real life

Sun, sand and serenity on the Sunshine Coast.

The first sign of a good holiday?

It’s when you wake up on the morning of departure and see that it’s raining in the city you’re leaving, and beautifully warm and sunny in the place you’re heading.

And that’s exactly the way it was when my mum and I took off on a three-day adventure to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast for three days and two nights.  The Sunshine Coast holds a special place in mum’s heart – in the late 70s and early 80s, she and my dad owned a Kombie and would often drive to Noosa and camp in the national park at the end of Hastings Street.

I  haven’t been to the Sunshine Coast since the days when Tencel jeans were a thing and a fight over who would get the mini packet of Cocoa Pops from the Kellogg’s fun pack was the biggest concern we’d have during the week of family fun.

Our sweet ride for the weekend.
Our sweet ride for the weekend.

These days, I’m still wearing Tencel but I’m less concerned about Cocoa Pops, so I’m feeling pretty good about how far I’ve come in twenty years.

Anyway, back to the trip.

Mum lives in Melbourne and I live in Sydney so it’s early on a Friday morning that we meet in the terminals of Sydney airport and hop on a flight bound for the Sunshine Coast. (Both Virgin, Tiger and Jetstar fly into the Sunshine Coast, but if you’re more Qantas inclined, the drive from Brisbane is just a little over an hour.)

When we arrive at the Sunshine Coast, we ‘re met by Tony from Swanky Soft Top Car Hire. Tony generously hands Mum and me the keys to a soft-top VW Beetle. The car is indeed swanky and feels far too worthy for this daggy pair from the suburbs of Melbourne.

We set off in our far-too-cool VW (but keep the top down most of the time because we’re too scared we won’t get it back up again).

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We were only on the Sunshine Coast for three days and two nights, but were surprised at how much you can pack into 72 hours. And so, here is a guide to the best of the the area.

You could do all of this in the space of three days or, better still, why not spread it out over a week or two?

In the treatment room at Spa Anise
In the treatment room at Spa Anise

Spa Anise at Spicers Tamarind:

Believe me, there’s nothing like a 60-minute massage followed by a 30-minute facial to kick off a relaxing weekend.

This spa is part of a boutique hotel group and is beyond divine. When we arrive, the staff at Spa Anise at Spicers Tamarind greet us with iced water with fresh lime and show us to what’s possibly the most beautifully tranquil treatment room I’ve ever seen. After an hour and a half of treatments, Mum and I sit outside on the balcony to the most stunning lunch – prepared by the chefs at the award-winning (and hatted) restaurant The Tamarind, which is located just next door.

The cooking school at Spirit House Restaurant:

The Spirit House restaurant is located in Yandina and is famous for its fresh and contemporary Asian flavours. It’s a place that’s been on Mum’s bucket list for years so we’re really excited that we get to go here. The restaurant and cooking school is set in tropical gardens and transforms into a wonderland at night – so much so that you almost feel like you’re in the depths of Thailand. Mum and I are doing the afternoon/evening cooking class and, under the direction of former head chef Kelly, we create a steamed salmon with green mango salad, a red curry of beef and peanuts, braised duck and a pickled vegetable salad.

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The cooking school at The Spirit House
The cooking school at The Spirit House

The school is technical enough that you feel like you’re contributing to the meal by chopping shallots and kaffir lime leaves, but instructional enough that you don’t feel like you’re exhausted by the end. In the end, we walked away with four great recipes to add to our repertoires – and full tummies after sitting down with our fellow chefs (can we call ourselves that now?) and the end of the night to enjoy the banquet we created.

The Sheraton in Noosa:

There’s nothing like a beautiful hotel to make you feel like you’re well and truly on holiday. We’re in a room on the 6th floor of the hotel – there are two huge twin beds, a separate lounge area, a dining table and a really nice balcony. The room overlooks the pool and the beach and to be honest with you, it frankly doesn’t get much better than that. The view is divine.

Breakfast is a fancy buffet at the Noosa Beach House, which is downstairs at The Sheraton. As a 26-year-old woman, I’m still excited by the prospect of a breakfast buffet and this one definitely does not disappoint. Highlight is the fresh mango and passion fruit.

This is me not falling down...
This is me not falling down…
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Noosa Stand Up Paddle:

Paddle boarding is something I’ve always wanted to try but just never really got around too, so I was pretty happy when I saw Noosa Stand Up Paddle was on the itinerary.

Owner Dona-Lee takes mum and I out on a one-hour paddle around the creek during which time we check out the local real estate and, well, learn to stand up straight.

The key, we learn, is to look forward and not down. (And to not freak out when speed boats come flying past.) It only takes a couple of minutes to feel completely relaxed, carefree and like we’ve been paddling for years. By the end, Mum was even doing yoga moves on the board.

