Swim With Humpback Whales
Food and Drink in Mooloolaba
Fresh produce is a hallmark of the Sunshine Coast and hinterland and the trawler fleet that sails from Mooloolaba means fresh seafood is plentiful.
Fish on Parkyn: This is one of the Sunshine Coast's leading seafood restaurants. Getting there is an easy stroll along Mooloolaba Beach toward the far end of the beach from The Esplanade. You can also take a right out of The Wharf Mooloolaba and follow Parkyn Parade, which runs past The Wharf Mooloolaba, almost to the end. The restaurant backs onto the dock, where the trawlers come in and the menu includes sustainable wild-caught reef fish, swordfish, Mooloolaba ocean king prawns, mud crabs, tuna, scallops and more from Walker Seafoods, 24 metres up the road. The chef sources fresh barramundi from Cairns in Tropical North Queensland, and salmon from Tasmania. For non-fish lovers, the menu offers alternatives such as confit duck and prime Darling Downs eye fillet. (25 Parkyn Parade; 07 5444 4711; open Monday to Sunday, for lunch from noon; dinner from 5.30 pm)
Fisheries on the Spit: Continuing the seafood theme but on a more casual basis, Fisheries on the Spit is next door to Fish on Parkyn. Many people wander up from the beach, so know you will be comfortable in shorts, T-shirts and thongs (the Aussie term for flip-flops). It's been voted Best Fish 'n' Chips shop in Queensland and this probably explains why it's been there since 1982. Fish on the menu includes Atlantic salmon, mahi mahi, swordfish, barramundi, orange roughie and red throat emperor, as well as the usuals -- cod, hake and snapper. Fisheries on the Spit has a liquor license, too, so you can enjoy a cold one on a hot day. Early risers can enjoy a breakfast of the more traditional variety: bacon, eggs, sausages, pancakes, French toast. (21 Parkyn Parade; 07 5444 1165; open Monday to Thursday, 6.30 pm to 7.30 pm, Friday to Sunday 6.30am to 8pm; closed Christmas Day. Note: closing times may vary due to the weather.)
Augello's Ristorante and Pizzeria: Augello's Ristorante and Pizzeria is a local favourite. Twice voted 'Best Pizza in Australia' and 'Best Pizza on the Globe' at the Global Pizza Challenge, Augello's serves up Italian food that is less about pleasing purists and more about celebrating multicultural Australia. Much-loved pizzas on the menu include duck sushizza (a rice-base pizza voted the 'world's best' in 2014), Moroccan chicken, Thai calamari and prawn. Augello's is located on prime real estate in the heart of The Esplanade looking out over Mooloolaba Beach and the ocean. Augello's is very popular, so it's best to book, even for lunch. (The Esplanade at Brisbane Road; 07 5478 3199; open daily, noon to late.)
Spice Bar: The Spice Bar (First Floor, 123 Mooloolaba Esplanade, 07 5444 2022; open Wednesday to Sunday, noon till late) is a Mooloolaba institution that was awarded one chef hat in the Australian Good Food Guide 2019. The elegant restaurant, decked out in burnished woods and with a light installation made from bamboo steamers, is the place to go to mix and match a feast made thrilling with the fiery punch of Asian flavours. Head one level up from the Esplanade to this restaurant, which is far from the rice paddies of Asia, to enjoy chilli salt squid, Mooloolaba prawns in betel leaf, Hervey bay scallops in a soy ginger sabayon and fish in a fiery Sichuan broth. You can't hail a tuk-tuk home, but you can catch an Uber or taxi, which do regular laps of The Esplanade.
Pier 33: Seeing Mooloolaba King Prawns on Sunshine Coast menus is no surprise. But to be just metres away from the marina where the prawn trawlers pull in at Pier 33 (33-45 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba; 07 5294 5675; open Tuesday to Sunday, from 11.30 am to late) increases the pleasure of devouring a kilo of the crustaceans. Pier 33 is another atmospheric landmark building that has been revitalised. Located on the edge of the Mooloolaba Marina, it's the sort of place where you might go to meet a new Tinder flame or lounge on the lawn for a Sunday session. Bright and breezy, the casual dining space celebrates the very best of locally sourced produce: keep it simple with shelled seared scallops, a Mooloolaba prawn roll and pan-fried garlic butter prawns.
