We like nothing better at the weekend then to hit the walking tracks with a picnic, get some fresh air and blow off all those cobwebs from a week at work and school.
The Sunshine Coast has some amazing walking tracks from coastal paths and mountain hikes to woodland trails, all offering a different perspective and personality.
In no particular order, here are our choice of the best family walks on the Sunshine Coast.
Noosa Heads Coastal Walk
Coastal trails don’t get much better than the stunning Noosa coastal walk. The view from the path is of unbelievably beautiful turquoise water meeting white sandy beaches or granite rock formations which range from sandy brown to steel grey, all framed by the spiky green leaves of pandanus trees blowing in the breeze.
Along the route, you will pass multiple small coves and bays, each seemingly even more beautiful than the last and every one with a unique feel to it. The boys usually want to stop at all of them but our favourites for a paddle are Tea Tree Bay, which is shaded by tea trees and has an abundance of bush turkeys, and Granite Bay. Both deservingly appear on our ‘Top 10 beaches on the Sunshine coast’ list.
Also worthy of a special mention are the fairy pools; rock pools which are accessed by leaving the main path at the picnic bench just past Granite Bay and heading down the cliff towards the ocean.
These beautiful deep rock pools are fantastic to swim in, however they are only safely accessible at low tide and best avoided if the rocks are wet and slippery. These ones are probably best left to the adults as the access could be dangerous for younger children although Daniel made it down easily enough and couldn’t resist the urge to take a dip fully clothed!
There are several lookout points where you can admire sweeping ocean views to spot dolphins and even humpback whales during their migration season. Dolphin Point is especially beautiful and the sandstone seating makes it a great place to stop for a bite to eat without the risk of sandy sandwiches or bush turkey invasion.
Starting at Noosa Heads main beach, follow the boardwalk to Noosa National Park. From here follow the path all the way to Hells Gate, which overlooks Alexandra Bay from rugged cliff tops and offers glorious ocean view.
You can return via the same costal route, a total of 5.4kms, or if you fancy a change of scene, follow the Tanglewood bush track from Hell’s Gate back to either Granite Bay or the national park car park. Be warned though, the inland path is a very much longer route. Having it completely myself I can tell you it feels at times as though it will never end! The coastal walk in officially graded depending upon the section from grade 1-3.
If you’re keen to keep walking once you’ve reached Hells Gate, the coastal path continues at the other side of Alexandra Bay and will take you all the way to Sunshine Beach. This additional section makes a total distance of 6.4km one way, 12.8km return. Alternatively, you can catch bus 627 from outside Sunshine Beach Surf Club back to Noosa Heads.
As a family walking together, we generally walk to Hells Gate and return by the same path which is a pleasant and manageable route for little legs, with the promise of beach time on the return trip. There is usually an ice cream van stationed close to main beach which provides the necessary motivation for the last push. Be sure to try the ginger ice cream if you too struggle to walk past empty handed, it’s to die for!
If you’ve worked up more of an appetite than an ice cream will satisfy, we always make a stop at Betty’s Burgers over the road from the main beach car park. The burgers are sensational with melt in the mouth beef and their thick shakes (pretty much melted ice cream), wash them down beautifully.
Although everyone else is usually all walked out by the time we have reached Betty’s, I can usually manage to soldier on to nearby Hasting’s Street to explore the many boutique shops which are also worth paying a visit to!
Noosa is one of the Sunshine Coast’s most popular destinations and as such, parking fills up quickly.
If you are able to arrive early in the morning, you may be lucky enough to bag a spot in one of the main car parks close to Hastings Street, although time limits apply here.
At the entrance to the national park at the end of Parks Street in Noosa Heads, there is a small car park but this too fills quickly.
If arriving later your best bet is to try the car park in the Noosa Spit Recreation Area at the end of Hastings Street. This takes a little longer to fill up and offers longer stays at the back.
We usually choose to street park. As you proceed up Parks Road out of Noosa Heads toward the national park entrace, take a right turn up Alderly Terrace. Continue up the hill where, at the time of writing, parking is unrestricted in the local roads. This is a residential area so please park with courtesy.
Toilets are available at Noosa Heads main beach, the national park day use are and at Tea Tree Bay, which is approximately half way along the coastal path.
Within the day use area as you enter the Park you’ll find drinking water, picnic tables, public BBQs and a small shop selling coffee, drinks and snacks. There are also information boards and displays telling you about the Park.
