Sunday, February 20, 2011

Noosa Heads.

Beach at Tea Tree Bay, 15 minutes walk into Noosa Heads National Park and 30 minutes from the main street..

There's a lot of nice places on this blog, but I have to tell you my favourite holiday spot ANYWHERE is Noosa Heads at the northern end of the Sunshine Coast about 160km north of Brisbane in south-east Queensland.
The Sunshine Coast runs from just south of Caloundra to Noosa Heads. Way nicer IMHO than the Gold Coast which is about the same distance SOUTH of Brisbane. Please excuse misspelling of Fraser Island - too hard to change on these modified Google Earth images.

Reasons are pretty simple - nice beaches with good surf - a compact National Park area starting a little over 10 minutes walk from the main street with good bush walks, several idyllic beaches and the chances to see some interesting animal and human wildlife - a very attractive estuary/river/lakes area with boating and fishing opportunities galore - good deep sea fishing - a neat hinterland with lots of little townships, country pubs, local markets - plenty of trendy people attracted by the above plus a variety of restaurants, coffee shops and night life venues (I'm not a high roller but I find pretentious poseurs good value people-watching wise) - plus a big range of accommodation from budget-backpacker to top end.


Noosa beaches from the north - modified Google Earth image. Labels will be clearer if you click image to expand. Note I've called West Beach (to the right of Main Beach) North Beach - I can't get used to the east-west orientation of the coast in this section.

This is shot from the far west end of the main town beach, standing on the rock groyne which was built to help trap sand pumped onto the beach to rebuild tropical storm erosion. The main street runs behind the beach on a narrow strip of sand between ocean and a branch of the Noosa River. These days all beachfront accommodation is luxury holiday units. In background is Laguna Hill, the lower part holiday apartments and flash houses, the top section part of the Noosa National Park.
You don't get too many north-facing beaches on the east coast of Australia, but this is one.

Speaking of flash joints, cop a look at the place above the jet ski. Back in the 80s I had a chance to buy the block of land it is built on. I figured I could do it with a biiiig stretch, but seeing it was just about vertical hillside, would never be able to afford to build. And couldn't afford the holding costs until some millionaire offered me a bunch of money for it. If only ......

For a beer and a feed with a nice beach view at reasonable prices it's hard to beat Noosa Surf Club's new bistro deck at the popular east end of the main beach.

This nice section of sand is immediately west of main beach - pic above was shot by turning 180 degrees on the rock groyne that the shot 3 above this was taken from. Interestingly, the Noosa River mouth was once where the camera is - the decision was taken to dredge a new entrance further west and pump sand to fill in the old entrance. This was done to protect a new housing estate (Noosa Sound - see area on which Commodore is placed on the Google Earth image above) created from a low lying swamp which was open to storm wave attack thru the old entrance. As a result, this beach is not backed by the town but by a small peninsula of bush called Noosa Woods with several picnic areas and walking tracks. If you click the image to expand you can see the second groyne at the far end past which the new river mouth now runs.

This is the river mouth immediately west of Second Beach in the previous shot. Pretty popular fishing, windsurfing and kayaking area. The beach you see on the far side is a beauty length-wise, extending in a wide arc north out of shot to the right for about 45km to Double Island Point which is not too far from Fraser Island. Fraser Island daytrips are popular from Noosa and most of the 4wds go via this beach. The beach is backed further north by huge sand-dunes (you can see some far right) sections of which are famous for vividly coloured sand exposed to passers-by from erosion. The closer area of this beach can be accessed by a vehicle ferry upriver at north Tewantin about 8km north of Noosa Heads - okay if you have a car or bicycle. Be careful - unpatrolled and open to big surf and tricky rip-currents.

A really nice boardwalk joins Main Beach background right and the Noosa National Park HQ and picnic area another 5 minutes walk behind camera - rather attractive Little Cove is half way along. The hillside behind Little Cove has some of the more expensive homes and apartments in Noosa, so if you want to spot the nouveau riche of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne putting on the ritz, this beach aint bad. Aint bad all round - very sheltered and protected.

