So you’re in Noosa, Queensland, and figuring out your itinerary? You’ve checked out the Spit, chilled out on the main beach, strolled the boardwalk and are looking for something awesome to do? Well look no further than booking yourself onto a Noosa Everglades Tour – one of only two Everglades in the world and the only one in the southern hemisphere. How cool is that?!
We recently spent time exploring the Everglades with Everglades Eco Safaris and Visit Noosa, and this was without doubt one of our favourite activities on our Cairns to Brisbane road trip. And really should be on everyone’s must-see list when visiting this part of Australia…
What are the Noosa Everglades?
So when you think of the Everglades, you’re probably going to conjure up visions of the very famous Florida Everglades in the USA, with images of airboats flying around muddy, watery fields. That was our first thought – actually we had no idea that Australia boasted the only other Everglades system, right there in coastal haven, Noosa.
The definition of an Everglade is swampy land, with tall grass and other waterways, and that’s exactly what you can expect in the Noosa Everglades: coal-coloured waters, mangroves, riverside trees and a beautiful region of Noosa that includes the Upper Noosa River, Lake Cootharaba, Lake Cooroibah and Laguna Bay. It’s actually known as the ‘River of Mirrors’, since the black and blue waters reflect the sky above, making this an incredibly beautiful little corner of eastern Australia.
What does an Everglades Eco Safari Tour include?
In short, an Everglades cruise gives you the best of all worlds: a relaxing cruise on the River of Mirrors, top-notch commentary on the fauna and flora from a world-class guide, time to take a short walk, kayaking if you’re more sport and adventurous and, in the case of the Everglades Eco Safari, the best roast lunch we’ve had outside of the UK.
To give you the full lowdown on what to expect on an Everglades Eco Safari Tour, here is an outline of what we did and experienced on the day.
You arrive at Habitat Noosa (formerly known as Elanda Point) at 9.00 am, an opportunity to get your morning fix of coffee and muffins at the little café. You’ll then be welcomed by one of the experienced tour guides, giving you a brief introduction into the Everglades, and what lies in store for the day.
It’s actually well worth getting there a little bit earlier to enjoy the private beach (we had it all to ourselves!) and if you fancy it go for a morning swim in Lake Cootharaba.
Loading onto the boat
Once you’re all checked in, you head down to the newly built pier on the lake. On pretty much most mornings and afternoons you’ll find a family of kangaroos hanging out in the woods on the walk to the boat. It really is a 5 minute walk down to the boat, but a great opportunity to see some of Australia’s most famous animals up close and personal.
All loaded up, you’re in for a 20 minute boat ride across Lake Cootharaba. It’s a really relaxing boat ride, as the water is pretty flat, first you’ll see Boreen Point, the nearest village, and as you make your way across the Lake you’ll start to see some of the beautiful birds. We were lucky to see a few pelicans waiting for a morning meal.
We had a wonderful guide, Dave, who filled us in on the formation of the area and also pointing out the various points of interest, which birds we were looking at, and also explained about the sand dunes that you could see; the same dunes that stretch all the way to Fraser Island.
Soon after reaching the mouth of the Noosa river, we arrive at our first stop – those doing the river canoeing are given a briefing, and those who are only taking the river cruise both ways are able to explore the first stop. There is a short walking trail, the Melaleuca circuit, to explore.
As the teams canoeing up the river head off, those still on the boat also then start the slow and peaceful journey along the river, with guide Dave pointing out all the different wildlife and explaining the history of the area.
Canoe trip up or down the river to Harry’s Hut
If you are keen on doing the canoe trip, it’s a very gentle paddle that takes around 30 – 45 minutes to complete. The canoes used are traditional Canadian style canoes that are really stable and very easy to use – so don’t worry if you’ve never done it before! It’s really worth it.
Just make sure that you have some water (it does get hot), sunscreen and at least a hat for your paddle down or upstream.
If you’re not too keen to do the canoeing, you can also just opt to take the Serenity Cruise option, where you can enjoy the same day trip without the canoeing experience.
Harry’s Hut Morning Tea
At around 11.30 am, we arrive into Harry’s Hut, our little spot for morning tea, coffee, cake and biscuits. The hut is an old woodcutter’s shack which dates back to the mid-1900’s and was donated a few years ago to the national park. There’s a lovely picnic area where you are able to it and relax, and this is also the perfect place to go for a swim in the river. Although mind out for all the cat fish swimming around the pier – these guys seem pretty well fed and a little too inquisitive for our liking!
