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Lycra Not Necessary: Explore the Sunshine Coast with VELOTHON

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How to maximize your stay in Australia's prime cycling and vacation country.

by David Landers

Whether you are riding the one-day or three-day options at the VELOTHON Sunshine Coast, there are plenty of opportunities to explore the Sunshine Coast out of the saddle as well. In less than one hour, you can drive west from the golden beaches and hustling esplanades of Mooloolaba into the Sunshine Coast's rural environs, affectionately known by locals as the hinterlands. 

After rocketing by many of these places on your bike, here's a chance to slow down and enjoy them in several afternoons or days bookending your VELOTHON event.

Lodging 

Selecting accommodations near the Mooloolaba Esplanade, where the stages of the VELOTHON end every day, will let you change from a cycling kit to board shorts in a snap.

From the luxurious five-star penthouses of Oceans Mooloolaba (pictured below) to the wallet-friendly and centrally-located Twin Pines Motel, there are lodging options in Mooloolaba to suit all budgets. 

Ideal for travelers with children, the Landmark Resort and Beach Club Resort Mooloolaba provide dining, activities for kids, and other services within their complexes. The Beach Club Resort even includes children's bunk beds in its family apartment. Breeze Mooloolaba opened its doors in late 2016 and has already collected favorable reviews for its modern amenities and design; it too offers rentals for small groups.

Cyclists traveling with a friends and family give a thumbs up to Mantra's three properties, Zanzibar, Sirocco, and Mooloolaba Beach. The individual apartments in the same complex let people stay close yet enjoy their privacy. 

Mantra's Breakfree is in nearby Alexandra Headland as is the Alex Beach House, a vacation house that comfortably accommodates up to 14 guests—perfect for a cycling club.

Check out Visit Sunshine Coast for more suggestions.

Doorway to fun: Mooloolaba

The doorway to all that Sunshine Coast offers, Mooloolaba will keep you busy from brekkie to sunset with its beaches, shopping, and coastal activities.

One of the busiest ports on the eastern seaboard, and Australia's largest swordfish port, the Mooloolaba Wharf clamors with trawlers bringing in boatloads of fish and seafood like Mooloolaba prawns, lobsters, and spanner crabs.

Head to the Parkyn Parade in Mooloolaba to find a range of fish markets and take-out shops, selling just-caught seafood. Combine sightseeing and dining with a lunch or dinner cruise through the Mooloolaba Harbor, River, and Canal.

From July to late October, humpback whales migrate past the Sunshine Coast, and whale watching tours and viewing platforms let you see the earth's largest mammals frolic in the warm Aussie waters. Tour company Sunreef Mooloolaba helps you get a closer view with its Swim with Whales packages. 

Activities around Mooloolaba

VELOTHON Sunshine Coast surely will give your body a workout, but the towns surrounding Mooloolaba will revive tired muscles.

About 20 minutes south of Mooloolaba sits the coastal village of Caloundra. Walking the Caloundra Coastal Pathway is a good way to both sightsee and shake out tired legs. The nine-kilometer pathway snakes past lakes, creeks, and beaches and is a popular section of a longer trail stretching 25 kilometers from Mooloolaba to Golden Beach past Caloundra.

Heading north out of Mooloolaba, swing by Harvest Breads and Café across from Cotton Tree Park for a warm croissant, Paleo Benedict, or a superfood breakfast bowl. For lunch, "rent" a picnic basket loaded with blankets, cutlery, and treats from the café, and add a craft beer from nearby and locally-owned 10 Toes Brewery.

It's true. You can surf year-round on the Sunshine Coast thanks to its warm water. Some of the best local and professional surf instructors are found at Coolum Beach's Coolum Surfing School, where students of any age can take long board, short board, and body board lessons.

Side trip: Noosa

Visiting Noosa Heads, Noosa North Shore, Noosaville or Noosa Junction, you will not be disappointed by the region north of Mooloolaba, with its chill lifestyle and outdoor adventures.

