Ninety minutes’ drive north of Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast enjoys an average of 300 sunny days and almost 3.7 million travellers each year. Maybe that’s why the residents are such a happy bunch. But the people and natural wonders aren’t the only drawcard. Local Celeste Mitchell lets us in on where to stop for brunch, lunch, dinner, drinks and that all-important caffeine hit.
Best for Breakfast
Little Boat Espresso
Don’t expect to find your standard bacon and eggs at Little Boat Espresso. A favourite with locals, the café is in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it beachside suburb of Marcoola, 20 minutes’ drive north of Mooloolaba. “It probably took about a year and a half, even two years, for people to get it,” says co-owner Sara Dillon of the adventurous fare. “I just didn’t see the point in doing something everyone else was doing.” It’s a good thing she didn’t quit: one bite of her okonomiyaki green pancake with pork jowl, her ricotta and gingerbread waffles or hot-smoked salmon rillettes with buttermilk hollandaise and you’ll agree. Arrive before 8am to nab a table in the sun. More of a night owl? Book ahead for the Sunday roast, complemented by a ripper Aussie wine list.
3 Lorraine Ave, Marcoola
The Milk Bar Coffee Co
The Milk Bar Coffee Co. on the south side of the Maroochy River manages to feel hidden even though it’s just one block back from popular Maroochydore Beach. Menu standouts include black truffle and roasted mushroom toasties and delicious choc-chip sea-salt cookies. Visit on a Friday and filter coffee is on the house.
1b/68 Sixth Ave, Maroochydore
A five-minute walk away, Bellejuna café (07 5326 1567) champions local growers, sourcing at least 70 per cent of its produce from Sunshine Coast farms. Sit in the Scandi-style space, among the devil’s ivy and fiddle-leaf figs, with a plate of baked field mushrooms and a turmeric latte from The Fresh Chai Co. in Montville, and you could be in Copenhagen, not Cotton Tree.
9/1 King St, Cotton Tree
Best for Coffee
A set of wheels – or Uber – will help you in your quest to source great coffee on the Sunshine Coast.
Compound Secondhand Surf & Espresso
First up, head to the not-for-profit Compound Secondhand Surf & Espresso in the back streets of Coolum Beach. There, you can nurse a “grom” (that’s surf slang for small) brew – made with beans from local company Slide Coffee Roasters – and browse the second-hand boardies and tees or pick up a new wetsuit.
Shop 23B/15 Heathfield Road, Coolum Beach
If motorcycle carburettors are more your thing, head to Noosa Junction’s Moto where a custom coffee blend by Noosa’s Clandestino Roasters will help kickstart your motor.
66 Noosa Drive, Noosa Junction
Pocket Espresso Bar
The Pocket Espresso Bar at Sunshine Beach flies the flag for cool caffeine spots in the south. The café’s smooth, locally roasted Guru Life brews are accompanied by views of one of the prettiest beaches in Caloundra.
6 Seaview Terrace, Sunshine Coast
Best for Dining
For 15 years, Wasabi has been a mainstay of Noosa’s fine-dining scene, improving with age like a refined Japanese whisky. Restaurateur Danielle Gjestland and executive chef and co-owner Zeb Gilbert are meticulous in the way they grow and source their produce, including rare Japanese herbs, which come from Danielle’s own Honeysuckle Hill farm. The fruits of their labour – and the sea – are served in the omakase dégustation and four-course à la carte menus, with plenty of foam and dust but none of the pretentiousness. No detail is overlooked, from the rough-hewed stoneware plates by local artist Sarah Sheppard to the charismatic banter by the faultless waitstaff. Tip: Book for late lunch so you can take in views of the Noosa River as you dine your way into dusk.
2 Quamby Place Noosa
Sum Yung Guys
For less polish, more punch, head to Sum Yung Guys in nearby Sunshine Beach for pan-Asian cuisine. Plants spill from hanging baskets in the loft-style space, among the neon signage and an antique rickshaw. 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 chicken larb.
Shop 8, 46 Duke Street Sunshine Beach
Watch the trawlers while tucking into a spanner-crab roll with Kewpie mayo at Mooloolaba’s Pier 33. The luxurious new outfit replaces the old Mooloolaba Yacht Club, offering seafood-driven share plates and topnotch service. The shoestring fries with addictive Pier 33 seasoning are a non-negotiable side.
33-45 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba
Best for Drinks
The Apollonian Hotel
First licensed in 1868, the Apollonian Hotel in Boreen Point, a 20-minute drive from Noosa, is a worthy daytrip destination for a “pot” (that’s Queenslander for middy) under the bougainvillea – especially on Sundays, when a woodfired spit roast and live band fire things up.
19 Laguna Street, Boreen Point
Land & Sea Brewery
For more coastal vibes, head to Land & Sea Brewery by the Noosa Brewing Co, a tilt-slab concrete altar to craft beer in Noosa’s industrial area. Grab a sheet of tasting notes and your four ales of choice will be served on a paddle. If you can’t agree on a designated driver, ask Sunshine Coast Craft Beer Tours for a ride.
19 Venture Drive, Noosaville
Lagoon-side restaurant Spirit House has long received accolades and put sleepy Yandina on the map. Its moody, charcoal-toned bar, Hong Sa, is no slouch either, serving a knockout Tom Yum Bloody Mary and tasty bites such as massaman lamb pies.
20 Ninderry Rd, Yandina
The Dock at the Wharf Mooloolaba
Catch sunset over the yachts at The Wharf Mooloolaba, a marina that’s currently in the throes of a $10 million makeover. There are 52 taps pouring 16 rotating beers across three bars at The Dock, including local brews, Brouhaha and 10 Toes. And if you like your cocktail served with a straw you’ll need to purchase a metal one, in keeping with their plastic-free ethos.
The Wharf Mooloolaba, 123 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba
Photo credits: Kara Rosenlund