Local Escapes

Lock In Your School Holiday Plans With These Epic Sunshine Coast Road Trips

By Urban List Writers

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From lush rainforest landscapes to windswept coastlines, hinterlands and beyond, there’s no doubt that a road trip is one of the greatest ways to explore the Sunshine Coast.

Armed with a loose itinerary, old-school tunes and the freedom to stop and start whenever you please, road trips are our favourite way to travel. The only firm decision to be made, is which direction you’re going to head. Read on for 15 of the best road trips around the Sunshine Coast. Most of these trips are suitable for a day trip, but some are better suited an overnight weekend stay. 

Mary Valley

Live by the beach and craving to go country for the day? A day trip through the Mary Valley should satisfy all your needs for cows, rustic tin sheds, rolling farms, creeks and teeny old towns. Head inland at Beerwah, through Peachester and onto Cannondale. Keep your eyes peeled for any local farm gates, and gather up goods for an impromptu picnic along the way. From there, you’ve got Kandanga Imbil, and Amamoor to explore, so get those wheels a-turning.

Noosa Hinterlands

Affectionately referred to as 'the other hinterlands', the Noosa Hinterlands stretch from Doonan to Eumundi and this scenic region houses more than a few local gems. Some highlights include Mount Cooroora, a hike definitely not for the faint of heart, Berkelouw Books, where you’ll be encouraged to lay back under a towering tree with your latest literary find, and the tranquil Noosa Botanic Gardens, one of the locals’ best-kept secrets. For the foodies among you, the Noosa Hinterlands is basically the result of the Sunshine Coast’s thriving foodie culture moving north. The region’s top restaurants are not to be missed.

Maleny To Mapleton

Surely, you’ve done this drive at least once in your life, but there’s no reason not to do it again, just differently. Once you’ve found your way to Maleny, visited Rosetta Books and hit up some of the best cafes in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, it’s time to hit the road. This is where we mention, there are a few detours. First stop is to take in those Glass House Mountain views and take a stroll through Mary Cairncross Park. After getting your mind blown, keep travelling to Montville. Combining European-style stores selling a variety of hand-crafted goods with natural splendour aplenty, Montville more than deserves its reputation as the creative soul of the region. But instead of hanging about town like you usually do, take a left onto Western Avenue and find your way down to Baroon Pocket Dam. When you're ready to leave, head down to the coast via Mapleton.

Yandina To Eumundi (Along The Back Roads)things to do sunshine coast hinterland

Nope, we’re not just going to tell you to go straight up the guts on the Bruce. Where would the ‘scenic’ be in that? Instead, after you’ve wandered the lanes at Yandina Country Markets (yes, they’re open!) and searched all things vintage at Collective Haus, get behind the wheel and turn onto Old Gympie Road which will soon turn into Cooloolabin Road. Then, keep an eye out for the unsealed Buckby Road and chuck a left onto it. Follow this for about eight minutes, before you take another right and head up to Point Glorious Lookout. Once you’ve taken photos in every direction (the view is incredible), jump back on Buckby Road and head north until you get to Eumundi-Kenilworth Road. From here, it’s all systems east until you arrive at Eumundi. Reward yourself with a cold brew at the Imperial Hotel Eumundi.

Glass House Mountains 

Despite its name, the official Glass House Mountains Tourist Drive is not-so tourist-friendly. Sure, it’ll take you past the mountains, but in the least scenic way possible. So if you’re looking for a way to explore the mountains from the comfort of your car, ignore the signs and follow our favourite route instead. Start at Beerburrum and head towards the Glass House Mountains lookout for incredible views of Mount Tibrogargan. Hop back onto Old Gympie Road and head north, taking Fullerton’s Road to climb Mount Ngungun and soak in those sky-high views. 

Bribie Island

One for the southern end of the coast, if Bribie Island falls within your 50km radius, this is the perfect spot for a day of exploration. The most ‘lived-on’ of the islands within driving distance of the Sunshine Coast, you can go au natural and explore the top half of the island (which isn’t much more than bush and beach) by paddling across the Pumicestone Passage from Caloundra’s Bulcock or Golden Beach. Or, if wining and dining suits you to a tee, head down the Bruce Highway to the Bribie Island turn-off, then before you scoot across the bridge go directly to The Oyster Shed for a golden feed of takeaway fish and chips.

Rainbow Beach

This little beach town on the Cooloola Coast, north of the Sunny Coast, is the gateway to Fraser Island. But there’s so much more to Rainbow Beach than its island neighbour. Head to the infamous Carlo Sandblow—if you’ve seen a photo of a giant sand dune in Queensland, this is probably it—for an involuntary cardio workout. But remember, what goes down must find its way back up, so only tumble down as far as you're willing to climb. Exhausted? Take you and your sandy parts to the Rainbow Beach Hotel for a cold beer on the pub’s sprawling veranda. Four-legged friends are welcome to tag along.

