At last, Canberrans can take off to the beautiful Sunshine Coast and Noosa – with airlines vying for the chance to fly you there.
If this year has left you longing for warm beach days, vast open, green landscapes and the feeling of sun on your skin, then new direct air services from Canberra to the Sunshine Coast will provide just the antidote.
Queensland’s Sunshine Coast has suddenly become far more accessible following the start of direct flights by Alliance Airlines, and this week’s commencement of thrice-weekly direct services by Qantas.
What sets the Sunshine Coast apart is its natural landscape – here is one of the few places in the world where you’ll find two UNESCO-declared biospheres sitting side by side, more than 100 kilometres of pristine beaches, pockets of sub-tropical rainforest and the Glass House Mountains that are actually remnants of volcanic activity that occurred more than 25 million years ago.
What exactly is the Sunshine Coast, I hear you ask?
The actual name, Sunshine Coast, has a relatively short history of just over 50 years. Its spectacular coastline was noted 200 years ago, when Captain Cook sailed up the east coast of Australia in 1770, and was so taken by the volcanic mountain range he encountered that he named them the Glass House Mountains, because their shape reminded him of glass furnaces back in his native Yorkshire.
Of course, 200 years was nothing compared to the thousands of years of history of the local Gubbi Gubbi and Jinibara people, for whom the Glass House Mountains was a special meeting place of cultural and spiritual significance for ceremonies and social activities.
For modern-day explorers, the Glass House Mountains form the southern border of the Sunshine Coast and gateway to the serenity of the Hinterland – rising up over 500 metres above sea level the air is cooler, there is lush rainforests, bountiful waterfalls and a near-perfect sub-tropical climate.
The Glass House Mountains and Hinterland are favourites with trekkers, cyclists and wellness-lovers, who have a vast range of well-established tracks to explore.
The hills are also alive with art and, of course, food. Villages such as Maleny and Kenilworth are synonymous with the best dairy and cheese products in Australia, just as Mooloolaba and prawns are a natural combination.
Mooloolaba is not only Australia’s richest seafood port, it is also known as one of the country’s most vibrant and exciting stretches of coastline and is the epicentre for water activities.
Locals and visitors fully embrace the region’s relaxed beach vibe and it is not hard to understand why. Rimmed with wide stretches of pristine sand and crystal-clear waters; Mooloolaba Beach is a curving, north-east to north facing beach creating a sheltered bay. The beach is patrolled by surf lifesavers making it a safe and popular choice for families.
Driving north, you will find a collection of individually distinctive coastal villages such as Maroochydore, Mudjimba, Coolum, Peregian and a jewel in the crown, Noosa, a UNESCO-declared Biosphere Reserve – and yet just a 30-minute drive from Sunshine Coast Airport
Noosa Main Beach sits alongside Noosa National Park, where on any given day you will spot turtles, dolphins or even koalas high up in the trees.
Noosa is also home to the Noosa Everglades, one of only two everglades systems in the world – that can be explored by kayak with Kanu Kapers or on an eco-cruise with Everglades Ecosafaris.
For those who appreciate a touch of glamour, Noosa’s iconic Hastings Street is home to a myriad of restaurants, bars and boutiques, making it one of Australia’s most revered holiday destinations.
Noosa North Shore is the gateway to the Great Beach Drive; an awe-inspiring road trip which is one of the longest beach drives in the world.
The journey, which is only accessible by four-wheel drive, takes you along the sand from Noosa through the Great Sandy Biosphere to Rainbow Beach.
To one side you have the sparkling Pacific Ocean, where you can spot dolphins, turtles, and humpback whales during migration season, with natural Australian bushland on the other side.
Rainbow Beach, as its name suggests, is known for its coloured sands which were stained over thousands of years by iron-rich minerals.
After such a challenging year, surely it must be time to “Bring Me Sunshine”!
Take me there
Fly: There are direct to the Sunshine Coast from Canberra with Alliance Airlines from $169 one way, including 20kg of checked baggage (terms and conditions apply).
Explore more: visitsunshinecoast.com; visitnoosa.com.au