Caloundra is blessed with loads of natural beauty - and it also happens to be a great spot for a family holiday. Just over 90 kilometres north of Brisbane, this Sunshine Coast hotspot is close enough that the littlies (in our case an energetic two-year-old) will probably just about tolerate the car trip, but far enough away to feel like you're actually on holiday.
The Sunshine Coast has no shortage of beautiful seaside towns, so what makes Caloundra such an ideal spot for young families? Well, for starters, the whole place is incredibly friendly to strollers and little legs. A wide walking path/boardwalk hugs the water for a roughly two-kilometre stretch from Bulcock Beach to Kings Beach. Along the way you'll pass a number of cafes and restaurants (the ice cream bar was a particular hit with our little person), plus plenty of grassy spaces, perfect for a low-key lunch of fish and chips. Midway through the walk sits Clarke Place Park, where you can refuel at the coffee van, fire up one of the gas BBQs, or, do as we did and let the youngster loose on the pretty-impressive playground. Oh, and did I mention the stunning water views?
If you're less keen on walking (it is ridiculously hot out there, after all) and more interested in swimming, the adjoining Bulcock and Happy Valley beaches are great for families. Overlooking Bribie Island on Pumicestone Passage, both beaches are largely sheltered from the waves, meaning kids can frolic in the shallow water without fear of being bowled over. There's also plenty of soft white sand to dig around in, and plenty of rock pools at low tide. Bulcock Beach can experience a strong current at certain times so make sure you check the lifeguard's report before swimming.
For those wanting to get wet without actually setting foot on the sand, Kings Beach has a 25-metre tidal swimming pool, equipped with shade sails and exquisite ocean views. The foreshore area is also home to a couple of playgrounds, a child-friendly water fountain, plus plenty of cafes for the adults.
Kids can splash out at the Kings Beach water fountain.
Caloundra also has a lot to offer when the sun goes down. There's a bowling alley, a cheap cinema, and heaps of restaurants serving everything from Nepalese to Mexican. While the toddler's 7pm bedtime prevented us from exploring much of the nightlife, we did frequent a number of the dining establishments and would gladly go back to each one.
There's no shortage of accommodation types here. We spent four nights in a two-bedroom apartment at the Watermark Resort. About 200 metres north of Bulcock Beach, the Watermark enjoys an absolute waterfront location along the Pumicestone Passage. Even better still is that every room enjoys these waterfront views, regardless of how much you forked out for your stay. Another great bonus is the unlimited use of free wifi available to guests. Being able to fuel the toddler's Play School addiction was a huge plus.
Caloundra is also a great base from which to take a day trip to other parts of the Coast. We decided to take the toddler to SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast (formerly Underwater World), a half hour drive away in Mooloolaba. She very much enjoyed oohing and ahhing at the colourful sea creatures - and Mum and Dad had a pretty good time too.
Visitors can get hands-on at SEA LIFE Sunshine Coast.