Surf Club Mooloolaba & The Boathouse Restaurant: The Surf Club Mooloolaba offers breakfast and an all-day dining menu (from 11.30 am to 5.30 pm) in all areas of the club (apart from the gaming lounge). Keep it casual with a big brekkie on the deck overlooking the beach, then return for lunch at the Boathouse Restaurant, which commands a similarly stellar view of sand, sea and sky. Order Mooloolaba prawns to start followed by the rib fillet steak sandwich on Turkish bread or pumpkin and lentil fritters. Other lunch (noon to 2 pm) and dinner (5.30 pm to late) options in The Boathouse Restaurant include the seafood basket, beer-battered Queensland whiting and wild mushroom linguine. (At the start of The Esplanade, opposite The Wharf Mooloolaba; 07 5444 1300; open Monday to Thursday, 7.30 am to late, Friday to Saturday, 7.30 am to midnight, Sunday 7 am to late.)
Sunshine Coast Brewery: This is a family-owned business that delivers a range of more than a dozen beers, including ales, bitters, 'smoked' beer and even a hot chilli beer, which can be bought in various establishments around Mooloolaba. Try The Taps (Corner of The Esplanade and Brisbane Road; 07 5477 7222; open daily, 11 am till 1 am); Mooloolaba Yacht Club (First Floor, Parkyn Parade; open Wednesdays and Sundays, 3.30 pm to 6.30pm; Thursday 4pm to 8pm, Friday 4pm to 10.30 pm, Saturday 2.30 pm to 11 pm); Lemon & Thyme (Corner of the Esplanade & Venning Street; 07 5452 6939; open daily from 7.30 am till late); Augello's Ristorante and Pizzeria (Corner, The Esplanade and Brisbane Road; 07 5478 3199; open daily, noon to late) and Fish on Parkyn ((25 Parkyn Parade; 07 5444 4711; open Monday to Sunday, for lunch from noon; dinner from 5.30 pm).
The Wharf Mooloolaba: Rain or shine, seven days a week (11 am to midnight), you will find locals and tourists gathered at The Wharf Mooloolaba, which has undergone a multi-million redevelopment. Discover why the Wharf Mooloolaba has become Sunny Coast's swankiest dining precinct with lunch at The Dock Mooloolaba (123 Parkyn Parade; 1300 843 362), which serves up the region's most talked-about smoked meats. The Dock has it all going on: three bars, 52 beer taps, a 500 sq. m space and an extensive wine and spirit selection. Order a feast of creole bean tacos, jalapeno poppers, spicy cauliflower florettes and steak your way, cooked just the way you like it. If you don't feel like travelling too far afield, for a bevvy or pick a gelato from the 24-flavour cabinet at Fior di Latte (Shop 35, 123 Parkyn Parade; 07 5338 8125; open daily, 10.30am to 9pm).
Spero Greek Street (123 Parkyn Parade; 07 5478 4962; open seven days, 11.30 am to 9 pm) is a fun, contemporary beach-style eatery named after an uncomfortably good-looking Greek muscle man (Spero). The restaurant with stunning views over the Mooloolaba marina includes a menu of Greek favourites with Mod Oz twists such as the salted lemon myrtle calamari. Take a selfie in front of the Cofu Town sign enshrined in neon within the white on blue interiors. Sister eatery Rice Boi (123 Parkyn Parade; 07 5444 1297; open daily, 11.30 am to 9 pm) has also expanded to cater to the estimated one million visitors pouring into The Wharf Mooloolaba per year. Head to the 400-seat neighbourhood restaurant for 10-hour coconut-braised beef or the katsu curry fries.
Spirit House: The Spirit House restaurant was one of the first to really blossom on the Sunshine Coast and the dining experience has made Yandina a destination. You can take a cooking class, wander around the tropical gardens, tackle the degustation, or simply go for a lychee cocktail at the newest kid on the block, the Hong Sa Bar. The Spirit House is just half an hour's drive from Mooloolaba to Yandina. This is bucket list dining.
