Noosa has become a lot more commercialised since I last visited over 10 years ago. It was a memorable trip as I was pregnant (on our babymoon) with our first child and Mr Rosanna and I had decided to tack on a trip to Noosa from nearby Caloundra where we’d been staying. That time, we lashed out and stayed at The Sebel right on Hastings Street in the middle of all the action but it was before the national retailers moved in – now you can find Lorna Jane, Witchery, Kookai and Jets in amongst the smaller boutique shops, Hamptons-style homewares stores as well as the surf shops including the iconic Noosa Longboards, which has been there since 1994.
It was also memorable in that Mr R and I had bought a couple of second-hand books while we were up there including one by Tim Winton, and to our great surprise later that week, we found ourselves sitting in the same Thai restaurant as Mr Winton himself although neither of us were brave enough to approach him while he was having his private dinner for two.
This most recent trip to Noosa was to celebrate a milestone birthday for my parents-in-law and we holidayed with one of Mr Rosanna’s siblings and their family with all of us staying at the RACV Noosa Resort, which is out of Noosa’s main drag and in between Noosaville (on the Noosa river) and nearby Noosa Junction, which is before you enter Noosa proper with Hastings street, Noosa main beach and national park at the end.
If you are a beach person, it’s probably not for you as you have to hire a car or wait for the courtesy shuttle bus every hour to get to Hastings Street and all that it offers – high-end cafes, restaurants, resorts and shops. I’ve had friends recently stay closer to the more exclusive National Park end (the French Quarter) at Little Cove and Peppers but both would be a lot more pricey.
The RACV resort is perfect for younger families and most people there were with babies or toddlers in tow – lunch, dinner and drinks by the pool was a great way to spend the afternoons and the in-house restaurant Arcuri (where you can also have the buffet breakfast) was very good and the in-house day spa also looked good, although I ran out of time to have a treatment. We stayed in a 3 bedroom villa which was bigger than our house here! There are also luxury villas in a special enclave area but I didn’t get a chance to check them out while I was there.
While I was frustrated at not being able to run on the beach, there is a concrete running track from the resort past the football oval (where the Noosa Farmers Market is held on Sundays) and the Noosa Yoga Centre is located at nearby Noosa Junction – a 10 minute walk away. It did give me the chance to explore Noosa Junction which had some lovely shops including Stitch Piece Loop, CLOStudios (where I could have bought everything in this beautiful exotic homewares shop which was re-built three months ago after being wiped out by a cyclone) and Soulsong lifestyle & yoga clothing. If you are up north, look out too for Yukti Botanicals and Saya skincare which are both made locally.
Mr R and I also had lunch at Canteen Cafe one day and dinner at Japanese restaurant Sushi Yah-Man which has a sushi train and felt more like a place you’d find in Byron Bay, complete with a head waitress with dreadlocked hair.
If you do have a car, nearby Montville and Maleny in the artistic hinterland are great places to visit as well as the sprawling Eumundi Markets, which have grown even bigger since I was last there. My tip is to go there early in the morning close to opening time, we got there mid-morning and it was only pure luck that we were able to snaffle a car park. There’s some great international food on offer from Tibetan momos to Spanish empanadas to Dutch pancakes. Boho clothing, leather goods and dream catchers galore as well as handicrafts made by local artisans. I still have a hand-made wooden chopping board I bought many, many years ago on one of my first visits there. I ended up with a pair of My Happy Shoes, which have indeed made me happy as I think they’re better than Salt Water Sandals which can also be worn in the water but are harder on your feet.
We took the kids on a ferry ride from Noosa (behind the Sofitel) watching the local boys jump off the bridge into the water while we waited, to Tewantin for lunch at Pier 11 and that’s also a lovely thing to do on a sunny day when it’s not too windy. I’ve never stayed in Noosaville but apparently it’s cheaper than Hastings Street and more relaxed. Hastings Street was like Bourke Street this time around given it’s been peak holiday season. We went past some of the beautiful waterfront restaurants including Ricky’s River Bar and Wasabi, which looked stunning. My brother and sister-in-law had dinner one night at Peter Kuruvita’s Noosa Beach House (also great for people watching during the day) while Mr R and I opted for another place that’s been there a long time – Spirit House in Yandina – about half an hour’s drive away from Noosa.
This was probably the highlight for me, Spirit House is a Thai cooking school and restaurant in the middle of nowhere – there is a ginger factory you can visit during the day but it really is a destination restaurant, which has been there for 25 years surrounded by lush bamboo and purpose-built over the creek which makes for a beautiful, soulful and atmospheric dining experience at night-time. Mr R and I thought we could have been on the set of a movie. The bar and deck area included the cooking school kitchen, which I think is a new addition, but I thought I’d been transplanted to an international city – it’s one of the best bars I’ve ever seen complete with a French-speaking barman.
Mr R and I oped for the 4 course banquet to get a sample of some of their highlight dishes which included a sublime salmon soup served from a teapot into teacups filled with aromatics, two entrees consisting of scallops and pork belly with mint, coriander and fish sauce followed by two mains – the snapper and duck curry (which was probably the only miss) plus two desserts, which we could barely fit in. I’m really glad that we made the effort to go as much as the drive there was a bit hairy – we had to stop at one stage for a kangaroo to cross the road.
While I have visited far north Queensland a number of times now as well as the Gold Coast in previous lives, as a Victorian, the Sunshine Coast is the place I’ve most frequently visited in Queensland over the years and one I keep returning to – it’s well worth a visit if you’ve never been. The sun has finally arrived here in Melbourne too, and I hope you’ve been enjoying the warmer weather.