It’s hard to go wrong with the Sunshine Coast. Pristine beaches stretch the entire way up the east coast of Australia, and everything from Caloundra to Cooloola is sun-kissed perfection. Noosa, Surfer’s, Stradbroke, Hervey Bay. There are the usual suspects when it comes to planning a Queensland vacation. But if you want to avoid tourists, pretend you’re a local, and get some serious chill time in, Buddina is the perfect hidden treasure. The town lies just southeast of Mooloolaba, right across the river. Buddina has its own stretch of gorgeous beach called Kawana, which boasts some fantastic surf. It is only a 20-minute drive from the Sunshine Coast Airport at and just over an hour from Brisbane.
Getting There & Around
Buddina is a great town for tourists as it is actually doable without a car. This is a rare quality in small-town Australia.
Translink are the Queensland Government buses that run up and down the Sunshine Coast. You can find all of the timetables on their website here.
Numbers 600, 602, 607, and 611 will stop at Kawana on the main highway. 614, 618, and 619 will stop at Kawana Shoppingworld. These buses are cheap, fast and will get you to all of the nearby towns, Mooloolaba, Maroochydore, Noosa, and Caloundra. You can even use them to make your way to and from the Sunshine Coast Airport.
From the most northerly point of Buddina, marked by the Point Cartwright Lighthouse, to the most southern point which runs along Koorin Drive, the town only measures only 3.5 kilometers or 45 minutes of walking. Nothing is out of reach in this wee town, and your feet will serve you well. As well as walking just to get about, there is a beautiful trek to do for pleasure.
Starting at the park which runs along Harbour Parade, you will stroll along a paved path along the Mooloolah Riverfront, you will be tempted to take a quick swim in the little bay on the way to the river mouth, the water is crystal clear, crisply cold, sandy, and safe for kids. There are families along the way, fishing with hand reels, and professionals reeling in their catches from boats and feeding the scraps to the lazy pelicans.
If you stick to the low paths, you will find yourself at the base of the lighthouse hill, able to walk out onto the rocky, sandy flats where you can explore the tide pools. After that, conquer the more challenging walk up the hill to the lighthouse. At the top, you will be rewarded with 360-degree views up and down the Sunshine Coast. After a rest at the top of the hill, walking down and around the other side, you will rejoin the road along Pacific Boulevard. With its beautiful wooden walkway all the way along the beachside, looking out at the ocean as you follow the path, uninterrupted for the length of the town, down Kawana Beach.
For those of you looking to adventure farther, there are several bicycle rental places in Mooloolaba such as The Hire Hut. You can also check out Bike On, these guys will even deliver the bikes to you in Buddina. There is another group, Have Fun Tours, who will rent you the bike, and take you out on fun rides.
If all else fails, Sunshine Coast cabs will be there to pick you up.
Eat and Drink
Starting at the tip of the peninsula, on the corner of Harbour and Gulai, is a great little cafe called One on La Balsa. They serve classic cafe stuff, good coffee and their burger was fantastic. The best thing about this little place is their willingness to serve your lunch outside in the park across the street. They will let you take real plates and cutlery over there and return it when you are done. It’s like a wonderful, civilised picnic without the prep.
Moving inland, you will find a pocket of shops on the corner of Oomoo and Parkana. This mini-mall consists of an op shop, a few fishing places, yoga studio, acupuncturist, and a hair salon. As far as food goes, there is Narinthorn Thai, Bella’s Beachside Cafe, Little Miss Saine coffee shop and a local store that doubles as a fish n chip shop. The hot chips were pretty good, but $2 for a tomato sauce was a bit of a joke.
Buddina is strange in that it is the only beachside town I have ever visited that does not have beachside shops, cafes, pubs, or restaurants. Maybe there is a business opportunity in there for someone reading this. One option is to pop into the Cool Spot convenience store on the corner of Koolena and Illuka. They are a shop that will take you back to your childhood, the type of place with paper bags of lollies for 50 cents on the counter. They do fried classics and burgers. Pick up the paper and a bottle of iced coffee and head a block over up Mawarra Street to sit on the beach with your paper-wrapped lunch.
Heading south, walking down Kawana Beach, you will hit the surf club. This place follows the classic club recipe. Pokies, live music, generic restaurant with steak and schnitzel, bar, karaoke nights, live music, and a kids’ section. This club tops other RSLs because of its killer views. You will need to register to get in, so bring a form of ID.
Walking in off the beach, you will be in the heart of town. The tiny village of Buddina revolves around all the action at Kawana Shoppingworld. Before you hit the actual mall though, there are a few places just off the main street of Point Cartwright Drive. Stopping in at The Curry Bowl one night will be worth your time, the food is totally delicious. Just next-door is All’ Antica, an Italian joint with all of the usual suspects. Their pizzas were phenomenal with plump salty kalamata olives, feta, and prawns.
If fast food is what you are after, head into the mall for the full gauntlet of options; from KFC and Guzman Y Gomez Mexican, to Grill’d Burgers and The Coffee Club. Then for the celiacs among us (or just those who really like trendy stuff) there is the awkwardly named Gluten Free For Me café.
Just around the corner behind the Dan Murphey’s Liquor Store, is the Kawana Waters Hotel. This is a typical modern pub/bistro with everything one might expect to see. Sunday roasts, pastas, and parmies prevail. They do have a lovely balcony over the water of the Mooloola River and a good selection of beers on tap. This also seems to be the closest thing anyone in Buddina has to “a local”. Also overlooking the same corner of the river is Phon’s Thai, a slightly upscale Thai place with large, open spaces for functions and events.
Buddina has very few hotels; this is kind of the beauty of the place. The best option is to check out AirBnB for plenty of people renting out rooms for as little as $35 a night. For the fancy people out there, you could even rent a whole 4-bedroom waterfront home for $600 a night, which sleeps 10 guests.
The four hotel options in Buddina are The Kawana Waters Hotel, Bluewater Point Resort, Surfside on the Beach Holiday Apartments, and Beachside Resort Kawana Waters.
Watching the Whales
The highlight of a trip to the Sunshine Coast has to be seeing whales in their natural environment. Whale One can provide you will lifelong memories, and maybe even help check a few things off your bucket list. The trip is not a guarantee, whales are fickle creatures and might not feel like coming out to play on the day of your visit. You do have to go at the right time of year. Also be prepared for a very rough trip on windier days, you do head quite far out to sea and it gets quite violent. All things considered, the incredible experience of seeing the gorgeous humpbacks playing with the boat, and putting on a beautiful show made a trip to this part of Australia one of the best things we have ever done.