Spontaneous Trips - 48 Hours on the Sunshine Coast

When it comes to holidays there are two people…planners and non-planners. I can confidently say I am the planner. Whether or not the decision is made to leave weeks before, days before or even hours before, I am doing what it takes to get the most value out of the time I spend away. Now I used to be the spontaneous type of traveller who had no fixed plans, no idea of activities and just rocked up in the destination of my choice without warning but since starting out on the journey of a photographer's life I have learnt that this is just not possible. I would even go so far as to say that it would give me a tremendous amount of anxiety not knowing what activities were available at each destination, not knowing my location at sunrise or if I was North, South, East or West when the sun rose and hit WHICH MOUNTAINS??! AHHH! Yes, yes, Maddie…you have changed.

So this is my first blog ever! Written down…edited…posted….eeekkk - I’m ready for you all to comment below and tell me how my spelling is absolute perfection, grammar on point and obviously how hilarious I am...but seriously, I still don’t understand how there is no exam you have to pass or drafts you have to submit to the…ummm…Interweb Board of Grammatical and Comedic Association? I literally own this platform and I can write about whatever I want - scary no?! 

In light of this wonderful fact I would like to tell you all about my spontaneous decision, twenty-four hours in advance, to leave for a photography trip over thirty-two hours covering the amazing Sunshine Coast and its surrounding regions…now you have to commit great planning skills for this to pull off ;)

Like many spontaneous travellers/photographers I had no idea many of the places I visited even existed, let alone were easy on the eye and perfect for photography. To find these great places and to plan my entire three-day getaway I used only my five most trusted sources. 

  • Instagram
  • AirBnB
  • Google Earth
  • The Photographer's Ephemeris (iPhone App)
  • FlightSpecials (if flying is required)

Now before I start my day-by-day itinerary I just need to give you two convincing reasons why you should be like me and pre-plan trip and use these apps:

  1. Ease: anyone sitting at home right now could pick up the phone, use these apps and plan the greatest getaway ever! So simple, so affordable and you don’t even need to own a laptop! 
  2. Environmentally friendly: if all your researching and booking is done online, there is no reason to print. Destination and locations are all in image form, confirmations are sent to your email and therefore there is zero printing required! 

Okay, let’s start the trip!

Day 1

10am: Buderim Forest Waterfall

Backpack attached, tripod in one hand, go-pro in the other and starting with much ease, I found myself walking the long winding, elevated boardwalk which also seemed to have pleased the many elderly and wheelchair users I started out with. Unfortunately my friends were all brought to a halt when the boardwalk quickly lead into a not-so-easy, dirt track. This trail took me through beautiful bushland and rainforest but was a fairly rugged one so you have to watch your step! I found myself having the time of my life hopping over tall tree roots, climbing over large rocks and even grabbing on to the nearest tree vine to save my slips! Along the way, you will find a creek coinciding with this trail which will follow you all the way to mine and every one else's ultimate destination: The Buderim Forest Waterfall.

Buderim Forest Park, Queensland

Buderim Forest Park, Queensland

2pm: Currimundi Lake

Spending way too much time on my long exposed shots at the falls, it was well past my lunch time so I decided to grab a bite on the go and head straight to Currimundi Lake. As my pre-planning had told me, I was to arrive there on the North side, walk through the “Currimundi Lake (Kathleen McArthur) Conservation Park” to arrive at a view facing the South. Now that was the plan but one thing that pre-planning cannot take into consideration is SMELL. I arrived at my (northern) destination and I'm so sorry Kathleen McArthur & Currimundi but HOLY-PEWWW! The smell of fish was just so horrifically repugnant even the nearby dogs were sheathing and rubbing their noses against the dirt. I’m sure there was a good reason and it was a totally explainable situation but I do not eat meat and I unfortunately think that even the biggest of seafood consumers could not even handle this stench (sorry north-side but I had to go south-side). Within a flash I was over that bridge and up under the southern side of the lake and boy, was it fresh!

Currimundi Lake, Queensland

Tucked in by surrounding sand-dunes Currimundi seems to be the locals own private lake. I spent hours here exploring the dunes, photographing the inlet, watching the paddle boarders, getting a tad sunburnt and even having myself a sneaky swim with the seagulls before I headed off.

4:30pm: Point Cartwright

I was very pleased with myself when I actually arrived here earlier than expected. I had all my gear cleaned and ready for my sunset shoot back before I left Currimundi Lake so I felt totally organised once I arrived but of course it wasn't smooth sailing. I parked my car at the top carpark before heading off to the top of the hill at which is located ‘Point Cartwright Lighthouse’. It’s only a short walk up however pre-planning your composition on GoogleMaps which includes the Lighthouse in the shot….well it never makes for a short walk. So, up and over the hill I went eventually arriving at a quaint spot under a tree. Perched on a rock with a rockstar view of the lighthouse, endless surfers, boarders and views. Much. Great. Views.

