Noosa! One of the East Coast stop offs that was on our list before we even stepped foot on Aussie soil. It’s a relatively small town so don’t skip it as you’re passing! So what do we want to know as backpackers? …. Where is it? What’s free? Whats cheap if it isn’t free? Where can I sleep? Where can I drink? What is there to see and do?
I’ll try to answer these questions as best as I can in this post, just to give you some pointers if you’re thinking of heading to Noosa.
Where is Noosa?
Noosa is located in QLD on Australia’s East Coast, roughly 2 hours North of Brisbane. It’s about a 1.5 hour drive North to Rainbow Beach where most people get the ferry over to K’gari (Fraser Island) so it’s a good place to visit if you’re on your way to K’gari as some tours (like ours) do start from Noosa.
Where can I sleep?
There’s an abundance of hostels in and around Noosa but the 3 most popular and the ones I know of are Noosa Heads YHA, Nomads and Flashpackers. YHA is closest to Noosa Main Beach, the National Park and Noosa Parade, Nomads is roughly a 10 minute walk up a fairly steep hill on Noosa Drive towards what is more like Noosa Heads ‘town center’ with shops, takeaways, a supermarket and some bars. Finally there is Flashpackers, situated closer to Sunshine Beach (probably about a 15 minute walk) and about a 30 minute walk to Noosa Main Beach.
I didn’t actually stay in any of these hostels but my friends stayed in Nomads and Flashpackers (where we snuck in for a shower), we just went for some drinks at YHA Nomads. From what I know of each, Flashpackers is the cheapest, probably because it’s further out than the others, but it seemed clean and sort of chilled but not too quiet. Nomads is known as the party hostel and YHA seemed like an in between sort of place to me, like get smashed if you want but in more of a chilled chatty way, rather than a ‘lets have a wet t-shirt competition every Wednesday sort of way.
However, if you’re road tripping it like we were and sleeping in a car or camper van, I wouldn’t bother paying for a hostel as there are plenty of places to park up overnight – you just need to know where… I wouldn’t risk it and camp overnight in the parks or right next to the beach where there are signs that specifically say ‘no overnight stays’; we saw a few people doing it while we were there, but when you’re road tripping and money has to last, I’d say it’s not worth risking the fine.
The way we found worked best was to just park near the places that you weren’t allowed to camp overnight, so down a quiet side street next to Sunshine Beach, or down a road off of Noosa Drive, so we were close to the public toilets and showers at Lion’s Park and just a short walk to bars and restaurants. A couple of nights we even just parked up on the main road outside Flashpackers, snuck in for a shower and then about 5 hours and 15 rums later crawled in through the boot of our Falcon and conked out.
What’s FREE to see and do?
Noosa National Park
Number 1 on the list has to be Noosa National Park! Entry to the park is of course free and it’s situated between Sunshine Beach and Noosa Heads; unless you’re staying in Noosaville, the National Park is a short walk from most hostels, and if you’re not walking, there is a pretty cheap car park as you enter the park. There are a number of trails to choose from, depending on how energetic you’re feeling; I think ours lasted about 3 hours and really wasn’t too strenuous. No matter how far you’re planning to walk, take plenty of water! As apart from a couple of taps near the beginning, there isn’t anywhere to refill your bottle.
Noosa National Park is just beautiful, as we trekked through the park the constantly changing landscapes and natural beauty of our surroundings made us feel as though we could have easily been walking in a time where Dinosaurs existed. The scenery here is stunning and if you don’t fancy a walk, go for a snorkel at one of the parks many beaches on route. If you’re lucky you might even spot a Koala high up in the trees or dolphins and whales jumping not far from the shore.
If you head towards Noosa Main Beach and take a left you will find Noosa Woods. It’s a great place to relax, much more chilled than Main Beach and with way less people around. There are plenty of boardwalks and sandy shores to explore if you get restless or take a walk/ swim over to the tiny sand island that appears at Dog Beach, just be very careful as the current here is really strong! Noosa Woods is the perfect place for a chill day. Parking is free here, they have toilets and plenty of picnic areas (which was really useful for us as we were living in our car).