Voted four times as the best destination spa in Australia, Noosa's Ikatan offers traditional Bali massage services and treatments amidst a lush garden. Make reservations since the day spa is popular with both locals and tourists, earning a spot on Trip Advisor's list of best things to do in Noosa.

Noosa Springs Golf and Spa Resort specializes in European aqua therapy services and boasts one of the few floatation pools in Australia. Floating atop the heated, mineralized water will induce well-deserved relaxation. 

As you drive along a spectacular beach through the Great Sandy National Park, you realize that the journey is as amazing as the destination of Double Island Point. North of Noosa and only accessible by 4WD, Double Island Point is home to dolphins, turtles, rays, seabirds, soldier crabs and migrating whales. Epic Ocean Adventures lead guided tours to Double Island Point (departing from Noosa) and provide kayaking, stand up paddling, kite surfing and more at the secluded beach.

One of only two everglade systems in the world, the Noosa Everglades is best explored via canoe or in a kayak; Kanu Kapers Australia and The Discovery Group operate multiple tours. Gliding across the glassy upper reaches of the Noosa River, you may experience double vision as the tea trees, water lilies and other flora are reflected in the water.

Side trip: The Hinterland

Don't miss half of the Sunshine Coast by staying on the beach. Drive about 30 minutes west of Mooloolaba to discover funky villages and working towns thriving in the Sunshine Coast's hinterland. You'll find quiet cafes and old-school pubs, hip craft breweries and dairy farms, and highbrow galleries and craft markets dotting the mountains, valleys, and rainforests that characterize the region.

Soak up local flavor at The Royal Hotel in Gympie and Palmwoods Hotel in Palmwoods--long-time community gathering spots. Let the oldest hotel/pub on the Sunshine Coast, Yandina Hotel in Yandina, charm you with its country hospitality.

Add these to your hinterland itinerary:

When you a need a caffeine fix, stop by Fox and Hound Espresso in Cooroy. Be prepared to see plenty of wagging tails at this dog-friendly establishment. Dhom's Kitchen uses seasonal produce from the Noosa Farmers Markets to make curries, sauces and other traditional Thai dishes. Sample Thai street food every Friday when the Cooroy restaurant serves a pop-up lunch menu.

About 60 kilometers west of Noosa in Kenilworth, where the Kenilworth Cheese Factory draws Sunshine Coast residents and visitors with award-winning cheeses churned by hand. The dairy is a great place to find a block of cheddar cheese for a picnic, or yogurt for the next morning—and, after cycling in the morning, a guilt-free scoop of ice cream.

Without a doubt, the Brouhaha Brewery in Maleny meets its mission "to educate and introduce the community to the art and the world of brewing and craft beer." One of Queensland's most buzzed-about breweries, Brouhaha brews IPAs, ales, ciders, and a one-of-kind coffee milk stout.

If your bucket list includes seeing a koala bear, head 36 kilometers southwest of Mooloolaba to the Australia Zoo made famous by Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin. Passionate conservationists and naturalistic exhibitions educate visitors about the continent's unique mammals, birds, and reptiles in a complex covering 70 acres of Australian bushland in Beerwah.

The final night: Laid back or classy?

On your final night, celebrate your experience and plan your next event at one of two Noosa restaurants moving at the different speeds found on the Sunshine Coast.

"Pedaling food, booze, and good times" in Noosa since 2014, Village Bicycle has earned a reputation as a locals' hangout welcoming to all. Its tiny kitchen prepares classic surf shack food and cold beverages. Fish tacos, anyone? 

Relive your VELOTHON with friends and family at one of the upscale restaurants near Noosa's chic Hastings Street. Season Restaurant impresses with its killer views of Laguna Bay and delicious seafood meals served alfresco.

However you chose to keep busy off the bike, the Sunshine Coast promises new places to go and things to do when you return.

*Thank you to Visit Sunshine Coast for assistance in writing this article. 

David Landers is a freelance writer with a passion for cycling and travel. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 

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