Top 10 Sunshine Coast experiences

When it's time for a break from the beach, there's a world of must see attractions and adventure activities all along the Sunshine Coast.

Sunshine Coast adventures are all about enjoying the region's stunning natural environments, gardens and national parks. Getting out on the water is also a must.

Put a few days aside for boat cruises, kayaking or paddle boarding in beautiful ocean and river settings. Then mix it up with day trips to the lush green Sunshine Coast hinterland, home to historic villages and several national parks, where you'll find trails through rainforests and wonderful views from mountain summits.

Air New Zealand flies non-stop from Auckland to the Sunshine Coast seasonally between July and October. The after-breakfast departure from Auckland gets you to the Sunshine Coast in time for lunch, arriving just after 11am (Sunshine Coast time). At other times of the year you can fly non-stop to Brisbane then drive 60 minutes north to the Sunshine Coast.

1. Go whale watching in Mooloolaba

Take a whale watch boat tour from Mooloolaba for a close view of the majestic humpback whales that migrate along the Sunshine Coast from July to September every year. If you'd rather join the whales in their natural environment, there's an unforgettable 'swim with whales' experience. You can also go whale watching from Noosa.

 2. Ride horses in Noosa

Explore farmland, rainforests, lakes, bush and remote beaches of the Noosa area on guided horse rides. Options range from a few hours to seven-day treks, so there's something for everyone from beginners to experienced riders. It's a great way to experience the beautiful natural environments that surround Noosa.

3. Experience the hinterland and Glass House Mountains

Inland from the beaches is a magical world of volcanic outcrops, lush valleys, waterfalls and quaint mountain villages. The ancient Glass House Mountains rise steeply from the landscape to offer spectacular views, as well as guided hiking, rock climbing and abseiling experiences. Be sure to check out beautiful Kondalilla Falls just north of historic Montville.

4. Walk among native birds and botanical gardens

Surrounded by hinterland forest, Maleny Botanic Gardens & Bird World covers three hectares and includes an aviary with more than 600 birds from Australia and the world. Nearer the coast, the 82-hectare Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden showcases the native plants of the Sunshine Coast in a pretty forest setting.

5. Kayak, canoe or cruise the Noosa Everglades

The pristine wilderness of the Noosa Everglades includes a 60km stretch of sheltered water known as the River of Mirrors, due to the amazing reflections of forest and sky. It's also home to 44% of Australia's native bird species. You can explore the everglades on guided or self-guided kayak tours, or on boat cruises with a canoe trip add-on option.

6. Take the kids to an animal park

Australia Zoo and Wildlife HQ are popular attractions for younger families. They're a great way to see native animals like koalas, dingos, kangaroos and wombats, and to learn about the conservation and rescue work these parks support. You can also swim with sharks and rescued seals at Sea Life Sunshine Coast and meet friendly dromedaries at QCamel.

7. Get the big picture on a scenic flight

Sunshine Coast scenic flights are the best way to appreciate the wonder of the region. You'll capture magnificent shots of the Glass House Mountains, Pumicestone Passage, Rainbow Beach, Mount Coolum, Fraser Island and more. Helicopters, seaplanes and standard aircraft operate from the Maroochy River and the Caloundra and Sunshine Coast airports.

8. Explore the Noosa hikes and national parks

Popular Noosa hiking trails lead around the headland and through the Noosa National Park. You can also hike sections of the Cooloola Great Walk from Noosa to Rainbow Beach or find an inland hiking or biking experience, such as the Noosa Trail Network in the hinterland. For thrill value, nothing beats abseiling down the cliff faces of Mt Tinbeerwah in Tewantin National Park.

9. Cruise the remarkable Pumicestone Passage

Hire a paddle board, kayak or jet ski, or simply join a guided cruise, to explore this 35km channel of pristine sheltered water from Caloundra to Deception Bay. The crystal clear blue water and white sand bars are ridiculously photo-worthy and the bird life is simply amazing. Dugong and turtles can be seen in the right seasons and dolphins often visit.

10. Relax with a round of golf

Pack your golf shoes, because public courses and world-class golf resorts are dotted all along the Sunshine Coast. Often just minutes from the beach, they're set beside natural waterways and beautiful national parks. Kangaroos on the fairways and the occasional koala in a eucalypt tree add to the special appeal of Sunshine Coast golf courses.

Horse riding image courtesy of Tourism & Events Queensland