Mooloolaba Cruise Port

Port of Mooloolaba: An Overview

Queensland is said to be 'beautiful one day, perfect the next.' In keeping with this theme, the 'Sunshine State' prides itself on more than 2,000 kilometres of fabulous beaches and coastal hotspots. One of these highlights is Mooloolaba, located along the Sunshine Coast, about an hour's drive north of Brisbane.

Mooloolaba is a 'frolic in the surf and sun' escape for Brisbane-ites, and its population swells considerably each weekend and on school holidays. However, it's not a quiet hideaway by the ocean. While very much maintaining its own identity, Mooloolaba is, along with the neighbouring Alexandra Headland, a suburb of Maroochydore. The three seaside areas sit next to each other -- the centre of Maroochydore being the third area -- and it's hard to tell where one ends and the next starts. The combined population of all three numbers in excess of 60,000, and this brings with it a co-existing blend of tourism and urban living.

Mooloolaba is very much the tourist hub of the three and The Esplanade, with an abundance of restaurants, cafes and shops overlooking one end of Mooloolaba Beach, is the focal point. Mooloolaba's prime location makes it an excellent launching pad to all sorts of attractions, such as the world-class Australia Zoo, the Glass House Mountains and the Sunshine Coast hinterland and its quaint towns.

For cruise travelers, Mooloolaba has only been a port of call since August 2014. However, its long history as a tourist destination means there is a calm confidence in its treatment of visitors. It might be a small town by the ocean, but for a holiday it is top notch on many levels.

Hanging Around

The Wharf is approximately an eighth of a mile walk to the start of The Esplanade and its multitude of shops and eateries. However, The Wharf itself contains quite a few places to shop (not all touristy) and dine. There is an ANZ ATM next to the open-air food court in the middle of The Wharf and the Hire Hut, where you can purchase tickets to attractions such as Australia Zoo. In many instances transport is not included. If a quick bite to eat before or after the day's activities is in order, or a last-minute memento needs to be bought, The Wharf fits the bill. It's a good start/end point for cruisers, but there is no information desk or Internet cafes.

Don't Miss

Underwater World Sea Life Aquarium: Visitors to Underwater World Sea Life Aquarium, located in The Wharf, can, among other things, snorkel with sharks (no diving experience required), dive with sharks (SCUBA training is provided) or walk through the 262-foot underwater glass viewing tunnel under the 660,000-gallon main pool and see marine life swimming all around. A shark re-entry stamp is handed out upon entry and allows unlimited entries throughout the day. The Aquarium is totally under cover, so rain isn't a worry. (The Wharf; 61 7 5458 6280; open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Christmas Day and limited opening times on Anzac Day).

The Esplanade: Urbane restaurants, bars and cafes line The Esplanade. In between the eateries are many shops and boutiques, selling everything from fridge magnets to high-end fashion. Awnings and overhangs offer shelter from the summer sun and the cooling sea breeze is a constant year-round. The Esplanade is ideally located overlooking the ever-busy Mooloolaba Beach, so pack your bathing suit. Those taking a casual dip leave the beach and join the passing parade on The Esplanade, where linen suits and string bikinis unintentionally go hand in hand.

Australia Zoo: For those wanting to experience Australia's cuddly, furry native animals up close, head to Australia Zoo, home of Steve 'Crocodile Hunter' Irwin before his untimely death in 2006. It is now run by his wife Terri Irwin. This is a great place to feed kangaroos and have your photo taken with a koala. For a fee, have an 'animal encounter' with wombats, dingoes and koalas, as well as other wildlife from around the world, including cheetahs, giant Galapagos land tortoises and Komodo dragons. Watch the Australia Zoo Wildlife Warriors in action -- interacting with animals and feeding crocodiles -- during the big show in the 5,000-seat Crocoseum, and see a vast array of animals throughout Australia Zoo's 99-acre site. (Steve Irwin Way at Beerwah; 61 7 5436 2000; daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., except Christmas Day)

