Sunshine Beach, Queensland
Everybody knows the Sunshine coast in Australia's Queensland, but not everybody knows Sunshine beach, just on the other (eastern) side of the Noosa National Park. Noosa's Hastings Street is busy all the time and parking on the weekends unless you are early or lucky, forget it. During the week it's almost the same, except perhaps a little easier to get lucky. But, for the casual laid back life all you need to do is go up the hill, down the other side, through the shops at Noosa Junction, then about 1km and 1 roundabout, take Solway Drive on the left and you are soon driving down towards the turquoise blue waters of Sunshine Beach. As the locals often say - "great today - perfect the next".
And so it was again in 2018, perfect low 20s temperature and mostly sunny days.
Our recent fortnight stay was perfect every day. A couple of days with stronger wind and another couple with temperatures touching the 30s did not bother us at all. Sunshine beach is a magnificent stretch of yellow white sand with 1/2 to 2 metre Pacific ocean rollers creating soothing sea noises. It is also a clean beach with very little ocean debris and during the October time of our visit also no nasty bluebottle jellyfish. Surf patrols are active every day of the year, so if you are a swimmer, between the flags is a safe option, although there were plenty of surfers spread along the beach where the larger waves formed. Low flying helicopters also patrol from time to time.
Cafe Le Monde was our first stop on day 1 for lunch. Just as good as our memorable original visit in the mid 1980s and our friendly wait person today was a charming young woman from Christchurch whom we remembered from last year. Cafe Le Monde continues it's great formula with a slightly enhanced menu and upgraded decor. Overall an improvement if it even needed an improvement. Then it was up and over the hill to Noosa Junction for supplies from Coles and fresh seafood from the Noosa fish market. This is a great spot with a wide variety of seafood, from fresh prawns, Moreton bay bugs and lobster, to a range of filleted fin fish. The bugs and prawns are outstanding and whatsmore the shop halves and cleans the bugs for you, so they are totally pan or BBQ ready. If you looking for a top quality fillet of white fish, the gold band snapper when available, is superb. Also home made on the premises is a range of aiolis, either traditional plain or garlic, or herb flavoured. The garlic option goes beautifully with the prawns. With the air temperature in the mid 20s the 3 or 4 bags of ice placed in the bag with the seafood was an excellent idea. The Noosa (Maloolaba) prawns are not something we can easily get in Auckland so we enjoyed these most nights - always delicious.
Our accomodation at La Mer holiday apartments was spacious and luxurious, giving us plenty of room to spread out; 2 bathrooms, separate laundry with Bosch washer and well equipped kitchen, including dishwasher, ducted rangehood and a great assortment of plates, glassware and utensils. Nicely furnished with comfortable couches, balcony furniture and breakfast bar stools. The first thing to strike you as you walk into the apartment is the view, directly out over Sunshine beach to the horizon. The apartment complex faces due east so the morning sun is your wakeup call - brilliant and natural. For our 2017 and this years stay we had selected Apartment #20 which is a righthand penthouse on the top floor. The penthouses have an upstairs terrace which is in sun from early morning. Also being on the top floor and the right hand side there is no other apartment above or attached to your bedroom wall so at night - all quiet except for the calming sound of the waves on the beach.
From time to time during our stay, out in the bay our eyes were attracted by an isolated unusual splash - we discovered a large one with a visible tail fluke was a whale, while a smaller spray came from dolphins as their grey bodies elegantly curved through the waves. We didn't spot any dangerous looking grey triangular dorsal fins!
Late in the day and cooling down slightly, was a great time for a stroll on the beach. We walked up to the north end - about 30 minutes there and back. Beautiful semi firm sand near the waters edge and a group of 'never say die surfers' near the headland. Sunshine beach at this time of the day is doggie heaven. Lots of our 4 legged friends in all shapes and sizes having a great time - some in the water, some not so sure, some chasing balls, some on personal adventures. We love them all and it made us think of our own dear little friend having her own holiday at 'Pets in the city' hotel in Auckland. Strolling back towards the surf hut we think how lucky we are to have such a wonderful holiday destination so close to home. Up the steps, washing of feet at the beach shower halfway then across the road and the sanctuary of apartment #10 awaits.
We were soon enjoying the lucious taste of Moreton Bay bugs and fresh prawns remembering that we can't easily get these in New Zealand. Tiredness was creeping in and the soft sound of surf breaking was the perfect accompaniment for a good night's sleep. The bedroom with ensuite has a continuation of the front balcony accessed from it's own sliding door which we had left open until the light faded, making the bedroom pleasantly cool. The 2 bedrooms and the living area are equipped with appropriately sized heatpumps and I can imagine how necessary they would be on their cooling cycle, when it's really hot.
What a magnificent sunrise greeted us next day - actually drew us from our bed. However, at 5:29am, I don't think so! But 5:29 or not, we just had to get up and move to the balcony to enjoy the view. There were people walking on the beach already and it was not long before the sun was too bright, now maybe 25 degrees above the horizon. Shower, then breakfast was a leisurely balcony experience with the sun moved to a more visually comfortable angle and not yet too hot. We had purchased wonderful mangoes, pawpaws and bananas from the local fruit market yesterday and we immediately commented how much better these tasted than those we buy at home. The difference, of course, is natural tree ripening, compared with the results of fumigation and artificial ethylene ripening we usually have to put up with.
