About 90 minutes’ drive north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast’s annual average of 300 sunny days is an irresistible draw for about 3.5 million travellers each year. Maybe it’s why the residents are such a happy bunch, too. But the region’s people and natural wonders aren’t the only appeal – the food scene brags everything from Asian cuisine to modern Australian beachfront haunts, elevated by bountiful local produce. Here’s our pick of the best restaurants on the Sunshine Coast, starting in Noosa and stretching south to Maroochydore, along with must-book Mooloolaba restaurants, a top brunch in Caloundra and that all-important daily caffeine hit.
Best Asian: Sum Yung Guys
After playing to a full house for four years, this king of Sunshine Beach restaurants upped the polish and floor space with a move to Noosaville. The neon manga aesthetic has undergone a suave upgrade with mood lighting, plum banquette booths and a fishscale-tiled bar, while punchy pan-Asian cuisine remains the star. Start with the hiramasa kingfish dressed with green chilli, laksa oil and dollops of coconut cream, before ripping into a crisp roti and a firecracker blackened barramundi larb. Nightcaps play on in the lounge bar.
1/205 Weyba Road, Noosaville; (07) 5324 1391
Best vegetarian: Herbert
While the beachfront has undeniable appeal, some of the best restaurants in Noosa can be found just up the hill from Hastings Street in Noosa Junction – like this plant-forward diner with a cracking cocktail list (Gumnut Mezcal, anyone?) The décor and service is as elegant and organic as the menu – think tamari-glazed charred watermelon, harissa roast carrots topped with a crunchy pistachio granola and crumbed baked eggplant with zingy kohlrabi pickle. Sit barside for the best banter.
1 Arcadia Street, Noosa Heads; 0460 858 060
Best waterfront: Lucio’s Marina
With a legacy spanning four decades, Lucio Galletto’s iconic Sydney eatery recently made a Noosa seachange, the new venture headed up by his son Matteo, his wife Dieuwke Albertsma and his sister Michela. A canny move, when much of Lucio’s adored clientele holiday here. Expect classic Italian, like the signature tagliolini alla granseola and dry-aged whole fish, with a little Queensland flair at the 60-seat riverfront trattoria and all-day aperitivo bar.
2 Parkyn Court, Tewantin
Best paddock-to-plate ethos: Mill St. Kitchen & Pantry
Bring your own favourite drop to this cosy 120-year-old sugar mill workers’ cottage-turned-café in Nambour for a Friday night affair. Owner and chef James Ostridge writes the menu every Wednesday, plating up an ever-changing edit of no-waste dishes. One week, duck liver parfait and Maleny Wagyu meatballs might appear, the next red pork shoulder curry or bamboo and eggplant curry. As you’d expect, everything is local.
5-7 Mill Street, Nambour; (07) 5373 7843
Best atmosphere: Spirit House
This lagoon-side restaurant has long received accolades and put sleepy Yandina on the map. It’s surrounded by bamboo and tropical palms that instantly transport you to Thailand while, inside, the moody bar, Hong Sa, takes you there via a different route – a knockout Tom Yum Bloody Mary. Diners clamber to book months ahead for the signature whole crisp fish slathered in tamarind and chilli plus Moreton Bay Bug miangs. Go with a big group to relish a banquet.
20 Ninderry Road, Yandina; (07) 5446 8977
Best bistro: Market Bistro
A sophisticated anchor point surrounded by construction in the new Maroochydore CBD, think of Market Bistro as Modern Australian meets Manhattan grill. While it mostly hosts the business crowd during prix fixe lunch, evenings are a slick affair with French onion soup, housemade pasta and woodfire-grilled steak frites leaving the pass. Grab something from the adjoining Wine Store to drink or let the somm lead you through the extensive wine list.
8 Market Lane, Maroochydore; (07) 5412 1401
Best yum cha: Honeysuckle Buderim
Elevated Asian cuisine meets the lunch set at this leafy spot in Buderim, where owner and chef Seung Joo Kim – previously head chef at Sunshine Beach favourite Embassy XO – oversees a brunch banquet for the dainty sum of $29. Snacky dishes spanning fried beef mapo tofu, a Mooloolaba prawn milk bun and Korean fried chicken are served on ceramics handcrafted to match each dish by Kim’s wife, Peri. The name Honeysuckle references the meaning of “Buderim” in local Gubbi Gubbi language.
8/4 Ballinger Road, Buderim; (07) 5445 1802
Best seafood: Pier 33
Watch the trawlers from the shade of a Breton-striped umbrella while tucking into a Mooloolaba prawn roll with truffle mayo or sesame-crusted seared wild tuna. What was once the old Mooloolaba Yacht Club is now a sleek waterfront spot with a decidedly nautical theme, offering seafood-driven share plates and topnotch service. The shoestring fries with addictive secret seasoning are a non-negotiable side and it’s hard to beat sunset cocktails on the lawn in summer.
33-45 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba; (07) 5294 5675
Best brunch: White Picket Fence
Arched windows, a peach courtyard and Moroccan-tiled tables create a pastiche of Mediterranean vibes – a worthy backdrop to artfully plated brunch dishes such as green chilli lobster scrambled eggs and housemade granola. Bring the kids – pooches are welcome, too – and pair it all with coffee from Brisbane’s Seven Miles. This café buzzes from breakfast cocktails to weekend evening tapas.
140 Bulcock Street, Caloundra; 0474 771 969
Best craft beer: Land & Sea Brewery
Rinse the salt off and have a drink with the locals at Land & Sea Brewery, a tilt-slab concrete altar to craft beer in Noosa’s industrial area. Grab a sheet of tasting notes, choose four ales for your tasting paddle and snack on bites including Korean barbecue chicken wings. If you can’t agree on a designated driver, ask Sunshine Coast Craft Beer Tours for a ride.
19 Venture Drive, Noosaville; (07) 5455 6128
Best toasties: The Milk Bar Coffee Co.
Slinging simple, satisfying fare seven days a week, this laid-back spot manages to feel hidden even though it’s just one block back from popular Maroochydore Beach. Come for the black truffle and roasted mushroom toasties and delicious choc-chip sea-salt cookies that’ll silence even the most discerning sweet tooth – there’s a reason they’ve never left the menu. Coffee is by Single O.
1B, 68 Sixth Avenue, Maroochydore
Best coffee: Flying West Coffee Roasters
Hinterland coffee spots don’t come much cooler than this striking warehouse in Doonan, 15 minutes’ drive from Noosa. Old motorcycle fuel tanks, rustic furniture and a vintage bandsaw take centre stage in the space, while beans are roasted out the back. Try one of two blends named for the owners’ kids – Cheeky Monkey and Little Friend – and don’t leave without sampling a homestyle sausage roll.
13/9 Fellowship Drive, Doonan; (07) 5471 1865