Picnic season is upon us and there’s nowhere better to lay down your blanket than the Sunshine Coast.
From our picturesque coastline to the lush hinterland, it’s no stretch to say our picnic game is strong. And while we could probably do a list of 100 worthy spots, we’ve honed this down to the top of the bunch.
Here are 12 of the best picnic spots on the Sunshine Coast—some secret and some local favourites—to get you dining among the great outdoors. So pack your hamper and see how many you can work your way through before the rainy season hits.
Noosa Botanic Gardens
One of our all-time faves, this spot just ticks all the boxes. You can get all nerdy and check out the hundreds of different plants on display, bring out your inner nature lover and feed the turtles in Lake Macdonald, channel Meryl Streep and perform at the Grecian-style amphitheatre, or just recline by one of the ponds and wait for Mr Darcy to emerge.
If you like your Sunshine Coast picnic spots with a bit of cultural heritage, head to this park and playground, inspired by local traditional owners, the Kabi Kabi people. There’s plenty of space to spread out your picnic, but the whole park is an off-leash dog area, so make sure you keep your BBQ chook safe from drooling Labradors.
Mary Cairncross Park
Way more than just a park, this epic nature reserve covers a good chunk of the Blackall Range in subtropical rainforests and native wildlife. Grab a spot near the BBQs for lunch, chill to the sounds of birdsong, and if you’re feeling motivated, you can even walk through the tracks to work off that wine and cheese. The full walk is a couple of kilometres long, but you can just head over to the butterfly viewing platform and bask in nature. How’s the serenity? Hot tip: head to Maleny Food Co. first to gather your platter supplies (pictured).
If the crowds at Mooloolaba are a bit much for you, dig out that bottle of champers you’ve been saving for a special occasion, grab a kilo of prawns and a lemon from the fish markets, plus some snuggly blankets and head down to Point Cartwright with your bae to watch the moon rise.
Cotton Tree Park
One of the best picnic spots on the Sunshine Coast, Cotton Tree Park is always buzzing and busy with people. While you’re unlikely to get any opportunities for romantic canoodling in a secluded corner, you’re guaranteed plenty of open space to kick a footy or a game of backyard cricket. If you can’t be arsed cooking your own lunch on the BBQs, (and let’s be honest, picnics aren’t for cooking!) the fish and chip shop near the swim centre does a mean spread.
Mothar Mountain Rock Pools
We won’t lie to you, this place is a bit of a trek—tucked away on the edge of the Mary Valley, down a long dirt road. But the trade-off is that if you come on a weekday, you’ll often have the whole place to yourself. The rockpools are crystal clear and rubbish-free, and icy cold if you want to dangle your feet in after a bushwalk. Spread out a towel on the rocks, pop in your earphones and forget about the world.
We love a lazy picnic spot—one where you can literally park the car, walk a few metres and be on a deserted island. Okay, it’s not quite deserted, but it is an island that you can get to by foot (or by swimming if you want to impress someone). It’s perfect for throwing in a line, dangling your toes in the water and chilling in the sun.
This stretch of riverfront is technically home to loads of different parks, but the thing we love most about it is that you can walk from one end to the other in less than half an hour, and there’s loads of places to choose from. If you’ve got kids in tow, get there early to snag a BBQ near the Pirate Park, or if you want a bit more privacy, throw your blanket down at a secluded spot up near Munna Point. And if you burn your snags or get sand in the dip, just head to Thomas Corner Eatery or Flux for a sneaky bevvie and some tapas.
Shelly Beach Park
If your idea of a Sunshine Coast picnic involves getting your feet sandy, then this spot will be your new home. Perched right on the edge of the beach, you can build a sandcastle, explore the rock pools, or just lie in the sun while you get willing admirers to refill your drink and curate the tunes on your portable speaker.
Buderim Forest Park
One of the Coast’s favourite spots for Insta nature shots, you can’t go wrong here. There’s all the usual picnic set-up—BBQs and picnic tables and a pretty walk through the rainforest, but the pay-off at the end is epic. Buderim Falls are gorgeous and they’re worth every step.
Noosa North Shore
If you’ve got to get there by boat, then it must be good, right? Noosa North Shore is a bit of a trek to get to, but as soon as you cross the river from Tewantin, it feels like you’re in the middle of nowhere. You’ll definitely need a car to get around, but you can either head to the beach side, where, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a 4WD amateur get stuck in the sand on an incoming tide. Or, you can find a quiet clearing on the river side and share your picnic with kangaroos and sea eagles.
If a view of the ocean is a non-negotiable when hunting for the best picnic spots on the Sunshine Coast, then you can’t go past laying down a rug at Alexandra Headland. It’s an easy dash across the road for some takeaway nosh, before you get comfy and settle in to a scene of surfers scoring waves and sunset views over Mount Coolum in the distance.
Image credit: Lumea Photo for Urban List