A swim was the first order of the day , between the flags of course, and earlier was the best choice as the surf was still quite manageable and the air temperature very pleasant. On the way to the beach we passed the 'La Mer' front office and called hullo to Lesley. Stopping for a short chat, we ask, semi seriously, about sharks, saying we hadn't noticed any fins. Lesley laughs and replies; no, not today, only dolphins. The beach, already quite busy in the surf club area, has white-yellow sand which does not get too hot underfoot and is very clean - no sea debris and definitely no debris left by humans. With the sea above 20 degrees swimming is very inviting, followed by a southerly beach walk. Back to our apartment for a brief shower and up the road to Costa Noosa espresso for 1 or maybe 2 of their great coffees. Costa Noosa imports and roasts their own beans and it shows in their lovely chocolate, velvety long blacks. Even their decaffinated is very good. This becomes a daily excursion. Dukes deli, in the centre of the small group of local shops and restaurants offers many delectable 'made inhouse' and 'bought in' lunch options. We picked up a fresh bagette and a few other bits and pieces, then moved just down the road to the well stocked wine shop. A short browse, our selections made we were very soon back in our apartment savouring our purchases and enjoying the wonderful sea view. A lazy afternoon until about 4 ish when we took to the beach again, walked north and climbed the 200 odd steps onto the headland from where an elevated view can be had over the entire length of Sunshine. Then we saw the unmissable splash and the grey T shaped tail, away out to the east so the animal must be quite big to be easily seen from our vantage spot - what a thrill. With sunset fast approaching we made our way back down to the beach spending 5 minutes or so watching our doggie friends enjoying evening fun. It was quite dark nearing 6:30 as we climb the path from the sand to La Mer. I suddenly remembered that I had our Aussie Telstra phone in my pocket and it was equipped with a mini flashlight. Thinking it won't be much I flicked it on and all was illuminated - amazing for a tiny little phone light.
Most days passed in much the same lazy way, the weather slightly hotter or cooler, more or less wind day by day. But always sun and the turquoise blue Pacific laid out before us.
Our favourite restaurant in the small Sunshine beach group was Mooshka - their tasting plate of Asian themed morsels was delicious and another night we enjoyed tempura wild barramundi. A new menu at Mooshka offering delicious tempura prawns. How could we go past these so we didn't enjoying them on both our Mosshka visits.
Apartment lunches were the usual routine from where we could take in the view and maybe be lucky enough to catch a tail fluke or two.
About the middle of our stay we felt energetic enough to climb the headland steps and walk 20 minutes or so to pristine Alexandria Bay. A beautiful curve of yellow white sand with Pacific waves frothing gently. No houses and very few people. Those we saw, however, were mainly 'au naturelle' something we were not expecting! Despite this, the beach was lovely. If you're really energetic and the time of day is right you can carry on walking through the Noosa National Park and eventually reach Hastings Street. An hour and a half to 2 hours and then of course there is the return. The park, being coastal is usually cooled by a seabreeze, but in warmer conditions can be quite still and stifling. Local advice is to be in company, pack some water and keep to daylight walks.
The Eumundi market was on our list of maybes and with Saturday morning turning out a bit windy for the beach, Eumundi beckoned. The market is very extensive now, probably tripled in size from our first visit over 20 years ago and a very interesting and at times rewarding experience. A lot of the goods on offer are imported, however there are plenty of local wares as well. A good spot for lunch is the FigTree, which is on the main street, set on an open plantation style verandah under slowly turning fans which keep the air circulating. Eumundi, being 20 odd kms inland is considerably hotter than the coast. 25C at Sunshine beach can easily be 30C + at Eumundi. Another great Eumundi experience not to be missed is Berkelouws Books, almost opposite The Figtree. Berkelouws has a long history and has an eclectic offering of mainly interesting and good quality second hand books with some new printings and selected stationery items and quirky stationery gifts displayed near the shop frontage. One blessing is the airconditioning - usually a welcome respite from a hot, dry Eumundi. We found several titles we wanted to add to our library and had earlier bought from a potter a market stall a beautiful, locally made, rich turquoise, spun mud jug - perfect for vinaigrette. Back to our super heated car, aircon up full for the drive back to La Mer and a fresh prawn dinner.
The end was nearing - tomorrow was our 2 hour drive to Brisbane airport with a night at the Novotel in readiness for the early Emirates takeoff for Auckland. We visited Lesley and Michael to make arrangements for our 2013 return, followed by a last walk along the beach and up the headland steps. We were rewarded with a distant tail fluke - unmistakeably goodbye.
On the road just after 10am, a last coffee at Costa Noosa and over to Hastings street to our third Gaston lunch. This place is a delight - Hervey Bay scallops, kipfler potatoes with green beans, sizzling garlic prawns and chilled beaujolais. As you finish, you just want to start all over again. Perfect timing now for a leisurely coastal drive back to Brisbane, returning the Avis rental by 5:30. During our Novotel dinner our phone rang around 8pm - it was Emirates informing us the morning flight was 1 hour delayed. Better for us, allowing a more usual start time followed by a relaxed breakfast in the Emirates airport lounge. Climbing out of Brisbane into the rising sun we were already looking forward to returning.