Noosa Heads has numerous cafes, restaurants and shops.
Mount Ngungun in the Glasshouse Mountains National Park
We tend to write these list ‘in no particular order’, but if there was an order, this walk would no doubt be at number one for Stu! He has written about in our post about the top family things to do on the Sunshine Coast.
The walk itself is pleasant, and the view at the top is outstanding.
Mount Ngungun is the 6th tallest of the Glasshouse mountains, a group of mountains so named by the explorer James Cook because their unusual shapes reminded him of the glass making foundries of Yorkshire in England. Most of the mountains are very steep with a treacherous ascent best left to those with climbing experience, however Mount Ngungun has a good path which is not as steep and manageable by smaller and older legs (we have dragged both up it!).
There is good parking at the base of the mountain and the walk begins on a fairly even track with very little incline. The path gradually steepens as it ascends through open forest and passes by a rocky cave which is a great place to stop and explore.
From here, the path climbs rocky steps and narrower tracks which we’ve found tends to be the slippiest part of the walk so take extra care here; Sam has found himself on his bottom a few times, mostly because he refuses to walk and prefers to run and jump!
The track passes through pretty woodland along well formed paths with some rocky areas until you reach the base of the summit. Here, you will need to take a relatively short and easy scramble up the rocks to reach the top, but your efforts are immediately rewarded by the most spectacular views of the other glasshouse mountains. Even our decrepit parents (sorry parents!) have managed this part of the walk with a little guidance.
Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the view over the hinterland towards the coast and spot neighbouring Mount Tibrogagan, Mount Coonowrin and Mount Beerwah.
The Glasshouse Mountains National park is also renowned for its wildlife so keep your eyes peeled; we have on a couple of occasions met a lace monitor going about his daily business.
You will need to supervise children closely at the summit as there are some very steep drops, however, we’ve been up and down numerous times and haven’t lost anyone yet.
The walk is 2.8km return and is suggested to take around 90 minutes to complete, plus however long you spend enjoying the spectacular view at the summit. We regularly manage the walk in 30 minutes in each direction, even with the shortest legs participating, however it is best to make sure you’ve given yourself time to complete it in daylight.
We were surprised to learn that the walk is officially classified as a Grade 4 track (tracks may be long, rough and very steep; bushwalking experience recommended). We have climbed it multiple times now, with Sam’s first ascent being at the age of 2 and we always see plenty of young children completing it with ease. We actually wonder if this classification was set prior to the installation of the formed path. It certainly walks more like a Grade 3. Why not check it out for yourself and make up your own mind.
A good amount of parking is available on Fullerton Road close to the start of the walking track
There are no toilets or drinking water facilities at or around the walking track entrance.
Toilets, cafes and take away food outlets are available at the nearby Glasshouse Mountains Township, where the Park information centre is also located.
Buderim Forest Park
Buderim Forest Park was a bit of a later discovery for us in our exploration of the Sunshine Coast but it has soon become one of our regular treks.
The focal point of this walk is Buderim Falls, or Serenity Falls as it is unofficially named; a curtain of water falls elegantly into a pretty rock pool and you can walk behind the falls into the small cave like area formed by the overhanging rock down which the falls cascade. From here, the water flows into rock pools of varying depth, cascading over the rocks at several points as smaller waterfalls which continue as Martin’s Creek.
You can start the 2km return walk from either end. To begin at the top and work your way down to the waterfall near the beginning of your walk, start at the Quorn Close end. Alternatively, the Harry’s Lane entrance starts with a boardwalk through the rainforest bringing you to the waterfall at the end of the walk by following Martins Creek.
Assuming Quorn Close is the starting point, the path descends through subtropical rainforest where you will see strangler figs and hear the unmistakable call of the whip bird. It isn’t long before you can hear the rush of water below and soon after the waterfall comes into view.
You can view the falls from the vantage point of a tall green bridge that traverses the creek before taking the stone steps down to reach the rockpool.
Many visitors, ourselves included, choose to enjoy a paddle or swim in the rockpools. Although this is permitted, the council do advise against doing so as the water passes through urban areas and may contain debris.
I’m happy to report however that we’ve never come to any harm, although care should be taken as the underlying rocks can be extremely slippery. Another factor which may colour your decision to swim is the presence of eels which we have ourselves witnessed, but happily there are no sharks or crocs so it is all go for us!
