Noosa: water, water everywhere

by larry.mitchell

Noosa, at the top-end of Australia's Sunshine Coast, offers a network of lakes, fantastic beaches, a national park and year-round sunshine. It is a great spot for sports enthusiasts and families

Situated at the northern end of Australia's Sunshine Coast, Noosa is the name given to a collection of small townships including the fashionable Noosa Heads and the quieter Noosaville. It's about a 90 minute drive from Brisbane and is an ideal spot for relaxation, road and water sports and wildlife spotting. It's also an ideal starting point for trips to Fraser Island which is a further 90 minutes up the coast. I have just returned from a two month trip to Australia, a week of which was spent in Noosa.

What to do

Beautiful beaches - Noosa is blessed by its proximity to beautiful beaches. The areas of Sunshine Beach and Sunrise Beach offer a huge space of connecting golden sands, surrounded by sand dunes, leading-up to the wild Pacific Ocean. These are true surf beaches and, because of the dangers that the ocean presents, the beaches are quite empty apart from surfers, so it's a great place to get away from the crowds and feel the sand between your toes. If you're looking for a swimming beach, then Noosa Main Beach offers just that, but only go if you don't mind sharing the beach with a lot of other people!

National Park - fortunately Noosa now has a national park to protect much of the plants and wildlife. It's right next to Hastings Street and provides a number of walking trails of different levels. The coastal path, for instance, offers breathtaking views of the sea and cliffs and leads to Alexandria Bay. It's a great experience walking or running with crystal blue water on one side and rain forest on the other! The more internal paths provide opportunities to wander through gum tree bush, looking-out for koala bears and other wildlife. Be sure to stop off at the information centre at the start of the coastal path. The staff are very helpful and the outside display tells the story of how a few enlightened people fought to save the park from the developers. It's an emotional story and makes you feel highly privileged to be there as the whole area could easily have been turned into a concrete suburb.

Exercise - as well as the beaches, Noosa has a network of lakes and a river, all of which have paved paths alongside them, making them ideal for running, walking and cycling. I ran everyday and cycled twice, It's a great way to explore the place and as it's quite flat, it's not too strenuous and is ideal for family cycling. There are also a couple of gyms, one of which (www.jetts.com.au) is open 24 hours.

Families - I have a three-year old son, Samson, and as well as cycling and swimming, there's a fabulous playground right on the river in Noosaville (http://www.squidoo.com/noosaville--noosa-river-playground). Overall, Australian playgrounds are excellent and this is one of the best. Not only does it provide the usual slides and swings, but it has some innovative things such as digger (Samson loved that) and a conveyor-belt. It's a great place to go towards the end of the day, just before the sunsets. You can sit on a bench, watching the sunset over the river, whilst your little ones play happily for hours. The other big attraction for children is Australia Zoo (www.australiazoo.com.au/), the brainchild of the late Steve Irwin, which is only a 60 minute drive away. As well as an impressive range of crocodiles, you'll find kangaroos, koalas as well as elephants and tigers.

Shopping - you have the choice between fashionable and very expensive Hastings Street in Noosa Heads or Noosa Junction. Hastings Street offers a range of upmarket designer shops and a collection of restaurants. Noosa Junction is far more main-stream and provides a range of everyday shops.

Where to shop and eat

For organic produce, head to Organika (www.organika.com.au), a fabulous mini market and restaurant. As well as organic produce, they stock all kinds of health foods and have a wonderful veranda where you can sit, drink a smoothie and watch the world go by.

Honey Ant Gallery on 11 Stevens Street is a good place to browse aboriginal art (www.honeyantgallery.com)

Where to stay

We stayed at the Australis Noosa Lakes apartments, which is based in Noosaville and provided reasonable, self-catering accommodation; three large swimming pools and a helpful receptionist.