TRAVEL : Cool Roamings – On the Sunshine Coast

ueensland’s Sunshine Coast might have been invented to provide the ideal mid-winter break for the hassled and jaded New Zealand executive and partner, with or without family in tow. In little over three hours you are in another world, pleasantly warm during the winter months and so relaxed that clock-watching ranks long way behind choosing where to eat next and the application of suntan lotion.
If glitz and continuous shopping still hold an appeal, the Gold Coast, with Surfer’s Paradise the garish jewel in its crown, will still be attractive, but if the emphasis is on genuine R&R, with quieter beaches, pretty coast-hugging towns and more excellent golf courses than is really fair, the Sunshine Coast to the north of Brisbane is definitely good idea.
For those wanting to avoid scenically undemanding car travel, it’s only hop, skip and jump flight from Brisbane to the small but increasingly busy Sunshine Coast airport only minutes away from the most popular towns and resorts. Otherwise the car trip to Noosa and the heart of the Sunshine Coast, through the rather monotonous landscape, takes 90 minutes. However, there are hints of the exotic, like the flash of parrot’s rainbow plumage. Further north, once profitable sugarcane fields are disappearing under new residential estates, obvious by-products of the Sunshine Coast’s growing popularity. Verandahed and latticed houses on stilts are disappearing too.
The final approach to Noosa is along the David Low Way, which was of immediate interest to this cartoon aficionado. Murray Ball’s ‘Footrot Flats’ is well-known to Queenslanders, but not New Zealand’s most famous cartoonist who consolidated his growing reputation on Sydney’s Bulletin early last century. Locals knew very little about their own David Low either, but diligent research indicates he was local politician who saw the area’s tourism potential and badgered for the funds to build the highway that, appropriately, carries his name.
The Hyatt Regency Coolum, where my wife Diane and I stayed during our very brief Sunshine Coast visit, is few kilometres south of Noosa and close to the local ‘mountain’ of Coolum – strange, roundish eruption said to be the country’s second largest monolith, or rock formation, after Uluru (Ayers Rock).
While the resort may have begun life, in 1988, as corporate retreat complete with doctors to ‘de-stress’ city executives, it now pays particular homage to the royal and ancient game, its buildings and lakes partly integrated with superb golf course, the fairways an almost technicolour green. Designed by Robert Trend Jones Jnr, it is good enough to be the venue for the Australian PGA Championships. Even the resort’s reception area and one of several restaurants sit atop the ‘clubhouse’ with its pro shop, luxurious changing rooms and fleet of motorised golf carts at the ready below.
In total, the resort has 150 hectares of natural woodlands, bushland, lakes, rainforest, wallums (heath-like areas), and gardens, fronting onto the Pacific Ocean and two kilometres of white sands about as pristine as nature can make them. The resort has actively encouraged the natural flora and fauna of the region. Groves of Melaleuca, the paperbark tea tree, delivering supermarket of uses to the area’s original Aborigines, now have bees, birds and bats queuing up.
Although very much monument to man’s ability to mould landscape, the resort is home to cacophony of wild birds. It is fascinating, particularly at daybreak, to watch scores of them, from brightly costumed parrots to dourly dressed crows and magpies, with every size in between, swooping and pottering, all co-existing and all spontaneously contributing their parts to dawn chorus too complex to orchestrate.
As interesting is the fact that there are now many more bird species in the area – about 150 of them – than in pre-resort days. Stand on the balcony of your suite for few minutes and you’ll be unlucky not to see herons, black swans, cockatoos, kookaburras, dollarbirds, spinebills, honey eaters and cuckoos among the more recognisable breeds.
Nest boxes on golf fairways and in the rainforest are used by ringtail possums, squirrel gliders, wood ducks and rainbow lorikeets. Kangaroos are often out on the golf course early in the morning, taking particular interest in yesterday’s divots.
The Hyatt Regency Coolum is called ‘golf resort and spa’ but, while both are excellent, there is great deal more besides. The Hyatt Regency has all the features resorts have to discourage visitors from rushing anywhere else – excellent restaurants with sliding scale of dining formality, ‘square’ with shops and courtyard for meeting and eating, and facilities for an exhausting list of possible activities – tennis, cycling, flycasting, surfing, swimming (in nine pools), archery and walks and rambles of varying lengths and intensities.
The accommodation, in suites and villas of various sizes, is modern and stylish, with care taken to give visitors beguiling lake, golf course or bushland outlooks.
Families are particularly welcome. Camp Hyatt, for those times when parents want breather, is run by team of childcare professionals. Each of four age groups has its own club, with activities ranging from art and craft work to music, storytelling, kite flying, archery and canoeing.
The staff is an essential ingredient to the resort’s ambience. However lowly their tasks, they all sound and act like articulate, interested trainee managers, very different from the grudging take-it-or-leave-it brand of service still sometimes encountered in New Zealand.
General manager Maurice Holland sums up the atmosphere at the Hyatt Regency when he says “Coolum is special place”. He ran the resort during its early years and then, after stints as general manager of the Sydney Olympic village and assisting the Athens games organisers, he was lured back again.
Even he seems surprised at the very high percentage of repeat visitors, natural consequence of which is the sale of limited number of house sites and apartments within the resort, with plans to redesign part of the golf course to allow for ‘residential villages’.
The Hyatt Regency Coolum is still in the corporate retreat business and its self-contained conference centre routinely hosts everything from small seminars and meetings to national and international conferences, accommodating banquets for 600 and cocktail functions for double that number.
If you are determined to venture outside the gates, Coolum is just down the road. Then there’s Noosa, about 20 minutes away, where casual elegance is an art form – designer boutiques, sidewalk cafes and surf shops jostling along Hastings Street. This is just metres away from another spectacular beach and picturesque river.
Other notable attractions are within easy driving distance. The remarkable Eumundi Markets are about half an hour south-west of Noosa by car. What was small local craft market 25 years ago is now lauded as the country’s largest and most impressive, spilling through this historic hinterland town every Wednesday and Saturday. Based on the principle of “make it, bake it, sew it and grow it” the fair is an exuberant, colourful but orderly bazaar of 500 plus stalls shaded by giant fig trees – selling everything from herbal potions to impressive local painting, pottery and other craftware to organically grown produce.
A trip into the Blackall Range that sits in behind the coast combines views of pastureland more familiar to New Zealand eyes with remnants of the sugar cane industry, and splashes of scarlet and purple bougainvillea in the tropical forest spilling down hillsides. At Montville there is that rarity in Australia, mountaintop views that lay out the wide sweep of shimmering coastal plain, glistening beaches and the strange, cone shaped Glasshouse Mountains – their volcanic rock sculptured by millions of years of wind and rain – which reminded Captain Cook, rather pedantically, of York

Visited 3 times, 1 visit(s) today

Business benefits of privacy

Privacy Week (13-17 May) is a great time to consider the importance of privacy and to help ensure you and your company have good privacy practices in place, writes Privacy

Read More »
Close Search Window