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Australia Family Travel: Ultimate Guide to the Sunshine Coast with Kids

TravelPost Category - TravelTravel - Post Category - By CountryBy Country

Perfect weather, lots of beaches, delicious food, world-class wildlife? Australia’s Sunshine Coast is just the ticket with kids, mama!

Pretty much the only thing I dislike about Singapore, this lovely city we call home, is the weather! Yes, the hot or rainy weather and the lack of seasons is my only grouse. So naturally when we had seven weeks of summer holidays knocking on our door, I was keen to look for a “winter” destination.

With all sorts of requests from my two young outdoorsy, beach-loving boys and my workaholic hubby, I thought I had my work cut out for me, but after a quick search the deal was sealed and we had tickets booked for Brisbane, Australia and onward to the Sunshine Coast. Whilst Australia in August is the midst of winter, this area (Queensland) has the best of both worlds – some warm, beach-friendly days, and other slightly cooler breezy days and some cold cold days! Layering is key and everyone gets what they want, PLUS (and this is a major factor ) it’s a direct 7.5-hour flight, which worked well for our little 3-year-old who is not a fan of staying put in one place for too long!

In total our itinerary worked out to two weeks spent in Queensland. We had allocated the days just right and even with two little ones in tow, it didn’t feel rushed at all. If you have more time to spare, another night at each place is totally doable too since there’s just so much to see and there are several family-friendly day trips accessible from each location as well!

Here’s how the trip broke down from start to finish:

Brisbane: 2 nights
Mooloolaba: 2 nights
Wittacork: 2 nights
Noosa: 3 nights
Rainbow Beach: 2 nights
Brisbane: 2 nights

In terms of getting there, we are loyal SQ travellers so that was our obvious choice for flights, but there are many other carrier options into Brisbane such as Qantas and even Scoot (depending on your route, Scoot also flies direct to Gold Coast, which is about a three-hour drive south down the coast). In terms of cars, we pre-booked an SUV (yes, after kids and all the luggage that goes with them it’s goodbye convertibles and hello SUVs for now!). Try a website like VroomVroomVroom for the best car rental rates.

In Brisbane, my top picks with the kids would have to be the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, the beautiful SouthBank area with a beach right in the midst of the business district, the Mount Coot-tha lookout, Roma Parklands, the City CAT ferries, New Farm Park and the Paddington area for brunch with play areas such as at Chapter IV. We stayed at the Oakwood Hotel and Apartments, which had a lovely view of the Story Bridge, all aglow at night and the buzzing Fortitude Valley area was right at our doorstep.

One of our standout meals in Brisbane was at LongTime, which was highly recommended to us but difficult to find since it was discreetly tucked away in an alley. This place serves the ultimate Thai fusion cuisine in the city. I would fly all the way back for the punchy crab bao, the fiery beef cheek curry, and the longtime parfait that beautifully balanced the flavours of ginger and pandan foam.

Oh, and if you happen to be in Brissie over a weekend, don’t miss the Eat Street Markets; an awesome food festival that’s on Fridays through Sundays with live music, games and rides for the kids, cute little boutiques and over 150 food stalls with some funky dessert places such as Cookie Pizzas, doughnut ice cream cones and crazy candy floss. Needless to say our two little dessert lovers were on a sugar high!

Our next destination was Mooloolaba, where we had chosen a fabulous airbnb which even had a playroom full of toys (much to the delight of my 3-year-old), a lawn for my 6-year-old to practice his soccer moves, and a pool table for the hubby and me when we wanted some diversion from our late nights of wine and cheese. Mooloolaba is a tourist resort township with a beautiful esplanade full of cafes and restaurants. This is a great place to just relax, whale watch and spend hours at the beach. En route to Mooloolaba don’t forget to stop by at the glorious Glass House Mountains (just an hour from Brisbane) for a meal or even a coffee and some cake. We visited two particularly child-friendly places close to Mooloolaba – The Ginger Factory and the Eumundi Markets, both of which I would highly recommend.

The Ginger Factory scored big with its giant Gingerbread men, the boat ride, and the train ride. And this Sassy Mama highly recommends the ginger-based ice creams. We tried quite a few of them and the Ginger and Cinnamon flavor is absolutely super! The markets are well equipped with playgrounds that kept the kids busy amidst all the delightful street stalls.

