Last updated 25 October 2020
With its laid-back lifestyle, sandy beaches, national parks, cosmopolitan cafes and a balmy Queensland climate conducive to all-year-round outdoor activities, Noosa holds loads of appeal. But with so many choices, where can you go to experience that blissed-out feeling?
Firstly – I’ll clarify what I mean by blissed-out – so you don’t go thinking I’m referring to a drug-induced state of being!
My on-line dictionary for blissed-out:- to reach a state of perfect happiness, oblivious of everything else. And that’s the perfect descriptive – I associate Noosa with helping me reach that perfect state of happiness!
Noosa family holiday memories
The most northerly part of the Sunshine Coast, Noosa is a two-hour drive from Brisbane and has been a go-to holiday destination for me for many years. Growing up in Brisbane, I remember Mum and Dad, after Christmas day festivities, packing the family station wagon and somewhere in the stuffed-to-the brim car (including foam surfboards strapped to the roof-racks) my two brothers and I would find space to squeeze in. We’d drive to Peregian, a small coastal community (30 minutes south of Noosa) for our annual four-week holiday. Our rental holiday house was at Peregian Beach, a quick clamber over the sand dunes and we’d be at the beach.
During our month away, we’d make regular trips to Noosa and for a few years, we even gave Peregian the flick and stayed in Noosaville instead.
Our recent stay in Noosaville at the Ivory Palms Resort over the September school holidays brought back childhood holiday memories. While Noosa’s population has jumped (permanent resident numbers have increased from 10,800 in 1976 to around 55,000 in 2018) the region has managed to maintain that laid-back vibe and cool charm I remember as a kid.
Because there is so much to see and do in the Noosa region, it would be impossible to mention them all in one blog post. With that in mind, I’m sharing some of our favourite experiences during a recent mini-vacay (where Jen felt “blissed-out.”) And because I was only there for three days, I called on two fab friends to share their Noosa insider tips! They’ve been making regular pilgrimages to Noosa with their families and have the low-down on this popular coastal community.
Welcome to Gubbi Gubbi country – the Noosa Region.
Best Family Activities in Noosa
Disclosure: It was my teen boys – currently aged 17 (twins) – who came with me to Noosa. What interests them is different from what will interest younger kids. So, please keep in mind, this was a teenage-centric min-break.
Sunset cruise on Noosa River
All those previous trips to Noosa, apart from doing a paddle on the river, I have not been up and down the canals. On a sunset cruise on the Noosa Ferry sitting on either the open deck or down below inside, you will gain a voyeuristic view into some of those stunning waterfront homes along Noosa Sound. (Many home-owners – or renters – don’t mind the passing traffic as not many had blinds, we could see what they were having for dinner!)
With commentary from the skipper, I learned a few facts about Noosa, like the three-story Las Rias Holiday Apartments – built (crazy) close to the water’s edge – was approved by council in the 1980s. The following year the incoming Council dismissed the old Council and brought in new height restrictions, to two stories. Too late, the apartments were already approved, and the building went ahead in 1987 – and are the only three-story apartments along the river.
Tip: You can BYO your favourite drinks on board and Noosa Ferry will provide you with glassware and ice. (My oops, this slack mama ran out of time to organise drinks and snacks.)
A: Departs and drops off at Pier One, Sofitel Noosa jetty, Hastings St, Noosa Heads
P: 07 5449 8442
Stand up paddleboard on Noosa River
The night before we were on a boat on Noosa River. The following morning we opted for exploring Noosa River via SUP with Noosa Stand Up Paddle, located on Gympie Terrace in Noosaville. For my first time on a SUP, the idea was to choose a calm stretch of water to get a ‘handle’ on the techniques involved. Shame about the slight northeaster blowing across Noosa River, creating choppy conditions!
After a quick introduction lesson from James Howard-Clarke, my boys (who had done this before) and I (first-attempt) jumped on board and tried to maneuver our way around the shoreline. James suggested once we’d practised near shore, we escape the choppy water and paddle to the other side of the river where it was more sheltered and supposedly calmer. That would be fine if you are confident! I took the easier option and paddled across the river on my knees (with difficulty!)
Dodging motorised vessels (truthfully, they dodged me as I wasn’t getting the gist of paddling without going in circles) we made it to the calmer side, where I was confident enough to stand up. Charley was yelling out instructions indicating my paddle style was all wrong. Both boys ended up in the water and I can happily say I avoided falling in (only just!)
Our hour was up too quickly and we returned to shore where James snapped a few pics of us lined up like ducks coming in for a feed. Heaps of fun from beginner to advanced. The couple who came in at the same time had been out on their SUP’s for a few hours exploring further up the river. Lake Cooroibah is a fun area to explore (set aside a half-day for that adventure!)
