There is no question about, TripAdvisor is today a market leader but should we trust it or should we investigate more about the things to experience, the places to stay and the area to visit.
I had a upcoming trip to Noosa, in Australia, and I started investigating on internet and compiling a list of things to do. After my first 10 things I decided to stop, scrap the list and do it the old way.
What is the old way, ask the locals.
Table of Contents
I could not go in the past with my accommodation selection though. Today it is all on-line and, seriously, it would be unthinkable to knock the door to ask for the best price, it just doesn’t work anymore that way.
So I booked my flights, my accommodation and see you soon Noosa, with TripAdvisor, Lonely Planet or any guide with me. Pretty exciting.
What is Noosa?
The first myth to break is that Noosa is not a town.
What do I mean?
There is simply no Noosa town, or village. Instead Noosa is the name of the shire, as wide as almost 900 square kilometers, including many villages and towns, all with the own characteristics, all with the own beauty, everyone to experience.
On the first morning I visited a local café for my daily caffeine, well maybe just the first coffee of many in the day. I love to visit cafes as the operators are usually so friendly when they have some spare time (avoid peak hours).
You just need to ask a simple question as what is the best beach around and they start suggesting all of the spots around, better than Lonely Planet can do.
Totally ignorant I asked Martin, the coffee maker, where is the center of Noosa. He had a big laugh (here we are another tourist he surely thought).
Being the only customer at the café, and probably the first one in the early morning, Martin started explaining me how the region is organised.
There is no Noosa town. There is instead a collection of villages that make a popular, and idyllic, I may add, region.
End of the road is Noosa Heads, with the well know main surfing beach.
Noosaville follows instead the Noosa River, great spot for a drink at sunset.
Sunshine beach is a popular spot for sunrise and one of the favourite to enter the Noosa Nation Park.
And then comes Noosa Junction, up in the hills, with a younger crowd and finally Peregian Beach, for the laid back crowd, where the time seems suddenly slowing down.
I paid my coffee and I started my exploration based on local suggestion more than TripAdvisor top list things to do. Just a fun way to avoid the mass, with some interesting surprises.
Walk and bath at the pretentious Noosa Heads
The transportation system in the area works great, there are busses that can take you literally everywhere you want.
My coffee maker suggested that the first place to visit should be Noosa Heads, organised around one of the most beautiful beaches in the area.
It is also walking distance to the Noosa National Park that repairs the village from the easterly wind, making it one of the calmest areas to explore during your stay.
Noosa Heads has some of the most renowned restaurants and café, beside some amazing resorts with an awesome view to the Ocean.
When you walk along Hastings Street, the main meeting point, you feel more like on a trendy city street than in a beach village location.
And this comes to no surprises. Houses in this part of Noosa have the own private pier to the man-made laguna meanwhile the low rise buildings are beautifully finished and mostly with an amazing view to the ocean.
It is a bit of a dream land, maybe pretentious, a touch sophisticated, but still down to earth.
Staying in Noosa Heads will allow you to be walking distance to the main beach, to the National Park and to the well-known eating and drinking options. So practical!
It is probably the trendiest village to be, however this comes with a slightly more expensive bill.
In my weeks in Noosa I had the possibility to visit a few restaurants, pubs and bars. Still, my favourite is the local Surf Life Saving Club with probably the most amazing view of the region.
If you are after an ice cream, head to Massimo’s Gelateria. It is quite popular in the evening but it has a very quick service, so do not be worried of the long queue.
Opposite the Gelateria I found my favourite French Patisserie. Very difficult to say no to a croissant in the morning.
In the same area you can find the Noosa Information Center, a great resource of tips. The ladies helping there are just magnificent. I had such a lovely chat
Visit Noosaville for a sunset drink
I met Martin, the coffee maker, on my first day in Nosaville. He told me I should go back to the Noosaville shore later, around sunset time.
So I did and I could only agree with him, the best sunset spot in the region (I visited a few).
Being on the east coast of Australia means that you will be very likely to find many sunrise locations but just a few sunset spots, and Noosaville is one of them.
This village looks so different based on the time of the day you visit.
In the morning it is busy with river trips and boat hiring.
In the afternoon it is a sleepy town and you may think you are suddenly on siesta time in Mexico.
In the evening, just an hour before sunset, it gets populated again. Lots of people come here with the own drinks, or even full picnic set, to enjoy the spectacular sunset.
And this is when I suggest the visit Noosaville, to enjoy the last hours of the day, with the unique change of colours of the sky, from blue to orange to finish in full red.
There are lots of tables along the river to enjoy the own beer or wine, otherwise go for one of the many bars. Probably my favourite is Whisky Boy. Here I also got suggested by the barman to have dinner at the Yacht and Rowing Club, 300m away.
You can enter even if you are not a member however you will pay $1 more on any dish (I know, big deal LOL).
Food is really tasty, the bill was lower than usual and the view to the river was magnificent. All I wanted, and no surprise the Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club is so popular with the locals
Last tip, there is no much point to visit Noosaville for some beach time, as there is no beach. I mean, the sand is there but I would not jump in the muddy river LOL
Relax or walk in Sunshine Beach
I liked both Noosa Heads and Noosaville however I was missing that beach village feeling, some chilled out time.
I got that in Sunshine Beach.
The town is actually quite wide however the center has only few bars and restaurants in front of a park and meters away from the beach.
The Sunshine Beach SLSC has probably the most beautiful view of the Noosa Region as well as the cheapest drinks on the Queensland coast I think.
A visit on Sunday for the live music session is a very popular choice, with a big local crowd always open to have a chat and suggest new places to visit in Noosa. How could I say no.
