Once a sleepy fishing village, then an earthy-crunchy surfer hangout, Mooloolaba has poshed up along with the other towns along Australia’s Sunshine Coast. But despite being one of Queensland’s top holiday destinations, Mooloolaba manages to balance the chic boutiques with plenty of subtropical unspoiled beaches.
The origin of the town’s mouthful of a name is unclear: It comes from the Aboriginal words mulu (snapper fish) or mulla (red-bellied black snake). About 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Brisbane, it sits between the Coral Sea and the Glass House Mountains. Fittingly, two of its biggest attractions celebrate the wildness beyond the town’s boundaries: Sea Life Mooloolaba and Australia Zoo, which is still run by the family of \"Crocodile Hunter\" Steve Irwin.
The Esplanade, running along the city’s main beach, looks to manmade pleasures like art, fashion and organic farm-to-table cuisine. Yet across the channel, the rugged beauty resumes with a headland park and lighthouse, followed by even more sweeping and glorious coastline.