Tracey Spicer finds everything old on the Sunshine Coast is new again.
Driving through the Sunshine Coast is like watching a childhood slideshow come to life. “Ooh, there’s the Big Pineapple!” my sister Suzanne and I squeal in unison to our kids, remembering how huge it appeared through our eyes in 1974.
Forty years later everything old is new again; the sepia scratched away. Exemplifying this is a new concept restaurant in Caloundra.
Table Manners is the brainchild of Kylie Bolton, who wanted to combine seasonal Mod Oz with an old-fashioned ideal: electronic devices are banned, and cutlery is compulsory.
“Kids are constantly given devices to keep them occupied, and many aren’t aware of basic dining etiquette,” she explains.
“It’s a passion of mine that children are taught how to behave in restaurants.”
While Caloundra and all the other beaches here are beautiful, I prefer the hinterland taking in the three Ms – Mapleton, Montville and Maleny. The winding drive up the escarpment traverses sub-tropical rainforest and undulating dairy farms.
At the top, you find art galleries, alternative cafes and quaint tearooms. The kids wander into the famous Fudgyboombahs, which makes flavoured fudge including pina colada and honeycomb varieties. Speaking of honey, the Ginger Factory in Yandina now has an apiary.
The head beekeeper, Gayle, says there’s been a 30 per cent decline in these pollinating powerhouses worldwide.
While seven-year-old Grace is mildly disgusted at the thought of female bees vomiting nectar into each other’s mouths to create honey, she’s the first to put her hand up to taste the sweet sticky stuff. Inside the factory, there’s a Gingerbread Man-themed boat ride, in the style of Disneyland’s It’s a Small World. And you can still ride the 113-year-old Moreton steam train, which runs around the perimeter.
Such rich Australian history is replicated at the Ettamogah Pub, a cartoon come to life, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary. More than $3 million has been spent on the hotel and adjoining theme park over the past three years.
After devouring the 400-gram rib fillet, we marvel at the memorabilia, including originals of the Ken Maynard cartoon.
Aussie World still retains the charm of a country fair, along with new additions such as the Leak’n Logs water play area and The Plunge flume ride.
Also recently renovated is Mooloolaba’s UnderWater World Sea Life, featuring the new Jelly Fish Kingdom, housing hundreds of the fluorescent creatures.
But the highlight is Showtime at Seal Island, a Benny Hill meets The Three Stooges comedy act.
“Look Mum, Groucho just pulled off that girl’s skirt in the water!” Grace cackles hysterically.
It’s worth paying extra for the Seal Encounter, where the kids can shake hands with the aforementioned animals. While it’s all fun and games, there’s an important message: help save the Australian sea lion, which is on the endangered list.
The otters are also amusing, managing to escape from their enclosure three times, outsmarting their keepers.
Kids and animals prove to be a winning combination at nearby Australia Zoo.
Head straight for the African Savannah for the giraffes, rhinos and zebras, and if you’re lucky you may also spot a cheetah in the orchids nearby. There’s also Bindi’s Bootcamp, where the kids can climb the rock wall and tigers in the South East Asia section.
On the way out, take a look at the state-of-the-art hospital where bandaged baby koalas cling on to tiny teddies as they’re treated for their wounds.
After spending the day looking at animals, we worked up an appetite and took it to the Loose Goose, which serves European-influenced cuisine such as Pork Belly Rillette with Red Wine Jelly.
Just down the road is the family-friendly Novotel Twin Waters, built around a large lagoon with a trampoline in the middle.
After saying to the kids, “Don’t worry, I grew up on the water. I know what I’m doing,” I promptly crash a Hobie Cat into the day spa, disrupting the downtime of the ladies inside.
If you’re after adventure, Cirque Espace teaches trapeze in the grounds of the hotel.
The trainers are patient with my seven-year-old niece, who refuses to grab the trapeze, until she’s told, “Honey, that’s the only way down!”
The large, interconnecting, self-contained rooms are perfect for extended families, as my sister and I discover when we pile the kids next door to enjoy some adult time.
Here, we reminisce about our childhood holidays on the Sunshine Coast, and the joy of bringing our kids back to do the same thing.
The four-star Novotel Twin Waters Resort, near the airport, is perfect for large families, with interconnecting rooms. You can get great deals, such as $134 a night for a room which sleeps two adults and two children, or $224 a night for a one-bedroom self-contained spa suite. See novoteltwinwatersresort.com.au.
THREE MORE SUNSHINE COAST BEACHES FOR FAMILIES
Kings Beach at Caloundra is a top choice for families with young children, because of the small swell, saltwater swimming pool, and fun fountain park.
Coolum’s main beach is the best bet for older children and teenagers, especially those who like to surf or boogie board.
Mooloolaba Beach is one of the safest in Queensland, with three patrolled beaches within a kilometre. It faces north, protected from the prevailing southerly and southeasterly winds, ensuring near-perfect conditions year round.