At around 12.30, those who hadn’t canoed up to Harry’s Hut had the chance to then take to the water on the way back, and so set off, a little before the rest of the Noosa Everglades tour group joined the boat and made the way back to the first stop point. Again allowing time for those to explore the walk who hadn’t the chance in the morning.
All safely back on board the boat, the final leg of the eco cruise was the gentle journey back across Lake Cootharaba.
Lunch at the CootharaBAR
You arrive back into the pier at Noosa Habitat at around 2pm and head straight up to the CootharaBar for a well deserved drink, and then join the others from the Everglades tour at the table for a delicious roast lunch. The food at lunchtime was another highlight of the day – especially as a roast dinner was one thing that we had been missing since leaving the UK 8 months before. Think succulent chicken, to-die-for roast potatoes and a plethora of crunchy, healthy salads plus homemade bread.
The Everglades Eco Safari ends at about 3pm, so lots of time to relax after the day trip.
What to pack for your Eco Safari?
We would suggest that you pack the following items for your Noosa Everglades Eco Safari tour:
- Water bottle – they have cold water on board, so you can easily fill up your bottle
- Sunscreen – especially if you are planning on canoeing, there isn’t too much shade when you are out of the boat
- A hat and sunglasses – good to keep the sun off and the sun glasses are essential as you can get a good reflection from the water
- Swimming gear – you’re able to take a swim in the wonderful tea tree red water, a great way to cool off at Harry’s Hut
- A camera – you’ll see plenty of birds, some lizards and kangaroos, so definitely have your camera ready
Where to stay
Well first of all, you can actually camp at Noosa Habitat Ecocamp, the location of the start of the Everglades Eco Safari Tour – the camping grounds there are amazing, with a private beach and direct access to the lake. They have plenty of space for you to pitch your own tent, or if you don’t have your own, they also have awesome ‘glamping’ options to consider!
Check out their various rates and options on accommodation here. We had a nose around the Paperbark Tent, which is a definite high-end luxury ‘camping’ option. We will definitely be heading back one day to stay in these and further explore the Cooloola part of the Great Sandy National Park.
They also have an onsite café, which does a mean chocolate brownie and coffee special, and as mentioned, the lunch option that you get on your tour is fantastic. So although we didn’t try any of the other food, the quality is top notch.
If you’re more interested in staying in Noosa, we’ve also got some recommendations for you…
Budget: A stone’s throw away from the Noosa main beach, our pick for the best hostel would be Nomads Noosa. The hostel provides big, clean dorm rooms for backpackers. It’s location is also top notch, in walking distance of good restaurants and shops.
Premium: If you’re looking for stunning views of the Noosa River, check out Offshore Noosa apartments. We were lucky to stay here while in Noosa, and it offers high-end holiday living in the ideal location.
What else is there to do in the Noosa?
The Noosa Fairy Pools
Definitely another of our favourite things to do in Noosa is to explore the Noosa Fairy Pools, in the Noosa National Park near Noosa Heads. These unique sea pools are making it on everyone’s list of travel must-do’s while in Noosa, and rightly so. A 30 minutes’ walk along beautiful tracks to this spot. Just make sure you time it right – you’ll need low tide to enjoy the pools.
Luckily we’ve made a full guide on where they are and what to expect – check it out here.
Granite Bay beach
If you’re heading to the Fairy Pools, you’ll pass Granite Bay, so make sure you take the time to explore this deserted beach. You’ll likely get the beach to yourself, or at worse maybe have to share it with a couple of people… because it’s a bit of a walk (maybe 20 minutes from the car park), Granite Bay beach doesn’t seem to have too many sun worshippers on its shores; just how we like it!
Walk the boardwalk and visit Main Beach
Right next to the National Park is a long boardwalk, which gives you great views across the sea. You can park in Hastings street and walk all the way over to the National Park.
If you’re keen on the beach, take a slight detour off the boardwalk and visit the most popular beach in town: Main Beach.
Check out the Noosa Spit
Another must-go spot, especially if you have a drone. The views that you get from a drone’s perspective are amazing… That said, the Noosa Spit is a beach which looks out over the bay and is a great place to have a picnic. If you have a dog, you can also let it off-leash here.
Go horse-riding near Peregian Beach
About 15 minutes outside Noosa, Lake Weyba, is the perfect place if you’re keen on horse-riding. While you’re there, you might as well spend more time relaxing on Peregian Beach.
Bonus tip: If you’re there on a Sunday, make sure you check out the awesome beach market (although it only runs twice a month so makes sure you check you’ve got the right Sunday.
Check out the Eumundi Markets
Speaking of markets, the nearby Eumundi has a world-famous arts and crafts market every Wednesday and Saturday. Check out the talented artisans making everything from fashion to furniture, there are sometimes street performers too.
