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Though it is often vaguely described as stretching from anywhere just north of Brisbane to Fraser Island, the essential Sunshine Coast of Queensland runs between Caloundra in the south to Noosa in the north. Each of the small towns along the way, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Coolum Beach, Peregian Beach, has its own individuality. But perhaps the most upmarket and attractive is Noosa Heads, situated on a peninsula bounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east and north and Lake Weyba to the west. Across the western bridges lies Noosaville, and to the north of this runs the Noosa River.
Noosa UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
Property development around Noosa has been restricted, limiting the heights of buildings and the growth in population. This, together with the proximity of the Noosa National Park, led in 2007 to the region being declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, one of only fifteen in Australia and the first in Queensland. Such designation recognises the achievement of a balance between nature and human usage, emphasising the needs of conservation, sustainable development and scientific research.
Laguna Bay Beach
The main beach lies to the north of Noosa Heads, in Laguna Bay, and is guarded by the Surf Life Saving Club. Trees and scrub line the upper shore, and the dry sand squeaks underfoot as one walks over it. Generally, the sea is safe for swimming and surfing, without the problem of stinging jellyfish that plagues many beaches farther north. However, there can occasionally be small shoals of box jellyfish, so bottles of vinegar, to counteract their stings can be found at intervals along the beach. A more persistent nuisance is caused by the bush turkeys that scavenge through unattended clothing at the slightest hint that there might be hidden food.
Noosa National Park
Covering 4,000 hectares of the hillsides above Laguna Bay to the east of the town, this reserve runs south along the shore of Lake Weyba to Peregian Beach. It can be accessed most conveniently from a car park, picnic and display area that is easily reached from the northern end of Noosa Heads. There are several bush walks, varying in length from one to 5.5 kilometres, and in difficulty from ones negotiable by wheelchair to those demanding a moderate fitness level. A leaflet outlining these walks can be picked up at the information centre at the car park.
Walks in Noosa National Park
Some of the walks lead through the eucalyptus forest, and though the view might be restricted by the vegetation, these walks give good opportunities for observing the wildlife. Among the birds one might see here are bush turkeys, honeyeaters, and the rarer black cockatoos. More difficult to spot, but also present are lace monitors, while patient surveying of the higher tree branches might be rewarded with sightings of koalas.
A good footpath skirts the shoreline that limit’s the northern and eastern edges of the national park. From the information centre this runs along the cliffs past the viewpoint of Boiling Pot, where the sea crashes through deep rock pools. It continues past the sandy beach of Tea Tree Bay and on to another belvedere at Dolphin Point (this stretch is also accessible by wheelchair). From the two high viewpoints, it is sometimes possible to see dolphins, turtles and occasionally migrating humpback whales.
The footpath gets rougher beyond Dolphin Point, and leads around Granite Bay to the most easterly headland of Hell’s Gates, a spectacular, rocky promontory that guards the northern approach to the long, sandy sweep of Alexandria Bay. One can continue down onto the beach, or return across open heathland to re-join the coastal track for the walk back to the car park.
Day and Half-day Trips from Noosa
The Great Sandy National Park runs for 60 kilometres from the Noosa River as far north as Rainbow Beach. It encompasses a wilderness in which bird, animal and plant life thrive. This pristine wetland can be explored by boat during a day-trip from Noosa Heads, with Noosa Everglades Discovery.
Less than an hour’s drive from Noosa is Eumundi, which every Wednesday and Saturday throughout the year is taken over by a maze of tightly-packed temporary stalls. More than 500 vendors at Eumundi Market sell everything from locally-grown fruit and vegetables to art, craftwork, jewellery, clothing, and confectionary.
A little over an hour from Noosa, and clearly visible on the journey from Brisbane, are the Glass House Mountains. These volcanic plugs rise as sharp, rock pillars above the surrounding farmlands, and offer spectacular views from bushwalks and exciting scrambles for the more adventurous.
All in all, a fantastic experience of nature Down Under!