Sum Yum Guys: Devotees of Masterchef Australia may recognise Matt Sinclair at the helm at Sum Yum Guys (Shop 8, 46 Duke Street, Sunshine Beach; 07 5324 1391; open daily for lunch from noon till 2pm, dinner from 5pm till 8.30 pm), a graffiti-clad eatery located in a lively strip mall in Sunshine Beach. If you order right, the dishes here deliver a Muay Thai kick of heat and a broad range of Asian flavours. Sinclair, who starred in the 2016 series of Masterchef Australia, set up the restaurant with three of his mates and they've have had huge success with it. Although it's a 40-minute drive to Sunshine Beach from The Wharf Mooloolaba, it's one of the prettiest beaches along the Sunshine Coast. This one is for committed foodies who collect restaurant experiences like souvenirs. Order the banquet menu then go for a walk around the chilled beachfront village.
Boston Shaker Bar: Make your way to the Boston Shaker Bar (Parkyn Parade; 0478 167 725; Shop 3, The Wharf Mooloolaba, 07 5391 1704; open Monday to Friday 5 pm to late; Saturday to Sunday, 2 pm to late) at The Wharf Mooloolaba for cleverly crafted cocktails. Flip to the page titled The Greatest Showman, where you will find cocktails such as the Porn Star set to seduce. If it's G+Ts you're after, you're in the right place at The Good Bar (Shop 5, 19-23 First Avenue, Mooloolaba) where the list of gins -- which takes precedence over whisky -- is inspired.
Beaches in Mooloolaba
Best for a Half-Day Visit: Mooloolaba Beach is visible from where cruise ships moor and is a few minutes' walk from the tender disembarkation point at The Wharf Mooloolaba. Mooloolaba Beach predominantly faces north, so it is better for swimming than surfing. The waves at can be 'dumpers' (meaning they break close to shore and crash onto the sand), which can mean a bumpy ride for bodysurfers. As always, swim between the flags, so you can enjoy being invigorated in the water on a hot day. One end of the 2-kilometre-long, crescent moon-shaped beach starts at The Esplanade and is quite busy, whereas the other end is always a bit quieter. The Mooloolaba Surf Lifesaving Club overlooks the beach at The Esplanade end of the beach.
Best for Active Types: Alexandra Headland and Maroochydore: A 3.2 kilometre-long stretch of sand combines the Alexandra Headland and Maroochydore beaches, with respective surf lifesaving clubs at either end. This stretch of sand faces east and is very much a surfer's beach. The best surfing spot is the break off Alexandra Headland, which works in a moderate to high swell and can provide some good right-handers. There are also beach breaks all the way up to the river mouth. The good waves mean it's also a bonus for swimmers and bodysurfers. The beach is accessible along its length by pathways leading through the low-lying sand dunes and trees that separate the beach from the road and shops.
Best Secluded Beach: Mudjimba beach is a picturesque swathe of sand that runs between the Pacific Coast and the Maroochy River. Although it's only a short drive from Noosa and Coolum, it's likely you will have the beach to yourself. There are strong rips at this beach so it's best for wading only or for strong, fit swimmers who can handle themselves in the open ocean.
Don't Miss in Mooloolaba
Sea Life Sunshine Coast Aquarium: Visitors to Sea Life Sunshine Coast Aquarium, located one minute's walk from The Wharf Mooloolaba, can, among other things, snorkel with sharks (no diving experience required), dive with sharks (SCUBA training is provided) or walk through the 89-metre underwater glass viewing tunnel under the 2.5 million-litre main pool and see marine life swimming all around. A shark re-entry stamp is handed out upon entry and allows unlimited entries throughout the day. The Aquarium is totally undercover, so rain isn't a worry. Sea Life Sunshine Coast Aquarium held its 30th birthday party in 2019 and, to celebrate, opened the Little Blue Penguins' exhibit, which will allow visitors to see the smallest penguin species above and below the water. (The Wharf, 07 5458 6280; open daily, 9 am to 3 pm, 9 am to 5 pm during the Queensland school holidays.)
