just past Makepeace Island and then back to the river mouth, stopping to fish and cook Eumundi Meats sausages on the barbecue in the shelter of Noosa Spit. The water was crystal clear and it felt like we could have been in the Whitsundays or off an island in Thailand or the Caribbean. But it was NOOSA. IN WINTER. And that made me feel all the proud and lucky feels to live in such an amazingly beautiful part of the world.
The half-day ended all too quickly. We’ll book a full-day next time. And, yes, there will definitely be a next time.
Take a surfing lesson
My husband is a self-taught surfer, taking it up when he moved to the Sunshine Coast for work 19 years ago. So, when the offer came up for a lesson (a surfing PT lesson if you like) with Noosa surfing champion Merrick Davis, he jumped at the chance. There weren’t many waves around on the day of the lesson but in an hour Merrick had given a few tips and ironed out a few bad habits that had Kester happy to be back in the water with even more confidence.
Noosa is the perfect spot to take lessons if it’s something you’ve always wanted to try – as it’s generally protected from the wind and huge seas most of the year round. Merrick’s Learn to Surf Noosa is located conveniently on Noosa Spit at the end of Hastings Street.
Walk Noosa National Park
One million visitors can’t be wrong – the Noosa National Park coastal walk is one of the most picturesque walks in the world. The rocky coves are home to some of the best surf breaks, giving you plenty of stops and great views along the way. Keep your eyes peeled for koalas high up in the trees and dolphins in the water. I usually walk the track from Noosa through to Hell’s Gates, which overlooks Alexandria Bay, an unofficial nude beach.
This time – because we were staying at Sunshine Beach – I walked from there with a girlfriend through to Hastings Street. All up it was about 8km and took a leisurely 1.5 hours. Brunch tasted all the better for having done that and we nabbed a lift back to Sunshine Beach with my husband who’d just finished up surfing with our son and nephews. You could also get the local bus back from either end if you didn’t want to do the walk back.
OF COURSE, any holiday I do involves a little browsing and shopping. The Hastings Street shuffle was something I loved doing during my time living on the Sunshine Coast – I’d start and one end, walk down one side and back the other, stopping for ice-cream, of course. Back in the early ’90s, this was my flatmate’s way of helping me get over a bad breakup. She knew my kind of medicine!
At the southern end of Noosa Shire, do make the visit to Peregian Beach. I was so heartened to see so many of my favourite independent boutiques and lifestyle stores still open. I’m a sucker for incredible merchandising and store owners who ooze good taste. Give yourself at least half a day to browse. You won’t be disappointed.
Noosa is home to seriously good food and it was great to see so many favourites back open, albeit with limitations. I loved experiencing some new (to us) dining out options this around too.
Sunshine Beach Surf Club: this newly renovated club right on the beach at Sunshine is a show-stopper in looks but also its food offering. We had a socially distanced table outside near one of the fireplaces and everyone in the extended family was happy with their meal.
Noosa Boathouse (hosted): this is a firm favourite of ours – we were just there in January for my father-in-law’s 70th birthday weekend and loved coming back for lunch right on the Noosa River. We tackled the signature seafood tower for two (I mean, how could you not?) as a pelican floated past and the water glistened from the sun on a mild winter’s day. The seafood is as fresh as you’d hope to expect for such an iconic location and the view is priceless. If it’s sunset drinks you’re keen for, the Sunset Bar, atop the Boathouse is the place to be.
Sum Yung Guys: we’d booked to dine here on our Easter break so was excited that the restaurant had re-opened in time for our newly scheduled Sunshine Beach holiday. This restaurant is one that so many talk about – glowingly – and we’ve added our names to that glow list. COVID restrictions meant we had to have a set menu but, as first time diners, this was ideal as we got to sample the best of the best without having to make decisions. The flavours were everything we’d hoped and the service was impeccable. Do book well ahead of your holiday or weekend away as they do book out in advance.
Jungle and Co (hosted): this gut-health bar and cafe is a welcome oasis in Noosa Junction. It’s the brainchild of sisters Sandra and Vladia Cobrdova and you’ll also find one in Melbourne. Vladia is a nutritionist, recipes and products developer, and author. Whether you’re vegan, paleo, ketogenic or just enjoy eating healthy food made with love from the freshest of produce, you’ll keep coming back to this place.
O’Ren: this is a (new to us) addition to the Hastings Street food offerings and it’s a welcome one. It’s by the same team behind Copperhead Brewery in Cooroy and brings a combination of handcrafted beers (my husband loved the tasting paddle of four 120ml different beers), fun cocktails and modern Asian share-style food. This particular Friday night was buzzing with families, so it’s an all-round winner in my books. The food was tasty and servings plentiful.
Fratellini Ristorante: Not only were we able to get our favourite Merlo coffee here each morning, the pizzas were a big hit for takeaway one night. Next time we’ll dine in.
One of the advantages of staying in self-contained accommodation is cooking and entertaining at home. I know holiday cooking is not for everyone but I like to balance out the dining out with dining in – particularly when you have access to amazing fresh produce.
The Crate Collective: we ordered this crate of goodness ahead of time and used all the seafood contents as the base for an extended family dinner on the Saturday night of our stay. It’s a business born out of COVID times, with Sunshine Coast suppliers working together to supply sustainable, health conscious, ethically sourced and produced, gluten-free ready-made products, wines, raw ingredients and recipes.
Suncoast Fresh: another COVID gem – we started ordering from Suncoast Fresh when they opened up their previously wholesale-only fresh produce delivery to retail customers. So, for this holiday, we timed a fruit and vegetable box order for the stay, picking it up from their headquarters in Coolum on the way north.
Sunshine Beach General Store: having this gem just a short stroll from our accommodation was deeply pleasing. My first day in store, one of the fabulous staff members came up to me while I was staring at the fridge filled with locally sourced goodness. “Are you from Brisbane?” she said, clearly clocking me as someone who would “accidentally” spend a week’s grocery budget on locally made steamed buns. She was right. 🤦♀️ Seriously, from the Steamed Bun Company buns, to the Noosa gyoza, Eumundi meats chipolatas and Handcut Deli gnocchi, it was like having a daily farmers’ market on your doorstep – and open every day.
Where to stay
Depending on your location preference and budget, there are so many options when it comes to finding accommodation for a stay in the Noosa regions. My search for this stay (previously planned for Easter) started with a good old Google search for pet-friendly accommodation in Noosa … this eventually led me to Beach Holidays Noosa and this property in Sunshine Beach.
It turned out to be a perfect match for our needs. It’s a three-bedroom, cleverly designed house-sized duplex. We didn’t need the three bedrooms for the entire stay but having the extra space meant my daughter and her girlfriend could join us for the weekend. We were also able to take Clem (our crazy schnoodle) as she fell within the permitted pet guidelines. The accommodation felt luxurious but not stuffy. There were ocean glimpses through the mature pandanus tree, a plunge pool and sundeck. In warmer months I could see how it would capture all the sea breezes, yet it was warm for a winter escape.
The location was ideal. Everything we needed was in walking distance – the Sunshine Beach shops and restaurants, surf club and dog beach – but we were near enough to dip into the busier parts of Noosa with ease. We fell in love with Sunshine and are already planning to go back.
* We booked and paid for our accommodation independently. I consulted with Visit Noosa to work out an itinerary for our stay. Some of the restaurant meals and experiences were offered complimentary in return for editorial consideration in this blog post and Instagram. Where this has been the case, I’ve indicated so in the above blog post. All opinions expressed here and on my social media are my own and I was not paid to write these posts. For more from this stay and previous Noosa stays, visit the Noosa highlight in my Instagram profile HERE.