When you’re planning a trip to Australia, there will be too many loud voices telling you to go straight to Sydney or Melbourne, and while they might have a point, the continent hides quite a few stunning spots equally worth a visit. One such example is the Sunshine Coast. Doesn’t the name alone make it sound like a little perpetual-summer Narnia, hidden from plain sight and meant for true basking in all things authentically Australian?

Located just a notch south of Brisbane, which makes it conveniently close to another urban hotspot, the Sunshine Coast will quickly win you over, just as soon as you give it a chance. For a trip to remember, use the following tips to infuse your itinerary, and you’ll forget all about bustling metropolises and crave for another dose of this laid-back experience.

Visit Steve Irwin’s legacy

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The man who spent his entire life bonding with misunderstood creatures of Australia, Steve Irwin, together with his family, built his famous Australia Zoo precisely in this region. This is a beautiful option for solo travelers as well as those who are traveling with kids. People of all ages will love and appreciate the amazing shows they put on with their crocs, and the opportunity to meet and pet some of the wildlife (think: petting a kangaroo) makes for an extraordinary experience.

Depending on how up-close and personal you’d like to get with these curious beings, you can feed them, pet them, or join a guided tour which will be both fun and educational no matter how old you are. Rest assured, you’ll feel no older than six while there!

Spend a few nights under the stars

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Another childhood favorite that lets you be Peter Pan while you’re in the Sunshine Coast, camping is a wonderful way to get away from the hustle and bustle and also spend some time stargazing in this pristine natural gem of Australia. Some of the most alluring Sunshine Coast camping spots are not restricted to its breathtaking coastline, but also the enchanting hinterland and its emerald riches. From lake shores, the well-known Noosa beach, all the way to Neurum creek, there’s something for every taste.

The key to turning these adventures into the most enjoyable trips possible is to bring plenty of sunscreen, insect repellants for those pesky mosquitos (remember, you are in Australia, after all), and of course, make sure you have all the necessary permits and safety gear!

Explore the hiking trails

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Camping or no camping, you can opt for a lovely stroll into the woods of the hinterland or down a trail with the view of the Pacific. You’ve gathered by now that this is a prime destination for nature enthusiasts, and the local hiking routes are perfect for beginners as well as versed nature lovers with a passion for exploration.

For starters, the track that will take you through the lush rainforest of the Noosa National Park should be a must-see on your list. Make sure to pack or wear your swimsuit, so that you can make stops at a few dip-perfect spots. Try some dolphin-spotting, look for turtles, or find a surf barrel in case you’re already accustomed to the Aussie lifestyle!

Swim with the ocean’s gentle giants

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Sounds scary, right? Well, these lovely, majestic beasts are actually very friendly when you find them in a good mood, and your guide will be able to tell you if it’s a good day for a swim with the whales. So, when you’re in the Sunshine Coast neighborhood, make sure to look for an off-shore tour that will grant you this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bond with humpback whales.

For added reassurance, you’ll be attached to the boat with a rope, and there will be experts there to guide you through the process, but if you’re lucky enough, you might spend a few hours enjoying the fresh ocean air and getting to know one of its most peaceful inhabitants, very up-close.

Meet Maleny

Photo Credits: The Greens Queensland

Yes, the shore and the beaches are all pure perfection with their miniscule, honey-hued sand, and the endless sunshine, but the hinterland hides quite a few wonders as well. One of them goes by the name of Maleny, a town in the mountains that looks and feels as if time has stopped in this little nook.

Hang out in their farmers’ markets, spend a day visiting local producers and their farms, and learn a thing or two about living in this somewhat secluded part of the country. You’ll love the tranquility, the closeness to the farm animals, and the warmth the locals will greet you with. Oh, yes, and the forests with waterfalls that surround the town are simply out of this world.

Soon enough, the world will realize that the Sunshine Coast is a dreamy destination worth every moment spent in this little alcove of peace. So, pack your bags, prep your to-do list, and prepare to be dazzled by this incredible corner of the continent!