It was then time for our farm stay at Wittacork Dairy Cottages and boy, did the kids love this one! They were up without the slightest complaint at the crack of dawn to watch the cows being milked, bottle feed the calves, feed the goats and pigs, collect eggs from the chicken coup, and pet the horses. The gator ride with Farmer Rob was of course a major highlight! The activities commenced again at 4pm each evening, too. This place is a must-visit with little kids.

Maleny is a town close to Wittacork and I would highly recommend a stop at Maleny Food Co for some homemade gelato and a delectable cheese selection. Whilst on the subject of cheese (one of my favourite eats) don’t miss the Maleny Cheese Factory – their cheese platters and yogurts are fab and a cheese lover like me couldn’t quite leave without a hamper not just for the rest of our trip but enough to bring back home to Singapore!

We even had an Indian meal at a restaurant called Daawat just down the road from Maleny Food Co and were pleasantly surprised by the authenticity. The butter chicken and kebabs were outstanding. For the sweet toothed, the quaint little shop “Sweets on Maple” serves up some delicious fudge and candy.

Mamas, don’t miss the Australia Zoo for a day trip. We know the Singapore Zoo is great but my kids really enjoyed playing with the kangaroos in the large open spaces, petting the koalas, and visiting the massive African arena and the crocodile show. The cool weather made it such a great day out.

En route to our next destination, Noosa (one of my favourite places on the trip), we stopped at the Flame Hill Vineyard in Montville for a quick wine tasting before lunch at Secrets on the Lake. Their lamb shanks are a must try! Since we had made a pit stop for a drink and lunch the next natural stop was dessert and coffee so all roads lead to Waffle On. We were not disappointed with the delicious Belgian waffles and the crisp homemade stroopwaffles.

We stayed at a stunning two level villa at the Noosa Crest Resort with the most fabulous views that made it hard to leave our balcony.  A delicious breakfast hamper with homemade macadamia muesli, fresh Eumundi strawberries, organic butters and jams and a variety of coffee – amongst other goodies – made for a perfect start to the day, too.

Noosa was all about laid back beauty, eating, drinking and indulging ourselves. Don’t miss the Noosa National Park hike and the Noosa Ferry — with great commentary and stop overs this could easily be a half/ full day trip. These are my top picks on places to eat in Noosa:

Bistro C, Hastings Street: Beachfront dining
Sirocco, Noosaville
Miss Moneypenny’s: The kids loved their special funky “binoculars” menu
Noosa Beach House by Peter Kuruvita: One of our favourite meals! Perfect for a date night if you can get the kids sorted out.
Sum Yung Guys, Sunshine Beach: I would highly recommend booking in advance but if you show up and there’s no table it’s definitely worth a wait, mamas!
Nitrogenie: The magical and whimsical ice cream shop where the delicious ice cream is prepped using liquid nitrogen. Clearly we had to make a number of visits there.

Our next destination was beautiful Rainbow Beach and a great place to stop en route for a quick picnic is Lake Alford. With gaggles of geese and loads of birds and ducks- this was another favourite with the kids.

We stayed at a lovely sea facing apartment at the Rainbow Sea Resort. Being just minutes away from the beach, the rainbow steps, the boutiques and the restaurants made the resort an idyllic location. Mamas, don’t miss the early morning dolphin feeding at Barnacles, Tin Can Bay, where wild dolphins come up to feed with the kids and adults. The dolphin feeding programme is run by volunteers and it is truly wonderful!

There’s a small cafe next door for a convenient brunch too or a short drive away is the Marina Bar & Grill run by a charming elderly couple. The seafood platter and sweetlip fish there was outstanding! Another must visit whilst at Rainbow Beach is Carlo Sand Blow.   A short walk from the National Park carpark, this is a spectacular collection of giant sand mountains with the blue sea creating a picture perfect background. We had a great time sliding and surfing down the dunes with our boys.

After a fabulous fortnight in beautiful Queensland we spent another night in Brisbane and flew back home, knowing we would LOVE to return soon!

Koala image by Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary; food image by Longtime; The Ginger Factory images sourced via Facebook; Wittacork Dairy Cottages sourced via Facebook; Gelato image by Maleny Food Co; Australia Zoo image sourced via Facebook; wine tasting image by Flame Hill Vineyard; Villa image by Noosa Crest Resort; all other images courtesy of the author

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