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Two girls at Kondalilla National Park

With plenty of sustainable restaurants and cafes, environmentally responsible tours, and a thriving food scene packed with local producers, it’s easy to immerse yourself in nature on the Sunshine Coast. Here’s our guide for a sustainable Sunshine Coast holiday staying in the naturally beautiful hinterland.

Getting to the Sunshine Coast

It takes between 60 and 90 minutes to drive from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast. If you’re flying from interstate, you can avoid the traffic and fly into Sunshine Coast Airport at Maroochydore.

Eco Sunshine Coast stays

Opt for self-contained accommodation like King Parrot Retreat, an Airbnb in the leafy Mooloolah Valley, or check into Starry Nights Luxury Camping and settle into tent decked out with a huge bed with organic linen sheets, a large lounge area and kitchenette, fireplace, flushing toilet and a rain shower, and a large freestanding bathtub you can jump into for a relaxing soak. But that will have to wait!

Starry Nights Luxury Camping
Starry Nights Luxury Camping

Day 1: Sunshine Coast food trucks and more

Today, you’re off for a delicious day exploring the local food scene so jump back in your car and bring your appetite. You could sit down at a café in Montville for scones and a cup of tea, meet the cows at Maleny Dairies, or drop into Flame Tree Vineyard, a family-run winery where the restaurant’s produce is sustainably sourced and chickens keep the bugs away in the vineyard. It’s a great spot for lunch.

Chickens at Flame Hill Vineyards
Chickens at Flame Hill Vineyards

For an icy cold beer, Terella Brewing at North Arm uses water from the Vertical Farm next door to produce their brews. In return, carbon dioxide by-product from the fermenters is re-injected back into the farm’s grow cells to produce fresh greens. Every weekend, Sunshine Coast food trucks provide the snacks and talented local musos provide the vibe.

That night, you could soak in the tub at Starry Nights or enjoy your complimentary cheese platter as the sun sets. After the light fades, drive to The Tamarind where the contemporary Thai dishes are created using local produce, much of which comes from the restaurant’s own market garden. Each plate is designed to be shared although you might want to keep some of these delicious dishes all to yourself.

Spicers Tamarind group lunch
The Tamarind

Day two: Explore the Original Eumundi Markets

After breakfast with the birds at Starry Nights, drive to the Original Eumundi Markets which showcase the region’s fresh produce and thriving local art scene every Wednesday and Saturday. It is easy to spend a whole morning browsing at this eclectic outdoor market where everything is locally made. Pick up supplies for a picnic lunch or homecooked dinner back at your campground that night.

Eumundi Markets
Fresh organic produce at the market

From Eumundi, it’s a 30 minute drive to the departure point for Saltwater Eco Tours which showcases the stories of the local Kabi Kabi people and the beauty of the Sunshine Coast. Slip off your shoes and board ‘Spray of the Coral Coast’, a historic 100 year old gaff-rigged wooden ketch, and sail down the Mooloolah River which is so pristine that dolphins are often spotted near the mouth of the river. Sip a signature Lemon Myrtle cocktail and enjoy a lunch featuring dishes like oysters served with finger lime and fresh Mooloolaba prawns as the sound of a didgeridoo swells around you.

Saltwater Eco Tours
Saltwater Eco Tours

On the way back to Starry Nights, enjoy an active adventure at Noosa or drop into Mapleton Falls National Park, where Pencil Creek cascades 120m over an escarpment, or Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve which is spread across 55 hectares of rainforest. The view of the Glasshouse Mountains from the deck at the information centre is superb. Kondalilla National Park is home to the tumbling waters of Kondalilla Falls (and more than 300 stairs if you do the Falls Circuit walk). For a less strenuous stroll, drive to nearby Gardners Falls then head back to Starry Nights for dinner made with produce from the Eumundi Markets.

Two girls at Kondalilla National Park
Kondalilla Falls

Day Three: Noosa kayak tour

Start your day with an early breakfast then pack up and head to Boreen Point near Noosa, the departure point for today’s self-guided kayak tour of the Noosa Everglades with Kanu Kapers. The Noosa Everglades, a series of freshwater tidal parklands covering 150,000 hectares, are world-famous for their natural beauty and wildlife and form part of the Noosa Shire’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. When you are gliding through the crystal clear waters of Lake Cootharaba, marvelling at the mighty wingspan of square-tailed kites wheeling overhead, it is hard to believe Noosa is only a short drive away.

Kanu Kapers
Kayak the Noosa Biosphere with Kanu Kapers

If you don’t want to spend a full day at the Everglades, you can return your kayak early and join the locals for lunch at Vanilla Food Organic Café at Noosa Junction where colourful salads, nourishing pasta dishes and refreshing blended juices or kombucha are the order of the day. All of the produce at Vanilla Food is grown locally and organically and everything on the menu is made in-house. Finish your stay with a swim or a surf at Main Beach which has a stall with boards for hire. Or you could go for a walk in Noosa National Park and keep an eye out for koalas overhead.

If you’re after some things to see and do in Noosa, you could go dolphin spotting, cruise the Noosa Everglades in a vintage wooden speedboat or on a kayaking trip, get fit with some healthy Noosa activities, go on a Kanu Kapers Everglades Tour, a Noosa helicopter tour, or a dolphin spotting adventure with Noosa Oceanrider. Find out all you need to know with The Ultimate Guide to Noosa.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.