The first thing most visitors associate with the Sunshine Coast is its sparkling coastline. But beyond its golden sands and turquoise waters, the region has become a multifaceted destination with a thriving culinary scene.
In addition to the barefoot-cool of the eateries dotted along this pristine stretch of the Pacific, you will find everything from institutions that have set the benchmark for destination dining to rustic Hinterland hangs to add to your hit list.
Here's our guide to the best places to eat and drink on the Sunshine Coast.
For premium sustainable seafood
If you want evidence that the Sunshine Coast culinary scene is changing, head to Fish on Parkyn in Mooloolaba, where chef Andrej Kogoj champions "dock to table" eating using sustainable wild-caught fish from Walker Seafoods, 24 metres up the road. Simple starters include fat Hervey Bay scallops and tempura squid in a Sichuan and pink peppercorn dust, and to follow, a rich bouillabaisse featuring Mooloolaba prawns and swordfish. The Walker family's catch also finds its way on to the tables at elegant Asian fusion restaurant Spice Bar, overlooking the Mooloolaba Esplanade. Expect share plates of chilli salt squid, Mooloolaba prawns in betel leaf, Hervey Bay scallops with a soy-ginger sabayon and fish in a fiery Sichuan broth. At lunchtime, head to Pier 33 or The Dock, where you'll find everyone from office workers in heels to tradies in high-vis sharing buckets of fresh-caught local prawns.
For vegans on vacation
Alejandro Cancino has toiled for about two decades in top restaurants such as Mugaritz in Spain, Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons in Britain, the Bulgari Hotel in Tokyo, Noma in Copenhagen and Urbane in Brisbane. So to find the Argentine-born chef heading progressive vegan cafe Lola's Pantry in suburban Maroochydore feels like discovering hidden treasure. What smells like caramelising meat scents the air. But it's in fact, vEEF, a plant-based patty developed in Cancino's adjacent test kitchen. Proponents of a plant-based diet travel to the fuss-free open-air cafe from as far away as Brisbane and Noosa to enjoy meat-free menu options such as gnocchi with sesame cheese sauce and polenta chips. It's open Friday to Sunday. The menu at Lemon and Thyme caters to all comers, but vegans will find plenty of options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And Brouhaha Brewery in Maleny is also on the map for its vegan sorbet and coconut ice-cream.
For a taste of Asia
The Sunshine Coast's food and wine scene started drifting towards Asia 20 years ago with the arrival of Spirit House, the restaurant-cum-cooking school that has blossomed into an institution. Here, you will find a mix of sun-kissed visitors and Boho Baby Boomers punctuating their beach holiday with farm-to-table fare with an Asian twist at the main restaurant or more casual Hong Sa Bar. While Spirit House has a distinct Thai accent, Sum Yum Guys criss-crosses Asia for inspiration. Matt Sinclair interned on MasterChef 2016 and he and three of his mates have had huge success with their graffiti-adorned eatery in a lively strip mall in Sunshine Beach. The Tamarind is another much-praised restaurant serving province-crossing Asian cuisine on the Sunshine Coast. Located at the Spicers Tamarind Retreat in the Hinterland, this out-of-the-way destination dining experience attracts food-focused pilgrims from around the world. The young waiters here are experts at helping you decode the menu: go with the recommendation of jungle curry with quail, bamboo, wild ginger, pickled papaya and Thai basil.
For Hinterland hangs
Bring a food Sherpa to Eumundi Markets to help lug your eco bags of onions and lemons, lettuces with frilly green skirts and potatoes still covered in wet earth. The weekly market sells top-notch produce, jams, pickles and baked goods. Refuel with a hemp burger because, well, you're in Eumundi mate, before embarking on a final lap around the market. You can also source produce grown in the region's rich, volcanic soil at The Ginger Factory in Yandina, where you can buy everything from candied sweets and marmalade to cordials and syrups. Those wanting to flesh out their Escape to the Country fantasies should also head to Hinterland Feijoas to learn first-hand about the fruit native to South America, coveted in New Zealand and cultivated in the Hinterland. The picturesque farm overlooks Mapleton Range and surrounding countryside, which looks like a crazy quilt assembled from scraps of green fabric.
Carla Grossetti was a guest of Visit Sunshine Coast and Tourism Events Queensland.
More reasons to visit
A who's who of Australian and international chefs will descend on the Sunshine Coast from August 8-11 for Australia's newest food festival, the Curated Plate. Featuring more than 10 events over four days, the debut program welcomes international guest chefs Raymond Blanc (UK), Zaiyu Hasegawa (Japan) and Monique Fiso (New Zealand) alongside Australian-based talents Peter Gilmore, Alejandro Cancino, Analiese Gregory, Clayton Wells, Matt Stone, Chase Kojima, Darren Robertson, Alanna Sapwell, Nelly Robinson and Troy Rhoades-Brown. For details and bookings, visit thecuratedplate.com.au.
Fish on Parkyn, Mooloolaba, fishonparkyn.com.au
Spice Bar, Mooloolaba, spicebar.com.au
Pier 33, Mooloolaba, pier33.com.au
The Dock, Mooloolaba, thedockmooloolaba.com
Lola's Pantry, 4 Melaleuca Street, Kuluin, 0450 022 537
Lemon & Thyme, Mooloolaba, lemonandthyme.com.au
Brouhaha Brewery, Maleny, brouhahabrewery.com.au
Spirit House, Yandina, spirithouse.com.au
Sum Yung Guys, Sunshine Beach, sumyungguys.com.au
The Tamarind, Spicers Retreat, Maleny, spicersretreats.com
Eumundi Markets, Eumundi, eumundimarkets.com.au
The Ginger Factory, gingerfactory.com.au
Hinterland Feijoas, hinterlandfeijoas.com.au