Tea Tree is the first beach you come to in the National Park. It has always struck me as a perfect little tropical bay. Pic at top of page shows this maybe better. Note less sand than normal in this shot - the north facing beaches this trip were showing significant wave erosion from a tropical cyclone the week before - except for Main and Second beaches where the sand-pumping seemed to have been effective.
Surfers should note that the far headland at Tea Tree tends to pick up southerly swell better than the other north-facing beaches. If you click to expand you can see the waves better. Note the swell-contrast to east facing Alexandria Bay two shots below on the same day a few hours later - the headland at Hell's Gate sure protects these north facing beaches.

Granite is another 10 minutes walk to the east from Tea Tree. To give you an idea of recent erosion, I have seen virtually the whole area between that first small finger of rock at right and the scrub nearest camera covered with sand. But beaches come and go - only a few days of fine weather can allow the sand to move back onshore.
Small section of sand behind second finger of rock at right is known as Winch Cove.

A short distance past Granite the coast turns 90degrees and heads south. The first of the east-facing beaches along here is Alex. This is a pretty good beach - tends to pick up lots of swell for surfing, not busy. Naturists will like the fact it is clothing optional - you can find nude people anywhere along here but the popular area is at the far southern end. Like all nude beaches it is also popular with gays who tend to favour the central section. Be careful swimming here - often there are big waves and dangerous rips. No patrols, but fortunately, usually surfers who can help in emergencies. The coastal track hits the beach at this end. There is a mid-park bush track which takes a slightly longer, less scenic and often hilly route back to Park HQ starting near the far end, and another which comes across the far headland from Sunshine Beach to the south. I shot this from the Hells Gate loop-track which is worth checking for a scenic spot in the far north-east corner of the coast.

To the south of Alexandria Bay is Sunshine Beach. This exends for about 25km further south to near that distant hill which is behind Coolum - although the beach changes name - becomes Sunrise, Marcus, Macoola, Coolum and some I've forgot. Sunshine Beach is still considered Noosa district - two of Noosa's backpacker joints are here. But you would be looking at the best part of an hour+ walk to Noosa main street from the nearest part in shot. A small section of Sunshine further south is patrolled by lifesavers, but the beach has lots of unprotected dangerous spots too.

There are dozens of beaches on the river. This one is virtually at the far end of Noosa Heads main street, where the very popular municipal caravan and camping park once was. When Noosa decided to gentrify it was considered not too flash having a bunch of surfers, hippies, Brisbane bogans and Gympie gimps camping in one of the best areas of the district - so the camping area was shut down and turned into a rather nice and spacious park. I liked it the way it was - spent many nights in a neat tent here.
Some of the nicest river beaches are in the Noosaville stretch (see Google Earth river image below). Lots of boaties also pull into the pristine shifting sand bars near the river mouth you can see in that image.


I modified this Google Earth image to show the more important river features. You are looking from the south here. Once again click image to see things more clearly. Noosa River actually starts as water trickling out of sand hill springs not too far from Double Island Point in the background. Most of the area north of Noosaville-Tewantin is part of either Noosa River National Park or Cooloola National Park. It is possible to go on lake and "everglade" boat trips with Noosa operators.

I shot this from the Laguna Lookout. You can see part of West Beach and the river mouth at right. One of the northern lakes can just be seen in far right background. Typical of National Park viewpoints, trees have been allowed to grow and block views of Main Beach, Noosa Heads town and the glorious sweep of the north shore beach all the way to Double Island Point.
Oh for just a few degrees of wide-angle on my elcheapo Canon. This shot better shows Noosa Sound, the former swamp turned flash housing estate where my favourite holiday unit at Commodore is located, mid pix - and the nice stretch of the river in the Noosaville to Tewantin stretch running away from camera left background.

The perfect spot. The riverfront balcony at Commodore - the main reason I state Noosa Heads my favourite location. I never tire of sitting here watching the passing parade on the river.

