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Journal of Inspired living

Noosa’s curious blend of hedonism and health makes it a popular holiday destination


Noosa’s curious blend of hedonism and health makes it a popular holiday destination

Credit: Leio Mclaren Leiomclaren

The lunchtime line-up for Betty’s Burgers snakes along Hastings Street like its infamous traffic on a sultry summer Sunday when the perfect swell is pumping off Noosa Heads. And who can blame them? Betty’s serves up a mean ‘Shroom Burger of crisp fried mushrooms, melted Gouda and Gruyere cheese, lettuce, tomato and special sauce. And don’t even get me started on the rich and creamy custard ice-cream on offer.

They’re like that in Noosa. Snatch some surf, eat a steak at the Surf Club. Go to a gym class, gobble a gelato. Grab a pizza, pop out to Pilates. From stand-up paddling on the Noosa River to surfing at Main Beach, this is a destination that understands the true meaning of balance. You can indulge in the Noosa Food & Wine Festival over one week in May and, the following week, compete in the Noosa Ultimate Sports Festival. It’s this curious blend of hedonism and health that makes Noosa so nefarious — in the nicest possible way.

A healthy indulgence

This journey begins in the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort’s AQUA Day Spa, which is like a cool Moroccan cavern, all whitewashed and plump pillows of blue. First, you enter a series of aqua therapy pools heated to a simmering 36°C, followed by a milk footbath and a body scrub with what feels like Noosa’s finest sand blended with oil and citrus to remove any dead skin cells. Showered, you are then wrapped up snugly before being massaged.

Opened 18 months ago, this pizza joint celebrates local produce such as tiger prawns and Noosa’s famous red tomatoes among its toppings.

Ninety glorious minutes later, your Thalgo Indoceane Spa Ritual, which blends Mediterranean, Egyptian, Indian and Chinese influences, is complete. Afterwards, simply float to one of 176 studios, villas and suites of this heavenly hotel, Noosa’s only full-service five-star offering where you can also enjoy the swim-up pool bar.

While there is seemingly a pizza parlour perched every few metres along Hastings Street, Noosa’s bustling thoroughfare, for something deliciously different head to El Capitano Pizzeria & Bar, a spot renowned for its organic sourdough pizza bases in which the dough is fermented for 72 hours. Sure, there’s wine here, too, but it’s “minimal intervention” alcohol, so it’s either organic or biodynamic. Opened 18 months ago, this pizza joint celebrates local produce such as tiger prawns and Noosa’s famous red tomatoes among its toppings.

Cast off these carbs at Noosa’s newest wellness studio, Noosa Flow, with views of the Noosa River. Owner Claire Shandley, who has worked in New York, says it’s Noosa’s only “reformer studio” with seven machines designed specifically for Pilates. This stylish studio also has just seven yoga mats to ensure classes are small and personal.

According to Shandley, even if a hedonistic holiday is your primary objective for coming to Noosa, visitors can’t help but be seduced by the area’s natural beauty and move with its natural rhythms. “There are so many wellness entrepreneurs in Noosa,” she says. “We are becoming switched on that we need to be healthy and in touch with ourselves.

“I have clients who live in Noosa on the weekends but commute to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne for work during the week, because the benefits of two days of living here outweigh the commute. It is not expensive compared to other cities and you can really find a healthy balance.”

Fresh treats

Perched just behind Noosa Flow, also in Noosaville, is GoVegan Deli, which self-described “raw food chef and gut whisperer” Scott Mathias opened two years ago. Mathias, who has written three books on raw food, started out selling green papaya powder at the Noosa Farmers Market.

“The fact that the Noosa hinterland can supply and support some of the most beautiful food in Australia is definitely a plus,” he says. “My eight years at the Noosa Farmers Market has given me entrée to some of the best farmers and food in town. There has been a big move here with spray-free certification.

“The basis of coming to Noosa is still the Hastings Street restaurants and everything you have around here. But things are slowly changing.”

Even if a hedonistic holiday is your primary objective for coming to Noosa, visitors can’t help but be seduced by the area’s natural beauty and move with its natural rhythms.

Scott believes his restaurant, which serves no wheat, dairy, processed food, white sugar, egg or rice products, is the “healthiest” in Noosa. “There is an old Aboriginal saying ‘you eat from the land you walk on’,” he says. “Fill your body with living food. The body is programmed to identify that living food. You are eating a nutrient-rich time bomb. All the green food is provided by the planet, so you are honouring the planet.”

This is an ethos you’ll also find as you wind your way west just 10 minutes to Belmondos Organic Market. If all the research about the health benefits of community and connection are correct, this marketplace, where communal dining is all the rage, is on the money. You’ll find eight shopkeepers here, providing a European-style market experience using local Noosa produce. Dine on a warm beetroot and goat’s cheese tart washed down with a Noosa Cold Press Juice at Vanilla Food. Perch on a classic Chesterfield couch and sip organic coffee.

