If you’re a connoisseur of soft white sand you’ll know that Australia has some of the world’s best beaches. But even by Australian standards, the beaches of the aptly named Sunshine Coast are exceptional.
Noosa, for example, has powder sand so soft it squeaks when you walk on it. Bryon Bay is a wonderful crescent framed by quaint wooden buildings, hip stores and arts shops.
But beyond the beaches, the region has even more surprises; the Queensland farmstead and cattle ranches of the Golden Outback, the gum forests surrounding Coffs Harbour, the Tilligerry Peninsula National Park near Port Stephens and, of course, the life and soul of Sydney.
Land in Brisbane and pick up your hire car, and you’re just a couple of hours from the ultimate beach. Noosa’s beach is flawless. Squeaky fine, white sand stretching for miles (actually over 30 miles) along the edge of the warm Pacific Ocean You’ll be staying right on the beach. The town isn’t bad either, with a host of great shops, specialist surfing outlets, relaxed cafés, busy bars and fine restaurants. Beyond both beach and town are the interesting bush walk trails of nearby Noosa National Park, with Australia Zoo a short drive away.
Stay: Three nights at the beachside Netanya Apart hotel.
Spicers Hidden Vale
Time to tear yourself away from the beach – for a couple of days – and experience the Golden Outback just an hour’s drive southwest of Brisbane. You’ll be staying on a 10,000 acre working cattle ranch – itself an experience – on a historic Queenslander homestead. And you’ll enjoy a whole range of activities, from bushwalks and beauty treatments to archery and abseiling.
Stay: Two nights at Spicers Hidden Vale.
Even when it’s hot, Byron Bay is cool. This 25 mile crescent of glorious beach and surf is tucked into a huge horseshoe of purple-headed mountains. With more than a nod to the hippies of the 1960s, Byron Bay’s shops feature local arts, crafts and artisan food. The restaurants are fine and the bars and cafés are all laid back. It’s a cool place to learn to surf, or go out in a sea kayak. You can also wander through lush rainforest, play golf or tennis, or spend time in your hotel’s luxurious spa.
Stay: Three nights in the five star Byron at Byron Hotel.
Now let the Pacific Coast Highway sweep you along the edge of the ocean, taking in swampy bayou country and crossing lazy rivers on bridges apparently constructed from giant Meccano. You’ll wind through vast plantations of whispering sugar cane and tiny lanes leading to deserted beaches. Lunch on fresh prawns in Yamba on the mouth of the Clarence River, before motoring on to wonderful Coffs Harbour.
Stay: One night in the charming Sante Fe Bed & Breakfast.
After Coffs Harbour, head south to Port Stephens where well-heeled Sydneysiders moor their yachts. From here you can take a boat to watch dolphins, wander through Tilligerry National Park on the lookout for koalas, or simply stroll along the wild surf-pounded beaches that line the coast. If you’ve time, a 4X4 drive over the colossal Stockton sand dunes is pure exhilaration.
Stay: One night in the Anchorage hotel overlooking the marina.
Wide-ranging cultural opportunities, sizzling restaurants and bars, outstanding architecture, the harbourside and any number of different experiences. Small wonder Sydney is regarded as one of Australasia’s premier destinations. And you will be staying in a contemporary hotel just minutes from all the city’s shoreline attractions. So you’ll be able to stroll past the Opera House and around the Circular Bay, taking photographs at every other step. You can catch a ferry to Manly and Darling Harbour – the trip takes you beneath Sydney Harbour Bridge – or wend your way to world-renowned Bondi Beach for swimming and surfing lessons. Or you can drive off to see the beautiful Blue Mountains and the vineyards of Hunter Valley.
Stay: Four nights in the boutique hotel Amora Jamison.