The more I traveled the more I realised that fear makes strangers of people who should be friends.
— Shirley MacLaine

I eventually started to unpacked and prepare for sunset. I stood my tripod up, fitted my filters and went to attach my camera to the tripod aaaaaaanndd no quick-release plate. Now for the non-photographers out there, this plate is a connection which holds your camera to your tripod…a very tiny yet essential piece of equipment for us. Any normal photographer would have it permanently attached to at least one of their bodies, if not a few plates to all camera bodies. So, being on a solo trip, I obviously had to leave my rockstar location and potentially give it up to any old tourist!!! With what felt like a 50kg backpack on my back, I hiked myself back up and over that dam hill to my car, found that little sucker, attached him and finally returned back to my GOLD STAR SPOT which of course hadn't been stolen.

I got my summer coloured sunset shot and continued to capture into the warm evening, eventually found myself having a ball, knees deep in the ocean (post sunset) capturing one of the most magical scenes I‘d seen in a while featuring Point Cartwright Lighthouse.

After a long and exhausting first day, I drove to Coolum (half-way between Mooloolaba and Noosa) into the warm hospitality of my wonderful AirBnB hosts, Deb & Peter. I spent the evening getting to know my hosts, downloading my first days content, putting everything on charge, ate some delicious Thai food, showered and eventually got to bed ready for my early morning sunrise start!

Favourite Activity: Buderim Forest Park

Favourite Location: Point Cartwright

Favourite Host’s: Deb & Peter

Day 2

4am: Point Perry

Now this was not in my plan. Shocking, I know, but as I was trying to see as many places as I could in a short amount of time and I knew I was going to be spending a big chunk of my day up in Noosa, I thought why not do sunrise in Coolum?! Yeah? No? Okay, truth of the matter is that I knew 3:30am was early enough to wake up for sunrise and we all know just didn't want to get up at 2:30am, drive to Noosa just to get a similar sunrise, LOL (sorry Noosa). 

So this lookout was recommended to me by my AirBnB hosts as a great vantage point for epic views but most importantly it was three minute drive from the main street of Coolum. Despite my tantrum re. waking before 3am to head to Noosa for sunrise, staying in Coolum ultimately ended up the best decision I ever made because I woke up to a thunderstorm!! By the way, sunrise + thunderstorm = MOST EPIC SUNRISE EVER! (See below). 

Sunrise + Thunderstorm = MOST EPIC SUNRISE EVER!

Sunrise + Thunderstorm = MOST EPIC SUNRISE EVER!

Standing in the pitch black, 20-30 metres high on the edge of a platform with only the smallest amount of light allowing me to see down to the ocean and its’ huge thunder-stormy waves crashing into the cliffs below. Still at least thirty minutes until sunrise, light was starting to break and at this point eliminating the sky enough for me to see that Point Perry Lookout was just a tiny pin point on a huge display of boundless rocky headlands that appeared to go on for miles.

Facing North @ Point Perry Lookout

Facing North @ Point Perry Lookout

Facing South @ Point Perry Lookout

Facing South @ Point Perry Lookout

I continued shooting while the light changed dramatically as the thunderstorm dissipated.
The one who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.
— Henry David Thoreau

7:30am: Breakfast @ Bistro C

Arriving in Noosa a tad before Bistro C’s opening hours of 7:30am, I decided to walk up and down the well known wooden boardwalk along Noosa Main Beach finding that Noosa starts early! There were already 30+ surfers riding the nearby waves and sandcastles being built…I certainly didn't beat the morning rush. 

How about sitting down at a beach front table, palm trees hanging above, watching the world go by AND completing my first breakfast flat-lay ever without feeling embarrassed even when standing on a chair??? Well, along with this incredible breakfast, I can tell you, I was in a very, very happy place that morning. 

On the right Bistro C's 'Yaddah's Breakfast' with walnut & pomegranate hummus, olives, goats curd, muhammara, heritage tomatoes etc, etc. On the left, a delicious plate of seasonal fruits with honey-yogurt topped off with a long black and a dash of milk on the side. Just how I like it.

On the right Bistro C's 'Yaddah's Breakfast' with walnut & pomegranate hummus, olives, goats curd, muhammara, heritage tomatoes etc, etc. On the left, a delicious plate of seasonal fruits with honey-yogurt topped off with a long black and a dash of milk on the side. Just how I like it.

