Popular Mooloolaba Shore Excursions
Underwater World Sea Life Aquarium: Visitors to Underwater World Sea Life Aquarium, located in The Wharf, can, among other things, snorkel with sharks (no diving experience required), dive with sharks (SCUBA training is provided) or walk through the 262-foot underwater glass viewing tunnel under the 660,000-gallon 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 under cover, so rain isn't a worry. (The Wharf; 61 7 5458 6280; open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Christmas Day and limited opening times on Anzac Day).
The Esplanade: Urbane restaurants, bars and cafes line The Esplanade. In between the eateries 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 bathing suit. Those taking a casual dip leave the beach and join the passing parade on The Esplanade, where linen suits and string bikinis unintentionally go hand in hand.
Australia Zoo: For those wanting to experience Australia's cuddly, furry native animals up close, head to Australia Zoo, home of Steve 'Crocodile Hunter' Irwin before his untimely death in 2006. It is now run by his wife Terri Irwin. This is a great place to feed kangaroos and have your photo taken with a koala. For a fee, 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 big show in the 5,000-seat Crocoseum, and see a vast array of animals throughout Australia Zoo's 99-acre site. (Steve Irwin Way at Beerwah; 61 7 5436 2000; daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Christmas Day)
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 top 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, like Mooloolaba, the towns are a blend of 'local' and 'tourist'. 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 arts and crafts 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. Sunshine Coast Car Rentals (61 7 5370 7400) is located in an office inside Zanzibar on The Esplanade just after Brisbane Road (heading away from The Wharf). (Open seven days, with limited hours on Sunday)
Aussie World: Despite the name, there is nothing uniquely Australian about Aussie World, other than having fun. There are over 30 rides and attractions, with names like Ballroom Blitz, Booma Zooma and Mozzi 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 Cafe for a foot-long hot dog (healthier/gluten-free options are available), and choose from the range of souvenirs in the gift shop. (Bruce Highway; 61 7 5494 5444; open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., rides start at 10 a.m.; closed Christmas Day and open Anzac Day, 1:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.)
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 Factory's gardens. Ginger Town has an assortment of outlets and the Ginger shop sells a wide range of ginger products. (50 Pioneer Road, Yandina; 61 7 5447 8431; admission is free and a fee applies for tours and rides; open daily, 9 a.m. to 5.p.m., 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, they sell furniture, handmade toys, original artworks, housewares, sculptures, as well as skincare, fashion and jewelry -- all by local designers. Wander through the stalls and savor some of the vast array of fresh food for sale: paella, calamari, Thai, laksa, cakes, chocolate, quality coffee, 'old fashioned' lemonade, locally made cheeses and yogurts, fresh fruit and vegetables and freshly baked breads. (Memorial Drive, Eumundi; open Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 1pm, and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.)
Alexandra Headland: Fancy something more 'local'? It's a 1.5-mile walk or short cab ride over the headland to Alexandra Headland, commonly know as 'Alex,' from The Wharf. 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 bathing suit as excuse to cool off in the surf.
Cotton Tree: A second 'local' option is Cotton Tree, located further along at Maroochydore. It's a 3-mile 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. There's even a boutique or two ... and the Cuban Cigar Company!
XL Surfing Academy: Always wanted to hang ten? Take a surfing lesson with XL Surfing Academy (accredited by Surfing Australia). Learn on buoyant, stable and easy to ride soft boards, ranging in size from 6 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 a.m. and 10 a.m. and last an hour. All equipment is provided. (61 4 2303 9505)
Mooloolaba Beach: This beach is visible from where cruise ships moor and a few minutes' walk from the tender disembarkation point at The Wharf. Mooloolaba Beach predominantly faces north, so it is better for swimming than surfing. The waves at can be 'dumpers' (rises sharply close to shore and plunges down), which can mean a bumpy ride for body-surfers. Don't be put off by this, and enjoy being invigorated in the water on a hot day. As always, swim between the flags. One end of the 1.25-mile-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.
Alexandra Headland and Maroochydore: A 2-mile 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 body-surfers. 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.