Sitting at the southern end of Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Caloundra covers all the bases for an entertaining beach break. Rich in vintage vacation charm, this favourite summer holiday spot also offers a buzzing cultural scene, and tourists are spoiled for choice with an enticing line-up of family-friendly beaches. Conveniently, most of these golden-sand beauties lie strung along a scenic coastal trail punctuated with enticing picnic spots and hip cafés along the way.
Not surprisingly, water sports are one of the top things to do in Caloundra. From adrenaline-packed jet skiing adventures or a tranquil paddle along the Pumicestone Passage to a cool dip at one of the city’s seven sun-soaked beaches, you’ll find plenty of ways to get wet.
Caloundra is also famous for its rich surf culture. Back in the 50s, Charles (Pa) and Marjory (Ma) Bendall took to their iconic surfboards in Caloundra and encouraged others to take up the sport. These surfing legends are still honored today. Each March, Caloundra hosts the Pa and Ma Bendall Memorial Surfing Competition, the second longest-running surf competition in Australia.
Caloundra is more densely developed than most of the other beach towns in the region. But this comes with some perks. Cultural attractions like art galleries, lively entertainment venues, and even a Street Art Trail feature high on Caloundra’s list of tourist attractions, and the city hosts the popular Caloundra Music Festival at Kings Beach each spring. The nightlife really heats up on the weekends, when young people make a beeline here from Brisbane (an hour away) for a beachy weekend break.
Whether it’s basking on the beach with the family, soaking up Caloundra’s culture, or a romantic stroll on the Coastal Walk, discover the best places to visit in this action-packed beach town with our list of the top things to do in Caloundra.
Splash, Surf, and Swim at Kings Beach
Befitting its name, Kings Beach is one of the best beaches on the Sunshine Coast. Buzzing with tourists and beach-loving families, this busy stretch offers something for everyone. Kids can splash about in the gentle beach break, build a sandcastle on the soft-sand shore, or paddle in the rock pools.
Kings beach is also a great spot to sign up for some surf lessons. It’s one of the best places to seek shelter from the summer nor-easters.
Prefer a pool to swimming along the shore? No problem. You can clock some laps in the oceanfront saltwater pool. And when you work up an appetite, popular Caloundra restaurants and cafés await just steps from the sand. Grab a burger at Kings Beach Bar, pick a shady spot along the shore, and enjoy a fabulous sea view while you refuel.
If you hear the sound of squealing kids here, it’s probably just the little ones cooling off under the spray and fountains in the water park just off the beach. They can also run wild in the grassy parks fringing the shore.
Lifesavers patrol the beach and pool area, keeping this spot safe for young and old alike.
Stroll the Caloundra Coastal Walk
Wondering about the best way to sightsee along the coast? Plan a hike on the Caloundra Coastal Walk, one of the most popular things to do on the Sunshine Coast. Fanned by salty sea breezes, you can stroll along this scenic trail past Caloundra’s top beaches, stopping for a cool dip or a cup of coffee along the way.
The walk stretches for 25 kms from Golden Beach in the south, to Mooloolaba in the north. Highlights include attraction-packed Kings Beach, where you can stop for a swim in the saltwater oceanfront pool or let the kids burn off steam in the water park. Bulcock Beach to Kings beach is a particularly popular stretch, with plenty of photo ops and enticing little cafés along the way.
You can also take a peek back through history. At the Caloundra Headland Memorial Walkway along the way, plaques honour those who lost their lives during World War II. Keep an eye out for the SS Dicky wreck, too. A cyclone washed it ashore in 1893.
Biking is also popular along the paved coastal trail – especially if you don’t mind a thigh-busting workout pedaling up and down the hills.
Enjoy a Picnic at Bulcock Beach
Looking for the perfect picnic spot? Pack your snacks and head to Bulcock Beach.
This popular little pocket of white sand and calm sea skirts the Pumicestone Passage with views out to Bribie Island. You won’t find any waves here, so surfing is out. Instead, one of the popular things to do is float along the shore on the current, and then walk back up the beach and repeat the process. Kids will be safest in the shallows at the end of the beach towards the park.
Alternatively, you can set up on the soft slice of white-sand shore and watch the Jet Skis zip up and down the Pumicestone Passage, protected by Bribie Island. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins here, too.
Bulcock Beach is particularly lively on weekend evenings. At sunset, locals and tourists stroll along the coastal trail here or spread their picnic blankets along the lawns skirting the beach and settle in to watch nature work her magic. Bulcock Beach is also just across the road from buzzing cafés, entertainment venues, and popular Caloundra hotels.
Anglers like to cast a line off the boardwalk when the tides are right.
Insider’s Tip: Forget to bring a picnic? You can pick up fish and chips across the street, or cool down with a fruity gelato treat from Gelato Rumba. Picnic tables are waiting for you along the beach.
