Author: Melissa Findley
Melissa Findley is a renowned Australian nature and travel photographer, and a passionate advocate of sustainable travel. Teaming up with mindful travel tour company, Airguides, Melissa has created three bespoke Noosa escape packages, designed with slow, sustainable travel in mind. Discover a different side of Noosa.
Stepping into the biosphere of Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, feels like stepping into paradise where one can connect with their surroundings and immerse themselves in this idyllic pocket of the world. Paradise is so much more than long sun-filled days in the crystal clear ocean, enclosed by Noosa National Park. It is a place where harmony between people and nature exists and Noosa is an internationally designated and protected area home to 60 distinct ecosystems dedicated to being a green destination.
Last year I teamed up with Airguides, who specialise in a unique space in tourism. An incredible company focused on authentic travel through the eyes of storytellers, who showcase the lesser-known trails, where luxury meets adventure; all with the core value of responsible tourism. Personally, getting to know Airguides - Paul and Bibi and their dog Olive (Olive is the cutest dog alive and absolutely worth noting) - was refreshing to know such engaged and passionate humans working in the tourism space, who are looking to re-define the way we travel through meaningful, personalised trips as told by your favourite storytellers. I am honoured to be a part of this means of authentic, slow travel. For those interested in sustainable travel I have three customisable itineraries to share with you from glamping to luxury, hinterland stays, ocean wildlife encounters and of course places where you can lose track of time and watch the world go by. Step inside the Noosa biosphere.
My adventure in Noosa began at Habitat Noosa Everglades EcoCamp in Boreen Point, and upon arrival was greeted by the locals - there were grey kangaroos everywhere!
As I settled into my glamping tent, set amongst 65 acres of National Park I immediately felt relaxed and ready for the week ahead. I could hear the water of the picturesque Lake Cootharaba lapping the shores from my tent and I decided to take a walk through the paperbark trees, along the edge of the lake learning about the culture and history of this region. Sundown was filled with a truly Australian wildlife encounter as I lay on the ground and photographed the beautiful Kangaroos in the glow of a warm winter afternoon.
The following day I rose to find a light fog dancing across the surface of Lake Cootharaba, where the shallow water turns from midnight to sapphire. Inspired by the natural landscape I submerged myself in the water and felt ready for the day ahead. Habitat Noosa is the gateway to the Noosa everglades, the only everglades in Australia and this untouched piece of paradise is a must see for those visiting Noosa. The everglades stretch across 2 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves, Noosa and the rolling Great Sandy National Park and more than 40% of Australian bird species can be found here. This unique environment is not only a photographer's dream and bird watchers paradise, but there are plenty of activities for all. From Habitat you board the cruise, which begins over Lake Cootharaba and as you enter the Everglades you learn of the unique flora and fauna and deep history of this region. After morning tea and a further cruise up the picturesque waterway, you can actually go swimming (it is the only everglade in the world safe to swim in!) or you can go paddling and hire a canoe or kayak. The perfect way to immerse yourself in this pristine wilderness. A dreamscape where the mirrored reflections of this ancient waterway make it hard to distinguish the sky from the lake; stepping into a real oasis in this sub-tropical rainforest.
After our memorable day out on the Everglades, the night was filled with stars. Blissfully content from the day in nature, I retired to my glamping tent and admired the Milky Way as it rose in the deep of the night sky. From Habitat Noosa Everglades EcoCamp there are plenty of other activities, including a visit to the Noosa North Shore Beach and a cruise along the sand on a fat-wheels eco bike. I had never been on an electric fat-wheel bike on the sand before and it was a surprising experience! You can take in the vistas of the Great Sandy and look back at Noosa Headland too, a sun-filled, wind-in-the-hair adventure that is great for all. If you are lucky you may get to see an Eastern Osprey nesting or even spot some whales as they make their great annual migration (depending on the time of year).
Before we head out for the hinterland of Noosa, we of course spent a day on the water with local legend Adam of The Pressure Project. Adam runs freediving classes here in Noosa and I cannot recommend this experience enough. As we arrived at our dive location and slipped into the water, I was thinking more about the moment than the visibility when these angels of the sea came by with an overwhelming level of grace and beauty. I absolutely love Eagle Rays and it was a first for me as I’ve never swam with them beside me. On the surface a collective “wow” from all divers as we shared that gift from nature together. I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face.
