Have you ever seen one of those tacky t-shirts that screams in bold typeface ‘Same Same But Different’? If not, go to Thailand where you will have the misfortune to witness herds of tourists wearing them. The phrase generally refers to branded merchandise that is possibly slightly less than the real deal. I’m not sure what it says about the wearer.
‘Same Same But Different’ is how I sometimes talk about Noosa. Living next door to Byron Bay, people think it’s a bit strange that we would choose to spend long weekends in Noosa rather than in our own little pocket of paradise. That’s just it – it is precisely because the two towns are ‘Same Same But Different’ that we like to head north for our mini-sabbaticals, where there’s warm air and – here’s the clincher – no nagging chores or housework.
Sit on Clarkes Beach at Byron Bay and then on Main Beach at Noosa Heads and all that’s missing is Julian Rocks and the Lighthouse. It’s like one of those ‘Spot the Difference’ quizzes on the cartoon page of the newspaper. In both towns, walkers and runners make their daily pilgrimage along the coastal boardwalk to the National Park. There’s Wategos Beach and then there’s Tea Tree Bay. Both holiday towns have an abundance of shopping and restaurant options – although Noosa does have Hugo Boss. There’s also bucket loads of Melbourne-ites.
And so I’m currently spending an extended weekend in Noosa where it is expected to rain quite a bit. That happens in Byron too. I’m here for the annual Noosa International Food and Wine Festival. It’s full of foodie winos – or should that be whining foodies – as well as lots of good eats, forums and demonstrations. I was here last year too and enjoyed a midday Champagne Masterclass which rather wonderfully left my female friend and I looking a lot like Patsy and Eddie from that television show – sweetie darling. This year I’ll remember to eat first.
But when we’re not at the Festival this weekend there are a few regular things we like to do when in Noosa – weather permitting! Here are my Top 10.
1. Eumundi Markets
Held every Wednesday (8.00am – 1.30pm) and Saturday (7.00am – 2.00pm) in the township of Eumundi – a 20 minute drive inland from Noosa. You will find fantastic craft, clothing, produce, plants, gifts, art, jewellery and great food. There is wholesome vegetarian at the Topliss Tarts or try the chicken satays at The Bali Cart washed down with a ginger beer tapped straight from the keg. http://www.eumundimarkets.com.au
2. Noosa National Park Headland Walk
Heading off from the eastern end of Hastings Street there is a spectacular walk around the Noosa Headland. If you continue beyond Little Cove to the National Park Car Park it’s not much further to the postcard perfect Tea Tree Bay. If you’re willing and able, continue on to the tip of the Headland and the aptly named cliff top at Hells Gate. The Hells Gate Circuit will take you between 1½ and 2 hours to complete. It’s a fairly flat walk with great views. http://www.nprsr.qld.gov.au/parks/noosa/pdf/noosa-headland-map.pdf
3. Noosa Surf Club
Arguably the best view in Noosa. The club is the perfect place to call in and have a well-earned refreshment after you have tackled the National Park walk. In 2013 it was voted Australian Surf Club of the Year. The Club is a popular spot overlooking the main beach at Noosa Heads and is a great location to watch a summer sunset. The Surf Club Restaurant serves bistro meals for Lunch and Dinner seven days and breakfast is served on weekends. http://www.noosasurfclub.com.au
4. Hastings Street
The eats and treats street with loads of restaurants, cafés, fashion and souvenir shopping. Hastings Street sells everything from sundresses and beachwear to original artworks and antique jewellery. An afternoon stroll is ideal, after which you can enjoy an ice-cream at one of many parlours or find somewhere shady for a refreshment. Miss Moneypenny’s, voted Best Regional Bar in the 2014 Australian Bar Awards, and the bar at Peter Kuruvita’s Noosa Beach House at the Sheraton are always popular. http://www.missmoneypennys.com http://www.peterkuruvita.com/restaurants/noosa-beach-house/
For a traditional Japanese dining experience overlooking the Noosa River head straight to Wasabi restaurant on Quamby Place. Try the 7 or 9 course Omakase menu and let the chef decide what to prepare for you using ingredients grown at the restaurant’s own farm ‘Honeysuckle Hill’. On a visit last year we were overwhelmed by the attention to detail in everything and the beautiful presentation of each course. We experienced many new tastes and the service was impeccable. In 2015 Gourmet Traveller voted Wasabi the Number 2 Best Regional Restaurant in Queensland. You won’t be disappointed. http://www.wasabisb.com
6. Noosa Boathouse
Located on the waterfront of Gympie Terrace on the Noosa River between Noosa Heads and the Marina is the Noosa Boathouse Bistro and Bar. For a pre-dinner cocktail or aperitif head to the upper level Sunset Bar. The view overlooking the water as the sun goes down is spectacular. Open from 4.30pm Tuesday to Sunday http://www.noosaboathouse.com.au
The waterways around the Noosa River and surrounding canals are very safe and well worth exploring. You can rent a kayak, stand up paddle board or small boat from Noosa Heads Boat Hire conveniently located on the Jetty next to the Sheraton. You don’t need a boat licence for these craft. Take your supplies for the day and your fishing rods and make a day of it. http://noosaheadsboathire.com.au
8. Noosa Farmers Market
Held every Sunday morning in the AFL grounds on Weyba Road from 7.00am – 12.00pm offering organic produce, cheese, seafood, meat, breads and so much more. It’s a great place to have Sunday breakfast – try an Organic Smoothie, a Breakfast Roti or a German Sausage with Sauerkraut. http://www.noosafarmersmarket.com.au
9. Sunset Cruise
For an amazing $10 you can board the Noosa Queen and enjoy a relaxing sunset cruise from Noosa Marina past Richard Branson’s Makepeace Island to Lake Cooroibah. The staff are welcoming and friendly. There is a bar on board and you can sit outside to enjoy the vista while a laidback soundtrack featuring America and the Eagles plays. There could even be a surprise wildlife stop. It’s a unique experience. http://noosaqueen.com/content/sunset-river-cruise
10. Noosa Main Beach
If you’re not the sun-basking or water-bathing type you can stroll along the boardwalk at Noosa Heads Main Beach or sit under one of the shady pandanus. Main Beach is one of Australia’s few north-facing beaches. Did you know that Byron’s Main Beach faces north too? Same Same But Different, you see. Which town is the real deal – I’ll let you decide.