Take a look at the Noosa SUP website for other water activities options. My boys and I loved the SUP and now that I have tried it, I’m keen to go again (not over waves in the surf though.)
A: 172 Gympie Terrace, Noosaville P: 0423 869 962
C: James Howard-Clarke
Whale watching tour
During whale season (July – October) around 35,000 humpback whales migrate up the east coast of Australia from Antarctica heading to the warmer waters of Harvey Bay and the Whitsundays, where the mother whales give birth. The whales with their calves then make their 6,000 km journey back to the chilly waters of Antarctica. We can take advantage of this migration and observe them in the distance from the mainland, or, for a closer look, jump on board a vessel. With a reputable operator and some good old-fashioned luck, hopefully, on a whale watching tour, you will catch these friendly mammals as they breach, leap, or dive through the water.
While humpback whales are known to show off and are not fazed by humans observing them, they are not performing creatures. They do as they please and you are not always guaranteed to see a breach. But if you take a whale watching tour with a company with years of whale watching experience, you’re bound to find these gentle giants and ooh and ahh at their playful adventures. And you might also want to check if they offer a whale guarantee.*
Owner-operated Noosa Wave Boating Adventures has over 35 years of experience operating tour boats. On Wednesday morning, I met Skipper Andrew.
As I have very little knowledge about boats, here’s the specs about the Noosa Wave boat from their website:
Noosa Wave is a state-of-the-art vessel custom-built for Noosa with an 11m Deep-V hull giving the softest of rides so you get that zero-gravity feeling when gliding over the waves, without the hard bumps or knocks. Noosa Wave has the largest, low emission Yamaha engines producing 850HP. The boat has a full sun protective canopy, an onboard toilet, swim ladders, beach landing gear and a refrigeration unit.
With our life jackets securely fastened, we sit under the full-sun protective canopy and motor out past Noosa National Park (great view from the water.)
Within ten minutes, someone calls out, “there’s a blow.” The cloud formed from the whale forcing air through their two blowholes (at 40kph.) The kids on board (and the big kids) are all excited and pointing in the direction of the whale in case someone had missed its whereabouts. Andrew slows the boat down, cuts the engine and we drift. He says we can stand, so we move to the side of the boat, cameras, poised and ready.
There is a big splash and mama whale emerges from the water not once but twice. The sound of her big body (some whales weigh up to 40 tonnes) is unforgettable.
We see a few more whales. One flicks her tail fluke in a farewell gesture before diving deeper. Andrew informs us each tail is unique like a human fingerprint and this one, being an all-black fluke, was rare.
Just when you cannot imagine the two-hour cruise getting any better, on the return journey to Noosaville we come across a playful pod of dolphins cruising about 30 metres beyond a group of surfers at Sunshine Beach.
FYI, Noosa Wave offers a *Whale Watching guarantee. *If whales are not sighted on your whale watching trip in July to mid-October, Noosa Wave offers a 50% discount off your next trip.
A: The Jetty, 186 Gympie Terrace
Noosaville P: 0458 997 188
Sunset views over Mt Tinbeerwah
The Noosa Region has a few locations to observe the sunset: Laguna Lookout, Noosa Hill Lookout or Mt Tinbeerwah.
I chose Mt Tinbeerwah in Tewantin National Park as you see both ocean and hinterland from the top (265m above sea level). It was conveniently close to Ivory Palms Resort (15-minute drive) and there is a sealed track to the lookout. The walking track is one kilometre long and is an easy stroll (Class 4).
There is one short section – about 500 metres from the car park – that deviates from the sealed path. An uneven rocky segment cuts across the rock face for about 10 metres, then re-connects to the graded path again. I only mention this as assisted wheelchair and stroller access might struggle to get across that section.
Check out my post on Instagram
A: Tinbeerwah Rd, Tinbeerwah.
A little pampering
If Jen wants to bliss out on holidays and escape the non-communicative teens for a few hours, she seeks out a spa treatment. Years ago I enjoyed the Ikatan Balinese day spa (a few times actually) outside of Noosa, but this time I tried Endota Spa at 20 Hastings Street. I chose The Surrender treatment – because of the menu: while your skin is nourished a sense of peace is restored. Yes please, I’ll indulge myself for 75 minutes of pampering to restore a sense of peace!
So I climbed the steps and in one of the treatment rooms I ‘surrendered’ to a relaxing massage followed by an organic infusion facial to rehydrate the skin from the saltwater swims. Endota Spa was definitely the place to bliss-out.
