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Maroochy area

The Maroochy area is at the core of the Sunshine Coast and is the commercial hub of the region. For first-time visitors to Maroochy there is a long list of diverse experiences on offer from boutique shopping to art gallery visits, forest walks, river kayaking and beach side dining. 

The tree-lined streets of Buderim offers a superb selection of boutiques, eateries, hair salons and art galleries that are a destination in themselves. There is a great rainforest walk in the heart of Buderim that leads to the Buderim Falls. In the heat of summer don’t forget to pack your togs for a freshwater plunge. 

The Maroochy River trail is a popular activity amongst paddlers, with over 30km of river wanderings where kayakers drift under bridges, pass through mangroves and gaze at wildlife. The mouth of the Maroochy River is a great destination for kite surfers or to hire a boat and putter up the river to cast a line.

The sleepy seaside village of Cotton Tree has a thriving shopping precinct, stretches of leafy parks abundant with playgrounds, sprawling cotton trees and top-notch barbecue facilities. There are a handful of restaurants dotted along Duporth Avenue and within Cotton Tree that are a must-visit for foodies. 

Mooloolaba’s north facing stretch of beach is patrolled all year round and is a gentle ocean swimming spot and very popular with visiting families. The Mooloolaba jetty is home to the biggest trawling fleet in Queensland and throughout the summer months, visitors can see the trawlers hard at work on the horizon. There are some great seafood haunts along Mooloolaba’s Spit that sell locally, wild-caught seafood direct from the trawler. Walkers, runners and bike riders can track the popular beach boardwalk that begins at the Mooloolaba Spit, weaving through paper barks and beach parks with the rumble of the ocean never too far away.

Walkers can stroll along Alexandra Headland and into Cotton Tree. Mooloolaba's esplanade and back streets are filled to the brim with stylish boutiques, relaxed eateries, al fresco restaurants and attractions. 

Fondly referred to as Alex amongst locals, Alexandra Headland is squeezed between Mooloolaba and Maroochydore. Its rocky headland offers some great surf and its patrolled beaches are a hit amongst swimmers. The headland park has some barbecue shelters and park benches offering sweeping coastal views to Mount Coolum and beyond. There is also a skate bowl located beachside, which is a hit with the skating fraternity.

Marcoola offers a tranquil, relaxed coastal setting, with few crowds to contend with on the beach. 

If you have your dive ticket, you can’t go past exploring the ex-HMAS Brisbane that was scuttled in mid-2005 off the coast of Mooloolaba and is the largest diveable wreck in Queensland.


The Spit, Mooloolaba and Alexandra Headland
Check out the local surf conditions here