Day-end delights

Sated, amble another 10 minutes west along the Noosa-Eumundi Road and you’ll stumble on Ikatan Day Spa, snatching inspiration from Bali itself. Rest among these tropical surrounds and indulge in Indonesian-style massages. Enjoy treatments such as the two-hour Warmth of Bali package, where you are scrubbed with a chai tea blend before being wrapped and massaged from head to toe. The Balinese are perhaps some of the world’s finest purveyors of pampering and health and it’s no different here, where on one page of its drinks menu you can order a soothing herbal tea and, on the flip side, a fine Australian wine after you complete your treatment.

Back along Hastings Street, a number of players seem to have captured the fine art of balance. Season Restaurant, known as one of the best breakfast venues from which you can watch the sun rising over the ocean, is also an ideal location to have dinner. It boasts a wide selection of local and Australian seafood dishes, so you can dine on the catches of the sea while listening to the waves crash against the shoreline after dark. Think spanner crab linguette, roast lemongrass marinated prawns and seared scallops.

Mother Nature is one of life’s ultimate hedonists, and an ideal way to enjoy her many gifts is on a guided or self-guided tour of the Noosa Everglades.

Further up the street and tucked into a quiet corner, the Italian-inspired Locale serves the likes of Mooloolaba king prawns, locally grown zucchini flowers, Fraser Island spanner crab and Gympie free-range pork.

If you’re on a budget and wish to prepare your own food, or take a little slice of the Sunshine Coast home with you, Netanya Noosa has recently opened the only deli along Hastings Street. It stocks locally sourced produce such as Little Cove coffee, Eumundi beef and Kenilworth cheese. For a healthy snack, pop across the road to CocoWhip, a hole-in-the-wall that claims to be the world’s first vegan and bio-fermented coconut soft-serve. There’s a surfboard hire place right next door in case you wish to carve off those calories a little later.

Yes, only in Noosa can you have your cake and eat it. In every sense.

10 more Noosa experiences

  1. For those whose idea of fun is the wind in their hair and wheels beneath them, Bike On will deliver a hire bike straight to your accommodation. With 300 bicycles to hire, you can pedal solo along Noosa’s excellent and safe bike paths or join Bike On for a guided tour through Tewantin National Park’s 25km of trails.
  2. Mother Nature is one of life’s ultimate hedonists and an ideal way to enjoy her many gifts is on a guided or self-guided tour of the Noosa Everglades with Kanu Kapers. One of only two everglades, or tropical wetlands, in the world, it boasts 44 per cent of Australia’s native bird population either living or visiting here.
  3. Chase away the blues by gazing at the impossibly blue water of the Noosa River on a Noosa Eco Cruise. The Noosa Ferry Cruise Company runs these tours on what’s considered one of the cleanest bodies of water in Queensland, and teaches you all about the role mangroves play in this crucial eco system.
  4. It’s yoga, but not how you know it. Join Luxe Escapes owner Kelly Carthy in one of her classes and you could well find yourself on a stand-up paddleboard, in the heart of the Noosa River mangroves, while practising some yoga balances. Reward your efforts after class with a fresh coffee at the Jetty.
  5. Pack your walking or running shoes and catch up with Noosa Running Tours owner Nicola Warman-Food, who will take you to secret spots within Noosa National Park, such as the Fairy Pools, Devil’s Kitchen and Paradise Cove. Want to experience hedonism in all its naked glory? Head to Alexander Bay, Noosa’s unofficial nudist beach.
  6. You don’t even need to own a yacht to see how the true hedonists live. Simply head down to the Noosa Yacht & Rowing Club, which offers the largest Youth Sail program in the country.
  7. Few tourists know it, but just near the entry to the Peppers Noosa Resort & Villas sits the “torture stairs”. Locals use these 230 steps to burn off the calories associated with their indulgent lifestyle. Join them here, or afterwards, for Happy Hour at Peppers every day from 4.30pm to 6pm.
  8. For a taste of New York-style hedonism along Hastings Street, head to Streets of Harlem. This graffiti grunge-inspired cafe serves cool, simple breakfasts, live music at dusk and some classic cocktails. Want to know what your wellness future looks like? Head upstairs for a psychic reading.
  9. Elderflower, it is said, cures all manner of ills such as swollen sinuses, colds, influenza, diabetes, bronchitis and even swine flu. So it makes perfect sense to head to Miss Moneypenny’s for an Elderflower Crush, just one of many cocktails on the menu at this Hastings Street institution where people watching, it is rumoured, is also good for you.
  • The final word should rest with one of the world’s greatest hedonists, Sir Richard Branson, who owns the heart-shaped Makepeace Island, a three-minute private boat ride from the Noosa Marina. For the ultimate wellness escape, up to 22 guests can exclusively hire this 10ha island and sleep in Balinese-style villas while dining on fabulous food.

Escape routes

Getting to Noosa

Noosa sits about two hours north of Brisbane by road. All the major airlines fly into Brisbane Domestic Airport where it’s easy to hire a car. Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantas all fly into Sunshine Coast Airport, about a 40-minute drive from Noosa.

More information

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Christine Retschlag

Christine Retschlag is an award-winning Australian journalist who has worked in newspapers, magazines and online for the past 27 years in Australia, Hong Kong, London and Singapore. In 2006, she won the Australian Travel Writer of the Year award for Best Trade Story as well as the Jack Butters Memorial Award for Travel Writing Excellence. In 2007, she won Best Australian Story over 1000 words and in 2014 won Best Food Travel Story.