Sunshine Coast Hinterland: The Sunshine Coast hinterland and its towns, including Maleny, Montville, Flaxton and Mapleton (they form a line, in that order, across the top of the range), offer the chance to see some beautiful scenery. There are cruise ship 'hinterland' shore excursions available, but this could also be a good option in a rental car. The views from the hinterland are spectacular, overlooking the coastline to the east and the Glass House Mountains to the south. Many Brisbane-ites escape to this area as a weekend retreat and, like Mooloolaba, the towns are a blend of 'local' and 'tourist'. While tourist shops sell the usual fare (postcards, tea towels and the like), many artisans have taken up residence in the hinterland and there is a large arts and crafts presence. Allow 45 minutes' drive time from Mooloolaba to either Mapleton or Maleny and further time to drive between the two and stop off along the way. Sunshine Coast Car Rentals (61 7 5370 7400) is located in an office inside Zanzibar on The Esplanade just after Brisbane Road (heading away from The Wharf). (Open seven days, with limited hours on Sunday)

Aussie World: Despite the name, there is nothing uniquely Australian about Aussie World, other than having fun. There are over 30 rides and attractions, with names like Ballroom Blitz, Booma Zooma and Mozzi Musta for the 'big kids,' and Giggle Go Round, Bizzy Buggies and Tin Lids Tea Party for the younger members of the family (admission price includes unlimited access to all rides). Head to the Aussie World Cafe for a foot-long hot dog (healthier/gluten-free options are available), and choose from the range of souvenirs in the gift shop. (Bruce Highway; 61 7 5494 5444; open daily, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., rides start at 10 a.m.; closed Christmas Day and open Anzac Day, 1:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.)

Ginger Factory: Visiting the Ginger Factory is more than just a tour of a factory, and there are several attractions within the site (some of which you have to pay a fee). A little of what is on offer includes seeing how ginger is grown, harvested and turned into products (fee); watching honeybees in action as the Ginger Factory's beekeepers explain how a hive works (fee); and a slow ride on an historic cane train through the Factory's gardens. Ginger Town has an assortment of outlets and the Ginger shop sells a wide range of ginger products. (50 Pioneer Road, Yandina; 61 7 5447 8431; admission is free and a fee applies for tours and rides; open daily, 9 a.m. to 5.p.m., except Christmas Day)

Eumundi Markets: The Eumundi Markets are billed as Australia's premier artisan market and are well worth a visit. Located in the town of Eumundi, about 30 kilometres north of Mooloolaba, the markets follow the ethos of 'we make it, bake it, grow it, sew it.' True to their word, they sell furniture, handmade toys, original artworks, housewares, sculptures, as well as skincare, fashion and jewelry -- all by local designers. Wander through the stalls and savor some of the vast array of fresh food for sale: paella, calamari, Thai, laksa, cakes, chocolate, quality coffee, 'old fashioned' lemonade, locally made cheeses and yogurts, fresh fruit and vegetables and freshly baked breads. (Memorial Drive, Eumundi; open Wednesday, 8 a.m. to 1pm, and Saturday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.)

Alexandra Headland: Fancy something more 'local'? It's a 1.5-mile walk or short cab ride over the headland to Alexandra Headland, commonly know as 'Alex,' from The Wharf. Between the two are The Esplanade and the spectacular view from the top of the headland, so allow 45 minutes or more for the inevitable stoppages. Alex has its share of restaurants and a watering hole or two, but is far less touristy. Alex shares a long beach with Maroochydore, so wear your bathing suit as excuse to cool off in the surf.

Cotton Tree: A second 'local' option is Cotton Tree, located further along at Maroochydore. It's a 3-mile walk or a brief taxi ride. Cotton Tree lies at the entrance to the Maroochy River, so enjoy a stroll along the waterfront, swim at a sheltered beach or grab a bite at eateries varying from the extremely casual to more upmarket. There's even a boutique or two ... and the Cuban Cigar Company!

XL Surfing Academy: Always wanted to hang ten? Take a surfing lesson with XL Surfing Academy (accredited by Surfing Australia). Learn on buoyant, stable and easy to ride soft boards, ranging in size from 6 to 9 feet long. Go it alone or as part of a group (up to 20, which are divided into four groups of five with a coach). The location varies, pending conditions: either Alexandra Headlands Skate Park (Alexandra Parade, just past Alexandra Headlands Surf Club heading away from Mooloolaba) or behind Surf Club Mooloolaba, across from The Wharf. Lessons happen between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. and last an hour. All equipment is provided. (61 4 2303 9505)

Getting Around

Mooloolaba is very much a walking destination and everything it has to offer is within a 20-minute stroll of The Wharf. Walking to Alexandra Headland is approximately 2.5 kilometres from The Wharf and does involve walking up and down a sloping footpath. Should you wish to venture further, there is a taxi stand at The Wharf. Rental cars are available and the closest is Sunshine Coast Car Rentals (61 7 5370 7400) located in an office inside Zanzibar on The Esplanade just after Brisbane Road (heading away from The Wharf). They are open seven days but with limited hours on Sunday. Other major car rental companies such as Avis (61 7 5453 1999), Hertz (61 7 5443 3108) and Budget (61 7 5443 6555) are all located at Maroochydore, which involves either a 3-mile walk or a taxi ride.

