Deciding which are the best Sunshine Coast beaches will depend a lot on you and your preferences. What we have here is a deep dive into all of the great spots, some you will know well, and others may be new to you but we’ll show you their attractions and the reasons why you might choose one over another.
Rather than trying to rank the beaches, we’ll start at the southern end and head north. You’ll see the locations of each on the Sunshine Coast attractions map down below which will help highlight the relativity to each other and many other key attractions on the coast.
Table of Contents
Bribie Island is a slightly contentious inclusion as it’s technically located partially on the Sunshine Coast and partially in greater Brisbane. For the purposes of completeness, I have decided to include it here and it also features as one of our top day trips from Brisbane.
Even though it’s an island, Bribie is very convenient to access as there is a bridge across at the southern end. As a long and narrow sand island, it has a lot of beachfront and the western side faces back to the mainland, this stretch of water is known as Pumicestone Passage and is sheltered for swimming and watercraft while the ocean-facing east coast offers some great surf.
The beaches closest to the residential areas are often reasonably popular but what we love about Bribie is that it doesn’t take much of a walk along the sand for it to be totally deserted. If you plan to take your 4-wheel drive and head into the National Park and along the sand, you’ll find some even more remote stretches.
At 34 kilometres long, Bribie is the 4th largest sand island in the world, the top three are also located in South East Queensland and include Fraser Island, then Stradbroke Island and Morton Island.
Bribie Island is loved by families, fishermen, weekend 4-wheel drivers, campers, and birders. There is quite a diversity of birdlife on the island and dolphins, dugongs and turtles are frequently seen in the surrounding waters.
For me, the big attraction of Bribie is that the sheltered beaches on Pumicestone Passage are less than a 10-minute drive across the island to the surf beaches at Woorim.
Read more about things to do on Bribie Island
Golden beach is located south of Caloundra on the Pumicestone passage protected by the narrow northern tip of Bribie Island. It’s one of those beaches that you’ll generally visit self-contained with your picnic packed, swimmers and beach gear. There isn’t much here in the way of cafes, bars or shops but that is a big part of its charm.
The beach itself is a narrower strip of sand than many of the others up and down the coast but there’s a good mix of grassy areas with shade trees, soft sand and a rocky shelf with rock pools to explore. At the southern end is a mangrove boardwalk and a waterfront walking path to the north takes you through to Caloundra and beyond.
There are picnic shelters, BBQs and a couple of toilet blocks spaced along the waterfront parks. It’s popular with boaties and fishermen and there is a boat ramp and trailer parking available.
It’s only 500 to 800 metres across Pumicestone Passage to Bribie island from the beach here and you can rent kayaks right on the beach for a quick trip across and to explore the island. You’ll often see a good variety of birds and sea life on your way across including sea turtles and dugongs. There are sand bars in between where you can stop off and share them with the large flocks of pelicans on the way out.
Caloundra is actually a suburb that includes a group of beaches where one blends into the next rather than the name of a single beach. Kings, Moffat, Bulcock, Shelly and Dickey Beaches all have a whole lot to recommend them. The whole way along the waterfront is a wide promenade interspersed with grassy areas, picnic facilities, gorgeous white sand and good swimming beaches.
At Kings Beach, there is a public saltwater pool right on the beach and the whole Caloundra stretch offers alfresco cafes, restaurants, ice cream stops and a brewery with sea views.
The flow from one to the next here is great and we highly recommend that you amble your way along from one end to the other. We’ve written before about the Caloundra Coastal Walk so if you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet, now might be the time
Many people can’t place Kawana Beach even if they’ve lived on the coast for a while but it’s really quite hard to miss. It’s 10 kilometres of white sand beach that runs from the base of Point Cartwright in the north to Currumindi Lake in the south.
Being less well-known means it’s more popular with residents than tourists but if you are after a stunning beach and plenty of space to yourself it’s a really good choice. There are many spots along the 10 km of open beach with parks, playgrounds, car parking and the usual facilities but there are less frequent cafes and surf lifesaving monitored spots.
If you want a surf-patrolled beach then head to the Kawana surf club, the flags will be set up on the beach and surf lifesavers on duty during the season from September to May. Like many of the Sunshine Coast beaches, it is prone to rips and sweeps so between the flags is the safest spot for swimmers.
Point Cartwright is the headland and reserve above Kawana Beach and is separated from Mooloolaba by the Mooloola River.
The Point offers some great diversity with a walking track following the river past the dog beach, out to the break wall, some small beach areas at the top, bushed areas with wildflowers in spring, a grassy hill to catch breezes and watch the whales passing during the winter, the lighthouse and water tower at the top and then stunning views down the length of Kawana beach as you work your walk back down the paths on the coastal side.
There is street parking all around and a public car park at Harbour Parade which is conveniently located to picnic facilities, a children’s park, toilets, the walking path and a cafe on the river. It’s also a convenient car park to walk directly across the road in the opposite direction to the ocean beach.
The walkway is an easy track with places to sit along it. There are more toilets out at the point, they are kept clean but aren’t on the town supply.
Mooloolaba has been one of our ‘go-to’ beaches for many years because it offers so much diversity and has to have a place on our list of the best Sunshine Coast beaches. There’s some great apartment-style accommodation here together with plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants right opposite the beach.
There’s a long white sand beach that has surf patrol in multiple places, there’s a slightly rocky section at the northern end with rockpools, a walkway all the way along to the break wall and the Mooloola River in the south. Loads of parks with playgrounds, picnic and BBQ facilities, toilets and changing rooms.
For a glammed-up picnic bring your salads and sides and pick up a big bag of fresh prawns at the Mooloolaba Fish Market straight from the trawlers at the southern end or take the easy option and get fish and chips to enjoy on the beach, at the park or on ‘the deck’ upstairs overlooking the river.
Read more: Our complete visitors guide to where to eat, play and stay in Mooloolaba
There is no debate that Noosa is stunning. The main beach in the photo below, the National Park up the top of the hill, the river and the dog beach at the other end. Hastings Street has a great selection of accommodation, cafes, wine bars, restaurants and boutique resort-style shops.
The one downside of having so many great attractions in a compact area is that it is incredibly popular. That means it can be really crowded at times and parking is limited but it’s worth an early start to spend the day up here.
The beach is at its best for an early morning or later afternoon walk, most of the day visitors have cleared out and it’s worth staying the night or for dinner before heading out. We love the sunsets down at the river mouth looking back at the volcanic cones of the hinterland.
Noosa hosts a variety of events during the year including the Surf Festival in February ad March, the food and wine festival in May, the Noosa Alive arts and culture festival in July and the Jazz festival in September.
Our map of the best Sunshine Coast beaches
Sometimes it helps to be able to visualise the area and the relativity of the attractions, this map highlights some of our favourites on the Sunshine Coast including these top beach destinations.
So what are your best beaches on the Sunshine Coast? Do you love some of these too or do you have another fave to share? Let us know in the comments below.
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Monday 2nd of November 2020
The Kawana beach is my favorite. It is the least crowded and peaceful. Thanks for curating an excellent list.
Monday 2nd of November 2020
It's a great choice, with 10 km of sand there is plenty of space to spread out!