Feed the pelicans on the Noosa River
Something that we totally stumbled across, but amazing to witness. Take a stroll wander along Noosa River just before sunset, and you’ll find birds, including a load of pelicans just waiting for their evening snack. The pelicans congregate every night at the boat ramp by the Noosa Boathouse restaurant, waiting to be fed by the locals.
Love Botanical Gardens?
Then you won’t be disappointed in a trip to Noosa’s very own botanical gardens. The impressive gardens hosts over eight hectares of plant species. Take a stroll around Lake Macdonald and also check out the Greek amphitheatre set in the grounds.
Hike Mount Cooroora
If you love your hiking as much as we do, then a trek up Mount Cooroora has to be on your itinerary. Be aware that it’s a slightly challenging hike but so worth it for the incredible views from the top. And once you are done, reward yourself with a croissant in one of the cute cafes at the base, in Pomona.
Bonus: Day trips from Noosa
So there are loads of exciting things to do on the Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast and in the Noosa region, so we’ve listed out a couple of our absolute favourites! But if you are looking for any more ideas for day tours get in touch here.
Head to Fraser Island
The world’s largest sandy island, and part of the Great Sandy National Park – is both an exhilarating and fascinating day out! Get picked up at your local accommodation, before a ferry ride over to the island. During the day you’ll drive up and over some enormous sand dunes, drive through rainforest, explore the left over remains from the former logging industry, swim in gorgeous freshwater lakes, and drive on the longest beach highway in Australia.
If you’re able to do more than a day trip, we highly recommend it. We’d have loved to have camped out on the island and spent more time exploring on a 4×4 tour or self-guided Fraser trip!
Hike in the Hinterland
One of our favourite things to do near the Gold Coast is hike (we are avid hikers) in the stunning Hinterland. Although it’s a bit further out from Noosa, and will take around 3 hours to drive there. If you are in the region, it is definitely worth the effort in heading to this part of Australia.
We’d recommend that you look into the Twin Falls circuit that starts from the Canyon Lookout in Springbrook. It’s only a 4km walk, but you’ll get to explore some beautiful rainforest, waterfalls and wildlife.
If you’re really into your hiking and have loads of energy, check out the Warrie Circuit, although this takes around 6 hours to complete. You’re looking at a relatively long day if you add this into the drive to/from Noosa, although it is very much worth it. Check out our full review on the Springbrook area, with loads of tips and a detailed overview of what to expect.
Trust us, you won’t regret it.
What camera equipment and other gear do we use?
We’re living proof that you don’t need the most expensive gear to travel the world and take good photos. Here are some of our must have items that make it into the packing list for all our travels.
- Main Camera: Panasonic Lumix FZ1000
- Drone: DJI Mavic Air – Fly More Combo
- GoPro: Hero 7 Black
- GoPro Dive Case: Go Pro Housing
- GoPro Case: Smatree GoPro Carry Case – Small
- Packing Cubes: Eagle Creek Packing case
- Backpack: Osprey Farpoint 70
- Powerbank: Anker Powercore
- Phone: Xiaomi Mi 9
- Hard drive: Transcend Slim Storejet 2TB
- Laptop: Lenovo IdeaPad 720s
- Headphones: Bose Quiet Comfort 35
- Wifi Hotspot: GlocalMe G4
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you do longer canoe trips in the Noosa Everglades?
Yes. Absolutely, there are 3 day self-guided canoe trips that are hosted by Kanu Kapers Australia – it also sounds like an amazing experience, so if you are able to spend longer in the Noosa Everglades and are keen on kayaking, this might be a great option for you.
Are there crocodiles in the Noosa Everglades?
Very different to the Florida Everglades, the Noosa Everglades are not home to crocodiles or alligators. So it’s a great place for kayaking, canoeing and swimming (although watch out for those catfish!)
What is the best way to see the Noosa Everglades?
Well, in our opinion it’s a bit of two transport modes. Firstly, you definitely need to spend some time in a canoe or kayak exploring the Noosa Everglades. They are so peaceful and if you’re looking to get close to nature, there is no better way. However, we also think that you’re able to see a bit more from a boat – and having a guide to point out the various wildlife was invaluable.
What is the best time to go to the Everglades?
Summer (late November to early February) is the most popular time to go although most times of the year are okay, since Noosa has a very temperature climate.
Disclosure: The Travel Scribes were very fortunate to be hosted by Visit Noosa for the Everglades Eco Tour. However, all views are our own, and we are not paid to include any activities in Noosa as part of our itinerary, but rather have included it due to the incredible quality of the experiences.
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