Noosa is many things. Glorious, dreamy and spectacular among them. But did you know this Queensland gem is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve?
UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves is a coveted list, recognising areas that demonstrate a harmonious relationship between nature and people. And while Noosa’s pristine natural environment and celebrated lifestyle make it one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations, to be recognised by UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program is something else entirely.
Designated in 2007, and given a further 10-year tick of approval this year, Noosa is one of just nine official Biosphere Reserves in Australia and was Queensland’s first. The state’s only other reserve is neighbouring Great Sandy Biosphere and, together, they are the sole adjoining biospheres in the world.
Noosa has long been one of Australia’s most desirable holiday destinations thanks to a seductive combination of sparkling coastline, lush hinterland and relaxed atmosphere. And while locals get to bask in this beauty year-round, they also fervently protect and preserve their environment.
The not-for-profit Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation is also key, designing and implementing science-based projects that enhance biodiversity conservation and promote sustainable living in the region. Initiatives include restoring river fish populations, koala conservation, pandanus preservation, an in-progress Environmental and Cultural Learning Trail, and a commitment to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions in Noosa Shire by 2026. All this while keeping the welcome mat out for sustainable and environmentally conscious tourism.
Noosa is also focused on more practical everyday initiatives. Noosa was the Queensland’s first region to be choses to pilot the Boomerang Alliance’s program to reduce plastic waste, and Plastic Free Noosa now successfully works with residents and businesses to reduce single-use plastics.
Overflowing with natural wonders, both physically grand and culturally significant, Noosa’s Biosphere is a dream for visitors, especially those that keep conscious travel front of mind. And the best part? Just about any itinerary is a conscious itinerary. After all, proof of Noosa’s biosphere status can be found at every turn.
The world-famous beaches, for example. Noosa’s Iconic Beachside Experiences is a three-day itinerary taking in some of the glorious beaches, bays and coves that dot the region’s glittering coast. One of just 10 World Surfing Reserves on the planet – a nod both to the rolling barrels and exceptional coastal management – Noosa is a genuine surfer’s paradise and Noosa Main Beach is a sweet spot to start. For lessons, try Go Ride a Wave or Learn to Surf Noosa.
A 10-minute stroll along the boardwalk and you’re in the thick of Noosa National Park, complete with its 11-kilometre walking trail. Wind your way past spectacular lookouts and glorious bays, as well as a few cute residents, such as koalas, wallabies, turtles and the (ah, perhaps not so cute) protected brush turkey.
Nearby Hastings Street is the stylish main drag worth a wander, but be sure to wrap up in time to catch sunset at Noosa Spit. On day two, take in Sunshine Beach and its chilled coastal village; climb the so-called ‘stairway to heaven’ and continue past Devils Kitchen and on to Alexandria Bay for views on views; and join Noosa Oceanrider for a thrill ride, dolphin safari or, in season, whale-watching tour.
Feel the salt in your hair on day three as you pass through Sunshine Beach, Sunrise Beach, Castaways Beach and Marcus Beach on a coastal drive. Add surfing, hang gliding and, if the season permits, whale watching to your agenda. Explore sparkling Peregian Beach and its buzzing village – market day is the first and third Sunday of each month – before tackling the 1.1-kilometre Emu Mountain Summit Walk. The resulting sunset will be the perfect end note to your Noosa beach adventure.
From seaside to countryside, Explore the Hinterland Like a Local is a two-day jaunt exploring quaint villages, scenic trails and inspiring vistas. The early bird catches the worm or, in this case, a glorious sunrise from the top of Mount Tinbeerwah, the light-dappled coast and hinterland below. Next stop, the Eumundi Markets (Wednesday and Saturday mornings), which have just been named ‘Australia’s Favourite Market’, and where artisan delights abound, before lunch and a tipple at Cooroy’s Copperhead Brewery. The selection of small-batch beers is preservative-free, pure and unfiltered. After taking in Cooroy’s charms, discover the wild and wonderful Noosa Botanic Gardens and top it off with a night under the stars at Alaya Verde or Habitat Noosa.
Start day two at Mount Cooroora where you can challenge yourself to the 439-metre summit trail (sweeping views await) or opt for one of the shared trails at the base – suitable for walkers, horse riders and mountain bike riders. At Pomona Gin Distilling Co, lunch is served with a choice of native botanical gins, and some of the best cocktails around. After lunch, head off on foot, horseback or two wheels and explore the gorgeous hinterland villages peppered around the Noosa Trail Network. Surrounded by the country landscape, a night at Noosa Tablelands Escape is a fitting farewell to this brief, but beautiful journey.
Stretching from the Noosa Everglades to the ocean, Noosa River is another aquatic playground, its calm waters a dream for swimming, jet skiing, sailing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and fishing – not to mention people-watching. Wind Down the River Like a Local with a morning meander that includes a stop for coffee while admiring the feathered friends above. Look out for: white-bellied sea eagles, brahminy kites, great egrets and the much-loved pelicans. Cruise the waterways on a BBQ Boat, available to hire at various spots along the river; savour lunch at an award-winning restaurant such as Rickys or Wood Fire Grill; and tempt your credit card at the waterfront shops of Noosa Marina before settling in for golden hour at the Sunset Bar, Noosa Boathouse.
Reconnect in Noosa celebrates the region’s natural wonders like no other. Weave through the Noosa Everglades and discover abundant flora and fauna – camera at the ready! Kanu Kapers provide guided and self-guided kayak tours, while Everglades Eco Safaris offer boat cruises. Across the river, the Noosa North Shore delivers more than 80 kilometres of unspoilt beaches and forest wilderness, plus the popular beachside town of Rainbow Beach and World Heritage-listed K’gari (Fraser Island). There are some fantastic Noosa North Shore tours to choose from, including Great Beach Drive 4WD Tours, which means access to the Red Canyon, the Coloured Sands and Double Island Point Lighthouse.
The Noosa Trail Network is another must, or BYO mountain bike for the Wooroi Trails in stunning Tewantin National Park (or you can hire a bike or even join a tour with a local guide). Noosa National Park also demands attention: its coast and bush trails are teeming with Instagram-worthy sights, and the kind of rejuvenation only Mother Nature can provide.
Food, glorious food
Innovative and delicious, Noosa’s food and drink experiences are well worth celebrating, and you can make it official come December.
Held from Friday 4 to Sunday 6 December, the Noosa Eat & Drink Summer Celebration will showcase the region’s renowned restaurants, chefs, breweries, distilleries, producers and roasteries.
This is the first event of the year from the team behind Noosa’s famous Eat & Drink festival. Traditionally held in May, the festival was cancelled this year due to Covid-19, but now promises plenty of signature events to come.