Travel

Sunshine Coast: Coast with the most

EXOTIC RESIDENTS: Rhinos, giraffes and zebras have made their home in the new African exhibit at Australia Zoo.
EXOTIC RESIDENTS: Rhinos, giraffes and zebras have made their home in the new African exhibit at Australia Zoo. David Potts

FOXY the cheetah is out for his daily walk with his keepers.

Savannah, the one-year-old white rhinoceros, is playing in a mud bath with her mum. Several giraffes are munching on leaves high up a pole. Zebra are cheekily stealing some hay.

A shuttle packed with onlookers slows to take in the scene, their guide teaching them some words in Swahili ("Jambo - hello," she says).

It's a typical day in the new African section of Australia Zoo at Beerwah. The 10ha African enclosure, after years of planning, is only six months old but, by year's end, about one million zoo visitors will have seen it.

It was the dream of "The Crocodile Hunter" and zoo founder the late Steve Irwin to build an African Safari Park where animals could roam free in open plains and state-of-the-art, walk-through enclosures. He visualised a place where visitors could watch these animals interact as they would in the wild and have their own unique experiences with them.

To get to the African exhibit, we've passed tigers in the Tiger Temple and elephants in the South-East Asia section to link with a 700-metre track around the African enclosure.

Newest exhibit member, Sally the giraffe, came from Monarto Zoo in South Australia and made her public debut a week or so before Christmas. Savannah was born at Australia Zoo just a year ago.

Just like Steve, our Australia Zoo guide and international business development manager Wayne Poole has a passion for the zoo and for the Irwins' dream for its development. Later, he takes us behind the scenes of the Wildlife Warriors show and the pens where the Irwins' crocodiles are kept.

Animals are well-cared for in a zoo which takes pride in not only making it the premier local family tourist attraction but also a major force worldwide in wildlife care.

It's just one highlight in a round-up of great family experiences which make the Sunshine Coast such a popular year-round destination. In fact, accommodation website wotif.com last year named the Coast the third most popular destination in Queensland and seventh nationally.

Our next stop is Aussie World. This popular theme park, reminiscent of an old Australian fairground, has recently had a $2million makeover which has added three new rides in a total of 30 attractions.

We take a ride on the park's new water ride, Plunge: a log flume ride that's guaranteed to wet your pants as it plunges steeply down a ramp into a water splash - not once, but twice. Well, it wet ours.

A second new addition is the thrill ride Redback. It takes the adventurous on a dizzying 16m high ride on a spinning platform. The third new ride is a Giant Slide which takes you on a rollercoaster slide. The new rides have helped Aussie World to enjoy a record number of visitors in the past year.

To round out our Aussie World experience, we enjoy some burgers at the theme park's oddball Ettamogah Pub which was opened in 1989. The first thing you notice is how cartoon-like the pub is. Not surprising, given that it was designed to mimic cartoonist Ken Maynard's Ettamogah Pub cartoons which appeared in The Australasian Post from 1959. And, yes, that is a 1927 Chevy truck on the roof. We head back to our excellent accommodation at the Rumba Beach Resort & Spa - a boutique hotel on Bulcock Beach in the heart of Caloundra.

Our two-bedroom suite is beautifully and comfortably furnished, the Italian influence apparent in sleek lines and cool white tones. It has a fully-equipped kitchen and family spa bath in the main ensuite bathroom. This resort definitely has all the bells and whistles and is great for families.

D'licious gourmet hampers has kindly supplied us with a hamper of local produce which goes well with a bottle of wine enjoyed on the balcony of our Rumba unit with great views over Pumicestone Passage and, in the distance, the Glasshouse Mountains.

We work off some of the calories with a walk along part of the 25km Caloundra coastal path from right outside our resort and which hugs the shoreline from Golden Beach to Point Cartwright.

For a change of pace next day, we head out for a cruise with Caloundra Cruises to enjoy the spectacular beauty, the history and wildlife of the Pumicestone Passage Marine Park. Our hosts Ken and Rosie have a vast knowledge of the park. They share this with us as they point out the many species of birds - some of which have crossed the world to nest and feed here.