I'm normally a budget traveller, but I'll stretch to this midrange place anytime. Comfortable apartment sleeps 4 to 5, twin riverfront pools below the balcony, security garage, river pontoon for fishing, tying up your boat, swimming from etc. Nearby small shopping mall and restaurants. 10 minutes flat walk along Noosa Sound to the main street and beach. Not ridiculously expensive - we were paying $aud104 a night in a non-peak time (early February - doubles in high season) - now seeing I'd just paid $36 for a top bunk bed in a tiny 4 person dorm in a Byron Bay backpacker joint on the way to Noosa, $104 makes it excellent value.
This is the thing - 3 budget travellers could rent this place for around the same money as 3 beds in a backpackers' and have much more comfort and facilities, heaps of space and lots more privacy. Adjacent Aqua Linea is a twin building, next to it is Noosa Shores which is a bit upmarket, and a little further on is Noosa Harbour which is a bit upmarket again but has a river beach which would be just the thing from travellers with kids.
There are plenty of other riverfront apartments but few are as good value as the ones mentioned and most are further from town and the beach. If you want non-riverfront on the Sound you can get cheaper than Commodore and closer to town.
Google will find booking sites for these places and there are plenty of agents in Noosa Heads main street which handle them. We use for Commodore who also have an office about half way along the main street on the river side.

Commodore and its twin Aqua Linea are the first two higher buildings on the left. Super flash milllionaires mansions to the left of them.

Get all sorts of passers by - here a surf ski. Popular anchorage for high rollers' seacraft out of the main channel.

How about 2 dogs on a paddle board?

Or Ladette Tezza paddling like hell while yours truly sits back and goofs off?
Stay here long enough and you'll see scullers, clubbies on a surf boat training run, passing jazz cruise and steel-drum band ferries, regular ferries, charter boats galore, even a gondola on sunset and night cruises for romantics. If they wish it calls in at a riverfront restaurant just along from Commodore and picks up meals to be served onboard.

The Sunset Cruise is pretty popular - $19 for about 2 hours - get to cruise Noosa Sound and the lower Noosaville stretch and river mouth sections - check the very flash riverfront homes - excellent commentary from the captain - byo booze, can buy nibblies or byo.

Don't need the cruise for a nice sunset - your balcony will do.

Or the riverside pontoon.

The regular Noosa River ferry. This runs between a marina near Tewantin and a pier behind Noosa Heads main street about hourly, stopping at around 6 piers along the way including one near Commodore. An excellent way to get to the shops, beach, restaurants or clubs without worry of getting booked for booze driving - or just seeing a nice stretch of the river.


It's not too often you find a National Park only 10 minutes walk from a resort area's main street. A nice parking-picnic/NP HQ area which is also good for koala and goanna (a big monitor lizard) spotting, the nice beaches Tea Tree, Granite and Alexandria mentioned above and several good walking tracks - the nicest of which is the coastal track. This is paved for the first 2km or so - good for assisted wheelchairs and baby strollers. That's Laguna Bay in background with the north shore beach behind running all the way up to near Double Island Point.

Map of National Park showing walking tracks, viewpoints, beaches etc. Click to expand. Main street starts at Surf Life Saving Club far left - Sunshine beach roads bottom right.

Useful sign at the NP Information Centre at the parking/picnic area. Little buggers had gone by the time I got there with my camera. No goannas lurking around either. Both firsts - but this is the first time I had a camera.

Only wildlife I found were heaps of these dudes. Bush turkeys are everwhere - even searching for crumbs in Hastings Street restaurants.


There are 6 backpackers' places in the area, but only one of them is in Noosa Heads, Halse Lodge (YHA) which is 2 minutes from the beach, main street and bus station.
Halse Lodge - this is an old church guest-house in trad Queenslander style- has lots of balcony areas and outside places for lazing around. My last stay was maybe 3 years ago - the dorms were a bit pokey and I think other Noosa area backpackers were better in this respect when I stayed there even earlier. But location location - the beach/main street are 150/100m to left of camera and the long distance and local bus arrival area is 100m behind camera. The river 200m behind. $29 for a dorm bed blows Byron Bay away - I consider Noosa so much better than Byron (and I do like Byron) - Byron doesn't have a national park close to town, multiple beachs and a river, but it is 12 hours by bus from Sydney which is maybe max for a budget traveller vs 17+ for Noosa. Byron does have a much more intense backpacker party scene.

The next closest backpackers' is Nomads which is in Noosa Junction a 10 to 15 minute walk across a major hill to the beach. Pluses include Noosa Pub being near the top of that hill for a welcome pit-stop with fabulous views of Laguna Bay, plus the fact that Noosa Junction has 2 major supermarkets, a better range of fast food and other shops and a cinema multiplex.