The Esplanade: Urbane restaurants, bars and cafes line The Esplanade. In between the eateries there are many shops and boutiques, selling everything from fridge magnets to high-end fashion. Awnings and overhangs offer shelter from the summer sun and the cooling sea breeze is a constant year-round. The Esplanade is ideally located overlooking the ever-busy Mooloolaba Beach, so pack your swimmers, a floppy hat and sunscreen. Those taking a casual dip should dust the sand off their feet and head back from the beach to join the passing parade on The Esplanade, where linen suits and string bikinis go hand in hand.
Australia Zoo: Head to Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin Way, Beerwah; 07 5436 2000; daily, 9 am to 5pm., except Christmas Day) to experience Australia's cuddly, furry native animals up close. The zoo was created by the late Steve 'Crocodile Hunter' Irwin before his untimely death in 2006. It is now run by his wife Terri Irwin and children Bindi and Bob. This is a great place to feed kangaroos and have your photo taken with a koala. For a fee, you can also have an 'animal encounter' with wombats, dingoes and koalas, as well as other wildlife from around the world, including cheetahs, giant Galapagos land tortoises and Komodo dragons. Watch the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors in action -- interacting with animals and feeding crocodiles -- during the show in the 5,000-seat Crocoseum, and see a diverse array of animals and reptiles within the 40-hectare site.
Sunreef Mooloolaba: In addition to offering scuba diving tours to world-class sites, whale watching and Australia's first Swim with Whales Experience, Sunreef Mooloolaba has jet skis, stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, river boats, electric stand-up tricycles and bicycles for hire. It has also introduced new cruises onboard Whale One, the company's largest vessel, which caters for up to 120 people. The fully licensed vessel has undergone a complete makeover, transforming this cruise into a luxurious experience. In addition to whale watching in winter, Sunreef offers a range of cruises throughout the year, from special events such as Christmas Lights tours, NYE and Melbourne Cup to the regular Oh Bouy It's Saturday Night Club Cruises and Seafood Sunset Cruises, which include prawns or oysters and a welcome drink for just \$39. In addition to scuba diving on ex-HMAS Brisbane and Flinders Reef, Sunreef has also introduced new scuba diving and snorkelling around magical Mudjimba Island, which is home to a diverse range of marine life including green sea turtles.
Sunshine Coast Hinterland: The Sunshine Coast hinterland and its towns, including Maleny, Montville, Flaxton and Mapleton (they form a line, in that order, across the bony spine of the range), offer the chance to see some beautiful scenery. There are cruise ship 'hinterland' shore excursions available, but this could also be a good option in a rental car. The views from the hinterland are spectacular, overlooking the coastline to the east and the Glass House Mountains to the south. Many Brisbane-ites escape to this area as a weekend retreat and, while tourist shops sell the usual fare (postcards, tea towels and the like), many artisans have taken up residence in the hinterland and there is a large creative presence. Allow 45 minutes' drive time from Mooloolaba to either Mapleton or Maleny and further time to drive between the two and stop off along the way. Sunset Rent-A-Car (Shop 9, Zanzibar Arcade, 47 Mooloolaba Esplanade; 07 5370 7400; open Monday to Friday, 8 am to 3pm, Saturdays 8 am to noon, closed Sundays and public holidays) is located in an office inside Mantra Zanzibar on The Esplanade just after Brisbane Road (heading away from The Wharf).
Aussie World: Despite the name, there is nothing uniquely Australian about Aussie World, other than having fun alongside Aussies of all shapes and sizes. There are more than 30 rides and attractions, with names like Ballroom Blitz, Booma Zooma and Mozzie Musta for the 'big kids' and Giggle Go Round, Bizzy Buggies and Tin Lids Tea Party for the younger members of the family (admission price includes unlimited access to all rides). Head to the Aussie World caf? for a foot-long hot dog (healthier/gluten-free options are available), and choose from the range of souvenirs in the gift shop. (1 Downunder Drive, Palmview, Bruce Highway; 07 5494 5444; open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 3 pm, Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 5pm. Rides start at 10 am; closed Christmas Day and open Anzac Day, 1.30 pm to 8 pm.)