Sunshine Beach is also a great spot to start a walk in the Noosa National Park. From here you can have a walk to Alexandria Bay (you may spot nudists here), Hell’s Gates and Devil’s Kitchen.
The surf is higher and rougher than Noosa Heads main beach, it requires more experience.
Facing east, the beach is a better option in the morning.
Twilight market, drinks and coffee at Noosa Junction
One of the market I liked the most was the Twilight Junction Market.
Set right in the center of town, it starts at sunset time and it offers live music as well as a few street food option. It’s really the best laid back way to finish off the day.
The Junction has also many food and drinking option. It is in fact the village with probably the youngest crowd in the evening.
You can find from Malaysian to Italian cuisine, all the options available. Personally my favourite spot for dinner.
And you will find a cinema too, with kids movies for the rainy days.
Feeling European in Peregian Beach
I love the beach, having a swim, some surfing and obviously photography is my passion.
However, when travelling, I always love to explore as many areas and villages as possible. I usually do that by public transportation, bicycle or car.
I had a chat with Loren, at the surfing shop in Noosa Heads, and I asked what’s the best place for coffee.
I had two of the best suggestions during my time in Noosa:
- Little Cove Coffee Co: “you will smell their coffee from a km away” I was said. Maybe not as distant, but truly, one of the best coffee I have ever had in Australia, rosted on site
- Go to Peregian Beach
So I did.
And what a great surprise Peregian has been.
I felt suddenly in Europe, with the village around a square full of cafes, restaurants, small boutique shops, including the local barber shop and the tiny post office.
In Peregian you will not be impressed by the beach, with an unpredictable surfing and strong currents. It’s patrolled however, as they say there, “feet on sand”. Not a spot for swimming.
You will be instead impressed, and I was a lot, by the laid back feeling of the village.
I found people seating for coffees, for a relaxed lunch or for an aperitivo, Italian style.
I found kids playing in the square without cars around (unfortunately not as common in Australia). And the mums were having a relaxed coffee too.
Of all the villages I have explored in Noosa, Peregian Beach was the one that impressed me the most, the one that I would live, the one I would spend most of my morning for a coffee break or evening for a chilled out drink, without cars around.
There is probably only one missing thing, a safer beach for a swim however if surfing is your thing then you have the lot.
A river cruise from Tewantin
Tewantin was the first Noosa settlement, over 100 years ago, right on the Noosa river, around 6km away from the main beach in Noosa Heads.
Tewantin was suggested to me by Mee of the Thai restaurant in Noosaville. I was looking for a River Cruise and after my very late lunch she had the time to give me few tips on places to explore in Noosa.
She told me to go to the Noosa Marina, in Tewantin. Besides being a nice spot for some fish and chips, I could book my trip along the river, something I really wanted to do.
So I did and for $10 I could have my one hour and half sunset cruise. That was a real bargain.
Tewantin also hosts the Noosa Gallery.
Best viewpoints in Noosa
The Laguna Lookout is my favourite spot for a view to the Noosa river mouth.
Best time to visit is sunset and be sure you will not be alone, it’s a popular location 😉
The other viewpoint I suggest is Mount Tinbeerwah Lookout. It’s a 20 minutes’ drive from Noosa Heads/Noosaville and a further 45 minutes return walk to the top.
Be sure to wear comfortable shoes, it may be challenging with flip flops.
It’s a great spot for both sunrise (Noosa view) and sunset (Tuchekoi National Park view). Here below a shot just before twilight.
Go hippy at the Eumundi market
On Saturday, or Wednesday, take a bus to Eumundi for the local market. I visited it for the first time 10 years ago and the last time in 2017.
It has expanded but still it has not lost the soul of a hippy style market, especially the part close to the centre of town.
There are so many food options that is hard to choose from. And if you are looking for a magic potion to improve your bones, muscles or anything in your body, be sure you find it there.
I love markets however I think that the globalisation had this side effect to make all of them very similar, all selling similar things usually made in China.
Eumundi, fortunately, is different. It’s about being local and offering local products
A must visit when in Noosa
A waterfall near Noosa
There are a few waterfalls around the Sunshine Coast, mostly within 1-1.5 hours drive from Noosa.
The closest are probably the Mapleton Falls, just 50 minutes away. The road to the National Park is as beautiful as the final destination.
The platform facing the fall is meters away from the parking area, making it probably the most ideal location for a visit with kids or elderly.
There is also a 45mins easy walk around the park, called Wompoo circuit (check the map here), one of the top experiences in my visit to the Sunshine Coast. It’s a beautiful forest with amazing tall trees, you will fill suddenly like in Jurassic Park 🙂
Travel Photography tips
- For this trip I had a Nikon D600 together with 3 lenses
- I have used the Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 wide angle lens for stars and night photography. I also used it in the Mapleton Falls National Park to emphasise the contrast between the child, in the photo, and the huge never ending trees
- I have used the Nikkor 50mm F1.8 in the markets. The light was not great and a wide aperture helped me to capture some interesting photos
- I have used the Nikkor 24-120mm F4 for everything else, or around 80% of my photography in Noosa. You can read more about my travel lenses here.
- I really suggest a visit to both viewpoints, my favourite is the Mount Tinbeerwah Lookout
- If you plan to visit some waterfalls I suggest to take with you an ND4 or ND6 filter to have some silky water effect
- Noosaville is my favourite spot for sunset photography. There is a boathouse right in the middle of the village which is a great subject.
- The Noosa river mouth is another great spot to spend the sunset in Noosa