  • A jaunt to the Maroochy Botanic Gardens is really worthwhile. Head along the crushed pebble path to the bushland sculpture garden that takes you on an art journey into nature’s very own gallery. Walk past varied sculptures from sculptors around the world that leave you pondering, smiling or confused. This open-air gallery offers the sweet smell of wattle, the crack of a whipbird and perfect lawns to enjoy a picnic and reflect on the quotes scattered throughout the natives. Take Tanawha Forest Glen Tourist Drive 25 and follow the signs. 
  • If you’re looking for skate parks along the Sunshine Coast, you can’t go past the Alexandra Headland skate park. The skate bowl is renowned for its crowds and beachside location and is popular amongst skaters, BMX riders and bladers of all skill levels. It features a wedge ramp, fun box, quarter pipe with banks, coffin box seven-foot half pipe. Other skate parks along the coast are Roberts Road, Beerwah; Sportsman Parade, Bokarina; Eumundi, next door to the public swimming pool and Peregian Beach in the park beside the beach. 
  • Kitesurfers take note: salt has been told by the experts that the mouth of the Maroochy River satisfies both beginner, intermediate and advanced kite surfer appetites because you can access both sides of the river either via Cotton Tree or Twin Waters. 
  • There is something magical about cruising along the majestic Maroochy River in a kayak with only the noise of water birds and gentle ebb and flow of the canoe to disturb your thoughts. Paddle through this stunning natural environment bathed in local history. The Maroochy River Trail is about 30km long with the upper reaches of the trail starting at Lake Dunethin. From the trail head, paddlers have the option to paddle north to George Best Park or south to Coolum Creek, the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary and Mangrove Islands into the lower reaches of the Maroochy River. If you need to hire a kayak or canoe contact Suncoast Kayaking Tours on 0431 706 983 or Swan Boat hire on 5443 7225. For more information on the trail visit
  • For the keen snorkeller, Old Woman Island is a great fish gawking location, a kilometre off the mainland. You will need a boat or jet ski to access the reefs surrounding the island. No facilities exist on the island except for an old run-down fishing hut. When you duck dive under the crystal clear water expect to see a menagerie of sea creatures including coral fish, clown fish, turtles, wobbegongs and moray eels. Oh, and salt takes no responsibility for shark encounters.
  • Treat the kids to some playtime at the Cotton Tree Esplanade playground or visit the impressive new adventure water park at the Aquatic Centre next door in Cotton Tree Park. 
  • Visit the touching National Serviceman’s Memorial at the Cotton Tree Esplanade to honour the 287,000 men called up for service in the navy, army and air force between 1951 and 1972.
  • Find a signature cotton tree by the river’s edge and settle in its shade for a picnic.
  • Sign up for a lazy afternoon game of lawn bowls at the old-school Maroochydore Bowls Club in the heart of Cotton Tree.
  • Parents tired of chasing their kids the length of the beach will be able to breathe a sigh of relief when they discover the great kids’ park located at the back of Alexandra Headland, just off Katoa Street.
  • The Maroochy River is a great place to set crab pots. Go for nights around the full moon when the weather is fairly warm. The channel around Chambers Island is said to be a great spot too.
  • The parkland on Cotton Tree Esplanade has a little of something for everyone. A short walk from the surf, there are barbecue facilities, a good children’s playground and a view to die for.
  • There's another North Shore on the coast and shhh, it’s nowhere near Noosa. Located on the north side of the Maroochy River mouth is a little known spot perfect for families or water sport enthusiasts. With beach on one side and river on the other, surfing, paddle boarding, swimming, kayaking and fishing are possible all from the one point. Furry four-legged friends won’t miss out either – the beach has an off-leash area. Access is via North Shore Road, Twin Waters.
  • Love a good walk? Then salt has just the pathway for you. Begin your walking journey by parking at Harbour Parade at Buddina. From here you’ll walk alongside the Mooloolah River where you’ll see trawlers motor in and out of harbour. The 3.5km circuit will take you around Point Cartwright where you’ll discover hidden beaches, palm tree groves, a lighthouse and plenty of park benches to take a rest. It is one of the most scenic walks on the Sunshine Coast. To complete the circuit you’ll walk around the point, past Buddina Beach and then adjacent to beach access number 7, cross over the road to Illawong Street, which will return you to Harbour Parade.
  • Dogs parks are a great way for you and your dog to enjoy open spaces without the hindrance of pedestrians, cars or the fear of your dog scampering off. The fenced dog parks at Chancellor Park and Buderim are great areas for you to play with your dog or sit back and read a book while they amuse themselves. The Buderim park has high, secure fences along with gazebos with tables and chairs. The park has a separate area for small dogs who don’t want to play with the larger dogs. Corner of Mooloolaba Road and Syd Lingard Drive, Buderim and Lakehead Drive, Sippy Downs. 
  • Mooloolaba sparkles at night with its well-lit parks and beach. At twilight The Esplanade and its beachside parks come to life abuzz with families cooking dinner on the barbecues and active souls playing touch football.
  • If you love to hit the pavement, whether it's walk, run or cycle, jump on the pathway that hugs the coastline offering sweeping ocean views. If you're starting in Mooloolaba you can head north which will take you up to Alexandra Headlands and on to Cotton Tree. Or if you prefer the downhill slope head south towards the Spit where you'll walk parallel to Mooloolaba's beach ending at the Mooloolah River.