Jet Ski along the Pumicestone Passage
In Caloundra, you can sign up for a Jet Ski safari on the tranquil waters of the Pumicestone Passage. This 35-kilometer channel extends from Deception Bay in the South to Caloundra in the north, sheltered by the northern end of Bribie Island.
Caloundra Jet Ski offers self-drive Jet Ski safaris led by experienced guides from Bulcock Beach. Choose your speed – from high-powered and heart-pumping, like the 60-minute Bribie Blast, to a gentle cruise through the mangrove-lined waterways. The 90-minute Glasshouse Twister takes you on an eco-adventure in the marine park past the ancient volcanoes of the Glasshouse Mountains. Along the way, keep an eye out for dolphins, dugongs, turtles, and more than 350 species of birds.
You can also rent a Jet Ski for a self-guided tour and trip to Bribie Island, but you must hold a proper license.
If you prefer to stay on dry land and watch all the fun from shore, Bulcock Beach is a great vantage point.
Official site: https://caloundrajetski.com.au/
Ride the Waves at Moffat Beach
Picturesque Moffat Beach is one of the best spots to catch a wave in Caloundra. Local surfers come here to catch a ride on the right-handers that unfurl along the shore or to glide into shore on the famous Moffats Point break. If you’re an experienced surfer, the barrels of Moffat’s Reef (also known as Gunner’s Reef) provide a thrilling ride.
The second longest running surfing competition in Australia, the Ma and Pa Bendall Memorial surf contest, is held annually over the Easter long weekend here. It was named after this famous husband and wife surfing team who feature prominently in Caloundra’s surf culture.
This pretty little cove feels more secluded than other Caloundra beaches. Moffat headland protects it from the wind, and pandanus trees and Norfolk pines shield the shore. It’s the perfect spot to plonk yourself down on the sand under a shady pandanus and chill for a while.
Swimming is also enjoyable. The shore dips gently to the water, and the area is less developed than other parts of Caloundra, but take care, as lifeguards don’t patrol here. Kids love to paddle in the calmer waters of Tooway Creek, which runs into the beach.
Need a break from the sand? Pine-studded parkland backs the beach with a little playground for children and plenty of picnic pavilions. Kids love to ride their bike along the paths here, and you can also take a scenic headland walk, shaded by fig trees. Walk south from here, and you’ll find yourself in Kings Beach and Bulcock Beach.
If you love to travel with your four-legged friend, you’ll be pleased to know that Moffat Beach is dog-friendly. You can even let your pooch wild off-leash here between 4pm and 8am between Lower Neil Street at Dicky Beach south to Russell Street.
Craving a coffee or a cool refreshment? You’ll find some great little cafés and eateries across from the beach. The Pocket Espresso Bar on Seaview Terrace makes a great brew.
Build a Sandcastle at Dicky Beach
Dicky Beach is great for families. Named after the SS Dicky, which wrecked ashore here during a cyclone in 1893, this broad 800-meter stretch of golden sand is a locals’ favourite. This beach is not as built-up and busy as Kings Beach. Beachhouses back either end of the shore, and great little cafés and shops are only a short stroll from the sand.
Dicky Beach is great for swimming, with typically lower waves than other longer beaches. Beware of rips at either end of the beach, though – the safest spot is usually in front of Dicky Beach Surf Life Saving Club. But as always, swim between the flags.
Surfers will find a low beach break here, and fishing is another popular thing to do at Dicky Beach. Anglers from the nearby caravan park frequently stake a perch on the rocks at the end of the beach, or by the creek.
Do you have toddlers in tow? Little ones love to paddle and play in Bunbubah Creek, which bisects the beach. Tip: It’s also the perfect spot to build sandcastles without worrying about waves washing them away. Older kids can hang out at the skate park.
Wondering whether to bring your pooch? Dogs are allowed off-leash on certain areas of the beach, and pet-owners will find a handy dog wash and dog bowl here, too.
Potter in the Rock Pools at Shelly Beach
Tucked-away Shelly Beach teems with life – tiny marine life, that is, lurking in the expansive rock pools flanking both sides of the beach. If you have a keen marine biologist in your life, this is the perfect place to visit. Barnacles, blue periwinkles, black sea cucumbers, and crabs glimmer in the ankle-deep pools here, and you might even spot an octopus. Low tide is the best time for tide pooling.
Fringed by a row of Norfolk pines, this is one of the hidden gems in Caloundra. It’s cute, compact, and rarely crowded. You can bring a picnic to enjoy at the pavilions in the park backing the beach, let the kids clamber all over the rocks, or take a stroll with your furry friend – dogs are welcome off leash between 4pm and 8am from May through October.
Shelly Beach is unpatrolled and not the best spot for swimming. Instead, this is a peaceful little place to soak up some sea air and enjoy all the activities along the shore.
