Seeking winter sun and relaxation on the ocean-lined road to Noosa.
By Iain Curry
We didn’t tell the kids. How could we? After all, the day was going to involve driving past their favourite play park and finish up on a golden sand beach lapped by a flawless ocean. But today wasn’t for the pre-schoolers. This was indulgence day for grown-ups.
Our choice of music on the radio, joyously twisty country roads, a lingering browse around bookshops and beach time centred around lazy magazine reading and sun soaking rather than sandcastle building.
Destination was Noosa. Come here during school holidays and it can be a hellish scrum of traffic and tourists. Visit when the hordes aren’t in town, throw in a bit of local knowledge, and I’d challenge anyone to find a more pristine slice of Aussie lifestyle perfection than here.
As I packed the beach bag, my eager wife Jules buzzed my phone. “Road trip!” she cheerily cried through the car’s Bluetooth once daycare and kindy drop-off duties had ended. Happy expectations, and the day was set to be a pearler.
Apparently the Sunshine Coast has a winter, but it usually forgets. The car already showed 23˚C for our 9am kick-off, and the sky was that deep, piercing blue so typical of clear Queensland mornings. Not the sort of day to be sucking a desk in a stale office.
Then there was the car. Our family’s box fresh Volkswagen Golf in new 7.5 generation guise. While Australia has gone all wobbly of knee for SUVs these past few years, I still find pleasure in the family hatchback. I know, call me old fashioned, but there’s space enough for our two kids and their assorted paraphernalia, and, well me and these compact VWs have a bit of history. Not least some indelible road trip memories.
Aged 16 I bought my first car, a 1975 VW Beetle. I gave it a minor driveway service and indulged in my first road trip odyssey the weekend after passing my driving test. Three years later I owned a modified 1970 Beetle that joined me on trips to half a dozen European countries, and by age 23 I was sharing a 1978 VW Golf GTI with a housemate for some extra-curricular racetrack excursions. I’ve forged countless happy memories with a VW-badged wheel above my knees.
Today’s journey will add to the tally. No freeways needed, our golden Golf is first pointed away from the Pacific coast (fear not, we’d be back) in the direction of the Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Eumundi. In no time we’re in the open and untouched grasslands of Verrierdale, kangaroos lounging under the shade of gum trees and the shimmering bitumen blessedly empty of traffic.
Now thoroughly in holiday mode we unplug the smartphone playlist and break out the CDs (remember them?) for some old-school anthems, and remind ourselves we really can’t sing (the kids tell us often)…but that we just don’t care.
Eumundi is renowned for its bi-weekly markets, selling holidaymakers anything from fresh fruit to German sausages to guitars made from cigar boxes. We’ve purposely come on a non-tourist day though. It’s when Eumundi’s at its most relaxed, allowing us to appreciate the wide main street and classic Queenslander buildings of this gem of a country town. It may only be 20km from the coast but it feels a world away. It is lusher, and the fragrant more humid air brings a tease of summer to this winter morning.
The historic weatherboard-fronted Eumundi Trading Post building houses a branch of Australia’s oldest bookseller, Berkelouw Books. You can lose hours in here. The latest coffee table hardbacks on architecture, classic cars, surfing and geographic wonders; pre-loved cheapies on subjects from Australiana to zoology, and rarities with $1000+ price tags locked in glass cabinets. Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale first edition? I’ve seen it here.
Could it be more perfect? Seems so. Attached is Berkelouw Café with its wall-hung retro prints such as Tretchikoff’s Green Lady and J H Lynch’s Tina full of colour and exoticness, watching over you as you pick cakes to match your coffee. Hot mango muffin and an almond and fig torte, in case you were wondering.
Sitting in the sun and stirred by the caffeine hit the coast was calling. Back in the golden Golf and across to hip Peregian Beach. The road heading north from here affords aquamarine ocean views from on high and a 15 kilometre stretch of unbroken golden sand from Coolum Beach to Noosa National Park. On lucky days you can spot whales cruising by, but today the sea is undisturbed by humpbacks or much swell. But really, the water couldn’t look more inviting.
It’s quiet season at Noosa so finding a park is easy. But you wouldn’t believe it. A space frees up alongside a Volkswagen Kombi, painted in the 1970s equivalent of our Golf’s Turmeric yellow. One VW on its maiden road trip, the other certain to have countless stories about its four decades of travelling. Through the years, who knows what’s gone on behind those patterned brown vinyl curtains?
We amble alongside the shimmering Noosa River, lust over the waterfront millionaires’ homes – “We’ll win lotto one day,” I’m told – and pop out along Hastings Street’s abundance of boutique shops and restaurants. The strip doesn’t just cater for the white-clothed grey-haired brigade either. There’s some real cool on Hastings these days. Funky art, retro clothing and furnishings, and in Noosa Longboards, a masterful blend of modern beach styles, heritage surfboards and “surfabilia”. A couple of café racer motorcycles parked out front do the scene no harm either.
Takeaway coffees scored from the pastel-coloured 10 Hastings St café, we sneak through a gap in the buildings and the ocean fills our view. Just wow. Palm trees, unspoilt national park and sand as soft as brown sugar between the toes. And the water in Laguna Bay, peppered with paddle boarders and swimmers, is mirror smooth.
Noosa Surf Club’s thermometer claims 31˚C, not bad for mid-winter, and the bronzed locals are lapping up the rays. What a life. The ocean’s lure is too much and we plunge in for what’s best described as a bracing dip. It still wasn’t wetsuit water temperatures though. Live here and there’s no excuse not to swim every day of the year.
Reality dawns with kids’ pickup time approaching. It may have just been for a few hours, but this was a road trip to savour. Back to the Golf, still parked beside its immaculate Kombi cousin, and I’m sure there’ll be countless more sunny adventures to come. Who knows, we may even let the kids come next time.
A motoring and sports writer and photographer for nearly two decades, Iain Curry has contributed to magazines, newspapers and websites in Australia, England, USA, France, Germany, Sweden and Spain. He lives with his wife and two children at the perfectly named Castaways Beach on the Sunshine Coast, and his work can be seen at iaincurry.com