  • Barbecues – check.  Play equipment – check. Picturesque scenery – check. Koala Park has all you need to enjoy a chilled Sunday in Nambour. Accessed from either Panorama Drive or Bade Street, its central location to the town’s bustling hub makes it a local favourite. Explore bushtracks or unwind on lawns surrounded by towering trees.
  • Where do you find the Sunshine Coast’s freshest seafood? Straight from a trawler! Mooloolah River Fisheries, a commercial fishing operation, processes and sells produce straight from the onsite marina. The fishery always has an amazing display of fresh seafood on ice, including fish, prawns, bugs, oysters, lobsters and crab and an undercover eatery where from the marina you can watch up to 36 trawlers unloading. Be sure to get in early for the catch of the day. Open 7 days a week. 201 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba.
  • If you haven’t heard of The Velo Project, you may have been living under a rock. This garage-based café is dripping with coolness and has the whole of the S unshine Coast talking about its laid-back vibe. The décor alone is worth checking out but if you choose to stick around, salt recommends ordering a breakfast dish (eggs benedict is always a winner!) and a pot of tea (complete with a china cup and matching saucer). 19 Careela Street, Mooloolaba.
  • The sleepy coastal village of Marcoola often gets bypassed as people migrate from one end of the coast to the other. But we’ve found a tasty reason for you to slow down the pace and veer off David Low Way – Little Boat Espresso. This cosy coffee shop mixes vintage and retro and is the kind of place you head to if you want to sip on a peppermint tea or a smooth, strong coffee whilst curling up on a comfy couch and thumbing through your favourite book. 3 Lorraine Avenue, Marcoola. 
  • Consider Discovery Beach discovered! Gracefully stretching between Marcoola and Mudjimba, this secret is so well kept some locals still don’t know about it. Featuring uninterrupted views to the north and south and across to Mudjimba Island, Discovery Beach sits in the middle of 8km of naturally pristine open beach – perfect for walking, fishing, swimming and surfing. And all that open space means there’s always plenty of room for beach sports. Patrolled every day over summer, it’s a great place to connect with locals and forget the rest of the world exists. 
  • A burst of sunshine in the form of a cafe-cum-grocer has flung open its doors in the suburban streets of Buddina. Little Miss Saine (saine means healthy in French) is a petite pocket of goodness that since opening has welcomed a throng of coasters who can’t get enough of the specially roasted coffee (from boutique roasters Belissimo) and the more-ish, healthy food. There are posies of sweet smelling roses on each table, iced coffees brimming with vanilla bean ice cream are served in glass beer mugs, puzzles are provided to play with and the staff reverberate with happiness. 24 Parkana Crescent, Buddina. 
  • The Birds & The Beans Espresso Bar is a triple-shot winner. Number one, Beanhunter Blog’s coffee connoisseurs have voted it into the top ten most popular coffee spots in Australia. Two, they only use locally roasted Kai Coffee – organic, fair trade, ethically sourced coffee supporting children in poverty. Three, the re-fit of Buderim’s iconic Old Vandy’s Garage is reason enough for a visit with its stripped back timber flooring, exposed beams and corrugated iron walls sprinkled with quirky, eclectic additions. What’s not to love? 114 Burnett Street, Buderim.
  • All that's old is new again and nowhere is this more true than at Soigneur (pronounced swan-yeah) in Maroochydore. French for cyclist’s assistant, if bespoke, one-off or euro bicycle designs you won’t find anywhere else are your thing then this is your place. Specialising in fixed gear and single speed bikes, owner Dylan Phillips says Soigneur is a creative space where enthusiasts can restore or design their own dream bicycle down to individual components, either with his assistance or built for them. Plus there’s super cool bike fashion and accessories for the trés chic. Tuesday to Saturday. 4 First Ave (behind Caffeine Culture) Maroochydore. 0467 642 531 or
  • You’ll never consider stopping at an everyday weekend sausage sizzle again once you taste the “fancy sausage sambo” at the new Get Fresh cafe in Cotton Tree. Picture this: a fresh crispy roll, stuffed with a pork and leek sausage, topped with caramelised onion and homemade tomato relish. And the styling of the cafe is just as tasty – fresh white painted concrete floors and walls are warmed up with cowhide rugs, rattan weave lampshades, natural wooden tables and industrial stools. The menu is a brunch-lover’s dream and in their cabinet you’ll find a rolling rotation of goodies made from ingredients from their adjoining Get Fresh Store.  Shop 10/1 King Street, Cotton Tree, Maroochydore. 5443 3131.
  • Whether you’re an adrenaline-seeking pro or just looking to dust off the old mountain bike, Ruff End Mountain Bike Park has something to suit. The park has a huge network of trails designed to cater for the beginners right through to the expert riders. Located off Nambour Connection Road opposite the Big Pineapple, the park even caters for the holidaymakers with bikes and gear available for hire – perfect for the family looking to have some fun and try out something different. The park is open all day Saturday and Sunday with racing on Friday nights. 
  • Chances are you’ve driven past it many times. You may have even admired it from a distance, but the truth is many locals have never crossed the footbridge to Chambers Island. The name dates back to Charles Chambers, one of the early settlers in the area, and is today home to the Maroochydore Sailing Club. Located off Bradman Avenue between the Sunshine Motorway and Picnic Point, Chambers Island is beginning to build a reputation for offering a great family day out. The island boasts an impressive children’s playground, calm protected waters on the southern side and a host of fishing spots to test your luck. With all the facilities you’d expect, including toilets, showers, seating and even a few barbecues, Chambers Island is a gem. 

