A walk from Sunshine Beach around Noosa’s famed headlands and returning via the Tanglewood Track is an immersion in South-East Queensland’s most spectacular scenery.
The 11-kilometre circuit really requires no time limit as you will continually pause to observe and immerse yourself on dramatic cliffs, empty beaches and dense subtropical rainforest. It is recommended to commence just after dawn near the surf life saving club on Sunshine Beach. You will catch the quintessential east coast morning as waves from the Pacific Ocean rear out of the blinding sun. Savour the first bodysurf of the day before leaving the sand and heading up the steep path at the northern end of the beach. From high on the ridge, the dense forest of Noosa National Park extends to the west.
At the Devil’s Kitchen, pods of bottle-nosed dolphins can be seen and migrating whales may be observed dependent on the season. Above, brahminy kites circle on updrafts. And way out on the horizon, a solitary yacht heads north under the wafting trades. Below, the pristine Alexandria Bay beckons. A lone fisho casts into gutters mid-beach and not another soul can be spotted. Swim number two is indulged and as we head off, the warmth of a cloudless late-autumnal day quickly dries our salt-encrusted bodies.
Climbing away from the beach, the plunging cliffs of Hells Gates on the eastern tip of the park are reached. From this point the path swings to the west with Laguna Bay stretching way to the north to the Noosa Everglades in the shimmering distance beyond Lake Cootharaba. This region is home to the Kabi Kabi people, who were forced off their land in the late 1890s by timber getters.
The area of beaches, rivers and headlands has cultural heritage going back tens of thousands of years. The dynamic landscape held a bounty of food resources and included an extensive network of paths for seasonal food gathering and ceremonies. These days, cultural knowledge and care for Country is passed on by many Kabi Kabi families.
Heading west into Granite Bay, if there is enough easterly swell, surfers on long boards will be bobbing off the point and sliding across seemingly endless walls. Walk on under overhanging banksia and round Dolphin Point to reach the renowned Tea Tree Bay. Another board meeting may well have convened out the back with a masterclass on display of nose riding and trimming across the long, sandy surf break.
The bay here is ideal for a lunch stop with pandanus providing welcome shade from the midday sun. Leaving the beach rejuvenated, the path leads on past the Boiling Pot and then veers into the dense rainforest on Tanglewood Walk.
Here the flora changes dramatically with giant strangling figs engulfing towering kauri pines and piccabeen palms stretching upwards towards the filtering sunlight.
Midway along we veer south, off the walk onto management access tracks heading back towards Sunshine Beach. On the windward side the flora changes to open woodland and wallum heath with sheoaks, scribbly gums and grasstrees abundant on the ancient low-nutrient windblown sandhills. On a still afternoon, birds continued to chatter and as we kept a leisurely pace a variety of butterflies drifted across our path. The descent soon led us back to Sunshine Beach for one more welcome plunge into the surf.
For this circuit we were fortunate to have a calm, sunny day. However even in a downpour, this would be an enthralling walk with the rainforest section alive with running streams. This is a great trek to ignore time constraints and savour the variety of flora and topography in an amazing setting.