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Exploring Noosa National Park

A 10-minute stroll northeast from Hastings Street brings you to the 432-hectare (1,067-acre) Noosa National Park. Anywhere you see a crowd looking upward, you're sure to spot a koala. They're often seen in the unlikely setting of the parking lot at the entrance to the park. A network of well-signposted walking trails leads through the bush. The most scenic is the 2.7km (1 1/2-mile) coastal trail. The shortest trail is the 1km (half-mile) Palm Grove circuit; the longest is the 4.8km (3-mile) Tanglewood trail inland to Hell's Gates -- definitely worth the effort.

Great Sandy National Park

Stretching north of Noosa along the coast is the 56,000-hectare (138,320-acre) Great Sandy National Park (often called Cooloola National Park). It's home to forests, beach, and freshwater lakes, including the state's largest, Lake Cootharaba. A popular activity is to cruise the Everglades formed by the Noosa River and tributary creeks. The Southern Cooloola section of the park starts just north of Noosa Heads and Tewantin, on the northern side of the Noosa River, and extends along the coast to Rainbow Beach. Conventional vehicles can drive to Elanda Point, just north of Boreen Point, or if you have a four-wheel-drive you can access the park from Cooloola Way and Harry's Hut Road. The park's information office, the Kinaba Information Centre (tel. 07/5449 7364; www.derm.qld.gov.au/parks/cooloola-southern; daily 9am-3pm;), is on the western shore of Lake Cootharaba, about 30km (19 miles) from Noosaville. It has a display on the area's geography and a mangrove boardwalk to explore; it's accessible only by boat, which you can rent from the numerous outfits in Noosaville or by walking from Elanda via the Kinaba track (6.6km/4 miles round-trip).There are half-day cruises into the Everglades, and guided kayak tours that explore the park's lower reaches.

Another option is to take a four-wheel-drive along Forty-Mile Beach, a designated highway with traffic laws, for a close-up view of the Teewah colored sand cliffs. This is a great place to get away from the crowds and enjoy nature's wonders. Lifeguards do not patrol the beach, so do not swim alone and take care. Tours are available, or you can rent a four-wheel-drive and explore on your own. To reach the beach, cross the Noosa River on the ferry at Tewantin; then take Maximilian Drive for 4km (2 1/2 miles) to the beach. Stock up on water, food, and gas in Tewantin. The ferry (tel. 07/5447 1321; www.noosacarferries.com) costs A$12 per vehicle round-trip; it operates from 5:30am to 10pm Sunday through Thursday, and 5:30am to midnight Friday and Saturday.

Wildlife Parks & Theme Parks

Small theme parks seem to thrive on the Sunshine Coast. Don't expect thrill rides, but you might find some of them a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

A transparent tunnel with an 80m (262-ft.) moving walkway that takes you through a tank filled with sharks, stingrays, groupers, eels, and coral is the highlight at Underwater World (tel. 07/5458 6280; www.underwaterworld.com.au) at the Wharf, Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba. Kids can pick up starfish and sea cucumbers in the touch pool, and there are displays on whales and sharks, shark breeding, freshwater crocodile talks, an otter enclosure, and a 30-minute seal show. You can swim with the seals (A$90) or dive with the sharks (A$195 for certified divers, including gear, or A$225 for nondivers). Age restrictions apply. It's open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9am to 4:30pm and on April 25 from 1:30pm to 5:30pm (last entry 1 hr. before closing). Admission is A$32 for adults, A$26 for seniors and students, A$22 for children 3 to 14, and A$90 for families of four. Allow 2 hours to see everything, more if you want to attend all the talks.

Fans of crocodile hunter, TV star, and conservationist Steve Irwin will definitely want to visit the wildlife park founded by his family. The amazing Australia Zoo, on Glass House Mountains Tourist Drive, at Beerwah, off the Bruce Highway (tel. 07/5436 2000; www.australiazoo.com.au) has been run by Irwin's wife Terri since his untimely death in 2006. The highlight is the "crocoseum," a 5,000-seat stadium in which the daily croc feedings are held at 3:30pm. Other demonstrations and feedings are held throughout the day, and you can also hand-feed 'roos, pat a koala, check out foxes and camels, and watch (even hold!) venomous snakes and pythons. There are also lots of exotic animals: tigers, elephants, cheetahs, and more. Admission to the zoo is A$58 for adults, A$46 for seniors and students, A$34 for kids 3 to 14, and A$172 to A$189 for families. The park is open daily from 9am to 5pm (closed Christmas Day). Three zoo buses operate each morning from 8am, with pickups at Noosa and other spots around the Sunshine Coast. The fare is A$5. The return buses leave for Noosa in the late afternoon. Bookings are essential. A courtesy bus picks up train passengers at Beerwah railway station. Sunbus (tel. 07/5450 7888, or 13 12 30 in Australia) services run to Australia Zoo from Maroochydore's Sunshine Plaza shopping center, Chancellor Park at Mooloolaba, and Landsborough railway station. Take bus no. 615.

The Big Pineapple

Long an icon of Queensland, The Big Pineapple stands sentinel on the Nambour Connection Road, 6km (3 3/4 miles) south of Nambour, at Woombye. At 16m-tall (52-ft.) you can't miss the heritage-listed monument to this local industry; but for the moment at least, you can't visit it either. Built in 1971, the Big Pineapple has done its dash as a tourist attraction and has been bought by a family of motoring enthusiasts who reportedly plan to use its surrounding buildings to display their car collection. Just when it will reopen, no-one seemed to know at press time for this book. Meanwhile you can admire it from afar.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.