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From the vast outback to our beautiful coastlines, Australia offers some of the greatest drives in the world. We’ve partnered with Avis to bring you a series of tales from the road. First up, we explore how far you can stretch a weekend on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast.
5pm: We land at Brisbane Airport after one of the world’s most scenic flights from Sydney that hugs the East Australian coastline almost the entire way. Graeme from Avis is waiting at the domestic airport counter with a smile and the key to our fire-engine-red Holden Cruze for the weekend. We’ve got until Sunday night to squeeze in as much exploring of the Sunshine Coast that we can. Here we go.
6pm: It’s a sunny evening, so we head down to the South Bank Parklands to watch the sun set over the Brisbane River. The whole place has the potential to be a tourist trap, but the Collective Markets are on every weekend and despite the pretty standard market fare, there’s a relaxed buzz in the air that’s makes the weekend start early.
7pm: It’s time to hit the road for the drive up the Sunshine Coast to Noosa. It’s a relatively short 90-minute drive through Steve Irwin country with my partner-in-travel Ben. The sun’s already set on the drive up North, so there’s not much to see – but there’s plenty of time for that later.
8:30pm: We pull into Noosa’s Hastings Street, the epicentre of the “Noooosa” phenomenon (I swear I see Kath & Kim’s Prue and Trude working in one of the fashion boutiques). The restaurant trade is finishing up for the night – it’s almost 9pm – so we order some takeaway from Pizza Capers and take it back to our apartment in nearby Noosaville, about five minutes down the road on the banks of the Noosa River.
9am: The first full day kicks off pretty early for a short drive to the Eumundi Markets, held every Saturday and Wednesday (fun fact: Kevin Rudd grew up in this small town). Now I’ve visited a lot of markets in my time, but the Eumundi Markets easily wins as one of the best in Australia. It’s the right combination of quaint entertainment (a magic show!), locally made trinkets, artworks, skincare, fresh produce to take home, and a selection of amazing food. The homemade salt and pepper calamari, made gluten free with semolina and rice flour, goes down as possibly the best tasting calamari I’ve ever, ever eaten. We spend the morning wandering the market laneways, selecting fresh vegetables and fruit to cook up at home.
11am: We park our car at the foot of Noosa National Park and start the two-hour walk around the headlands. The path winds past bobbing surfers along the stunning coastal line, dotted with only the occasional jogger. The water shimmers and sparkles with 50 shades of blue as you turn every corner. After a quick dip in Tea Tree Bay, the walk takes us up the hill to Alexandra Bay (yes it’s a nudist beach and no you don’t have to). But the best surprise is just over the next mountain where a stunning vista of the Sunshine Coast surprises you. The never-ending strip of bright yellow sand appears endless, so we wander down the final few steps and spend an hour in the white foamy beach.
4pm: A quick nap later and it’s time for some road-tripping. We fire up our trusty Holden Cruze and set the GPS for the Glasshouse Mountains. Named by Captain Cook in 1770 after the glass furnaces in his home country of Yorkshire, these pretty spectacular volcanic mountains rise out of nowhere to dot the landscape of the Sunshine Coast. We drive up the summit lookout and settle in for the sunset as the clouds and mountains morph from green to orange to fairy floss pink.
7pm: The road winds back down the mountain, and we take the scenic route to Maroochydore. The main drag Ocean Street has been recently revitalised and now hosts a dozen or so restaurants side by side, creating a loud, fun, breezy atmosphere. We grab a quick drink at the Post Office Bar (yes, its previous life was a real post office), before settling in at Junk, a pop-up Asian street food vendor that feels like it could be in any bustling town.
10am: In case you can’t tell, I don’t mind a market or two when I’m on holidays, so we roll out of bed and straight to the Noosa Farmers’ Markets, held every Sunday underneath fragrant gum trees in Noosaville. The fresh produce is piled thick on every sellers’ table, from curly fresh lettuce to tomatoes bursting with pride. I order an organic superfood smoothie from The Sunflower Hotel stand filled with things I’ve never heard of (maca? Mesquite? Lucuma? Huh?) and spend the next two hours trying to finish it.
12pm: No trip to the Sunshine Coast could be complete with a dip into the vibrant blue waters of Noosa Beach, the epicentre of the region. We lay our towels down a hundred metres from the crowds and let every last drop of glorious Queensland sun soak in. We top it off with a bucket of freshly shucked prawns at the Noosa Surf Club.
3pm: That’s enough sun for one day, so we start the journey back down the Coast towards Brisbane – but not before we detour via the Kondalilla Falls in Maleny. Kondalilla, an Aboriginal word meaning “rushing waters”, has a cute swimming hole about 20-minutes in, where dozens of people swim and jump into the (freezing cold!) water. We splash around for a while before drying off on the car trip home.
5pm: We make it to the Avis drop-off point at Brisbane Airport without a minute to spare. We’ve travelled almost 600kms in a weekend on just one tank of petrol and squeezed a lot of good times in: markets, beaches, waterfalls, swimming and more markets. As the plane dips its wing over Brisbane one last time, we know it won’t be long before we’re back in this part of the world for another amazing weekend of Sunshine Coasting.(Lead image: Wulf Willis/Flickr)
Avis car hire is the perfect way to make more of your holiday. Roadtrips give you the opportunity to see different sides of your destination. With such freedom, the possibilities are truly limitless. Stay tuned for more Avis roadtrips.