Queensland is said to be 'beautiful one day, perfect the next.' In keeping with this theme, the 'Sunshine State' prides itself on more than 2,000 kilometres of fabulous beaches and coastal hotspots. One of these highlights is Mooloolaba, located along the Sunshine Coast, about an hour's drive north of Brisbane.
Mooloolaba is a 'frolic in the surf and sun' escape for Brisbane-ites, and its population swells considerably each weekend and on school holidays. However, it's not a quiet hideaway by the ocean. While very much maintaining its own identity, Mooloolaba is, along with the neighbouring Alexandra Headland, a suburb of Maroochydore. The three seaside areas sit next to each other -- the centre of Maroochydore being the third area -- and it's hard to tell where one ends and the next starts. The combined population of all three numbers in excess of 60,000, and this brings with it a co-existing blend of tourism and urban living.
Mooloolaba is very much the tourist hub of the three and The Esplanade, with an abundance of restaurants, cafes and shops overlooking one end of Mooloolaba Beach, is the focal point. Mooloolaba's prime location makes it an excellent launching pad to all sorts of attractions, such as the world-class Australia Zoo, the Glass House Mountains and the Sunshine Coast hinterland and its quaint towns.
For cruise travelers, Mooloolaba has only been a port of call since August 2014. However, its long history as a tourist destination means there is a calm confidence in its treatment of visitors. It might be a small town by the ocean, but for a holiday it is top notch on many levels.
Cruise ships moor between half a mile and one mile off Mooloolaba and tender ashore. Mooloolaba Beach is a surf beach, so tenders enter a channel -- the entrance to the Mooloolah River and a canal system behind Mooloolaba -- and passengers disembark at The Wharf.
The Wharf is approximately an eighth of a mile walk to the start of The Esplanade and its multitude of shops and eateries. However, The Wharf itself contains quite a few places to shop (not all touristy) and dine. There is an ANZ ATM next to the open-air food court in the middle of The Wharf and the Hire Hut, where you can purchase tickets to attractions such as Australia Zoo. In many instances transport is not included. If a quick bite to eat before or after the day's activities is in order, or a last-minute memento needs to be bought, The Wharf fits the bill. It's a good start/end point for cruisers, but there is no information desk or Internet cafes.
The sub-tropical climate means the sun can have a bite, even if it's cloudy and the sea breeze feels so lovely and cool. In the warmer months, it's best to wear a hat (preferably wide-brimmed) and sunscreen (at least SPF30+). To be extra careful, wear a long sleeve, light (cotton) shirt.
The 'loo with a view' is a public amenity overlooking the beach on The Esplanade near Brisbane Road. Despite the name, you don't go to the toilet to look at the view. The view occurs after you've 'been' and walk out onto the large deck area, which overhangs the sand. It's one of the best-known landmarks in Mooloolaba because so many people use it as a meeting point.
Mooloolaba is very much a walking destination and everything it has to offer is within a 20-minute stroll of The Wharf. Walking to Alexandra Headland is approximately 2.5 kilometres from The Wharf and does involve walking up and down a sloping footpath. Should you wish to venture further, there is a taxi stand at The Wharf. Rental cars are available and the closest is Sunshine Coast Car Rentals (61 7 5370 7400) located in an office inside Zanzibar on The Esplanade just after Brisbane Road (heading away from The Wharf). They are open seven days but with limited hours on Sunday. Other major car rental companies such as Avis (61 7 5453 1999), Hertz (61 7 5443 3108) and Budget (61 7 5443 6555) are all located at Maroochydore, which involves either a 3-mile walk or a taxi ride.
Currency is the Australian dollar. Visit www.xe.com for current exchange rates. There is an ATM (ANZ bank) where cruise ships dock at a complex known as The Wharf. There are also many other ATMs located along The Esplanade: CBA, NAB and Westpac are all together opposite the Sunshine Coast Car Rentals office in the arcade at Zanzibar, just after Brisbane Street. A Bank of Queensland ATM is situated on The Esplanade heading away from Zanzibar.
English is the main language spoken. In a tourist hub such as Mooloolaba, you can expect the Aussie locals will say "g'day" and "no worries," although you'll hear "good afternoon, ma'am/sir" in some of the more upmarket retail outlets.
