T+L Reports: The Down Low Down Under
When in-the-know Australians are looking for a quiet beach getaway where the water is perfectly temperate year-round and the vibe is so relaxed that the only dress code is a sarong and flip-flops, they head to Noosa. In this small seaside town an hour and a half north of Brisbane, coastal paths wind through rain forests; surfers ride impressive waves off crowd-free shores; and naturalists scope out kookaburras, koalas, and wallabies.
WHERE TO STAY Thirty years ago, surfers camped at the end of Hastings Street. Now, instead of tents, there's a slew of boutique hotels, among them Noosa Blue Resort (16 Noosa Dr.; 61-7/5447-5699; www.noosablue.com.au; doubles from $206), where the penthouse has a private rooftop barbecue. • For a little more privacy, try one of the beachfront house or apartment rentals from Accom Noosa (61-7/5447-3444; www.accomnoosa.com.au; from $112 per night for a two-bedroom apartment).
WHERE TO EAT The morning starts with a "flat white" (coffee with milk) and berry pancakes at Café Le Monde (52 Hastings St.; 61-7/5449-2366; breakfast for two $22). • Can't bear to leave the beach? "Hey Bill" Watson drives his beach buggy "café" to you, delivering espresso and flavored shaved ice. • Lime Fish (2 Hastings St.; 61-7/5447-4650; dinner for two $30) is the place to go for grilled barramundi and hand-cut fries. • Inspired by the French Riviera, Berardo's on the Beach (49 Hastings St.; 61-7/5447-5666; dinner for two $55) prepares coconut-prawn bisque.
WHAT TO DO Noosa Beach Hire, at Main Beach, rents all the necessities (boogie boards, towels). While surfboards will cost you about $37 a day, tips on where to get the best milk shake are free. • Snap up swimsuits with strategic cutouts at Josephine's (Hastings St.; 61-7/5447-2188). • Eucalyptus, cypress pines, and secluded rocky beaches make up Noosa National Park (Park Rd.; 61-7/5447-3243), home to one of the most stunning forests in Australia. • Fraser Island is known for its rainbow-colored sands and natural lakes. Sign up for a day trip with Fraser Island Excursions (61-7/5449-0393; www.frasierislandexcursions.com.au; $126 per person), which includes lunch and an SUV tour of the island.