Noosa Backpackers Resort is in Noosaville about 15-20 minutes flat walk from the beach and only a 2 minutes from the river. Noosaville has a good range of services these days.
I stayed at Noosa Backpackers my latest Dec 2013 solo visit. After a few misgivings (joint has a licensed bar in background and forbids bringing your own booze - a heartbreaking situation for me: not that this stopped a dip or more into the 5l box of elcheapo Aussie red I cart around) I found it a pretty okay place. Apart from Halse Lodge, it probably has the best position of the Noosa area backpackers - a flat 15/20 min walk into town and the beach. The river is only 2 minutes away and the joint has free kayaks which were popular (incongruously, the bicycles cost $15 per day - no problem for me with my trusty Crane-Hinge fold-up street-fanger). The 3km long river side park starting 4 minutes north is really nice these days with several good stretches of sand and water, boat/kayak/jet ski hire, lotsa adjacent restaurants - and there is an okay fair sized shopping center a few blocks inland from river about 10 minutes walk from the backpackers. NB had friendly efficient staff and ran frequent shuttles to the beach and into Noosa Junction. The associated restaurant provided jummy meals at good value.

Chillout, a newer place, is also in Noosaville a bit further from the beach and river, a bit closer to Noosaville services.

Dolphin's Beach House is way over in Sunshine Beach - I notice the website shows a walking route which more or less follows the National Park Coastal Track and I often see groups of travellers slogging it along Alexandria Bay beach - but I have to tell you the whole trek would be at least 90 minutes one way. But it is a nice walk. Nevertheless I think a lot of people would be waiting for their shuttle bus to do the return trip. This joint claims to be the closest backpacker to the beach in the area but I reckon it's no closer than Halse Lodge. The beach is much more open and exposed and not as cute - although keen surfers would enjoy it more in the right wind. People inexperienced with surf and rip currents should take care - the patrolled area is some way along the beach.

Melaluka is also in Sunshine Beach, further from the sand and another 10 minutes walk into town.

Flashpackers also in Sunshine Beach is closer to the services of Noosa Junction (10+ minutes walk) and Main Beach (say 30 to 40) but further from the beach at Sunshine itself (10+). This newish place gets very good reviews in the user forums and could be a case of excellent facilities outweighing location.

I don't consider Gagaju Bush Camp and Backpackers to be a Noosa location - its way past Tewantin on the north shore alongside the Noosa River up near the lakes. It would take 30 minutes to DRIVE there from Noosa Heads. However it sure looks like a neat experience in a nice place - I'll have to do it one day.

Alternative budget option is the newer camping and caravan park which is on a nice stretch of the river maybe 15 minutes walk from town and the beach - has a pretty okay beach. Park is a bit limited in size.


Hastings Street runs for maybe 400m along the sand spit behind main beach - these days is a pretty nicely landscaped strip with lots of upmarket boutique-style shops, restaurants and some fast food joints, coffee shops and a bar or two, plenty of agents who can book you accommodation or daytrips, and some very upmarket resorts particularly on the beach side. When I first started surfing up here there was one cafe with killer burgers, lots of holiday beach shacks owned by miners from nearby Gympie, the surf club in much less flash condition and that wonderful caravan park at the far north end.
I read recently the council has decided to outlay so many $m on upgrading the street. I dunno, it's not too bad as is - although the old days were better.


Maroochydore 25km south has an airport with cut price JetStar and Virgin Blue flights from interstate. There are shuttle buses from there and from Brisbane International airport about 90 minutes further south. Noosa is very popular with New Zealanders.

Most long distance buses heading for Cairns etc call in to Noosa Heads.

There is a train station at Cooroy about 30km north with regular buses to Noosa Heads.

The area has a good local bus service connecting all the parts in this blog (except the north shore) and extending further south.
A free coach to Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo departs from the bus bay near Halse Lodge.
50 metres towards the beach from the bus bay is the taxi rank.
I've already mentioned the Noosa River Ferry.
Plenty of car-hire and bicycle hire joints.

If you have additional information or see mistakes please post below. But if you have questions please ask them in THE FORUM which can be accessed via THE INDEX - I check it much more frequently.


1 comment:

Dave said...

Over the centuries an endless stream of immigrants has arrived here from the mainland, China, Vietnam and Malaysia, along with shipwrecked sailors and intrepid travelers from 80 countries.

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