A: 20 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads,
P: 07 5343 1861
Where to stay
Ivory Palms Resort is a sub-tropical oasis within walking distance to Noosaville’s hub (the Gympie Terrace foreshore.) Ivory Palms have accommodation to suit families or couples ranging from apartments to villas, to luxurious two-bedroom townhouses. From my two-bedroom, two-story Resort Villa in the mornings, I would walk to Gympie Terrace and stroll along the foreshore (walking to Gympie Terrace is an easy 10 minutes.)
Kids can swim in one of the three resort swimming pools, or the 17.5 metre jumping pillow, the tennis court (floodlit at night) or the games room. There are five barbeque areas. Bikes are for hire and if you find yourself flopping in the lounge with nothing on Foxtel to watch, there are DVD’s for hire.
You can see from the aerial view the resort is spaciously laid out. Inside my villa was blissfully peaceful, I never heard my neighbours or any traffic coming through the resort.
Big plus for Ivory Palms is the choices the teens have of where they can be active outside (while I took time out to relax.) My favourite relax location was my villa’s covered back patio area, with an outside table and chairs and a lounge just perfect for uninterrupted holiday reading (bliss.)
On-site, PK’s Café & Bar is an option for dining out if you prefer not to use your fully-stocked kitchen. I suggest you send the teens to PK’s to grab their own dinner, while you enjoy a G & T. That’s holiday bliss!
A: 73 Hilton Terrace, Noosaville
P: 07 5473 1700 W: www.ivorypalmsresort.com.au
Eating out in Noosa
Positioned over the Noosa River, with panoramic views, Noosa Boathouse offers casual waterfront dining for lunch or dinner. We enjoyed dinner overlooking the water at Noosa Boathouse.
The menu suits hungry teens – the servings are large.
A: 194 Gympie Terrace, Noosaville P: 07 5440 5070
You can’t go wrong with a freshly made gourmet pizza for dinner at El Capitano Pizzeria and Bar. El Capitano, located above Café Le Monde, features organic sourdough pizza bases, fresh local toppings, fine wines, cocktails and craft beers!
A: Upstairs, 52 Hastings Street, Noosa Heads
P: 07 5474 9990
On the last day of my mini-vacay, I strolled into Vanilla Food on Lanyana Way in Noosa Junction for breakfast. What a discovery! The Scandanavian chic décor is no accident. The owner is Pernilla ‘Nilla’ Tomkins who grew up in Denmark. She refines traditional Danish recipes from her childhood, creating a more modern, healthier version using organically grown and local produce (where possible.) Apart from their local suppliers, everything is made in-house.
Beyond their dine-in breakfast and lunch menus, Vanilla Food has an extensive range of sweet desserts and savoury cabinet foods. They sell Clandestino Coffee, tea by Mayde Tea, Yukti Healthcare elixirs, as well as house-made nut milks. You can stroll through an adjoining archway next door to cast your eye over a nice range of goodies in CLO Studios.
I found out too late, there is another Vanilla Food in Noosaville @ 59 Rene Street
*From their website: Located inside Belmondos Organic Market, Vanilla Food is surrounded by an organic grocer, butcher, artisan bakery, local coffee roaster, Ayurvedic clinic and yoga studio. Upon entering Belmondos Organic Market, you will discover this is a café experience like no other. On our Noosaville menu you will find a selection of wholesome breakfasts, lunches, gluten-free baking, raw and vegan sweet treats and nourishing smoothies.
Betty’s Burgers is an all-time favourite place for kids who love burgers and the one at the top end of Hastings Street (opposite the surf club) is the first in the chain to open. No matter the time of day, Betty’s Burgers always seems to be full of hungry kids – must be all that fresh air and activity creating an appetite!
Bistro C is my friend’s favourite dining location for the beachfront views and a fabulous breakfast lunch or dinner. You can grab a pretty view from the outside dining tables, watching Noosa lovers stroll by on the boardwalk.
Sustainable and green The Noosa Biosphere Reserve
Another facet of Noosa I’ve come to appreciate more as I’ve ‘aged’ is its affinity with nature. The region was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2007.
What does that mean? A biosphere reserve includes one or more protected areas and surrounding lands that combine both conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Here’s more detail
I wasn’t aware until I read about Noosa’s Biosphere, that 35% of the land around Noosa is protected. And my favourite protected place would have to be Noosa National Park A walk through one of the park’s trails never disappoints! Followed up by a swim at one of the beaches. Well and truly blissed-out in Noosa!
I hope my suggestions have given you a few ideas of where you can bliss-out in Noosa.
*The writer was supported on some activities by Tourism Noosa. All opinions expressed are my own.