Spot of lunch in Noosa Woods
I forgot to take a picture of Sunshine Beach so apologies that I can’t show you what it looks like! I’ll just tell you instead…Sunshine Beach is about a 20 minute walk South of Noosa Heads, (probably the closest beach if you’re staying at Flashpackers). It’s huge and again much less crowded than Main Beach, not bad for surfing either, or watching people surf if you’re like me. As always in OZ there is a picnic area next to the beach with a few free electric BBQ’s, toilets and showers – I may have also washed our dishes here once or twice. There are a handful of hostels, shops and bars here – the perfect place to stay if you want to experience ‘beachy’ Noosa. There’s also a really cool Bar called Flux just up from the beach, it’s got an amazing retro beach style and they do great food!
Where can I Eat/Drink?
Where to eat and drink? Such an important question. As we were mainly camping/homeless, we decided to make use of the free BBQ picnic areas dotted around and just buy cheap meal ingredients from Woolworths and cook them up on our portable stove. That’s not to say that we didn’t treat ourselves once or twice! If you want cheap, fast food, Noosa Heads is the place to go – they have Taco Boy, KFC, Pizza Hut, things like that right opposite Nomads. If you’re thinking cheap food while having a few drinks I would go for Nomads, they do different food deals every night, I think they had $1 chicken wings going when we were there.
If you feel like treating yourself, as we did for Ryan’s birthday, I’d recommend Hastings Street near Main Beach, it’s at the opposite end of the scale so try to look half decent and blend in. Although it’s definitely a massive step up from KFC and Nomads, don’t expect to pay ridiculous prices either; we had a delicious meal and cocktail at Cafe Le Monde for around $35 each.
If it’s drinking you want, there’s a bar call Sogo opposite Nomads, they’ve got cheap drinks, pool and an outdoor seating area, we went here after a few beers on Sunshine Beach. Although Nomads is very cheap and a great place to meet other backpackers, it was a bit too crowded for us – were old now and like to talk to each other a bit. After a good few rums at SOGO we started the 20 minute walk towards Hastings Street (glass still in hand – oops). We had no idea were to go so took the first club-like place we saw which happened to be Laguna Jacks. From what I can remember Laguna Jacks is a pretty good club, the drinks weren’t exactly cheap but I wouldn’t say they were overpriced; there’s also a balcony seating area to cool off if you’ve gone in a bit too hard on the dance floor!
Or for a more chilled vibe and cheap drinks I’d give YHA a go, they have a fairy light decking area, which was very much for me!
What’s cheap if it isn’t free?
Finally, when you’ve exhausted all of the FREE activities in a given place, as a backpacker you have to compromise and ask each other – whats cheap if we can’t do anything for free? My number one for Noosa, aside from surf/SUP/snorkel hire is HIRE A BOAT!
U Drive Boat Hire – Noosa River
For this one you’re going to have take a trip to Noosaville – stop off and Wooly’s for some snacks and beers and go get yourself a boat for the day, we loved it! There’s no licence required and the boat comes with fuel, fishing gear (bate is a few $$ extra) and most importantly a chest cooler for your beers!
You can take the boat around the Noosa River for as long as you pay for, we went with U Drive Boat Hire and they were great. If there a few of you it shouldn’t cost much more than $25 for half a day, which when translated in to English Pounds is basically the cost of a Nandos – so I think it’s a pretty good deal.
I was the only one to catch a fish, after teaching the boys how to do it of course. Such an emotional roller coaster – the elation of finally catching one and then the sudden pure fear and panic that I might hurt it and wouldn’t be able to put it back in time – thankfully we did and he looked fine as he swam away.
You also get to experience another side of Noosa, with it’s colourful array of boathouses, calm river waters and scenic surroundings; you can also anchor up the boat and have a little dip in the river to cool of if you fancy it – it’s a perfect hangover cure. Just be cautious that although you can drink while you’re on the boat, the river police will stop you and give you a breath test.
Of course they stopped me, after about 5 hours sleep and 20 rums the night before, ‘Just wash that beer out ya mouth with some water and we’ll breathalyze ya’. Brilliant. I was so certain I was going to get fined, with the amount of alcohol from the night before combined with the beer I was currently drinking. The police just stood chatting to us for a bit and eventually Ryan asked ‘Out of interest what did it read?’, ‘Ahh Zero mate.’. I’m guessing that either his breathalyzer was broken or he just couldn’t be bothered with the paperwork, but for whatever reason, we were good to go. So just bare that in mind if you do hire a boat, as it could turn into a very expensive day trip!