Top relaxing things to do in the Sunshine Coast

Cut the technology ties and get back to nature for a Sunshine Coast holiday big on health benefits and low on cost.

Tourists exploring noosa heads
  • Celeste Mitchell
  • June 2018

Coming home from holidays with a tan and a stack of selfies doesn’t cut it any longer. And while cram-in-as-many-activities-as-possible trips are still de rigueur, the need to sever the technology umbilical cord and soothe burnout is real. More travellers than ever are on the hunt for holidays where they can refresh and revitalise, returning home with a new lease on life.

Wellness travel abounds on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, and while there are retreats, organic cafés and yoga classes aplenty, for the most part, it’s totally free – provided by the national parks, panoramic beach vistas and heart-starting activities to be found in the great outdoors.

The Noosa everglades, the only ones found in the world outside of Florida.
The Noosa everglades, the only ones found in the world outside of Florida.

Watery ways

“Paddling is like a meditation,” Vivienne Golding shouts behind me. “It brings up all your stuff.” The wind can be challenging as you try to find Zen in the constant choreography of paddle strokes, but once you cross Lake Cootharaba’s windy bowels and enter the mirrored waterways of The Narrows, nirvana presents itself and exertion is forgotten.

Vivienne is the co-owner of Noosa-based kayak touring company Kanu Kapers, and a former Australian Champion Slalom Kayaker. “I know when I need a paddle,” she says. “I love the repetition of it; my mind needs the space.” The Everglades are one of Noosa’s best-kept secrets – the natural beauty to challenge Hastings Street’s celebrity. Flanking each side of our double-hulled kayak, a blanket of purple water lilies spreads as far as the eye can see. In the distance, on a semi-submerged tree, a trio of pelicans bathe in the midday sun. Beyond them, black swans cruise along the surface, barely causing a ripple. We jump ship to cool off in the tannin-stained water, breaking the reflection of the melaleuca trees that line the banks. This is what Vivienne loves most about her “office”. “It changes every day but I still know every tree,” she says as she looks around dreamily and tilts her head back, face towards the sky.

Sitting within the UNESCO Noosa Biosphere, these are the only everglades in the world outside Florida. You won’t find alligators here though, just a pristine environment far removed from the stresses of everyday life.

Kanu Kapers offers guided kayak tours, but 70 per cent of its customers take the self-guided option. With kayaks and camping gear provided, and armed with a waterproof map, two arms and a heartbeat, you get the chance to disappear off the grid.

Even with one night to spare you can paddle around 11.5 km to the upper reaches of Lake Como and stay at one of the 15 campsites at Harry’s Hut. You might meet some backpackers paddling wooden canoes on a day trip, but once past them you’ll often have the entire place to yourself.

Forest way at Noosa Heads National Park.
Forest way at Noosa Heads National Park.

Wellness walks

Naturalist John Muir had it right when he said, “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” From ocean-side pathways to dense hinterland hikes, some of the coast’s prettiest vistas are found on foot.

Three of Queensland’s 10 Great Walks are within an easy one-hour drive of each other, but most people head for the 58 km Sunshine Coast Hinterland track that snakes its way through the Blackall Range.

Cheryl Strayed types (and wannabe novelists) can tackle the whole track over four days and camp along the way, or there are day-walk options between access points. You’ll be rewarded with warm subtropical rainforest, picturesque lookouts and waterfalls.

Prefer beach over bush? Traverse the nine-kilometre Caloundra Coastal Walk, stretching from Bells Beach in the south to Point Cartwright in the north, stopping for swims at beaches along the way.

Or clear your mind and take in the protected surrounds of Noosa National Park. There are five tracks to choose from, but start early to avoid the throngs of visitors who pound the Coastal Track. Remember to look up to spot koalas dozing in the eucalyptus trees.

Panorama of the Glasshouse Mountains, Sunshine Coast.
Panorama of the Glasshouse Mountains, Sunshine Coast.

Mountain highs

You don’t have to bust out the chalk and carabiners, but there’s something about the challenge of reaching a mountain summit on foot that helps regenerate the soul.

Perhaps the softest and most accessible option is Mount Coolum, a majestic laccolith rising 208 metres from low-lying wallum and paperbark forest. The path to the top is only 800 metres and well-paved, but prepare yourself for a stair-master workout. The sign warns of a two-hour return journey but most people complete it in around 20 to 30 minutes.

Avoid weekends if you’re looking for solitude, as it’s a popular route. Seek solace in the Glass House Mountains. The truly daring can tackle Mount Tibrogargan with a steep climb – or should that be scramble – to the top. The summit is equivalent to a 50-storey high-rise. Stay grounded with walking tracks ranging from 1.4 km to 6 km around the base with good views of the surrounding craggy peaks.

Stand-up paddleboarding in Noosa, Queesland.
Stand-up paddleboarding in Noosa, Queesland.

Not into nature?

The Global Wellness Institute predicted wellness tourism would be worth AUD $715 billion by 2017. On the Sunshine Coast, the industry is doing its best to help. Kat Harding knew the seductive pull of the Noosa River when she started her SUP (stand-up paddleboard) yoga classes and retreats. “There has been a huge increase in demand for the SUP yoga classes,” Kat says. “They’ve been sold out every single week over summer.”

Learning to surf is on many bucket lists, but Carlene from Robbie Sherwell’s XL Surfing Academy in Alexandra Headland says the demand for three- and five-day intensives has trebled in the past year. “They (customers) like the packages because they can plan their trip around it and bond over a healthy activity as a family,” she says.

Galloping along a deserted beach sure makes a difference to sitting in an office chair. Globetrotting’s seven-day Beach and Bush horse riding holiday transports guests through Aussie bush, Bunya pine forest and along Noosa’s North Shore. Beyond Experiences incorporates trail running, or walking tours with yoga, SUP, healthy cooking classes, spa treatments and glamping in remote locations into its bespoke wellness itineraries, too.

Try it here:

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