Your front yard is the horizon. Where your lawn would be is an ocean of blue, cerulean, and emerald green colors that doesn’t end until the sea meets the sky. Where your back yard would be is a row of boutiques and shops selling designer fashions and resort wear as well as blingy baubles and the finest watch brands. This is the Hamptons down under and the definition of exclusivity. By design, this tony destination does not seek to provide something for everyone. This is Noosa on the north-eastern Australian coast, in an above-it-all world of its own, and from the first moment you arrive, you understand just how special this part of the world really is.
Noosa is made up of several towns, villages, and rural areas that range from Sunshine Beach to Peregian on the Queensland coast about two hours north of Brisbane. The weather is tropical and in Australia’s winter months becomes a haven for those escaping the chilly climates to the south in Melbourne, Sydney, and Adelaide. The Noosa area provides the ideal respite for enjoying the beaches and laidback lifestyle. The “Gin and Tonic” vibe is immediately evident and custom-made for this well-to-do set. Noosa is akin to the sophisticated sister and far removed from the ‘party girl’ holiday havens of the Gold Coast further to the south.
Of the ten distinct areas of the Noosa Shire (a shire is similar to a county), Noosa Heads is its most elegant and sophisticated. This is the Hamptons of Australia with its most famous via, Hastings Street, filled with upscale boutiques, and galleries.
Of course there are plenty of places to nosh while watching the Ralph Lauren set- decked out in their stylish resort wear, designer shades, and Panama hats- stroll by while enjoying the good life.
The area could not be more stunning with mountains covered with native bushlands and a wide swath of beach that stretches for miles and miles in either direction. This area is first and foremost about sun, sand, and sea and there are plenty of ways to enjoy it from hundreds of calm coves and unspoiled beaches to crashing waves waiting for the countless surfers to ride out. Away from the shore, there are inland waterways and rivers of brackish water that cut through the entire area and with hundreds of fishing, pleasure, and houseboats as well as sparkling yachts everywhere.
Along the shoreline are low-rise residences and condos with none over three stories high as well as the never-ending parade of multimillion-dollar homes with their obligatory yachts parked a few steps away. Noosa has a limit that development can be no more than three stories which maintain the exclusive low density of the area unlike the Gold Coast which feels more like Las Vegas with an endless array of tall skyscrapers that dominate the skyline.
Noosa River Ferry Tour
To get a good sense of the area, a good place to start is with a tour along the Noosa River. The Noosa Ferry provides a two-hour boat ride on their classic two-story riverboats and makes several stops en route from Noosa Heads through Noosaville to Tewantin. There you’ll see the aforementioned palatial homes as well as get a feel for the various smaller villages and areas along the river. The captain doubles as a tour guide giving an interesting and in-depth history of the area while pointing out the places worthy of further exploration or recommendation for where to hop off for lunch. The tour terminates at Tewantin which is a quaint town to explore with a lovely marina with cafes as well as an Aboriginal art center.
Everglades Eco Safaris
When we think of the Everglades we automatically think of Florida with the endless marshlands, the big and noisy airboats, and of course those ferocious alligators. Well, most may not know but there is one other everglade on the planet and it happens to be in Noosa. Everglades Eco Safaris provides a day-long guided tour of the Australian everglades allowing guests to immerse in two UNESCO Biosphere reserves – the everglades and the Great Sandy National park. The tour crosses Lake Cootharaba, a brown lake with waters tinted by the surrounding tea trees. Once through the lake, the landscape changes to a dense sub-tropical rain forest with palm, fig, tea trees, and hundreds of varieties of birds, and abundant wildlife. Along the way, the captain narrates the journey pointing out the wildlife, tree species, and the rich history of the area. Although there are no alligators or even crocodiles there, one doesn’t dare venture in the water as there are bull sharks and other menacing creatures which are equally as perilous.
As the river narrows, visitors enter the dense flora and fauna where they enter the ‘River of Mirrors’. On this waterway, there is barely a ripple on the surface so it appears as a mirror reflecting the winding river and forest. After a stop for a coffee and snack break, visitors can opt to paddle back on the Canadian-style canoe along the river getting even closer to nature. The trip concludes with a barbeque lunch back at the camp.
