10 Best Sunshine Coast beaches for your next trip
In this Sunshine Coast travel guide, we’ll help you decide which Sunshine Coast Beaches to visit on your next holiday to Southern Queensland.
A premium beach holiday destination on the East Coast of Australia, the Sunshine Coast is considered the more laid-back sister to the glittering Gold Coast. If you ask a Southern Queenslander, they’ll surely have an opinion on which coastal region is better. But we’d counter that each offer equally valuable yet unique experiences.
The Kabi Kabi and Jinibara People are the Traditional Owners of the Sunshine Coast beaches and hinterland.
The Gold Coast is popular for its family-friendly amusement parks, trendy nightclubs, towering skyscrapers, and the long stretch of golden sand. Whereas, you’ll find a natural wonderland, friendly breweries, uninterrupted skylines, and a diverse coastline on the Sunshine Coast (lovingly referred to as the Sunny Coast).
In this guide, we are going to share the 10 best Sunshine Coast Beaches from south to north so you can plan your next getaway to Southern Queensland.
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Looking for more Queensland holiday inspiration? See our list of the 17 most beautiful beaches in Queensland.
South Sunshine Coast Beaches
Starting the list with one of the most southern Sunshine Coast Beaches, Golden Beach is 1.5 hour’s drive from Brisbane. Looking out across the Pumicestone Passage from Golden Beach, you’ll see Bribie Island.
This sheltered beach creates calmer waters than other beaches in Caloundra.
Best for: Families who like calm beaches and fishing.
Where to stay in Golden Beach: Belvedere Apartments with self-contained two and three-bedroom apartments.
Bulcock and Kings Beach
At the end of the Pumicestone Passage, these two beaches sit side-by-side. Bulcock Beach is only a two-minute drive or an 18-minute walk from Kings Beach, creating the main hub of Caloundra.
A bigger cluster of dining options can be found at Bulcock Beach, whereas Kings Beach has the foreshore with free salt-water swimming areas. Whichever beach you choose, you’ll be within walking distance from the main attractions this area offers.
Best for: Families with young children who don’t want to travel far from Brisbane.
Where to stay in Bulcock and Kings Beach: Capeview Apartments with self-contained one, two, and three-bedroom apartments.
An ideal day in Moffat Beach consists of a long brunch at The Pocket Espresso Bar, a leisurely beach stroll and swim, then afternoon beers at Moffat Beach Brewing Co. Enjoy a relaxing exploration with your senses. All within a few steps from each other!
On the chance, you want to step outside the soothing bubble of Moffat Beach, you’ll be less than a 10-minute drive to every other beach in Caloundra. If that sounds like your kind of holiday, then Moffat Beach is the Sunshine Coast destination for you.
Best for: Couples who like long, lazy days.
Where to stay in Moffat Beach: The Norfolks on Moffat Beach with self-contained one, two, and three-bedroom apartments.
Central Sunshine Coast Beaches
Like Bulcock and Kings Beach in the south, Mooloolaba Beach is the hub of tourism attractions and accommodation for the Central Sunshine Coast. This is as close to a city as you’ll find on the Sunshine Coast, yet it doesn’t feel overdeveloped or claustrophobic.
The Wharf Mooloolaba is the drop off point for sea-based activities such as sea life safaris and river cruises. If you prefer to stay inside your comfort zone for dining, inside the Wharf Mooloolaba you’ll find establishments such as Hogs Breath and The Savvy Squire by James Squire.
Here were our favourite things to do in Mooloolaba Beach:
- Walk from Mooloolaba to Alexandra Headland: The Sunshine Coast Coastal Path is 73 kilometers from Caloundra to Coolum Beach. This small section (1.8 km one-way) from the Mooloolaba Spit to Alexandra Headland provides some incredible scenic views from HMAS Brisbane Pandanus, and Alex Bluff Lookouts. If you get tired, you can catch one of the frequent buses.
- Mooloolaba Fish Market: Head to the Mooloolaba Spit for an early dinner with sunset. Choose from multiple fisheries, including the Mooloolaba Fish Market, then cross the street to enjoy an outdoor meal in the park or on the beach.
- Black Flag Brewing: Mooloolaba has no shortage of bars, but if you’re looking for something more low-key and original, check out Black Flag Brewing. It’s a surprising oasis off the main strip and tucked away in an alley. You’ll be welcomed by a friendly bunch with some tasty brews.
- Point Cartwright Lighthouse and Walkway: A lighthouse has been standing here since 1897 on a strip of land between the Mooloolah River and ocean. The current tower,which replaced the original in 1967, is surrounded by a scenic reserve and welcoming walking trails. Starting and ending at the entrance to the reserve, it’s a 2km circuit providing spectacular views over Mooloolaba Beach, Mooloolah River, and Buddina Beach.
- Take a Mooloolaba River Sunset Cruise or a seafood lunch cruise – these affordable 90 minute cruises give you a chance to explore beyond the river mouth with views along the coast to Noosa.
- Join the Mudjimba Island Wildlife Safari – this cruise allows you to explore the coral gardens off the island. Using state-of-the-art equipment, you can view the butterflyfish, lionfish, moray eels, wrasse, angelfish, morwong, surgeonfish, damsels, pufferfish and gobies that live in the reef around the island.
Best for: Families and couples who want a variety of activities and attractions on the doorstep.
Where to stay in Mooloolaba Beach: 84 The Spit Holiday Apartments with self-contained one and two-bedroom apartments.
One of our preferred places to stay on the Sunshine Coast is Cotton Tree in Maroochydore. Similar to Point Cartwright in Mooloolaba, Cotton Tree is a small triangle of land between the Maroochy River and ocean.