This afternoon we hit the art gallery trail along the Blackall Range on the Coast hinterland. Tony Gill and Jane Caraffi of Art on Cairncross at Maleny in the Blackall Range, have an exhibition of the noted landscape artist Rex Backhaus-Smith running from now to April 29. There are some great art galleries - 18 of them, in fact - with original Australian art along this scenic rim, a 40-minute drive from our base at Caloundra. For the revheads among us, the volunteer-run Queensland Air Museum at Caloundra has a collection of historic aircraft, some of them operational, and air memorabilia will keep us occupied for hours. The awesome sight and sound of a 1500hp, 14-cylinder radial engine powering up is an unforgettable experience. There'll be time tomorrow to visit UnderWater World, and maybe even Eumundi Markets.

GOOD TO KNOW ABOUT THE SUNSHINE COAST

For more information on all the attractions of the Sunshine Coast, see visitsunshinecoast.com.au.

Rumba Beach Resort and Spa has an autumn deal: book any one, two or three-bedroom Resort Spa Suite or Luxury Ocean apartment for three consecutive nights in April or May, and get an extra night free from $660 for four nights. Included are complimentary sparkling wine, bicycle hire and a Dine in Style discount card for great dining precinct offers. More information at rumbaresort.com.au.

Australia Zoo entry costs: adult $59, child $35, family of five $189, family of four $172. Coast residents can get an annual pass for $75, children $45 (201 days); adults $99, children $58 (272 days); or adults $145, children $85 (364 days). See australiazoo.com.au.

Aussie World entry: $29 for an unlimited rides pass; family (two adults and two children) $99. More information at aussieworld.com.au.

Caloundra Cruises - visit caloundracruise.com.

The writer was a guest of Sunshine Coast Destinations Ltd and the Rumba Beach Resort and Spa.

>> Read more travel stories.

Topics:  aussie world, australia zoo, sunshine coast, travel, travelling


Stay Connected

Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Images of our shameful past

FOUND: Wade Thompson and Henry Thompson Jr at the Deebing Creek Mission Cemetery.

Images of our shameful past

Show out to deliver the thrills

The Safari Zoo is expected to be a big attraction for the kids.

Show out to deliver the thrills s

Aged care workforce in crisis

Shayne Neumann delivers flags to Bruce and Margaret Dobbie, Darryl Tocchetti and Penny Palmer.

Aged care workforce in crisis

Latest deals and offers

OPINION: Pauline Hanson supporters deserve a voice

THERE is little doubt the bleeding heart brigade or a certain Logie-winning TV presenter will not be voting for Pauline Hanson at the upcoming federal election.

Drive right through for our trendy precinct at Yamanto

OPEN: Zambrero franchisees Ryan and Tamara Russell and Zarraffa's franchisee Jason Meares (right) at their new stores in Yamanto.

Two drive-through stores take tenancies at Yamanto Village

How clean eating transformed incredible shrinking woman

AFTER: Mariah Tonkin has lost almost 60kg.

Clean eating wins the day for Hillcrest’s Mariah Tonkin

Motorist left hanging off bridge after car crash

A man has been taken to hospital after a crash on the Brisbane Valley Highway

Emergency crews rescue driver from "precarious situation"

Man accused of strangling partner

Woman choked and threatened with knife

Asylum seeker faces deportation after offence against child

Ipswich Police Station and Courthouse. Photo: David Nielsen / The Queensland Times

Pakistan national found guilty of indecent treatment

Mossy still gets the nerves before shows: video

Ian Moss will perform at the Gladstone Entertainment Convention Centre in June.

He's touring the nation with just his six string.

Sale nears on last large block of land in Coolum

The 43.37ha property on South Coolum Rd has sold.

South Coolum Rd property to be land banked

Caloundra’s former Centrepoint Buffet site up for sale

FOR SALE: The home of the old Centrepoint Buffet

Restaurant fined for unhygienic practices closed months ago