You can continue your walk either in or alongside Martin’s Creek on the narrow pathways, although there are several areas where you will need to cross the creek to remain on the path. There are some very conveniently placed rocks, so creek crossings needn’t necessarily mean wet feet. As the creek flattens out and narrows, you will move away from the water on a soil track before joining a boardwalk.
The picturesque boardwalk features several bridges over the creek as you walk under tall ferns and eventually reach a grassed area. Here you will also find Harry’s restaurant which does a roaring trade in woodfired pizzas as a reward for completing the walk one way and to energise you for the return trip.
There is a car park and toilets at both ends of the walk.
There is no official grading of the walk that we can identify.
Buderim Forest Park is located in Buderim on the Sunshine Coast.
The park can be accessed via entrances at the end of Quorn Close or Harry’s Lane. See the local area on Google Maps here.
Parking is available at both entrances but can quickly become full on a busy day. Some street parking is available but please be courteous to local residents.
Toilets, BBQs and picnic tablets are available at both entrances to the Park.
Mary Carincross Scenic Reserve
Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is in our view one of the best wildlife spotting walks on the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Taking you through 55 hectares of subtropical rainforest, this walk gives you an insight into the areas past before human habitation.
The main walk at 1.7km return, begins at a relatively new visitor centre which was opened in 2017 and is a great addition to the reserve since the time of our first visit.
All of our boys enjoy examining the resin block specimens of vegetation and creepy crawlies and spotting some of the reserve’s crayfish in a large display tank. Sam’s favourite feature of the visitor centre is a darkened tunnel where you can spot models of some of the reserve’s nocturnal wildlife. The interactive digital displays are also a highlight for the boys. There are some great information boards detailing the evolution of the rainforest.
There is also a short canopy walk accessed from the centre’s upper floor. A gold coin donation is requested to access the visitor centre and walk.
The walk itself begins on a boardwalk through tall trees and this is the best place in the reserve to spot the resident red legged pademelons. These beautiful shy creatures really are the highlight for me and are commonly spotted by those who take it slow and keep noise to a minimum. That said, we have been lucky enough to spot them on every visit despite having a noisy rabble of boys in tow, although they don’t stick around for long. You’ll also have a good chance of spotting a skink and of course, plenty of bush turkeys.
Look out also for the giant ancient vine suspended from the trees above which wouldn’t look out of place in an Indiana Jones movie.
The walk continues along an easy grade soil track deeper into the rainforest and passes along a creek which is home to Mountain Freshwater Crayfish, although we’ve never been lucky enough to have spotted any.
Those visiting with children will of course have to explore the small playground situated close to the car park before they can tackle the walk itself.
Located next to the playground and car park, there is also a short butterfly walk with labels identifying the various plants and trees.
One of our favourite things about Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is actually not in the reserve at all, but over the road where you can enjoy arguably the best view of the Glasshouse Mountain National Park that the Sunshine Coast has to offer. Beautiful at any time of the day, the view is especially stunning at sunset on a clear day. It’s not unusual to find artists here capturing the scene on canvas.
Mary Cairncross Reserve is located on Mountain View Road in Maleny, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland.
Here is a link to the Google Map of the area.
There is a good sized on site car park although the reserve can become busy during holidays, at weekends and during the summer months so arrive early to bag yourself a spot.
There is a large grass area equipped with a BBQ and a few picnic tables, but watch out for the resident bush turkeys who will be keen to share your lunch
If you haven’t brought a picnic, you can enjoy breakfast or lunch at the Mountainview Café next to the visitor centre which offers a tasty selection at reasonable prices and allows you to enjoy the view over the Glasshouse Mountains National Park whilst you eat.
There are toilets next to the visitors centre.
Both the canopy walk and board walk are accessible for wheelchair users and strollers, as is the butterfly walk although the remainder would need to be tackled on foot.
The Mary Cairncross Reserve website provides a weath of visitor information about the wildlife, flora and fauna found within the reserve.
Arguably more a good going hike or scramble than a walk for the most part, Mount Cooroora in the Noosa hinterland provides a more challenging walk for anyone wanting to combine fresh air with a bit of heart pumping exercise. It is, nevertheless, quite achievable with kids provided they are able to travel under their own steam and have a moderate level of fitness. For a full account of tackling this walk with kids, see Stu’s post on hiking Mount Cooroora with kids.
Kondalilla National Park
It won’t take anyone who has explored more of our blog to realise that Kondalilla National Park is one of our favourites since we also recommend it as one of the ‘Best places to get wet’.