While I began freediving as a way to achieve a greater level of mental clarity, I live for the moments that I can’t quite put into words and for me that is the mindful and meditative state of a breath hold and marine life encounters. The worries and noise of a modern and oftentimes chaotic world are left at the surface once submerged and you are welcomed to a whole new world of dazzling blue. This activity is an optional part of the itinerary when visiting Noosa, however, this one day course will give you the skills and knowledge to safely seek new depths - both external and internal. Freediving gives you tools to get more out of life on the surface.
If the quiet country roads, charming small towns and fresh mountain air is calling you, then the Noosa Hinterland adventure is for you. We stayed at the bespoke Mayan Luxe Villa, sustainable luxury. The villas are constructed from compressed earth from the dam below and local sourced or recycled timbers and furnishing. There is no detail left unturned and this is tranquility at its finest. The hinterland property features a plunge pool, and outdoor bathtub with a heavenly view + a pizza ocean and a fire pit under the stars. Say no more!
Staying at the Mayan Farm was a highlight for my trip to Noosa Hinterland and the creator of this divine space is a chef in Kin Kin and actually made a home cooked vegan curry for us while we sat around the dinner table sharing life stories. This is exactly what I love about unique stays, it is meeting the passionate and inspiring people behind the scenes and seeing their dream spaces come to life, and oh, Is it dreamy! Trust me, you won't ever want to leave this luxurious abode.
Okay, well, maybe you might want to leave if the itinerary calls for an adventure-filled day on a dolphin safari or whale watching (July to November). Noosa Oceanrider offers a scenic tour through the Noosa River and out to the stunning sights of the Noosa National Park Headland. You can observe these beautiful creatures in their natural environment as dolphins can be found anywhere between the National Park and surfers' favourite Sunshine Beach. I adore dolphins and we were lucky enough to have multiple encounters which left me feeling elated. It is a beautiful way to spend the day out on the water and an experience you won't soon forget. Seasonally Noosa Oceanrider offers whale watching tours where you can experience the breathtaking beauty of Humpback Whales on the annual migration. Breaches, tail lobs & pectoral slaps are just some of the memorable moments to be shared when observing these magnificent creatures, and later on in the season you might be lucky enough to observe a mumma and calf as they make their journey south.
We watched the sunset on a perfect day from Mt Tinbeerwah, the sky exploded in shades of ruby and it was the most fitting ending for a hinterland escape. Airguides offers an option Sunset Abseiling adventure off the 40-50m cliffs. I am positive those views of the hinterland are like no other, even for those like me, with a fear of heights.
Swapping the Hinterland for the big blue, we made our way over to the Retreat Beach Houses, nestled in the sand dunes of Peregian Beach with access to explore the famous Noosa National Park Headlands. Falling asleep to the white noise of the ocean and waking slowly with the rise of the sun, it was time to explore the pristine beaches of Noosa. From Tea Tree Bay to Sunshine Beach there are endless pockets of ocean paradise, world-class surfing, sweeping views, and stunning coastal walks. There is so much to explore, see and do, and if you are lucky enough you may just spot a Koala nestled in the Gum Trees along the way. Noosa National Park is yet again, a photographers and nature lover’s paradise.
The following day was another highlight of our Noosa trip, an adventure-filled visit to Double Island Point with Epic Ocean Adventures. Driving along the Great Beach Drive from Noosa North Shore out to this special location we spotted more Eastern Osprey eagles and Lace Monitors. We learned of the Aboriginal Dreamtime whilst standing before the coloured sands and ancient cliff faces of Rainbow Beach, which are made up of an incredible 72 different shades of earthy tones; a natural art gallery. We were visited by more pods of dolphins, turtles, eagle rays, a shovelnose shark, and even some whales making their way north. It felt like a front-row seat to some of the most incredible ensembles of nature on the planet.
Any Visit to the Noosa biosphere will not only provide you with lasting memories and a deeper connection to the natural world, but it will leave you wanting to return to explore more - this is just the beginning. With endless opportunities for a relaxing escape or adventure-filled trip, Noosa has it all and has a way of captivating your heart and pulling you in for many years to come. I recommend speaking with Airguides for all you specialised travel needs for all things eco-luxury meets adventure.
📍 Honouring the Kabi Kabi country and people, who are the traditional custodians of the land and sea.
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