Eating out on the Sunshine Coast has never been better, writes Jesse Mulligan
Most Sunshine Coast accommodation has kitchen facilities – and you'll probably find that a visit to a foreign supermarket, some in-season local produce and a barbecue next to the pool is a good, fun way to feed the family.
But if you fancy taking a holiday from your cooking duties, there are some brilliant places to eat out. Most are incredibly well set up for kids too, with dedicated menus, highchairs, activity sets and, most important of all, a genuinely welcoming attitude all ages.
Here are eight great places to catch a kai.
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We had such a brilliant night here, a couple of hours after arriving in the region. We were tired, we were hungry and, despite hosting a wedding party at the time, the staff made us feel like we were the most important people in the room.
It's a really strong, sharing-style menu with something for everyone and it's also a great introduction to the Sunshine Coast style: plenty of outdoor tables, a view of the ocean and strong cocktails for mum and dad.
A Thai restaurant of world-class standard, Spirit House will be the highlight of your trip. They were great with kids but if you were to have a date night, this would be the place to go – it's incredibly romantic, set in a lush forest environment with calming water features and the odd small dragon clambering about next to you while you eat.
If all that sounds a bit rustic, the food is anything but, with a fine-dining approach to the Thai flavour spectrum and formal wait staff who know the menu and the wine list inside out. Spirit House also runs an onsite cooking school so if you're super organised, book in for a class and learn something you can bring home with you.
A fantastic brunch spot in an under-rated part of the Sunshine Coast. Just near to the airport (don't worry, you'll hardly ever hear a plane) it's also across the road from a strip of beach that almost feels undiscovered. Grab a takeaway coffee and walk the white sands or sit in for pancakes (you may want to tell them to ease off on the maple syrup).
There are toys for the younger children, plenty of seats in the sun and a cracking vege breakfast if you're feeling hungry but still a little bit worthy.
Lines start forming within moments of this place opening – locals know that if you want any chance of beating the queues you have to come off peak. But it's busy for a reason – this is a brilliant Asian fusion menu where everything is great and certain dishes are spectacular.
It takes a little while to get used to ordering from the counter but once you're in the swing of it the system works well. The 10-hour coconut braised beef is a must, as are the bao buns (choose from duck, pork or chicken).
Part of an everything-in-one-place development called The Wharf, this is a lovely place to meet up for a beer after a busy day shopping and surfing in Mooloolaba. It's also right next to Sea Life, the underwater world experience that has made the town famous.
The menu is huge, with a list of wood-fired steaks and a slow smoker section featuring brisket that will be hard to go past. There's also loads for the children to choose from, and so many tables that there is always room for one more family (it's also a great place to repair for drinks if the line at Rice Boi is too much for you to deal with).
This is a real local secret – a fully operating restaurant right on the river's edge, which also offers, crucially, a little takeaway outlet on the side where you can order from a small but delicious "fish and chips" menu then take your feed and eat it wherever you like. We chose a picnic table, with a drink from the restaurant bar, and it felt like all the best parts of the Sunshine Coast wrapped up into one moment.
Another locals-only spot, this nondescript eatery on a major arterial nonetheless serves up some of the best ramen soup in Queensland. It's a pleasant, light environment with friendly staff and the soup is fantastic – a great example of Sunshine Coast's immigrant community bringing their beautiful culture to a wider audience.
It's worth the drive to this family-friendly spot, which has a short, strong menu and on Sundays does paella with live music (recommended). The berries grow all year round and what isn't sold fresh is made into icecream or juiced, fermented and turned into a refreshing berry cider – available to purchase with your meal.
Air New Zealand flies a seasonal direct service from Auckland to the Sunshine Coast. airnz.co.nz