JOHN McNAMEE ENJOYS THE HEADY DELIGHTS OF THE SUNSHINE COAST
The sun was a golden orb peeping over the eastern horizon at the end of the long curving beach.
The red and green beacons on the breakwater were adding their eerie lights to the flushed dawn skies.
A trawler, its nets “hung out to dry”, nosed its way out along the groyne from the nearby marina. It was soon followed by several smaller fishing boats, their wheelhouse windows reflecting the golden rays of the new-day sun.
A flight of pelicans wafted languidly across the ocean while early morning surf skiers were already out on the water lazily plying their paddles.
I was standing on the balcony of our beachside unit checking out the surf conditions.
I could see several groups of chattering locals ambling down the beach towards the water. It was just after 6am on an early autumn day.
I grabbed my cozzies and towel and headed down to join them. There was a gentle shore break surging across the length of the majestic curving sands.
If you’re a keen body-surfer, and if you like to start the day catching a little runner down to the shoreline, Mooloolaba is perfect.
It must be one of the most consistent shore breaks along that part of the glorious Sunshine Coast in Queensland.
We’ve always been Gold Coast addicts, every chance we got over the past 30 years or so, we’d head up to Currumbin, Burleigh, Kirra, or Coolangatta for a bit of surf and sand therapy.
Mostly our visits were timed to coinicide with the “Aussies”, the annual Surf Life Saving Australia championships, in which we are both keen Masters participants.
But this year the Aussies moved to the Sunny Coast and we found ourselves being involved in competition across its major three beaches of Maroochydore, Alexandra Headland and Mooloolaba.
The Noosa Longboards stubby holder proves ideal for the purpose.
And we’ve been completely won over by this part of the coast and can’t wait to get back there for a holiday.
Unlike the temperamental and often cyclonic Gold Coast beaches where you sometimes can’t venture into the surf above your waist, Mooloolaba seems to be swimmable and body-surfable for a lot more of the year.
Of course it’s a retirees’ paradise and if you sit on the beachside benches in the mornings you’ll hear a mixture of English, Welsh and Scottish accents melding with the local Strine vernacular.
It adds a certain charm and during those early morning sorties it’s not long before you’re engaged in conversation or sharing a pre-brekkie coffee from the kiosk under the surf club with a group of chatty locals.
Old winch wheel at Mooloolaba Marina
If Moolloolaba is the pick of the beaches for this sort of gentle activity, and you crave a more dynamic vibe, there’s plenty of other locations for a bit of action.
Maroochydore attracts the board riders but you never seem to get the traffic jams out in the “green room” that you have to expect on the Gold Coast breaks.
Some of the other beaches along this stretch of “paradise” have such iconic reputations as Coolum (for its golf courses) and of course Noosa for its shopping.
But there is also Caloundra and Kawana Waters, both sensational spots for a whole range of water and land activities.
But we preferred to explore the “smaller”, almost isolated beaches, such as Mudjimba, Castaways and Perigian which are situated along a seemingly endless stretch of sand and have a visceral, primitive appeal.
Just back from these picturesque sands, there are wonderful picnic areas in the shade and inviting coffee shops just along the street.
It’d be wise, however, not to swim at some of these beaches outside of the flagged area or at unpatrolled times.
If you hanker for the “hinterland”, there are such great spots as Maleny, situated on the stunning Blackall Range, another short drive away, with its markets, vineyards and “open house” dairies along with reasonable accommodation options and local scenic spots.
Or also inland, there’s the famous and vibrant Eumundi markets which have half-day tours among its fascinating displays of produce and apparel.
But back on the coast, it’s a comfortable drive from Mooloolaba up to Noosa and you pass some wonderful stretches of coastline along the way, including Marcoola, Yaroomba and Sunrise Beach.
Noosa’s a busy bustling place but it has its charm and while I’m there I always make a pilgrimage to one of my favourite stores along the shopping mecca of Hastings Street.
But I’m not looking for trinkets, T-shirts or colourful board shorts.
I head straight to Noosa Longboards not far from the surf club end of the main drag.
The colour boards at Noosa Longboards
I can easily spend an hour or so just wandering around the store, drinking in its moody, sensual atmosphere and salivating over its breathtaking array of longboards.
For me, the proud owner of an 8’6” G-Board, the prince of “softies” these stunning craft are like the Rolls Royces of the automobile world and it’s a bit like wandering around a luxury car showroom when you’re inside this particular Aladdin’s Cave.
If you’ve got the dosh handy, you can buy anything from a 9’3” Joker, a 9’6” Tom Wegner or a 9’1” National Park for around the $1500 mark down to a 6’4” Bear Wombat for a few hundred less.
I mean these are serious boards and normally after about an hour of drooling over them I feel the tug at the elbow and it’s the wife leading me gently out of there before I’m tempted to dip into the “super” and splash out on one of those elegant water babies.
But all is not lost, the wife sneaks off and buys me a Noosa Longboards stubby holder to remind me of the boards that “got away.”
But it’s coffee time and there’s no shortage of moody cafes and bars along Hastings St but we head for the upstairs bar at the historic Noosa Surf Club and sit on the tall stools along the long balcony overlooking the golden stretch of sand and the sapphire blue of the ocean.
Back in Mooloolaba that evening we stroll around the tranquil setting of the marina, watch the small yachts drifting across the river mouth and visit the wonderfully entertaining Sea Life museum which boasts more than 10,000 sea creatures.
That night, we don’t stray far from the surf milieu and get a window table at the Surf Club Mooloolaba which lays on the most fabulous carvery meals along the coast.
And the best thing is, if you’re a Masters competitor, or a senior, you get a free ice cream for dessert.
The roast meats, gravy and veggies were delicious, but next time I go back there, I’ll be hanging out for that free ice cream dessert again!
Main pic On the line for the Men’s Open board relay race at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships on the Sunshine Coast.