Situated just outside of Montville, in the beautiful Sunshine Coast hinterland, Kondalilla National Park falls within the region of the Blackall Mountain range. The park is named after Kondalilla Falls, a horsetail waterfall formed by Skene Creek plunging 90 metres from the rockpool into the rainforest valley below.
The word ‘Kondalilla’ is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘rushing water’. The best place to view the falls from is the aptly named Kondalilla Falls lookout, whilst the Kondalila Falls circuit allows you to reach the base of the falls.
There is a picnic area which is accessed via a 100 metre downhill path from the car park. This comprises a large grassed area with picnic tables and a couple of sheltered picnic areas. As is usual for most Sunshine Coast picnic areas, there are always bush turkeys on hand to try and share your lunch as well as some bold as brass Kookaburras who will land of your table to beg for food. Please remember though that you shouldn’t feed wild birds as human picnics are not their usual diet and may cause harm to them.
You will also find toilets adjacent to the picnic area which are worth a visit to before you embark on a walk as they are the only ones available. As with most national parks, it is also worth noting that there are no bins in the park so you will need to take your rubbish home to dispose of.
From the picnic area, you can choose from two circuits depending upon your requirements.
The Picnic Creek circuit is the easier of the two; a grade 2, 1.7 Km circuit on a formed path which passes through eucalypt forest with some rainforest species also featuring. There are plenty of interesting features to this walk including a small and pretty rockpool where Picnic Creek flows over boulders to create a mini waterfall, plenty of birds and interesting fungi. We’ve even had a small snake pop out to take a look at us before slithering back into the bush. There is also a lookout offering views across the Blackall Range. This circuit takes around 1 hour to complete.
The Kondalilla Falls circuit is 4.7Km long and is officially classified as a Grade 3 bushwalk (formed tracks with short steep hills and many stairs; some experience recommended). It usually takes us around 2 hours to complete at a good pace but with plenty of stops for pictures and recreational rock scrambling at the base of the waterfall. It can be completed clockwise or anticlockwise from the rockpool although taking it anticlockwise will allow you to descend via concrete stairs and return by the gentler sloped walking tracks. Naturally, Stu prefers to complete it the clockwise!
You can incorporate the Picnic Creek circuit into your Kondalilla Falls circuit walk as the first parts of both walks are shared. You can then return to the picnic area via the remaining section of the Picnic Creek circuit rather than re-tracing your steps.
The circuit begins in open eucalypt forest which becomes rainforest as the path is descendes. There are multiple staircases which blend well into the surroundings, decorated with moss and overhung with ferns in places giving them a mystical quality.
In the basin of the rainforest, a bridge crosses the creek and you will find the bottom of the waterfall if you scramble over some large boulders just off the main path. Sadly, the lower rockpool is not very inviting having accumulated what appears to be lots of sun screen from swimmers in the rockpool above, however, the view of the falls from its base are worth investigating.
Be sure to allow time to explore the rockpool from which Kondalilla Falls descends, either before or after your walk. Here, a smaller waterfall cascades over a rocky outcrop into a large rockpool which is a family favourite for a dip.
Kondalilla Falls is located just outside the beautiful Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Montville – a before or after browse highly recommended.
The entrance is located at the end of Kondalilla Falls Road. The Google map of the local area is here.
A park walking map is available courtesy of Queensland Parks Service.
There are designated parking spaces at the end of Kondalilla Falls Road, which fill up quickly. Street parking on the road is also available. It is best to get there early.
A day use area just inside the park has multiple picnic benches and BBQs. There are also toilet facilities.
In nearby Montville there are multiple cafes, shops selling take away food/drink as well as a small supermarket.
Woorim Beach to Red Beach, Bribie Island
If you fancy a walk without the need for walking boots, you could do worse than to take a stroll along not one, but 2 beaches on Bribie Island.
Situated around 1 hour from Brisbane and accessed from the mainland via a bridge, Bribie island is the 4th largest sand island in the world, and is a popular spot for day trippers.
As an island and a sand island at that, it is not surprising that beaches are plentiful here. This walk will allow you to enjoy two of the best; both Woorim Beach and Red Beach feature on our ‘top 10 beaches between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast’ list.
You could complete this 6.3km walk (one way) in either direction, starting at Red Beach or Woorim depending upon preference. Allow about 2 – 3 hours to complete the walk one way, and longer if you plan to stop for a play or a swim.
