A place of golden sand, world-class surf and lush rainforests, Queensland’s Sunshine Coast starts about an hour’s drive north of Brisbane and stretches for 100 kilometres. Charming towns dot the coastline, from laid-back Caloundra to chic Noosa, while historic hinterland villages like Beerwah and Maleny are within striking distance of the rugged Glass House Mountains. But when is the best time to visit the Sunshine Coast?
With about 300 days of sunshine a year, the region has a pleasant, subtropical climate with warm summer temperatures averaging 28°C and winter a mild 20°C. December through February is naturally the best time of year to make the most of the glorious beaches – but expect everyone else to be there, too! Although you may need to plan well in advance during the high season (summer and school holiday periods), a stay at the coastal-cool Loea Boutique Hotel in Maroochydore and catching the morning waves with Coolum Surfing School are well worth braving the crowds.
For a slower-paced stay, try visiting during spring, when rainfall is low and the temperature ranges between 13°C and 27°C. Cuddle a red panda at Australia Zoo and meet local makers at the Eumundi Markets (don’t sleep on the bramble jam from Fat Wren Farm).
Clear skies, crisp mornings and temperatures ranging from 9°C to 22°C make winter particularly appealing for outdoor adventures. Tackle the 59-kilometre, four-day Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk, kayak the mirror-like waters of the Noosa Everglades with Kanu Kapers or hit the high ropes at the TreeTop Challenge adventure park. It’s also prime time for whale watching; while the official season runs from June to November, July and August see the largest numbers of humpbacks migrating through the waters off the coast. You can even swim with the magnificent creatures on a four-hour expedition with Sunreef Mooloolaba.
In addition to these holiday staples, the Sunshine Coast boasts a wide range of exciting events throughout the year. To help you make the most of the region, here’s our line-up of the best things to do in every season...
What’s on in winter
The three-day Sunshine Coast Agricultural Show arrives in Nambour in June, bringing showjumping, motorbike stunts, livestock competitions and plenty of family-friendly rides to town. Also at Nambour Showgrounds come July, the Queensland Garden Expo’s demonstrations, dozens of diverse nurseries and a giant kitchen garden are a must-visit for green thumbs.
Food lovers won’t want to miss The Curated Plate (28 July to 6 August), a 10-day bevy of events that assembles the region’s best chefs, farmers, distillers and winemakers. Expect a paddock-to-plate picnic, an Asian food festival hosted by Spicers Tamarind Retreat and kombucha-making workshops. Thirsty for more? The Hinterland Craft Beer Festival (24 June) at The Imperial Hotel in Eumundi serves up local brews, street food and live music.
Contemporary art, dance, theatre and music combine at Horizon Festival, a 10-day celebration that kicks off in August. Previous highlights include synchronised swimming shows, pottery classes and an atmospheric outdoor concert on the banks of a hidden lake.
What’s on in spring
September is a major month for music lovers, with Mitchell Creek Rock 'N' Blues Fest (held on a private 40-hectare property in the Noosa Hinterland) and the Caloundra Music Festival, which attracts performers like Missy Higgins and Baker Boy. At Festuri, a multicultural music and dance festival, kids can learn to drum, scale an outdoor rock-climbing wall and snack on cajun-spiced calamari.
Take a road trip to see the weird and wonderful Mary Valley Scarecrow Festival an hour north of Maleny. Download the dedicated festival map and keep your eyes peeled for entrants like a giant structure made of repurposed stairs or two human-sized penguins.
What’s on in summer
Held over six days from 27 December, the Woodford Folk Festival is all about creativity, connecting with nature and good vibes. More than 2000 performers take part, with a line-up featuring everything from acrobatics and poetry slams to performances by the likes of Boy & Bear.
On New Year’s Eve, Mooloolaba Esplanade is the place to be. Interactive shows, food trucks and the 8.30pm fireworks are ideal for families; grown-ups will love the free-flowing bubbles and people-watching at trendy eatery Pavilion Mooloolaba.
Take part in one of Australia’s most popular open-water swims at the Noosa Summer Swim Festival in February. Some 2500 people compete over two days, with courses ranging from 300 metres for under-16s to a five-kilometre multi-lap marathon.
What’s on in autumn
The Noosa Festival of Surfing – Australia’s largest – has been running for more than 30 years. Along with top comps like the World Surf League Longboard Tour, you’ll find a beach bar, dog surfing championships and screenings of retro films.
One of Queensland’s quirkiest events, the Goomeri Pumpkin Festival takes over the tiny country town during the last weekend in May. Taste fresh pumpkin scones, marvel at the giant pumpkin competition and cheer on the much-loved ‘Great Australian Pumpkin Roll’.
Image credits: Tourism and Events Queensland (Sunshine Coast; Woodford Folk Festival; Goomeri Pumpkin Festival); The Curated Plate; Sculpture on the Edge.