If you live anywhere south of Byron Bay, this time is year can get a bit depressing (or at least it is to me). The days are short, the nights are cold, and the spectre of winter is still to come. Oh yes, it's still going to get colder.
But if this is you, then today I've got an out. An answer for how you can exit the gloam and sit on a sunny beach in your Triangl bikini/Budgie Smugglers laughing at all the fools back home, even in early June.
Go to Queensland. More specifically, go to Noosa, the best place for anyone who takes their eating/drinking seriously AND likes to spend the day in between meals on the sand.
You know you want to do it. And if you're looking for some inspo, today I want to chronicle a few of the choice locations for where you might be propping up at the end of another sunshine-filled day.
These are my picks of the great places to eat + drink in Noosa.
Make no mistake; these are my choices - feel free to disagree in the comments (or add your ideas) below. But otherwise, here is a few tidbits that might help, drawn from my latest in-depth research trip to the Sunshine Coast.
So you've caught the shuttle/picked up your hire car and driven/got a bus/walked from the Sunshine Coast airport, and landed at the helpful Noosa Heads beach Information Centre on Hastings St. You're tired, you're thirsty, and you need a large amount of sustenance right away.
Do not pass GO. Do not go any further. Instead, proceed directly to the Noosa Heads Surf Lifesaving Club (see pic above, more on the lifesaving club website). Here, the portions are 'generous' (the nachos can feed a small family), the beers are surf club icy (with a few local brews) and the view unrivalled. It's an institution, and the location means that you can head from sand to table with a minimum of fuss at any point—a must-do.
Hastings St is THE Noosa eat street, and you'll find an absolute smorgasbord of gastronomic options (plus shopping and accommodation). Directly across the road from the beach, you'll find Betty's Burgers, which is perpetually busy (especially on holiday weekends). Next door is Cafe Le Monde - a bar/restaurant with endless appeal. Come here for breakfast, stay for burgers and oysters, lounging in the airy feel and endless surf vids on TV—low key good.
Just doors up from Cafe Le Monde lies one of the premier Italian options in Noosa (and one of the most lively) in Locale (food pictured above, more at the Locale website). Mod Italian with a typical seafood slant (like everywhere in Noosa), capped off with a very smart contemporary wine/drinks list, it's a highlight. Again, metres from the beach, and one of the places to be/be seen on Hastings St. Right across the road, you can stop into another icon, Sails. Here, you get a similar, unmissable beach outlook to the surf club, yet with a five-star sense of refinement and ambition (although I find it just a bit stuffy).
This is where it gets crowded. At the western end of Hastings st, an absolute explosion of drink and dining options will draw you in. The trifecta of Season Restaurant on the beachfront or Rococo and Aromas of Noosa on the street are the cafe choices that draw in many, with the Euro-style outdoor seating made for people-watching. Then, as the sun goes down, the same crowd migrates a few doors up to the Noosa Beach House & Miss Moneypenny's to drink wine and cocktails out of coconuts. While it's not exactly my scene, this is where you'll be drawn for a pre-or post-dinner drink every time. Or, if you don't feel like another drink, pop in across the road to Happy Pops for delicious customisable ice cream. I've not been to either, but Bang Bang Noosa & Piccolino look promising for dining options on this end of Hastings st too.
A short ferry ride, or a decent walk, from the beachfront down Noosa Parade, takes you to the next dining hotspot of the Noosa Sound, Rickys. Along with a very good bottleshop (Jacks Cellars) and fish & chip shop (Mr Fish), you'll also find one of Noosa's most adored restaurants, Rickys (pictured above. What a vista. Read the menu to match and try not to book a reservation right now). While it can be tough to book a table here (hot tip - keep an eye on the online bookings each morning for cancellations), the riverside vista and high-class drink/dining experience is famous for a good reason. I loved the now-defunct Wasabi Noosa next door even better, but that best-of-the-best experience is gone (baby, come back!).
Next door to Rickys lies the BYO king of Noosa, Rock Salt. Unpretentious, with a menu packed with deliciousness, there's a charm here and authenticity that makes it perenially popular. The phone bookings are old school, and it can be hard to snag a booking, but seriously worth a visit (or two) if you have a bottle of something special worth opening AND want something delectably fishy.
Noosa's other eat street is Gympie Terrace, which tracks along the riverfront from Noosaville to Tewantin. Unlike the flash and noise of Hastings st, the restaurants on this strip tend to be more affordable and with a much more family-orientated vibe. Gusto is an exception, as the calibre here is a step above the rest, yet without the 'tude. As the picture above points out (more on the Gusto website), the food is v. smart, coupled with a high-quality wine list, attentive staff, and attention to detail, making this Italian a must-visit for any Noosa trip.
While the wine culture is very sophisticated, and cocktails have always been popular, the beer scene in Noosa often felt like an afterthought. Thankfully that is changing, and one of the champions for decent brews locally is Flux. The food is decent, but beer is the reason to stop here, especially the revolving tap options. While you're in this part of Noosaville, Little Humid looks promising, too (although I've not been).
Arguably more famous for breakfast and lunch than a winey dinner, Thomas Corner remains a highlight of the Gympie Terrace strip. But, again, Mod Australian seafood is the vibe, which is the Noosa go-to, and here it's done well, with a prime position on the deck, the place to be on a sunny afternoon to watch the river and eat perfectly cooked fish. Speaking of the river, directly across the road is the Noosa Boathouse, an even more riverside location with quality food (and it has a rooftop bar)!
While it may lack the views and location of many on this list, Sum Yung Guys is one of the most impressive recent openings in Noosa. The mod-Asian vibe (see the pic above from the restaurant's website) of this seriously hot eatery feels like the absolute cream of capital city Asian food has landed in Noosa. Not only is the menu glorious, but Sum Yung Guys also has a wine list dipping proudly to include some of the more lo-fi wines so often missing on Noosa lists. Loud and busy, this restaurant is a must-detour for anyone who has been to Longrain or Chin Chin and expects something of that calibre on their holiday (i.e. me).
While there aren't any pulsating standouts in 'The Junction', this part of Noosa has an avalanche of more casual options that are well worth a stop - and the whole vibe of this part of town is younger, less pretentious too. Bombetta is a natural option for a hit of pizza and excellent gnocchi. Sushi Yah-man is one of the most popular Japanese restaurants in Noosa for a reason (though this is bistro-style rather than fine dining). Lots of interesting eateries beyond that, including Herbert & Theo's Social Club plus Somedays & Light Years.
Don't miss the Noosa National Park. It's less than a km to walk from the Noosa 'main' beach to land in what feels like a million miles away from the Noosa Heads life. For runners and bushwalkers, the well-signposted trail network is extensive enough to spend a day without leaving the park (and they're well-maintained trails), and the beaches are stunning. The Coastal Walk trail is boardwalk/concrete path through to Dolphin Point, which means it is wheelchair and pram-friendly (we've covered a lot of kms with a pram), and it is so accessible. I can't stress enough how good the National Park is as a Noosa must-do.