Beaches

Mooloolaba Beach: This beach is visible from where cruise ships moor and a few minutes' walk from the tender disembarkation point at The Wharf. Mooloolaba Beach predominantly faces north, so it is better for swimming than surfing. The waves at can be 'dumpers' (rises sharply close to shore and plunges down), which can mean a bumpy ride for body-surfers. Don't be put off by this, and enjoy being invigorated in the water on a hot day. As always, swim between the flags. One end of the 1.25-mile-long, crescent moon-shaped beach starts at The Esplanade and is quite busy, whereas the other end is always a bit quieter. The Mooloolaba Surf Lifesaving Club overlooks the beach at The Esplanade end of the beach.

Alexandra Headland and Maroochydore: A 2-mile stretch of sand combines the Alexandra Headland and Maroochydore beaches, with respective Surf Lifesaving clubs at either end. This stretch of sand faces east and is very much a surfer's beach. The best surfing spot is the break off Alexandra Headland, which works in a moderate to high swell and can provide some good right-handers. There are also beach breaks all the way up to the river mouth. The good waves mean it's also a bonus for swimmers and body-surfers. The beach is accessible along its length by pathways leading through the low-lying sand dunes and trees that separate the beach from the road and shops.

Lunching

Fresh produce is a hallmark of the Sunshine Coast and hinterland and the trawler fleet that sails from Mooloolaba means fresh seafood is plentiful.

Fish on Parkyn: This is one of the Sunshine Coast's leading seafood restaurants. Getting there is either a stroll along Mooloolaba Beach towards the far end of the beach from The Esplanade, or turn right out of The Wharf and follow Parkyn Parade, which runs past The Wharf, almost to the end. The restaurant backs onto the dock, where the trawlers come in and the menu includes reef fish, swordfish, Mooloolaba ocean king prawns, Moreton Bay bugs, sand/mud/spanner crabs, tuna, scallops and more. Even fresh barramundi is flown in from north Queensland, as is salmon from Tasmania. For non-fish lovers, the menu offers alternatives such as confit duck and prime kilcoy grain fed eye fillet (beef tenderloin). (25 Parkyn Parade; 61 7 5444 4711; open Monday to Sunday, for lunch from 12 p.m. and dinner 6 p.m. to late)

Fisheries on the Spit: Continuing the seafood theme but on a more casual basis, Fisheries on the Spit is next door to Fish on Parkyn. Many people wander up from the beach, so think thongs, shorts and T-shirts. It's been voted best fish and chips shop in Queensland and this probably explains why it's been there since 1982. Fish on the menu includes Atlantic salmon, mahi mahi, swordfish, barramundi, orange roughie and red throat emperor, as well as the usuals -- cod, hake and snapper. They've got a liquor license, too, so enjoy a cold one on a hot day. Early risers can enjoy a breakfast of the more traditional variety: bacon, eggs, sausages, pancakes, French toast, etc. (21 Parkyn Parade; 61 7 5444 1165; open daily, 6 a.m. to about 7 p.m., except Christmas Day)

Augello's Ristorante and Pizzeria: The pedigree of Augello's Ristorante and Pizzeria is world class. Twice it's been voted 'Best Pizza on the Globe' and three times 'Best Pizza in Australia.' Augello's is more for the non-seafood lovers, although seafood is included in several dishes. The menu is Italian and revolves around pizzas, pasta, risotto and insalada (salad). Steak -- eye fillet (beef tenderloin) -- appears once on the menu (it is Australia, after all!). Augello's is located upstairs in the heart of The Esplanade and looks out over Mooloolaba Beach and the ocean. It's prime real estate. Augello's is very popular, so it's best to book, even for lunch. (The Esplanade at Brisbane Road; 61 7 5478 3199; open daily, noon to late)