  • Off the beaten track is fishing spot Dunethin Rock. Suitable for the keen angler or a family day out, Dunethin Rock has something to suit everyone. Located on the Maroochy River off Dunethin Rock Road, this hidden treasure boasts picnic tables, a jetty, boat ramp and stunning views of the ranges. Fishermen can choose between fishing the protected inlet of Lake Dunethin or Maroochy River itself. Catches range from mangrove jack and bream to pan-size flathead and mud crab. People also flock to the rock to catch a glimpse of the local kookaburra population. 
  • The Sunshine Coast can now tick a stylish jazz bar off its list of nightspots. The Piano Bar is a very welcome addition to Maroochydore’s Ocean Street. It comes complete with live music, Mediterranean tapas menu and a long list of refreshments including some classic cocktails. The dimly lit bar complements the relaxed jazz music that emanates from the baby grand piano in the corner each night from Wednesday to Sunday. 22 Ocean Street, Maroochydore. 0422 291 249. 
  • Cheese-drenched Oz/Mexican food has had its day and increasingly diners are demanding more of the authenticity with less of the sombreros and sugar-laden Sangria premix, thanks. Judging from the crowds that have been flocking to the new fairy-floss coloured Cotton Tree restaurant, The Prickly Pinata, the Sunshine Coast has long been singing for its spicy supper. Occupying a breezy outdoor space, with pastel powder-coated Tolix chairs and fiesta-worthy embroidered cushions, and featuring artwork by local blogger and artist Mandy Shadforth aka Oracle Fox on the wall, this is the type of place that works for any occasion. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 45 The Esplanade, Cotton Tree.
  • The back streets of Maroochydore can be as deserted as a sausage sizzle at a vegan festival come 5pm, but the quirky brains behind The Velo Project have been busily scheming for all of that to change. Remaining tight-lipped about the actual physical location at time of print, Factory will be a cafe-cum-restaurant-cum-nightclub and entertainment space like no other, with amphitheatre-style seating and the signature Velo thrift-store flair – think paint tins reworked into stools, old elevator cages turned into VIP booths, and a very 1920s’ vibe. The nightclub will be revealed first, with the cafe and restaurant hopefully open by Christmas, and performance space by New Year’s Eve. 

