We recently moved to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland and are fortunate to live a mere ten minutes from the delightful coastal town of Mooloolaba.
Mooloolaba is in the heart of the Sunshine Coast and although it’s not quite as famous as Noosa (a half hour drive away), Mooloolaba is just as amazing. It’s a must visit on the coast because there are so many amazing things to do and see in Mooloolaba and its surroundings.
Whether you want to relax on a stunning beach or have an active holiday, you can’t go wrong with choosing to visit Mooloolaba.
Here are the top things to do in Mooloolaba to have the most amazing holiday on our beautiful Sunny Coast.
You can swim with the humpback whales
Yes, you read right, in Mooloolaba you can go swimming with the majestic humpback whale. During whale season (July to October), Sunreef runs daily trips for a swim with those gentle giants of the sea.
If you are looking for an experience that will leave you totally speechless, this is it. There is nothing like being in the water and having these huge mammals swim right past you or underneath you.
The experience is designed to be ethical, and you only get in the water if the whales show suitable playful behaviour towards the boat. Swimmers are asked to remain behind the guide who is positioned at least 30 metres away from the whales. Remember these guys are huge!
If the whales decide to come closer that’s their call, they decide if they want to interact or not. During our swim they were very happy to come forward and spend some time with us. It’s one of the most amazing experiences you can have.
If you are not a good swimmer or are worried about being so close to the whales in the water, Sunreef also runs daily whale watching tours.
If a trip out on the water is not an option for you, if you visit during whale season you might even see them splashing around from onshore! They do come quite close to shore sometimes and we have seen them just walking along the coastal path here in Mooloolaba.
The Beaches are fabulous
Well, with amazing beaches all along the coastline, you can’t visit Mooloolaba and not hit the beach. If you like waves, Mooloolaba, Alexandra Headlands, Maroochydore, and Buddina surf beaches will keep you happy. Most the beaches have patrolled areas too which makes the coast a beach haven.
If you prefer a nice, calm beach with no waves, you can head to the Mooloolaba Spit or the Maroochy River mouth at Cotton Tree (still be mindful of the current), the beach on Chambers Island in Maroochydore or take a dip in the Mooloolaba River, accessible from the Balsa Park in Buddina.
You can explore the canals on a river canal cruise
My favourite thing about Mooloolaba is that it’s surrounded by water. If it’s not the beach, you’ve got the canals. A Harbour River Canal Cruise is a must do to see the beautiful canals, the local pelicans and some of the most expensive houses in Queensland!
We recommend using the original Mooloolaba canal cruise which takes you through three different areas on board their historic timber ferry, the M.V. Mudjimba. The tour departs right next to Sunreef, lasts an hour, and runs three times daily.
You can book it online here or just walk in and pay onboard, although in busy periods it’s probably better to book ahead to be sure.
The walk along the coast is breathtaking
Strolling along the coast is one of the best things to do in Mooloolaba and it’s free! From Mooloolaba Beach, you can walk along the beach or boardwalk to the Mooloolaba Spit (the Spit is a fantastic spot to watch the sunset and spot turtles). You can also head towards Alexandra Headlands and walk as far as Cotton Tree if you enjoy a nice long walk! With beautiful views all along the way, you might find it hard to stop walking.
Point Cartwright is just around the corner
Point Cartwright is also a popular spot for walkers, joggers, and fishermen. Take a walk around the headland, check out the rockpools and the lighthouse, enjoy the stunning coastal vistas and look out for wildlife. If you don’t see a bush turkey there, you aren’t paying enough attention! You are also likely to see water dragons in the summer months and maybe whales splashing in the distance during the winter months.
After your walk, head to La Balsa Park and grab a coffee and/or breakfast at One on La Balsa. Or bring a picnic or BBQ to enjoy right by the Mooloolaba River.
The Mooloolaba Wharf is a must for drinks and dinner
The Wharf is a popular spot to hang out. There are a few restaurants where you can enjoy lunch or dinner with a view or just grab a drink. Our favourite restaurant on the coast happens to be there, Rice Boi. It’s not to be missed but go early if you want to sit outside with the view and to avoid queuing. Sadly, they don’t take bookings.