Surf Club Mooloolaba and The Boathouse Restaurant: The Surf Club Mooloolaba offers casual dining at the bar, which has an all-day snack menu (11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.), or The Boathouse Restaurant for a sit-down meal. The one thing both share is possibly the best dining view in town, overlooking Mooloolaba Beach. The affordable snack menu includes Asian chicken salad, steak sandwich on Turkish bread and pumpkin and lentil patty. Even the lunch (12 p.m. to 2 p.m.) and dinner (5:30 p.m. to late) meals in The Boathouse Restaurant, such as marinated shrimp in pastry, seafood linguine and a selection of steaks, are not very expensive. Only two of the steaks, and one of the oysters, are a bit spendy. (at the start of The Esplanade, opposite The Wharf; 61 7 5444 1300; open Sunday to Thursday, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., open Friday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to midnight)

Ground Organics: Ground Organics is all about 'expanding the awareness of humanity' and only use food that is whole, organic, fresh, unprocessed and local. Their lunch menu (11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) has six items on it, but there are extras you can add. Their breakfast menu (7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.) also adds some possibilities. They also serve juices, smoothies, tea/coffee and sweets. Everything on the menu is quite affordable. (7/11 The Eplanade, the end near The Wharf and The Surf Club Mooloolaba; 61 7 5477 6560; open daily, 6 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

Where You're Docked

Cruise ships moor between half a mile and one mile off Mooloolaba and tender ashore. Mooloolaba Beach is a surf beach, so tenders enter a channel -- the entrance to the Mooloolah River and a canal system behind Mooloolaba -- and passengers disembark at The Wharf.

Watch Out For

The sub-tropical climate means the sun can have a bite, even if it's cloudy and the sea breeze feels so lovely and cool. In the warmer months, it's best to wear a hat (preferably wide-brimmed) and sunscreen (at least SPF30+). To be extra careful, wear a long sleeve, light (cotton) shirt.

The 'loo with a view' is a public amenity overlooking the beach on The Esplanade near Brisbane Road. Despite the name, you don't go to the toilet to look at the view. The view occurs after you've 'been' and walk out onto the large deck area, which overhangs the sand. It's one of the best-known landmarks in Mooloolaba because so many people use it as a meeting point.

Currency & Best Way to Get Money

Currency is the Australian dollar. Visit www.xe.com for current exchange rates. There is an ATM (ANZ bank) where cruise ships dock at a complex known as The Wharf. There are also many other ATMs located along The Esplanade: CBA, NAB and Westpac are all together opposite the Sunshine Coast Car Rentals office in the arcade at Zanzibar, just after Brisbane Street. A Bank of Queensland ATM is situated on The Esplanade heading away from Zanzibar.

Language

English is the main language spoken. In a tourist hub such as Mooloolaba, you can expect the Aussie locals will say "g'day" and "no worries," although you'll hear "good afternoon, ma'am/sir" in some of the more upmarket retail outlets.

Best Souvenir

The Sunshine Coast and beach living go hand in hand so ‘beachy' fashions are a big part of life there. Numerous boutiques line The Esplanade (at Second Avenue), and several can be found at The Wharf (Parkyn Parade; 61 7 5444 8088). Situated between these two locations is up and coming designer Natashya Manfield (Shop 2, 1 River Esplanade; 61 7 5444 0614). For blokes, Mooloolaba also has plenty of places to buy T-shirts or a pair of boardies.

Best Cocktail

An icy cold beer is the drink of choice in this sunny part of Australia. The Sunshine Coast Brewery is a family-owned business that offers a range of 10 beers, including ales, bitters, 'smoked' beer and even a hot chili beer, which can be bought in various establishments around Mooloolaba. Among them are Taps (The Esplanade and Brisbane Road; 61 7 5477 7222; open daily, midday to late), the Mooloolaba Yacht Club (33-45 Parkyn Parade; 61 7 5370 1700; open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.), Lemon & Thyme (2/7 Venning Street; 61 7 5452 6939; open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner), Augello's (The Esplanade and Brisbane Road; 61 7 5478 3199; open daily, noon to late) and Fish on Parkyn (25 Parkyn Parade; 61 7 5444 4711; open daily, except Christmas Day and Boxing Day, for lunch from 12 p.m. and dinner from 6 p.m. to late).

For More Information

On the Web: Mooloolaba Department of Tourism

Cruise Critic Message Boards: Australia and New Zealand

Independent Traveler: Australia Travel Guide

--By Giulio Saggin, Cruise Critic contributor

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