10am: Noosa Head’s Coastal Track

By 10am my breakfast had settled and I even found a spare hour or so to use my 70-200mm lens and creep on the Noosa waves and its’ riders before heading out to the Noosa Coastal Track.

Arriving at a busy and full carpark I was so lucky to have someone wave me down and offer their car space for me. Before I knew it, I had begun the 5.7km long Coastal Track around Noosa’s main headland. Stopping multiple times along the walk to take a shot, I realised I was taking my sweet time and with no real destination in mind, I quickly realised that this morning’s walk could take up my whole day! I worked out a plan and continued on heading to a place my friend suggested to me called the ‘Fairy Pools’. I had seen many wonderful shots of these rock pools in my ‘pre-planning stage’ and I just couldn’t work out why I couldn't find them. I knew I was in the correct location but so confused as to why I couldn’t spot the iconic 'Fairy Pool'. I obviously didn’t do my research THAT well because I found out weeks later, well and truly home, that the key to these immensely beautiful Fairy Pool shots was arriving at low tide. Regardless, I like the shot I got and I will be back in no time!

So do you remember about that epic thunderstorm I was telling you about just that morning in Coolum? Well I think the aftermath was left in the sea because the ocean was producing 5-6m waves which were crashing into the rocks and literally over the top of me, drenching me and my gear (exact wave featured below).

Me^ When I say got drenched, I mean absolutely drenched!

Me^ When I say got drenched, I mean absolutely drenched!

A good tip, instead of leaving and hating life after being soaked, embrace it and get even closer to the action I say! I ended up getting some awesome captures thanks to this. I ended up spending hours sitting on the side of a cliff trying to capture this great big clash of water; as the outgoing wave hit the incoming one.

After spending way too long trying to capture that epic clash I freaked out that I was running late for my afternoon check-in in the Mary Valley, so I literally found myself running back to my car around the headland totally unnecessarily but hey why not chuck in some cardio on your three days off. This was a stop, capture, keep running shot.

3pm: Mary Valley

After all that running I actually arrived earlier than expected...errghh...the drive was easy! I checked into my accomodation for that night at Amamoor Lodge which is situated within the magnificent mountain ranges in Mary Valley Country. After checking-in, I unpacked my bags, downloaded the images for that day, put everything on charge and then took the opportunity to have a good old yarn to the owners of the Lodge, Christine & Malcolm. They elaborated on their property and its’ 50 acres of land, where the best vantage point for sunrise was going to be and also where I should head for sunset. Not knowing the area very well I took their advice and headed off down the road to Imbil.

5pm: Imbil

Imbil is a nearby town, quaint and modest, situated on the banks of the Yabba Creek. In this tiny town I was delighted by the amount of beauty I found. 


Heading back to the lodge after the most epic sunset I tucked myself in quickly for a good night’s rest before another sunrise.

Favourite Activity: Walking the Noosa Head Coastal Track

Favourite Location: Imbil

Favourite Host’s: Christine & Malcolm

Day 3

4am: Amamoor

Waking up at this hour ended up being the least of my worries on this fine morning. I can honestly say I have never worked so hard to get a shot in my life and I am sooooo overly proud with my efforts. I hiked a small mountain in the pitch black with soaking feet, burrs sticking to me like no other, the odd cow pat and many barbed wire fence incidences just to reach the top of the hill where (according to my pre-plan) the sun was rising in my perfect direction…only problem was, there was a huge line of trees in my way…I did not count on this. Much to the disappointment of some land owners (I’m sure) I quickly and quietly climbed through a few barbed wire fences, I jumped some logs, patted the odd horse, covered myself in mud, ending up looking like a rat dragged through the bush backwards, dripping in sweat, bleeding cuts everywhere, exhausted, ALL BEFORE THE SUN ROSE ABOVE THAT MOUNTAIN! Well…when I eventually reached a clearing in the mountains, to say I was happy was an understatement. 


10am: Home - 48 Hours Complete

Yes, by day 3 at 10am my 48 hours was complete. Coming into the last hours of my 48 hour round trip, I must confess I had a nap post sunrise and I definitely could have fit in one more destination on my endless list but I am human and I was exhausted. Next blog I’ll make it 72 and I’ll make it up to you!

Additional Locations:

These additional places are mainly in the Gympie region of the Sunshine Coast but a few outsiders as well. These are all the places I researched and didn't quite make it to but highly suggest you make the effort. They are currently ‘unticked’ on my to-do list and they are surely going to get ticked off very soon!

  • Maleny’s One Tree Hill
  • Maleny
  • Montville
  • Flame Hill Vineyard
  • Kanu Kapers Australia
  • Imbil State Forest - Fig Tree Walk
  • Glass House Mountains