Assuming Woorim as the starting point, set out from the Surf Lifesavers Club where there is a large car park as well as toilet and shower facilities and plenty of café’s if, like Stu you prefer to tackle exercise on a full stomach, or at the very least, with a coffee in hand.
From here, turn right so that you are walking with the ocean to your left. Head towards Skirmish Point which will eventually mark your transition towards Red Beach. Enjoy the soft white sand between your toes and the views across to Morton Island over the sparkling Coral Sea.
At certain times of the year (mostly summer), there is a ‘bloom’ of blue blubber jellyfish and you will often find these pale blue jellies dotted along the sand and floating in the shallow water. These won’t give you much of a sting although they’re probably best left alone They should however be distinguished from the blue bottle jellyfish which you will also see sometimes; a relative of the Portugese man of war jellyfish, these have a clear taco shaped float with a single long blue tentacle which is capable of a nasty sting.
It is very common to spot dolphins as you approach Skirmish Point and especially when you reach Woody Bay on Red Beach. If you time your visit to coincide with the migration of the Humpback whales from July to November each year, you may even be fortunate enough to spot one of these gentle giants breaching the waves from Woorim Beach as we have on many occasions.
As your walk takes you around the bottom of the island towards Red Beach, you will notice that the waves become smaller and tend to lap rather than crash against the shore as you look out into Moreton Bay.
Casting your eyes towards the sand, you may spot small mounds of sand with the appearance of icing on top of a cup cake, formed by worms. You are also likely to see hundreds of tiny sand marbles. These are formed by soldier crabs, and you may see these tiny crustaceans in large numbers scuttling across the damp sand and making a hasty retreat by burrowing into the sand as you approach. Another common sight is the transparent crescent moon shaped jelly of the conical snails egg case.
We have seen starfish, larger crabs and sea urchins at different times on this walk, along with abundant shells, pelicans floating on the waves and sea eagles soaring in the skies above, making it a very interesting walk for nature enthusiasts.
Depending on the time of day and the tides, you will usually encounter some large pools of shallow water in the sand which are warmed by the sun and are always very popular with our boys to stop and have a paddle in.
Continuing along Red Beach, you will notice the backdrop changing from sand dunes to bush land with dead trees having been smoothed by the ocean. This gives it a Robinson Cursoe feel and makes it an interesting place to explore. Further along still, a local artist has created some spectacular forts from driftwood which provide hours of entertainment for the young and young at heart to play desert island games in.
Take extra care with children around this area of Red Beach as there is a 4 wheel drive access track a little further along the beach and you may encounter cars driving along the sand.
You will eventually reach a track through the bush which takes you to the Red Beach car park. Alternatively, you can continue along the bottom of the island around to Buckley’s Hole, a wetland reservice and then to the Bongaree waterfront where you will find shops, café’s, playgrounds and toilets. Please note that this will add 2.7Km to your walk.
You will need to take note of the tide times before embarking on this walk to avoid becoming cut off by the waves and needing to seek refuge on the sand dunes. We previously found ourselves ankle deep in seawater having to pick our way between pieces of driftwood on Red Beach the first time we walked the route from Woorim.
A great way to do this walk if you are able to is to park a car at either end to eliminate the need to retrace your steps, unless of course you want to. Alternatively, you can use public transport or a taxi to return to your car.
If you are keen to tackle the walk with children but not sure whether their little legs will make the whole route, you can reach Woorim Beach from several different access points. You may choose to park further along the road and access the beach nearer to Skirmish point. Beach access 19 near Lowry Street is the closest you can get to Red beach starting at Woorim.
Plentiful free public parking is available in Woorim. There is an unsealed car park at the end of Red Beach Road if you are starting at that end, which is suitable for all types of vehicles.
In Woorim there are numerous cafes, restaurants and shops. Public toilets and showers are available at the entrance to the beach by the Woorim Surf Lifesavers Club.
There are no facilities at Red Beach but toilets and shops are available at nearby Bongaree, which you’ll drive through to reach Red Beach.
If you are planning a one way walk do give thought to how you plan to travel back the other way.
To catch the bus, Translink route 641 does the Bongaree to Woorim direction, whilst 640 will take you from Woorim to Bongaree. The timetable for your particular day can be searched at Translink
Bribie Island Taxis on 3408 9700 are also available for the journey and for those of you fond of Uber, a few drivers do work on the Island.