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 either a stroll along Mooloolaba Beach towards the far end of the beach from The Esplanade, or turn right out of The Wharf and follow Parkyn Parade, which runs past The Wharf, almost to the end. The restaurant backs onto the dock, where the trawlers come in and the menu includes reef fish, swordfish, Mooloolaba ocean king prawns, Moreton Bay bugs, sand/mud/spanner crabs, tuna, scallops and more. Even fresh barramundi is flown in from north Queensland, as is salmon from Tasmania. For non-fish lovers, the menu offers alternatives such as confit duck and prime kilcoy grain fed eye fillet (beef tenderloin). (25 Parkyn Parade; 61 7 5444 4711; open Monday to Sunday, for lunch from 12 p.m. and dinner 6 p.m. to late)
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 think thongs, shorts and T-shirts. It's been voted best fish and 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. They've got a liquor license, too, so 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, etc. (21 Parkyn Parade; 61 7 5444 1165; open daily, 6 a.m. to about 7 p.m., except Christmas Day)
Augello's Ristorante and Pizzeria: The pedigree of Augello's Ristorante and Pizzeria is world class. Twice it's been voted 'Best Pizza on the Globe' and three times 'Best Pizza in Australia.' Augello's is more for the non-seafood lovers, although seafood is included in several dishes. The menu is Italian and revolves around pizzas, pasta, risotto and insalada (salad). Steak -- eye fillet (beef tenderloin) -- appears once on the menu (it is Australia, after all!). Augello's is located upstairs in the heart of The Esplanade and looks out over Mooloolaba Beach and the ocean. It's prime real estate. Augello's is very popular, so it's best to book, even for lunch. (The Esplanade at Brisbane Road; 61 7 5478 3199; open daily, noon to late)
Surf Club Mooloolaba and The Boathouse Restaurant: The Surf Club Mooloolaba offers casual dining at the bar, which has an all-day snack menu (11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.), or The Boathouse Restaurant for a sit-down meal. The one thing both share is possibly the best dining view in town, overlooking Mooloolaba Beach. The affordable snack menu includes Asian chicken salad, steak sandwich on Turkish bread and pumpkin and lentil patty. Even the lunch (12 p.m. to 2 p.m.) and dinner (5:30 p.m. to late) meals in The Boathouse Restaurant, such as marinated shrimp in pastry, seafood linguine and a selection of steaks, are not very expensive. Only two of the steaks, and one of the oysters, are a bit spendy. (at the start of The Esplanade, opposite The Wharf; 61 7 5444 1300; open Sunday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., open Friday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight)
Ground Organics: Ground Organics is all about 'expanding the awareness of humanity' and only use food that is whole, organic, fresh, unprocessed and local. Their lunch menu (11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) has six items on it, but there are extras you can add. Their breakfast menu (7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) also adds some possibilities. They also serve juices, smoothies, tea/coffee and sweets. Everything on the menu is quite affordable. (7/11 The Eplanade, the end near The Wharf and The Surf Club Mooloolaba; 61 7 5477 6560; open daily, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.)
The Sunshine Coast and beach living go hand in hand so ‘beachy' fashions are a big part of life there. Numerous boutiques line The Esplanade (at Second Avenue), and several can be found at The Wharf (Parkyn Parade; 61 7 5444 8088). Situated between these two locations is up and coming designer Natashya Manfield (Shop 2, 1 River Esplanade; 61 7 5444 0614). For blokes, Mooloolaba also has plenty of places to buy T-shirts or a pair of boardies.
An icy cold beer is the drink of choice in this sunny part of Australia. The Sunshine Coast Brewery is a family-owned business that offers a range of 10 beers, including ales, bitters, 'smoked' beer and even a hot chili beer, which can be bought in various establishments around Mooloolaba. Among them are Taps (The Esplanade and Brisbane Road; 61 7 5477 7222; open daily, midday to late), the Mooloolaba Yacht Club (33-45 Parkyn Parade; 61 7 5370 1700; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.), Lemon & Thyme (2/7 Venning Street; 61 7 5452 6939; open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner), Augello's (The Esplanade and Brisbane Road; 61 7 5478 3199; open daily, noon to late) and Fish on Parkyn (25 Parkyn Parade; 61 7 5444 4711; open daily, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, for lunch from 12 p.m. and dinner from 6 p.m. to late).