This means that you can have the best of both worlds by swimming or standup paddle boarding in the calm waters of the Maroochy River one day. Then the next day, go surfing on Maroochydore’s patrolled beach. In fact, some people ever surf on the river mouth.
We loved Cotton Tree for its tranquil streets and outdoor yoga classes, while still being close to major shopping centres and facilities. The centre of Maroochydore is walking distance away with the most-frequented restaurants and bars on Ocean Street. Forget about reading reviews, take an unplanned bar hop down Ocean Street and enjoy the eclectic options available.
Best for: Couples who want to relax but also have access to trendy cafes and bars.
Where to stay in Maroochydore Beach: The Dunes Cotton Tree with self-contained one and two-bedroom apartments.
Mudjimba is home to Sunshine Coast’s commercial airport with arrivals from Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. If you traveling interstate and want to have the shortest possible travel time, then Mudjimba Beach could be a great base for you. Despite being so close to the Sunshine Coast Airport, Mudjimba Beach is a very quiet and undeveloped area.
The white sand beach of Mudjimba seems to stretch on forever, with only a smattering of people enjoying the sunshine. The waves welcome surfers, body surfers, surfers and swimmers alike. What makes this surf beach even more special is seeing Mudjimba Island across the water.
Best for: Families who like surf beaches.
Where to stay in Mudjimba Beach: Sand Dunes Resort Accommodation on Marcoola Beach with self-contained two, three, and four-bedroom apartments and villas.
Another peaceful area in the Central Sunshine Coast is Coolum Beach. This sandy beach draws in aspiring surfers with its reputation as the one break of pro surfer Julian Wilson, consistent surf conditions, and warm water temperatures, as well as a place to learn with the family-owned Coolum Surfing School.
For those who prefer to explore on foot, you can jump on the Coastal Pathway with a 5.6km section from Coolum Beach to Point Arkwright. We drove to Point Arkwright Lookout and walked north towards Coolum from there. It was one of the Sunshine Coast’s underrated walks, and I wish I’d had more time to explore it further.
If you are up to a challenge, we also recommend Mount Coolum National Park. Follow the steps up this grade-four track to reach a summit with 360-degree views.
Best for: Couples or groups of friends who like the outdoors.
Where to stay in Coolum Beach: Coolum Beach Getaway Resort with self-contained one, two, and three-bedroom apartments.
North Sunshine Coast Beaches
Sunshine Beach is a small coastal town in the infamous shire of Noosa and on the southern side of Noosa National Park, yet it managed to keep a low profile. This upmarket suburb centers around the Sunshine Beach Surf Club and Duke Street with its concentration of cafes, restaurants, and yoga studios.
Sunshine Beach is one of the best beaches on the Sunshine Coast if you’re looking for some peace. There’s also an off-leash dog beach at the northern end of the beach.
Best for: Couples who want to get away from it all.
Where to stay in Sunshine Beach: Andari Holiday Apartments with self-contained one, two, and three-bedroom apartments.
This surfer and nudist friendly paradise requires a bit of a hike to get to. Alexandria Bay is on the Coastal Walk in Noosa National Park. However, the closest way to get there is to walk from Park Edge Road in Sunshine Beach.
At the end of the 2.1 km Alexandria Bay Walk, you’ll be rewarded with the natural beauty of this unpatrolled beach.
Best for: Couples or groups of friends who like the outdoors
Where to stay near Noosa National Park: Chez Noosa Resort Motel with self-contained one-bedroom apartments with a choice between twin, large double, and extra large double beds.
Read our guide to the Noosa National Park Walks.
Noosa Heads Main Beach
Rounding out our list of the best beaches on the Sunshine Coast is Noosa Heads Main Beach. On the northern end of the national park, this is the closest point to another local surfer’s spot at Tea Tree Bay. It’s approximately a 1 km walk from the Noosa Heads entrance to Tea Tree Bay’s surf beaches.
Back in Noosa Heads, the hub is Hastings Street, with alfresco cafes and boutiques just steps away from Noosa’s Main Beach. The Noosa Main Beach is one of Australia’s north facing beaches, making it safe for surfing lessons and family swimming activities. This is a patrolled beach with the Surf Life Savers at the southern end.
While you are visiting Noosa Main Beach and Tea Tree Bay, keep a lookout for humpback whales and dolphins off the headland. Or you could even take a tour. This is also a great place to kayak with dolphins.
Best for: Flashpackers and luxury travellers of all group sizes.
Where to stay in Noosa Heads: Emerland Noosa with self-contained one, two, and three-bedroom apartments. Or if you are looking for something more affordable, check out Noosa Flashpackers.
See our guide on the best things to do in Noosa for first-time visitors.
Our top picks for the Sunshine Coast’s Best Beaches
With our list of the best beaches on the Sunshine Coast, you’ll feel confident in choosing a spot for your next getaway. Use our “best for” labels to match the destination with the type of holiday you’re after. For those who don’t want to travel far, then the easy options are in Caloundra if driving from Brisbane and Mudjimba, if flying from interstate.
Here are our top picks for the best beaches on the Sunshine Coast:
- Bulcock and Kings Beach in Caloundra for families with children who want a fun and convenient holiday.
- Maroochydore Beach for couples who want to relax but also have access to trendy cafes and bars.
- Coolum Beach for couples or groups of friends who like surfing and hiking away from the crowds.
- Noosa Heads for flash packers and luxury travellers of all group sizes.
Take your Sunshine Coast adventure inland with our one-day itinerary for the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
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