You can keep the kids happy at Sea Life
Sea Life is right next to the Wharf and is worth a visit, especially if you have little ones. The seal show is quite entertaining! They have a few experiences that you can take part in such as swimming with sharks and penguins encounters. Those of course are extras and should be booked in advance in busy times.
Although not huge, Sea Life has enough to keep you entertained for a couple of hours or so.
You can go chasing waterfalls
Just 10 minutes inland, you’ll find the beautiful town of Buderim and the Buderim Forest Park where you can go chasing waterfalls. The Buderim Falls, also known as Serenity Falls, is accessed by a short twenty-minute return walk through a peaceful sub-tropical rainforest of towering trees, ferns, and strangler figs. In the heat of summer, it’s a great place to hang out for some relief from the humidity and for a refreshing dip.
The sunset is spectacular
There is nothing better than watching the sun go over the water and the Boatshed in Cotton Tree is our favourite place to do that. Head there early and grab a table by the water. We love watching the activity on the river while the sun sets.
The Boatshed is also a popular restaurant and one of our favourites. Be sure to book ahead to secure a spot if you’d like to grab dinner there.
You can learn to paddle board
Be a real Queenslander and learn to paddle board if you don’t know already. Paddle boarding is super popular up here and it’s quite fun if you have balance (and even more fun if you don’t!).
The river mouth in Cotton Tree must be one of the most beautiful spots around to try paddle boarding.
The Hinterland is just as breathtaking
As stunning as the coastline is, you may want to escape it for a day to check out our beautiful sunny coast hinterland. There is an abundance of places to visit in the hinterland and with only one day you won’t have time to see all of them.
However, you absolutely must checkout Maleny which is my favourite hinterland town. Maleny’s botanical gardens are a must visit for some beautiful views over the Glasshouse mountains and the coastline.
Bird World is also fantastic if you like birds. Be sure to head to Tiffany’s for a high tea with a view and visit the Maleny dairy if you’d like to pick up some produces.
There are many beautiful towns in the hinterland and Montville is also a magnificent spot full of art galleries, quaint little shops, and fantastic eateries.
If you are after a hike, head to the Kondalilla Falls National Park, a few minutes’ drive north of Montville. Or, if you fancy something a little tougher, the Glasshouse Mountains offers many different hikes of varying difficulty. The choice is yours.
You can snorkel with turtles or dive with grey nurse sharks
Sunreef has daily snorkelling trips to the reef of Mudjimba Island which you can see on the horizon from shore. Turtles, wobbegong sharks, crayfish, rays, nudibranchs, and many types of reef fish live in the area.
If you are a diver, they also offer diving trips to the E-HMAS Brisbane and Wobby Rock where you can go diving with the resident Grey Nurse Sharks.
If you can’t afford to go on a snorkelling trip, you can snorkel at the Spit in Mooloolaba and might spot some turtles there.
You can go on a Christmas Lights cruise
If you visit just before Christmas, be sure to sign up for a Christmas lights cruise. Every year in December, the waterfront properties of Mooloolaba, Minyama, and Buddina create a wonderful Christmas light spectacle. It’s only viewable from the water and there are a few tour operators running nightly cruises.
The Saturday before Christmas you can also be part of the famous Mooloolaba Christmas light parade. A parade in which up to 100 boats compete for the prize of best Christmas boat light display.
Where to stay in Mooloolaba?
Oceans Mooloolaba is located right on the waterfront and is a 5-star resort offering an elegant pool area with landscaped gardens. It has a spacious balcony area with sweeping views of the ocean. Find out their prices here.
Breeze Mooloolaba, Ascend Hotel Collection
Breeze Mooloolaba, Ascend Hotel Collection is in the heart of Mooloolaba, less than a 5-minute walk to Mooloolaba beach. Local shops, restaurants and cafes are within a 10-minute walk. The Sea Life Aquarium is just a 4-minute drive. Find out their prices here.
Raffles Mooloolaba is just 200 m from the beach, and several cafés and boutiques. The hotel features free Wi-Fi, a heated pool, and a hot tub. All apartments feature a balcony, are air-conditioned and offer a spacious living area. Walking distance to Sea Life. Find out their prices here.
If none of those accommodations are suitable you can search across on the major accommodation websites using the HotelsCombined search box below: