STORY Deb Eccleston
PHOTOS Deb Eccleston, Aussie World, The Farmhouse & Tourism Queensland
IT’S NOT HARD to sell the idea of a family holiday on the Sunshine Coast. With its myriad beaches, lush hinterland and diversity of attractions, it’s the perfect place to escape the routine of everyday life.
So, when given the opportunity to visit the coast for the first time in several years, I didn’t need much (any) convincing.
Intent on making the most of some much-needed time with the family, I apparently caused the end of the world by banning mobile devices for the duration of our trip.
I’m happy to report everyone survived the experience.
Our first stop was Caloundra, an easy hour-and-a-half drive from Brisbane, and the Oaks Oasis Resort. With accommodation to fit families of all sizes, expansive kids’ water play area and affordable meals, the resort has nailed the brief when it comes to family holidays.
In fact, the entire town has nailed the brief. A walk along The Esplanade revealed an array of accommodation to suit all budgets – from five-star resorts to under-the-stars campsites – right on the water and close to restaurants and shops.
Aside from accommodation, the biggest expense on a family holiday is food. Eating in is always the cheapest option, but it’s not much of a holiday for the person preparing the meals. The challenge is to find cafés and restaurants that serve great food at great prices and, fortunately, there are plenty in Caloundra. Our pick was Hello Harry, The Burger Joint, which serves delicious burgers priced between $10-14 (kids’ burgers are just $7) and a range of sides starting from just $5. The funky vibe of the place earned serious cool points with the kids and the quick service just sealed the deal. Dessert was just next door at Gelato Rumba, which we enjoyed on the walk back to the resort.
When we moved to Brisbane from the Gold Coast, I was keen to explore how theme parks were done on the north side. The first on our list was Aussie World which, with its range of classic rides you didn’t have to wait in line to ride, became a fast favourite. Three years on, the park has undergone a major refurbishment but our favourites – The Plunge, dodgem cars and Giant Slide – are still there and got a serious workout during our visit. Among the attractions to have opened since our last visit is the Mayhem Maze. According to local legend, the warehouse was the hideout of a carnival performer who, allegedly, was responsible for the disappearance of countless people during the 1950s. Compared by fans to The London Dungeon in the UK, this horror maze isn’t for those with a fear of clowns. Although not a fan of horror, I was intrigued and ventured inside alone – the rest of my family happy to make me the sacrificial lamb, so to speak. Two minutes later, my throat hoarse from screaming and my adrenaline pumping, I exited the maze feeling euphoric. It was a blast, but certainly not for the faint-hearted.
A 40-minute drive from Caloundra is the picturesque town of Eumundi, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Famous for the markets held on Saturdays and now Wednesdays, I was curious as to what we would do during our visit on a Monday. I needn’t have worried though.
Our accommodation at The Farmhouse – boutique accommodation just a stroll from Eumundi’s main street – offered everything we could have wanted. After a game of tennis and swim in the pool, we wandered into town to cool off with a drink at The Fig Tree and some retail therapy at Berkelouw Book Barn. It would be easy for literary nerds like me to spend a day here, looking through the books and reading in the adjoining café, but we decided to take our haul back to The Farmhouse and spent a quiet afternoon reading on the veranda overlooking the lush surrounds. Our hosts, Ela and Brian, took the kids down to the paddock to feed the chickens, alpacas and horses to round off a brilliant day in the country. Appetites stoked, we headed back into town to The Imperial Hotel, where we gorged on local fare and enjoyed a few schooners of Eumundi Brewery’s finest. If this is country life, then sign me up.
After a hearty, homemade breakfast courtesy of Ela and Brian, we headed home via Coolum to check out Blast Aqua Park. Blast is one of the largest aqua parks in the world and, much like Aussie World’s Mayhem Maze, isn’t for the faint-hearted. A 50-minute session costs $20 per person (tip: book online at aquaparkcoolum.com.au) – trust me, unless you’re a pro athlete that is plenty of time (I was begging for mercy at about the 30-minute mark, but the kids lasted the entire session). It was fun for everyone though and, given the amount of energy spent, we were guaranteed a quiet drive home to Brisbane.
Check out RACQ.com/discounts for great deals at many Sunshine Coast attractions.
The Road Ahead and Aussie World are giving members the chance to win three nights’ accommodation at Oaks Oasis Caloundra, a Family Pass to Aussie World and a $100 petrol voucher (total prize valued at $2036). Ten runners-up will win a Family Pass to Aussie World valued at $136 each (total runner-up prize value is $1360). Click here to enter.
TOTAL VALUE $3396