Caloundra used to be the Sunshine Coast’s quiet little sister. She’s no Noosa yet, but this southern (Sunshine Coast) belle is getting her groove on. You just have to know where to look, writes Steve Madgwick. Try these seven, for starters.

1. Beachside fish and chips: Sandbar Cafe & Kiosk, Caloundra

Snap up takeaway beer-battered fish and chips and side salad (and maybe a crumbed garlic prawn or two) from the Sandbar’s kiosk, directly across from Bulcock Beach. Spread out on the tables under the giant pine trees across the road and drink in views across Pumicestone Passage to Bribie Island.

If it’s a windy day, settle in at the licensed cafe for a slightly pricier but more refined dish such as fresh grilled swordfish (straight from Mooloolaba) with a delightful pea purée, served by the cheery staff.

2. The place for a coffee: Lamkin Lane Espresso Bar

Always drink where the locals do. In this case, that’s at funky espresso bar Lamkin Lane, which you’ll find on a cosy little laneway; a nice respite from main drag, Bulcock Street.

There are single origins from Nicaragua, Brazil and beyond. The piccolo is recommended, if that’s how you take it. The handful of outside tables and one communal one inside make for an intimate vibe.

There’s no big array of food options, but it’s all about the dark stuff; Lamkin Lane is in the mix for the best cup of coffee on the Sunshine Coast.

3. Tapas and tunes: Forty Five 51 Caloundra

Forty Five 51 Caloundra (the town’s postcode) is a breezy bar, restaurant and live music venue with a hybrid Noosa-Melbourne ambiance.

It has a small but purposeful craft beer list (with a few international twists, like Big Sky Trout Slayer from Montana), a well-rounded Australian wine list and holiday-starting cocktail the triple M: Martini, Mojito and Margarita.

The seafood tapas is generously portioned, the crispy bread and dips more so, and the pork belly is sinfully pleasing. Guitar-and-mic-style tunes are executed by talented local musos throughout the whole week (check out the Caloundra Music Festival, September-October). Would be even better if it was on the beach.

4. Smoothie time: Coco Loco Club

If you had a hankering for a smoothie or fresh juice in the past here, it was best to traverse the few kilometres to Coco Loco Club, Moffat Beach.

Thankfully, Coco Loco store number two has recently opened in Caloundra’s CBD. It’s all very Instagrammable: loud furniture, hanging plants, light and airy.

The great taste generators here are the açaí bowl (topped with granola, seasonal fruits and honey) and the Fresh Prince (apple, ginger, kale, lime, mint, pineapple and coconut water).

5. Adrenaline fix: Caloundra Jet Ski

Ken Jeffreys takes the bogan out of jetski-ing with his tours along Pumicestone Passage. The Caloundra Jet Ski trips follow Bribie Island into Moreton Bay Marine Park where you’ll be floored by a rarely-seen aspect of the Glasshouse Mountains from your ‘ski.

It’s not just noisy splashing about either; Ken shares local legends and indigenous history with infectious enthusiasm. If you’re lucky, you may even spot dugongs and dolphins. No licence is required but there is a quick written text. Regardless, newbies can be doubled.

6. For a pressie: Villa Verde Living

Villa Verde drags a little bit of Noosa boutique shopping south. There are local and global selections of homewares, jewellery, knick-knacks and fashion with an overarching beach house aesthetic.

If you’re on holidays, you might ignore the cane furniture but there are plenty of things to spoil yourself with. Cute pair of Miz Mooz shoes anyone?

7. To stay: Rumba Beach Resort

There is a plethora of holiday lets in Caloundra but Rumba Beach Resort is the pick of the all-inclusives. Aim for a sea-facing one- or two-bedroom spa suite, which have long, flowing living spaces larger than you could ever need.

The low-key five star resort is packed with the long-holiday essentials such as complimentary Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs (plural), iPod docks and (big up) Nespresso machines.

Overall it’s a compact family-friendly resort with a lot of pools to cool off in and an outdoor hot tub to do the opposite. It’s close to beach-front food options and off-street parking and bike hire are available.