  • Bring your BBQ   skills to the table! Head chef Tony Hong has opened Obaltan Garden restaurant and it’s Korean cuisine at its best. For those of us who like something a little out of the ordinary, it’s right up there, giving you the option to BBQ your own selection of meats at the table. salt chose a beautifully presented paper-thin ribbon of marinated beef ribs and generous portion of pork belly to sizzle over super hot coals – yum! Top it with traditional Korean vegetable sides and dipping sauces and you’re in foodie heaven. Open 7 days. Obaltan Garden, 123 Mooloolaba Esplanade, Mooloolaba. 
  • Any health nut worth   their chia seeds will be acquainted with Ground Organics, and now the talented young duo behind the venture have opened Queensland’s first cold-pressed organic juicery in Mooloolaba. The new wellness store stocks organic skincare, essential oils, educational books, wholefood pantry staples, fresh cold-pressed juices, seasonal salads, chia puddings, Bircher muesli and their “simulate” cold-pressed coffee made on nut milk. We feel healthier just writing about it. Open 6am-6pm every day, 11 Mooloolaba Esplanade. 
  • Imagine a deep-fried croissant , filled with patisserie cream and glazed in chocolate. It’s soft yet crunchy, sweet yet savoury and the stuff Homer Simpson’s dreams are made of. Say hello to the “dainut”. When the “cronut” craze (half doughnut, half croissant) swept the world earlier this year, Dutch-born Mooloolaba baker Dane van Wegen decided to give it a go, using his family’s traditional croissant pastry in the recipe, and crowds have been flocking ever since to Van Wegens Continental Bakery. With flavours like sour cherry cheesecake with an Italian candy almond top, and caramel apple with white choc cinnamon crust, who could resist? Hot tip: they’re always sold out by 11am. Open Monday to Saturday. 15/130 Brisbane Rd, Mooloolaba. 
  • Hello Harry has everything you need in funky burger bar, stepped up to accommodate the ever-increasing sophistication of the Sunny Coast palette. Here’s why this street-side addition should be top of your next night out list. Variety: choose from seven different burgers including pulled pork, wagu beef with tomato jam, crumbed barramundi, confit lamb or chickpea with candied pumpkin all hugged by tasty, toasted brioche buns. Quality: chef Tony Kelly (of Noosa Beach House Peter Kuruvita) has an open kitchen that proves he’s serious about the burger. Vibe: uber-cool from head to toe including neon branding, graffiti wall and bold coloured stools peeking through rough timber tables and benches. 12-20 Ocean Street, Maroochydore.
  • Pour your own beer … whaaat? Yep, it’s a first in Australia and it’s just so quirky it’s worth checking out – any excuse right? Put your beer tab on a token, grab yourself a table and press Go (you can keep any leftover credit until next time too). And while you might come for the great selection of beers, Taps Mooloolaba has a heck of a lot more going for it: absolutely scrumptious food including sticky pork belly and finger-lickin’ lamb cutlets, plus a pretty cool vibe with board games galore and regular live music. Corner of The Esplanade and Brisbane Road, Mooloolaba. 
  • A big ‘woot-woot’ to that little independent coffee shop Evolution Espresso at Chancellor Park Marketplace, Sippy Downs. It not only serves up mmm-good sustainable coffee, but also to-die-for goodies that are all homemade. The shop may well be the tiniest on the Sunshine Coast – the servery is slotted in a little space that once housed an ATM – but it is big on heart. Every month customers’ loose change is matched by the owners and donated to a local community charity or group. salt wondered whether this little place get any better, but with a slurp on a cuppa, a nibble on a apricot almond protein ball and a munch on a slice of ginger crunch slice, we decided they had nailed it. 
  • The Shak is where it’s at! A new organic eatery has popped up its groovy, timber-clad head in Buderim with resounding applause from foodies with a conscience. Think Quinoa, fresh figs, biodynamic activated almonds, chickpeas, purple cabbage, fennel, parsley and mint salads to blueberry, lemon vegan baked cakes. Tastes good, is good for you and does the world good too – a triple dose of goodness. 11/43 Burnett Street, Buderim.
