Queenslands Sunshine Coast might have been invented to provide the ideal mid-winter break for the has-sled New Zealand executive and partner, with or without family in tow. In a little over three hours you are in another world, pleasantly warm during the winter months and so relaxed that clock-watching ranks a 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 a good idea.
For those wanting to avoid scenically undemanding car travel, it's only a 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 a 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 a 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 a few kilometres south of Noosa and close to the local 'mountain' of Coolum--a 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 a 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 a 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 a supermarket of uses to the area's original Aborigines, now have bees, birds and bats queuing up.
Although very much a monument to man's ability to mould a landscape, the resort is home to a 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 a 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 a 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. …