Eumundi Markets:

I’ve honestly never seen a market like it. The Eumundi Markets have been around since the late 1970s. But what began as just a few stalls has now grown into vibrant centre of more than 600, It’s the perfect combination of food, craft and music. There are clothes, books, cards, jewellery, fresh produce, homemade instruments and amazing meals cooked on the spot. I tucked into some freshly made Roti bread filled with spinach and fetta, while mum goes for a mix of salads.  We were only at the markets for a couple of hours, but easily could have spent the whole day just taking it all in.

The markets are on twice a week – Wednesdays from 8am until 1.30pm and Saturdays from 7am until 2pm.

The walk down the Mt Coolum was much easier than the walk up...
The walk down the Mt Coolum was much easier than the walk up…
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Mount Coolum:

Look, I’m going to be honest. When it comes time to walk up Mount Coolum, all I really want to do is crawl into a ball at the hotel and have a nap. (I tired myself out trying ALL the food at the markets.) But the moment we pull in and meet Angelique from EcoFit Tourism, I’m glad I came. Angelique runs guided walks and fitness adventures all around the Sunshine Coast and the great thing about having a guide on a walk like this is the knowledge that comes with it. Throughout the walk, Angelique tells us what we’re looking at from the top of the mountain and even includes some local dream-time stories which makes the walk just so much more worthwhile.

It’s not an easy walk – but it’s not impossible either – and it takes us just over an hour to get up and back. And if I have to be honest again, I’m feeling a lot better after the walk than I would have if I’d be napping this whole time.

Elements at Coolum:

If you’re the kind of person who likes a self-contained apartment when you’re on holiday, then Elements at Coolum has you covered. The luxury apartments are located on the main drag of Coolum (which fronts the beach) and the 2-bedroom apartment we’re in feels like home. There’s a huge kitchen, an en suite, a laundry and a really comfy couch that I may or may not have napped on at some point during the day. (Post walk at Mt Coolum, I promise.)

Our balcony looks over the heated pool and the best part is that the hotel is only a two minute stroll to one of the best restaurants on the Sunshine Coast. Which leads me to my next point…

Mum and I at Harvest Coolum.
Mum and I at Harvest Coolum.
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Harvest Restaurant in Coolum:

This place? I swear to you that it’s heaven on a plate.

Harvest is located on the main street of Coolum, just opposite the beach. Mum and I arrive at around 7pm and start with a glass of bubbly. (Because special!)

For entree, I take the field mushroom risotto with Parmesan and mum goes for the Kataifi wrapped scollops (which were recommended and lived up to their reputation.) For main I go the beef fillet with a pumpkin & potato rosti with red wine sauce and mum opts for a marinated zucchini & beetroot salad.

Dessert (yep, we went there) is a yoghurt and mint pannacotta with pomegranate and honeycomb, and believe me when I tell you that I’m still salivating at the thought of it.  It’s the perfect place for date night on the Sunshine Coast – be it with your mum or a significant other!

Kunara Organic Marketplace and Natural Food Store:

Imagine a supermarket the size of Coles or Woolies that’s totally filled with natural and organic products and you’ll be at Kunara (which is located in the town of Forest Glen). This place is HUGE! And if I didn’t have to get on a plane back to Sydney, I honestly would have filled up a trolley with delicious goodies. This place started as a small organic marketplace 20 years ago and it’s now grown to the point where it employs more than 150 staff.

Luckily for us, the cafe is also filled with amazing organic foods and mum and I are lucky enough to settle down for breakfast on day three of the trip. And there’s nothing better than an Earl Grey Tea and an organic muffin to start the day. Wouldn’t you say?

At the Chenrezig Institute
At the Chenrezig Institute
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The Chenrezig Buddhist Institute:

If you want to see something off the beaten tourist track, then the Chenrezig Buddhist Institute is the place to go.

The Institute, which is located in the foothills of the Sunshine Coast hinterland, is one of the largest Tibetan Buddhist centres in the Western World and many people come here for study and meditation courses. There’s a certain tranquility about the place that hits you as soon as you approach the entrance. Prayer flags adorn the walkways and Buddhist monks and nuns walk around the serene grounds. In 2011, the centre welcomed his holiness The Dalai Lama to facility.

The Institute’s manager Michael Gardner shows us around the grounds – including the Garden of Enlightenment and the Meditation Hall, which is also known as a Gompa.

The trip to Chenrezig caps off our health and wellbeing experience on the Sunshine Coast and I have to say – it’s the perfect relaxing finish.

Now. The best part of all of this, is that you too can win a trip to the Sunshine Coast.

For your chance to win a wonderful Health & Wellbeing experience on the Sunshine Coast, click here.

Run, don’t walk. .

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Lucy and her mum travelled as guests of Sunshine Coast Tourism.

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