Fraser Island

Beach driving is only the beginning when it comes to the many adventures to be had on Fraser Island with a set of (4WD) wheels. Fraser Island is home to the Maheno Shipwreck, the naturally bubbly Champagne Pools, the vibrantly-coloured Pinnacles and the iconic Lake McKenzie, which boasts the same silica sand as Whitehaven Beach in the Whitsundays. Yep, you heard that right guys: a tropical paradise without those exxy resort fees. Don’t forget to have a cheeky float down Eli Creek, the largest freshwater stream on the east coast of the island and a popular spot for picnics. 

Double Island Point

Got a 4WD, or know a friend of a friend who would invite you on their next Sunshine Coast day trip? Well, you’re onto a good thing because, unlike the rest of us road-bound folk, you can take a sandy mission along the beach, from Noosa North Shore to Double Island Point. Whatever you do, don’t forget your board. If walking is more your thing, embark on the full-day Double Island Point Walk which will reward you with a stunning lagoon at the base of Double Island Point headland.

North Stradbroke Islandan aerial view of stradbroke island beaches

If hitting the beach and getting your hike on sounds more like your thing than heading inland, North Stradbroke Island is basically heaven and it’s only a 45-minute drive away from the Sunshine Coast. Highlights of island life include the stunning North Gorge Walk, a 1.2km track that winds around Straddie’s North Gorge Headland and offers spectacular views over the ocean, the tea-stained Brown Lake and Point Lookout, which serves as an excellent spot to watch the yearly humpback whale migration now that winter has finally rolled around. The more adventurous weekend wanderers amongst us might also want to take a shot at sandboarding or go for a bike ride along the crisp white stretches of Straddie’s many beaches. Whatever mode of adventure takes your fancy just make sure that you stop in at the iconic Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel for a beer and parmy to top off your trip.

Lockyer Valley

The Lockyer Valley is probably best known as Australia’s salad bowl—it's home to some of the most fertile soil in Australia—but it also boasts some epic natural beauty and a winery or two well worth the visit. Start your journey with a stop at Cunningham’s Crest Lookout and be treated to breathtaking views across Laidley Plains. Now it’s time to sample the local vino at Preston Peak Winery, which also has some truly stunning views of the valley below so you can marvel while you sip. Finally, head on over to Murphy’s Creek Escape and pitch a tent to watch the sunset over true blue Aussie countryside with a homemade platter in hand. Ah, what a time to be alive.

Gold Coast

things to do in surfers paradise gold coast

The “other coast” has grown up over the past few years, ditching its partying ways (or at least toning it down) to make way for an onslaught of super-sleek bars, a flourishing arts scene and world-class restaurants. We don’t even know where to start. So we’d suggest you book a room at the Gold Coast’s best accommodation, dial up the energy at the Gold Coast’s best theme parks and top it all off with a superb meal at a top restaurant.

Brisbane

Yes, we are aware it’s a city. And yes, it will take an hour or two to get there, depending where you are on the Coast. You may call them downsides, but once you’re exploring Brisbane, you’ll wonder why you got the shakes at the thought of leaving the Coast for a day trip to the big smoke. Take your pick between visiting the latest exhibitions at GOMA, shopping at Queen Street Mall and exploring the stunning Botanic Gardens

Scenic Rim

View over mountains from morans falls in Lamington National Park

Any list of road trips near the Sunshine Coast wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the Scenic Rim. This massive area covers everything from lush rainforests to waterfalls worth chasing and eco-glamping escapes. Start with a romp through gorgeous Lamington National Park to set the tone for the rest of the trip, before heading on over to O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards for a mouth-watering lunch with panoramic views. Next, hop on over to Tamborine Mountain to indulge your spiritual side with a shopping spree amongst many of the town’s bohemian shops and cafes. Finally, make your way to Ketchup’s Bank Glamping, via quaint Boonah, for a back-to-your-roots candlelit dinner while you watch the sunset over rolling plains—all from the private sanctuary of your very own safari-tent-glamping-heaven.

Bangalow

Hardly a secret, Bangalow is the Byron Shire town everybody wants a piece of. And who could blame them? If your ideal weekend is made of browsing boutiques packed with stunning homewares and sipping tea at cute cafés that sprawl onto footpaths, then pass everywhere until you see the off-ramp with this town’s name on it. Hitlist for your spending pleasure: for stunning home necessities try Our Corner Store, for threads hit Island Luxe, and for a photo-worthy morning or organic lunch, you can’t beat Woods.

Looking for a more detailed guide to the Sunshine Coast hinterland? Here's your ultimate Sunshine Coast hinterland day trip guide.

Image Credit: Antoine Beauvillan & Supplied 

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