Walk through History at the Queensland Air Museum
Aviation buffs will love Queensland Air Museum, Australia’s largest aviation museum. Started in 1973 with just one exhibit, a Canberra Bomber, this fascinating museum is set on two hectares just across from Caloundra airport. It now displays more than 75 different aircraft, as well as all kinds of other related exhibits.
Particularly interesting are the stories of Australian servicemen and women and the displays of uniforms and weapons.
Most of the aircraft occupy two large hangars, with some suspended from the ceiling. Highlights include the General Dynamics F111, DC3, and an AP-3C Orion. Wander outdoors to see some relics from Australia’s early aviation days, including a Fokker Friendship F27 and a Caribou.
Detailed interpretative signs make it easy to do a self-guided tour here, but you can also join a guided tour with one of the friendly volunteers. Historic Aviation Tours are also available for groups of 12 or more.
Want to build your own model aircraft? The gift shop sells model kits as well as other souvenirs – the perfect gift for the budding aviator in your life.
Address: Address:7 Pathfinder Drive, Caloundra, Queensland
Official site: https://qam.com.au
Paddle at Paradise Beach
Paradise Beach is a favourite with families. Also known as Golden Beach Esplanade, this calm stretch of the Pumicestone Passage offers paddle-friendly shallows that are perfect for young children.
Like Bulcock Beach, the shore overlooks Bribie Island, but the current is gentler here, and you’ll find more shade to slink under on those sultry summer days.
It’s also a lovely place to visit for a picnic. Barbecue facilities make grilling easy, and cafés are right nearby for takeout options.
If you want to get some exercise, take a stroll on the Caloundra Coastal Trail. From here, you can walk all the way to Mooloolaba.
Soak up Some History at Caloundra RSL Military Display
For a poignant journey through the past, stop by Caloundra RSL Military Display. This wonderful little museum, displays memorabilia and artifacts from WWI through to recent conflicts.
Take time to read the poignant stories of the soldiers, and the impact of these brutal wars on their formerly peaceful lives. Helpful volunteers are on hand to guide you around.
While you’re here, stroll through the RSL Memorial Gardens, which honour community members who were involved in Australia’s armed conflicts. A cenotaph commemorates those who have fallen, and a path winds among the monuments to a pine tree, descended from the trees at Lone Pine, Gallipoli.
The museum is only open limited hours, from 10am to 2pm Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, and Monday through Friday during school holidays. But check the latest schedule before you visit.
Address: 19 West Terrace, Caloundra, Queensland
Shop for Treasures at the Caloundra Street Fair
Looking for the perfect one-of-kind gift for that special someone? Chances are you’ll find it at the Caloundra Street Fair. Held every Sunday morning from 8am to 1pm along Bulcock Beach Boulevard, these popular Caloundra markets brim with more than 120 stalls selling artisan foods, arts, crafts, and other goodies. Dreamcatchers, fresh tropical fruits, jewellry, clothing, original artwork, ceramics, home decor – you’ll find all these and more.
If you can’t make the Sunday markets, you can head to the Twilight Markets Caloundra. Also held on Bulcock Beach Esplanade, these markets are held on the last Friday of each month (excluding July/August) from 5pm-9pm. Come hungry. You’ll find plenty of tasty treats to try. Street performers and musicians add to the lively scene.https://de76214a2911030e65f8ae5165fb67e9.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Admire the Artwork at Caloundra Regional Art Gallery
You’ll always find something new to see at the Caloundra Regional Art Gallery. Constantly rotating exhibits showcase local and national artists, and the focus here is on the “unique character and culture of the Sunshine Coast.”
Every year, the Sunshine Coast Art Prize honours contemporary 2D artworks, with entries from both emerging and experienced artists from around the country. Gallery visitors can vote for their favourite creation in the People’s Choice award.
Kids can keep busy with the Art in a Bag activity packs, which change with each new exhibition, and workshops during school holidays nurture art appreciation in kids.
You’ll find this small gallery right in the center of Caloundra. Best of all, entry is free.
Address: 22 Omrah Ave, Caloundra, Queensland
Official site: https://gallery.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.aul
Follow the Caloundra Street Art Trail
A sun-splashed beach town might be the last place you’d expect to see graffiti art, but Caloundra catches tourists by surprise. First created for the 2016 Horizon Festival of Arts & Culture, the Caloundra Street Art Trail, also called the Laneway Mural Trail, is now one of the city’s tourist attractions.
Much of the street art still remains, and you can stumble across some of these striking specimens hidden down back streets and laneways downtown.
Possibly the most Instagram-worthy mural is the Dingle Ave mural. Colourful and creative, it captures iconic landmarks in Caloundra. See if you can pick the top spots.
Other highlights include a couple of retro artworks, which spotlight Caloundra’s rich surfing and beach culture, as well as The Tiger, a four-meter-high black and white beauty on Williamson Lane.
The trail ends at the Caloundra Regional gallery.