  • Getting a table at  Harvest in Cotton Tree can be a little tricky on weekend mornings (well, have you tasted their croissants?) so the quick-thinkin’ folk behind the business now offer the option to take away in a picnic basket. Order off the menu and it will be packed up and ready to go so you can enjoy your breakfast or lunch in the park and soak up the sunshine and waterfront views. Tables or no tables, the romance factor alone makes it worth reserving a basket, which also comes with a blanket and bamboo cutlery. 1/13 The Esplanade, Cotton Tree.     
  • Right across the road  from the surf club in busy Alex Heads, the team at The Attic Café has cultivated a homey atmosphere. And word is catching on. Every weekend this special spot on Alexandra Parade fills with a diverse mix of loyal locals, eager to indulge in the pleasure of a perfectly prepared breakfast, coffee and cake. With quirky quotes and funny bits and bobs scattered throughout, Ian and Sharon Masterman’s eatery is sure to keep you entertained. You’ll be hiding in The Attic for hours. 158 Alexandra Parade, Alexandra Headland.
  • Looking for some extreme fun and adventure?  The Big Boing in Birtinya is the Sunshine Coast’s first indoor trampoline park and people are going flipping mad with excitement. Not only a great place for the whole family, it’s also an ideal venue for parties and events. You can even get your friends and colleagues together and join the Dodgeball Social League. These guys offer a range of activities and classes that are suitable for all ages from two and a half years. Being fully air conditioned, it’s the perfect all-weather venue for fitness or fun. 24C Innovation Parkway, Birtinya. 
  • What do you get when you combine four sunny personalities with salt-soaked interests and a solid love of coffee? Born out of a surf trip to Bali (as all good stories go), young couples and friends Ellie, Seb, Bridie and Mitch opened Glass Coffee House & Surf Gallery late last year. With their locally hand-shaped surf boards and dreamy surf photography (mostly shot on film), the cafe has become the go-to spot for chilled out tunes on vinyl, strong and delicious Fonzie Abbott espresso and conversation flowing over the fibreglassed, custom-made tables with a brekkie wrap or one of Mitch’s mum’s melting moments in hand. Keep an eye out for monthly events from surf film nights to pop-up market stalls. 80-82 Sixth Avenue, Maroochydore. 
  • Nestled in the heart of tranquil Tanawha lies 82 hectares of beautiful rainforest, lush gardens, native plants, wildlife, lagoons and stone sculptures. The Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden is a golden treasure ideal for family outings, lazing under a tree with your favourite book, romantic ventures for two, and for yummy picnics by the water. The gardens are also home to a specialised arts and ecology interpretive centre that is available to hire for all types of events, workshops and conferences. There are also guided walks, holiday programs, art exhibitions, educational workshops and other events that are held throughout the year. Whatever the occasion, the Botanic Gardens are certainly a place where you can relax, unwind and recharge the batteries. Palm Creek Road, Tanawha. 
  • A big ‘woot-woot’ to that little independent coffee shop Evolution Espresso at Chancellor Park Marketplace, Sippy Downs. It not only serves up mmm-good sustainable coffee, but also to-die-for goodies that are all homemade. The shop may well be the tiniest on the Sunshine Coast – the servery is slotted in a little space that once housed an ATM – but it is big on heart. Every month customers’ loose change is matched by the owners and donated to a local community charity or group. With a slurp on a cuppa, a nibble on an apricot almond protein ball and a munch on a slice of ginger crunch slice, salt decided they have nailed it. 

Cotton Tree Street Markets – held every Sunday - King Street, Cotton Tree
Mooloolaba Markets – held every Sunday – Venning Street, Mooloolaba
Nights On Ocean Markets - held the second Friday of each month 
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