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Sunshine Coast's Top Beaches
Queensland's Sunshine Coast stretches from Caloundra in the south to Noosa Heads in the north. Along it you'll find everything from family-friendly beaches to thundering surf breaks to pretty sheltered coves ideal for snorkeling.
The Sunshine Coast has been developed more slowly and sensitively than its southern counterpart, the Gold Coast. Although it has its share of shops, cafés, and resorts, there are still dozens of clean, uncrowded beaches where you can sunbathe, stroll, cast a line, or take the plunge and get in the water to swim, snorkel, and surf.
Some beaches are perfect for water sports such as sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, or wakeboarding. Others are known for their reliable surf breaks. You'll find secluded rocky coves where you can "fossick" (Australian for beachcomb) among rockpools, or don a mask and snorkel and duck beneath the surface to see colorful fish, rays, sea stars, and squid. There are also safe, lifeguard-patrolled swimming beaches with playgrounds, skate parks, kiosks, change rooms, and picnic facilities ideal for families.
When to Go to the Sunshine Coast
The Sunshine Coast is renowned for sunny skies and year-round balmy temperatures, but you can still optimize your experience with some good timing. Beaches can get crowded at peak season, and prices are higher. The most ideal time to visit is November and early December or March and April (except Easter week, which usually includes Queensland's week-long fall school break), when crowds are fewer but the weather is still summery. Note that many beaches are only patrolled during peak times. January and February bring the most rain.
Lovely Sunshine Beach, the last easterly facing beach before Noosa, is patrolled year-round. Beach breaks, reliable swell, a rocky headland sheltering it from winds, and clear, glassy water make Sunshine popular with surfers. When northeasterlies blow, surf the northern pocket. Fish off the beach year-round for dart, bream, and flathead, or cast a long line into deep water to hook numerous seasonal species. Use covered picnic areas, BBQs, toilets, and parking. From here, hike past nudist-friendly Alexandria Bay to Noosa.
This super-safe swimming beach, patrolled year-round, has just enough swell to make it fun. Surfers might want to check out the left-hand break that sometimes forms off the rocks at the northern end. There are shady picnic areas with BBQs, playgrounds, showers, toilets, public phones, exercise areas, and parking—as well as the local meeting point, the Loo with a View. Stroll south along the coastal path to the river mouth and rock wall (off which you can fish, year-round, for bream); north to Alexandra Headland for views of the bay; or along Mooloolaba Esplanade, lined with casual eateries.
Coolum Beach is family-friendly with a surf club, skate park, playgrounds, change rooms, toilets, kiosk, shorefront parks, and picnic areas. Across David Low Way lie shops, cafés, and restaurants. A long, white-sand beach, Coolum is patrolled year-round, and offers a nice beach break and some decent, uncrowded waves off the headland. Fish from the beach in the evening for jewfish, tailor, bream, and dart; catch bream around the headland, especially in winter. Walk south along the boardwalk to the headland park for magnificent coastal views, or north to quieter Peregian Beach with its patrolled surf, playground, and adjacent Environmental Park.
Most popular Sunshine Coast beaches are patrolled by lifeguards in school holiday and peak periods and on weekends throughout the warmer months. On some Sunshine Coast beaches, sandbanks, strong currents, and riptides make surf conditions challenging. Even on patrolled beaches, swimming unaccompanied is not recommended.
Swim between the red-and-yellow flags, and follow lifeguards' directives. Locals are often the best sources of advice on where and when to dive in.
Sharks are rarely a problem; however, lifeguards keep watch and issue warnings if they're sighted. A more constant hazard is the harsh Queensland sun: apply SPF30-plus sunscreen at regular intervals. Get information on local beaches at coastalwatch.com, and surf reports on Surf Life Saving Queensland's Web site, www.lifesaving.com.au. Contact the SLSQ Lifesaving Services Manager at 07/3846-8021.
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