The Ginger Factory: Visiting The Ginger Factory is more than just a tour of a factory, and there are several attractions within the site (some of which you have to pay a fee). A little of what is on offer includes seeing how ginger is grown, harvested and turned into products (fee); watching honeybees in action as the Ginger Factory's beekeepers explain how a hive works (fee); and a slow ride on an historic cane train through the surrounding gardens. Ginger Town has an assortment of outlets and the Ginger Shop sells a wide range of ginger products. (50 Pioneer Road, Yandina; 07 5447 8431; admission is free and a fee applies for tours and rides; open daily, 9 am to 5 pm, except Christmas Day)
Eumundi Markets: The Eumundi Markets are billed as Australia's premier artisan market and are well worth a visit. Located in the town of Eumundi, about 30 kilometres' north of Mooloolaba, the markets follow the ethos of 'we make it, bake it, grow it, sew it'. True to their word, marketeers sell furniture, handmade toys, original artworks, housewares, sculptures, as well as skincare, fashion and jewellery -- all by local designers. Wander through the stalls and savour some diverse food on offer: from paella, calamari and laksas to cakes, chocolate, quality coffee and 'old-fashioned' lemonade. You will also find locally made cheeses and yoghurts, fresh fruit and vegetables and freshly baked breads. (Memorial Drive, Eumundi; open Wednesday, 8 am to 1 pm, and Saturday, 7 am to 2 pm.)
Alexandra Headland: Fancy something more 'local'? It's a 2.4 kilometre walk or short taxi ride to Alexandra Headland, commonly known as 'Alex' from The Wharf Mooloolaba. Between the two are The Esplanade and the spectacular view from the top of the headland, so allow 45 minutes or more for the inevitable stoppages. Alex has its share of restaurants and a watering hole or two, but is far less touristy. Alex shares a long beach with Maroochydore, so wear your swimmers as an excuse to cool off in the surf.
Cotton Tree: A second 'local' option is Cotton Tree, a coastal neighbourhood located further along at Maroochydore. It's about a five-kilometre walk or a brief taxi ride. Cotton Tree lies at the entrance to the Maroochy River, so enjoy a stroll along the waterfront, swim at a sheltered beach or grab a bite at eateries varying from the extremely casual to more upmarket. Poke your nose in a few of the local boutiques before heading to The Boat Shed (Behind the pool, The Esplanade, Cotton Tree; 07 5443 3808; open daily from 9 am till late). The restaurant is one of the iconic dining spots to sit and enjoy fish and chips or crab and fish fritters just metres from the Maroochy River.
Robbie Sherwell's XL Surfing Academy: Always wanted to hang 10? Take a surfing lesson with XL Surfing Academy (accredited by Surfing Australia), the most popular surfing academy on the Sunshine Coast. Beginners will learn the ropes on buoyant, stable and easy-to-ride foam boards, ranging in size from six to 9 feet long. Go it alone or as part of a group (up to 20, which are divided into four groups of five with a coach). The location varies, pending conditions: either Alexandra Headlands Skate Park (Alexandra Parade, just past Alexandra Headlands Surf Club heading away from Mooloolaba) or behind Surf Club Mooloolaba, across from The Wharf. Lessons happen between 8 am and 10 am and last an hour. All equipment is provided. (0423 03 9505)
Glass House Mountains National Park: Get in touch with nature pre- or post-cruise by exploring the Glass House Mountains which are criss-crossed with walking tracks, mountain bike and horse-riding trails and hardcore rock-climbing routes. Fitness freaks should aim high and tackle Mount Beerwah and Mount Tibrogargan, while the more moderate should amble up Mount Ngungun. Mt Tibrogargan is often referred to as 'The Gorilla' and even if you don't have the courage to climb it -- it's extremely steep -- you can see it clearly if you approach it from the East, an ancient primate, bent over in its enormity.