Haute Hotels and Villas
There are many options on where to stay in Noosa from swanky condo apartments to posh hotels to over-the-top villas. Niche Villas is the who’s who of the villa rental business in this area with the lion’s share of the rental portfolio. They’ve got them all from one-bedroom romantic getaway apartments to six-bedroom, ten-bath architectural marvels like the Domic, which is right out an episode of Robin Leach’s Lifestyles of the Rand Famous,
Many guests will want to be at the heart of the action in Noosa Heads. The Breakers Apartments and Apartment number 5 would be a good option where out of the front door is the legendary Hastings Street. As mentioned, Noosa has a limit that development can be no more than three stories. The Beakers only has three units with each occupying the entire floor of the “tower” building. Up the private elevator to the third floor, the penthouse offers three bedrooms with room for six as well as a fully equipped kitchen and laundry. The master room offers a full bath and picture window through the living room to the sea. The bedrooms to the rear of the apartment overlook Hastings Street with all of the action below.
This apartment is made for fully enjoying the stunning views of the sea with a gorgeous wide-open living room and a spacious dining area ideal for families or a group of friends. This indoor-outdoor space opens onto the apartment’s most appealing feature, an extensive terrace that overlooks Noosa’s famed Main Beach, the boardwalk, and mountains. The view could not be any better at any time of day from sunrise, watching the beachcombers enjoying themselves. The building also provides a pool and jacuzzi area and common barbeque area as well as direct access to the boardwalk and beach just beyond.
The Beach Shack
Sometimes on holiday, you’ll want to live large. Another option from Niche Villas offers plenty of space to spread out as well as all of the creature comforts of a luxurious home. In this case, it happens to be just a short barefoot stroll from one of the region’s most beautiful coasts, Sunshine Beach.
The Beach “Shack” is a complete misnomer as it is anything but a shack. What it is, is a huge posh villa with four bedrooms and five bathrooms spread over two stories. It is as stunning as it is opulent with its most striking feature being the incredible views of the beachfront and sea. The interior design is absolutely gorgeous as well with a sophisticated coastal chic decor replete with edgy contemporary art, sculptures, and curios. The living room offers floor-to-ceiling glass doors when opened let the coastal outdoors in and open onto a private wooden deck and table for twelve below.
The villa offers an extensive gourmet kitchen with a kitchen nook and dining areas. Elsewhere there is an entertainment area with a state-of-the-art sound system, wet bar, and pool table. Outdoors, through more sliding glass doors, is a swimming pool and more chaise lounges. Upstairs are the well-appointed bedrooms with separate bathrooms and two masters that overlook the sea. For the kids, there are rooms the beg for a slumber party with four bunk beds and two separate beds as well.
One of the villa’s most stand-out features is the rooftop. Up the last flight of stairs, the dome opens onto a terrace that demands sunset cocktails or a romantic evening that begins in the jacuzzi tub overlooking the coast below.
The Retreat Beach Houses
The Noosa area is not just about rubbing elbows with Australia’s upper crust. A few miles south of Noosa Heads is where you’ll find Peregian Beach. This area has more of the coastal village vibe to it with a small hamlet with a few shops selling resort wear, art galleries coffee shops, and cafes. It’s the ideal place to have a morning coffee while people watching as the friendly locals stop in to catch up on the gossip with their small pooch in tow.
This town, as are all, is all about beach life and Peregian Beach does not disappoint. The beaches offer the next level of serenity on a wide stretch that never seems to end so you can always grab a place of your own and not worry about being right next to other sunbathers. The sea is an idea for splashing around or surfing as well or just taking long walks while taking in the pristine nature that surrounds you.
The Retreat Beach Houses provide an ideal place to check out all of Noosa and Peregian in particular. Each of the houses is just that: a standalone tropical getaway ideal for families or groups of friends. The self-sufficient homes offer a fully equipped modern kitchen, dining area, and living area as well as a spacious wooden deck with table and bbq, all on the top floor. The décor varies by unit, but all are well-appointed and stylish with coastal-inspired decor. The holiday homes are available in one, two, or three bedrooms which are on the first floors with a master that has its own deck as well.
These holiday homes lie amongst the dunes and beautifully landscaped grounds and are a short walk through bushlands to the beach. The Retreat Beach Houses are made for taking in the best of the area with complimentary beach umbrellas, chairs and towels, and bike hire. For those who want to stay closer to home, there’s a large swimming pool and tennis courts as well.
Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort
There is only one building on the Noosa that is over three stories high. It is the six-story high Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort and Australia’s hot spot where the in-crowd goes to see and be seen. One could not ask for more in terms of the location, at the end of Hastings Street, next to the Noosa River and a two-minute walk away from Noosa’s Main Beach.
Noosa’s grand dame hotel is also the largest in the area with 176 rooms, a full-service spa, one of the top restaurants in the area. However, its star feature is the pool scene that ups the ante for the poshest place in town to hang out and work on your tan.
The Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort has revived cabana culture in Noosa offering a touch of St. Tropez and a dose of Miami Beach thrown in for good measure. The pool itself is more like massive a free-form lake surrounded by chaise lounges and a sea of white and blue canvas parasols. In the center of the pool is the obligatory swim-up bar offering a parade of Aperol spritzes and those fruity cocktails with little umbrellas. The pool’s sexiest feature is the cabanas, decked out in white with butler service and where the in-crowd hangs out for some fun under the sun.
When it’s time to turn in, the Sofitel brings its own brand of French hospital down under. The accommodations are styled out with a retro-chic decor with all the mod cons that a guest would desire in a five-star beach resort. The penthouse suite is made to impress with a spacious and well-appointed living area with contemporary décor, top electronics, wet bar kitchenette with espresso machine, fridge and microwave, and a full-sized dining table. The bedroom is exquisite as well with an uber-comfy king-size bed and a bathroom with a jacuzzi bath made for two.
The penthouse’s most stunning feature is the outdoor living space with a commanding bird’s eye view over the resort’s pool scene and the beach and sea just beyond. This suite is tailor-made for love; sharing flutes of Veuve Clicquot while watching the sunset or waking up after a romantic evening to watch the sunrise over the sea in your fluffy bathrobes. The Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort is the type of resort made for creating special moments and memories to cherish with your loved one.
Notable Noshes in Noosa
Noosa is in Queensland which is known as the breadbasket of Australia and the location of the most fertile farming regions in the country. From the ocean, seafood of all types is beyond plentiful. That, with talented chefs, makes for a perfect storm of cuisine for foodies in search of their next pleasure for their palate.
Noosa Beach House
One of the top restaurants in the area happens to be located at the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort. The Noosa Beach House takes local Australian produce with haute culinary techniques to creates exquisite Modern Australian cuisine. The outcome is nothing but pure food nirvana with imaginative dishes full of flavor. Seafood sourced fresh and local is the star of the plate so not to be missed dishes such as the Ginger Chili Steamed Moreton Bay Bug Tail, Mudcrab steamed with Ginger Chilli Sauce, and Oysters and Hervey Bay Scallops. The setting is sophisticated and stylish yet relaxed for an enjoyable and memorable dining experience.
The Noosa Boat House
A short ferry ride away is the Noosa Boat House, a must-have dining experience while in the area. This iconic venue can’t be missed, located along the Noosa River in a three stories high glass building made to allow for the stunning views along the river in any direction. The Boat House is a place for locals and visitors and several times during the week where you’ll see the front lawn filled with families having picnics while listening to live music.
Inside the décor is distinctly nautical yet contemporary. The second floor is an event space reserved for weddings, family celebrations, and corporate events. On the third floor is their aptly named Sunset Bar, a hip and happening place for some tasty cocktails and the even more delicious sunsets while watching boats come and go along the river.
The first floor is their dining area and all about exceptional fresh and local seafood. The mantra is all about sourcing sustainable ingredients while supporting local producers. Their talent Chef Shane Bailey will share that the prawn on your plate was just dropped off that morning by a local fisherman that’s been supplying the restaurant for years. The same goes for the snapper or the beef. These are not just suppliers to the restaurant; these are their neighbors and their kids probably go to school together. It that kind of community there and the care for that relationship shows up on your plate in well-crafted just caught cuisine. The steaks are a standout as well but most will opt for seafood such as the smorgasbord for two with Moreton Bay bugs, Mooloolaba prawns, Hervey Bay scallops, Pacific Oysters, and more. The location, just above the river with unobstructed water views makes it even the more delicious of an evening. The setting is casual yet the candlelit tables by the sea are distinctly more romantic.
Ms. Money Penney
The trendiest restaurant in town is Ms. Money Penny. Indoors offers a dark cosmopolitan décor with a lively and sexy vibe especially on the weekends for their infamous Bottomless Brunch. The Australian tribe of hipsters descends for a party with an endless flow of their yummy cocktails as well as a high-end three-course menu.
As guests nosh away, a DJ spins popular tunes as guests dance in their seats or at their tables. Although the vibe is fun and frivolous the cuisine is serious with the Mediterranean meets modern Australian fare complete with a haute presentation the doubles as food art.
The cocktails are sophisticated as they are delicious with options such as the refreshing Botanical Smash with London dry gin and suze shaken with fresh pink grapefruit. There’s a reason it’s the hottest table on the weekend and why they’ve won a bevy of international restaurant and bar awards.
Noosa is one of those beach holidays that stays with you long after the suitcase has been unpacked back home. The tropical destination and exclusive enclave for the upper crust ensures a holiday with flawless beaches, gorgeous nature, and plenty of haute places to stay and play.