How to travel the Sunshine Coast on a budget

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In this humble writer’s opinion, the Sunshine Coast is one of the most picturesque areas in this country. It’s not as flashy as the Gold Coast, but the beaches are better, it’s usually a few degrees warmer – because it’s more north (science) – and it’s (slightly) less touristy. It’s one of my favourite parts of the world. But alas, it tends to be a bit more expensive than your average trip. However, if you search for flights and hotel deals on Cheapflights.com.au, you can save some serious dollar, plus there are always ways to save while you are there. Here’s how to do it on a budget.

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photo credit: @ct_dyrstad
photo credit: @ct_dyrstad

Getting there

Depending on your game plan, your best bet is to fly into Brisbane. Search for flights using Cheapflights.com.au, where you can compare thousands of airlines and travel providers in one place so you get the best deal possible. Then catch a coach or a train up to the Sunshine Coast. It’s only about 100km from Brisbane and it’s a pretty scenic route. It’ll cost you less than $20 to get there and the journey is only a couple of hours. This tends to be much more cost effective than flying directly into the Sunshine Coast airport. That being said, most of the major airlines do fly directly there. Again, use Cheapflights.com.au to check those flights.

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Top Tip: No prizes for guessing that it’s going to cost you more in summer than in winter, but obviously the beach in winter isn’t a lot of fun. Try the outskirts of the school holidays for that perfect storm of great weather and cheaper prices.

photo credit: Felix Dance via Flickr
photo credit: Felix Dance via Flickr

Accommodation

Noosa is probably the most famous destination, but there’s also Mooloolaba, Caloundra, Coolum, etc. While this article’s word count doesn’t extend to giving you accommodation options for all of them, take it as a general rule that hostels are the way to go. Chances are, you’re heading to the Sunshine Coast for the warm weather and, likely, the beach. A lot of the hostels are smack bang on the beach, or within walking distance. They are by far the cheapest option.

Cheap option: Cheapflights.com.au lets you compare thousands of hotel rooms in seconds and you can save up to 80% on your stay.
Cheaper option: Flashpackers in Noosa is one of the best hostels on the Sunshine Coast.
Cheapest option: Find the tide line on the beach, dig a hole away from that, hope for the best. (Joking… obviously…)

photo credit: flashpackersnoosa.com
photo credit: flashpackersnoosa.com

Food

I don’t need to mention just how expensive the food in Australia is. But just like anywhere in Australia, there are ways to hack the system. Fight the power! Vive la résistance!! First and foremost – don’t eat out. It’ll rinse you faster than a busted fire hydrant. Your best ally will be the local IGAs, Coles or Woolies. If you do stay in a hostel, they usually have cooking facilities so, congratulations Gordon Ramsey – you’ve been promoted to head chef.

Top Tip: Mi Goreng noodles are an invaluable dinner choice. Even if they provide little to no nutrition; they’ll sustain you long enough to barter for a banana. Also, raid hostel cupboards for any leftover food travellers bought but never ate.

photo credit: @flicca92
photo credit: @flicca92

Drink

This is another kettle of fish altogether but the same principle applies – it’s going to cost you more to drink in bars. Again, liquor stores are your friends here, and the more you buy, the cheaper it is – think cases of beer rather than six packs. Wine, thanks to loopholes in the way our government sees varying types of alcohol, is cheaper than beer or spirits. You can pick up bottles (or boxes) of vino fairly cheap. If crying in your room clasping a bottle of cheap red isn’t your thing, check out the local RSL Clubs. They’re dotted all along the Sunshine Coast, and out of state visitors can get in for a couple of bucks. You’ll have to avoid the lure of the colourful pokie machines, but if you do, the beers are much cheaper and they tend to have some of the worst musical acts this side of Eurovision.

Top tip: RSL Clubs often throw raffles where you can win cases of beer or trays of meat. Mid-week raffles tend to be less crowded and you can nearly always win a meat tray, which will basically feed you for your entire trip.

photo credit: @jessicabaker__
photo credit: @jessicabaker__

What to do

Presumably, if you’re heading to the Sunshine Coast, you are aware they have beaches. I hope that’s not a spoiler. They’re obviously going to be top of the list of things to do on a budget because, hey, they’re free and amazing. There’s a lot more than just surfing or building sand castles on the beach. People flock to the beach for all sorts of reasons – volleyball, beach cricket, picnics, tanning, throwing balls around, etc. Most of these activities are free and people tend to be only too happy to have extra people join in.

photo credit: @jeremybrownnn
photo credit: @jeremybrownnn

That being said, there’s more to the Sunshine Coast than just…well, the coast. I’m a real sucker when it comes to a good walk and there are some truly magnificent walks dotted all along this part of the world that give you primo views with a big fat zero price tag. You’ll be spoilt for choice – the place has more National Parks than I’ve had chicken dinners.

photo credit: @jennersm
photo credit: @jennersm

If nature’s not your thing, never fear, there’re lots of other stellar itineraries to hitch your waggon too. There’s a lot of local art galleries and markets with people selling wares, especially on weekends. My guess is, this is because a lot of people retire, move to the coast, realise they’ve got a lot of hours to fill so the pick up a paintbrush. There are also great discounts to places like Australia Zoo and the Big Pineapple if you plan ahead. Booking early and ideally mid-week can also save you big dolleridoos, as can being a student.

Top tip: The other huge advantage of staying at hostels is they tend to put on really cheap events and do all the organising for you (think: bar crawls, day trips, etc.)

See ya later, alligator!

Like most places in Australia, the Sunshine Coast is never going to be the cheapest of holidays. But it’s totally possible to do it on a budget if you start booking your flights, hotels and even car hire with Cheapflights.com.au.

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How to travel the Sunshine Coast on a budget was last modified: June 27th, 2019 by Martin Fleming
Author: Martin Fleming (32 posts)

I’m an Australian writer who left his country after the cost of beer hit double figures. I’ve spent the last six months travelling the world and was most recently tricked into hiking the Inca Trail in Reeboks. I blame Tinder glitches for my loneliness. I like sharks.