Words: Hayden Wright | Photos: Gerard Lagana

With daylight savings being over and memories of long, sun-kissed days riding from sun up to sundown firmly in the rear-view mirror, it is apparent to all of us that winter is on the way. For many of us, the yearly tradition of digging out arm warmers, vests and winter riding gloves is one which is dreaded, as are the customary watery eyes and runny noses that are a given when riding your bike in single degree temperatures. But what if there was a place you could escape to where none of this was necessary? Where the trails are still dry, the sun is still warm, and the choice of adventures is nearly endless? Enter the Sunshine Coast, Queensland's hidden mountain bike gem. 

The Sunshine Coast is a hidden mountain bike gem.

Typically thought of to be a place for retirees to dip their toes in the sand without having to deal with the crowds of the Gold Coast, the Sunshine Coast has a lot more up its sleeve than what most know. Offering an impressive and diverse combination of accessibility, accommodation and adventures this haven has it all, and truly shines in winter. Whether you are travelling with some friends on a riding trip, escaping the hustle and bustle of the rat race with your partner or getting the family away for a trip over school holidays you’re sure to find exactly what you are looking for in this beautiful region of South East Queensland. Recently, we were lucky enough to load up an Isuzu MUX, chuck some bikes on the Shingleback rack and escape for a few days exploring just a taste of what the Sunshine Coast has to offer, and this is our guide to your mountain bike visit to this oasis.

With the Shingleback loaded it's time to hit the trails.


Active families on the Sunshine Coast:

If you are looking to pack up the family and escape for a long weekend you can fly into either the Brisbane or Sunshine Coast Airports, with direct flights being readily available from most major domestic airports. The drive from Brisbane Airport to Mooloolaba is only 60 minutes, ensuring that the kids should only ask “are we there yet” a handful of times before arriving at your destination. The Mantra Mooloolaba Beach is our pick of places to stay in this area. This hotel adjacent the beach boasts two pools, a games room, sauna, gym, rooftop BBQ, and underground car park. The staff are enthusiastic, helpful and will happily store your bikes for you to ensure that you don’t have to play Tetris trying to get them all up into your room. There’s also a myriad of cafes, restaurants and bars running along Beach Terrace which all boast fantastic views of the Coral Sea and are all within walking distance of your accommodation. 

Your main riding destination in this area is the Sugar Bag Road MTB trails. Nestled in the middle of suburbia, ‘Sugar Bag’ as the locals call it shows that it’s not about the size of the hill but more so what you can do with it. What was originally a disused piece of bushland that local fireman Steve decided would be his pet project for some DIY trails following an eye opening trip to Whistler is now one of the most popular suburban trail centres we have ever seen, with a huge community and council backing to boot. If you are chasing an adrenaline rush check out ‘Bees Knees’. While only short, this trail has a multitude of jumps, bridges, wall rides, berms and drops worthy of repeating run after run and keeping smiles on the faces of technically proficient riders young and old. If something a bit more mellow is your fancy, Sugar Bag has you covered on that front also. One benefit of the mere 40m elevation drop at this trail area is that it is very easy for riders with a lower level of fitness to complete multiple laps without needing to have legs like the Energizer Bunny.

There's plenty of features at the Sugar Bag trails.

The jewel in this recreational area’s crown is the newly completed asphalt pump track. Designed and built by Trailworks, the prominent trail care company in this region, the pump track has some of the best flow we have ever experienced and is a can’t miss for riders young and old. Following your ride, we recommend a quick 5-minute drive down to Bulcock Beach to cool off in the ocean and grab a bite to eat. Drift bar is a local favourite, their Moroccan quinoa salad is delicious!  

If a more relaxed, less technically demanding family ride is what you’re after then check out the Ferny Forest Loop which skirts the Ewen Maddock Dam. This is a 9km green rated singletrack ride that is fun for all ages. The combination of smooth, flowing trail and beautiful views of the dam will be sure to keep all the family members happy. If for some reason you decide that you need to eject from the loop early, no problem! There are also a few signposted shortcuts ensuring that you can back to the trail head if need be. If you think you can hear the sound of a racetrack in the trail head carpark, don’t be concerned… What you are hearing is the Big Kart Track which is directly across the road from Ferny Forest. Between that and the Hinterland BMX Track which is just down the road, there are plenty of things to do in this area that will put a smile on any face. Finish the day off with some fantastic wood fire pizza from That Pizza Guy and you have yourself a family weekend to remember. 


A couples' getaway:

There are few better places for a couples riding getaway than the Sunshine Coast! We would recommend staying somewhere on the Noosa river, just outside the hustle and bustle of Hastings Street. This will allow you to get some quiet and affordable accommodation within a short ride or walk from a multitude of cafe’s, restaurants, beaches, and the river mouth. If something a little more high end tickles your fancy, you can’t go past the resorts available around Little Cove Beach. This secluded little area nestled just north of Noosa Heads Main Beach provides easy access to the Noosa National Park walk, which culminates with the breathtaking Hell’s Gate lookout point. Don’t let the thousands of overdone Instagram photos discourage you, this is something that must be seen in person to be believed. A quick dip in the fairy pools on the way back will ensure that your first morning in Noosa will have you ticking off all the well-known off bike attractions. 

There's plenty of places to fuel up pre-ride.

Your first ride in the region should without a doubt be at Wooroi Trails. Known as one of the best trail riding areas in all of Queensland, Wooroi has an eclectic mix of fast flowing singletrack, luscious green foliage and grippy predictable dirt that makes it a must ride. Combine that with one of the easiest climbing roads we have ever ridden, Gyndier Drive, and you have the perfect recipe for a great afternoon on the bike with your partner. Key trails in this area are Milkmaid and Trailblazer. Both tracks are very high speed and flowy, with easy return access via purpose built climbing trails. Trailblazer in particular is a favourite of locals and has a unique design and construction sure to put a face on any rider, regardless of their technical ability. If you fancy a shuttle rather than using pedal power to get to the top of the hill, local mountain bike store Spoke N Trail offer both public and private shuttle services to the Wooroi trail area. Although not entirely necessary for a hill of this size, there’s no harm in saving your legs so you can get in more of those thrilling descents! 

Check out our full feature on Noosa's amazing riding options!

The Wooroi trails are a must ride.

If you would rather a more mellow and scenic ride then look no further than the Oakey Creek Lookout Track. Situated 45 minutes south of Noosa, this ride provides an 8km one way fire road journey through a Squiggly Gum laden forest to the Oakey Creek Lookout. Upon arriving at the lookout, you will be greeted with phenomenal views of the surrounding Mapleton National Park. Be sure to take your own water and some basic spares as this out and back ride has no support and you do stray quite far from the car. The day use area from which this ride begins and ends is also a great place for a post ride picnic. If you fancy a coffee or something to eat, head to the Sweet and Flour Cafe just down the road from the day use area.  

Conversely, 45 minutes in the opposite direction of Noosa on the outskirts of Gympie is a hidden gem called Victory Heights Trail Network. Established in 2012 by the Cooloola Trail Care Alliance (CTCA), this pocket of gum tree laden bush was originally slated to become a housing estate, as is common in the local area. Fortunately, thanks to hard work and petitioning from enthusiastic local trail riders the area was given a 10-year lease to allow the CTCA to construct and maintain their own trail network. Victory Heights may not boast a large amount of elevation drop or perfect dirt, but that does not mean that you cannot have an absolute blast riding there. It is obvious that the singletrack trails have been made by riders, for riders. What has been created by the locals is impressive, with every inch of momentum gained on a trail sustained for as long as possible. This is the ideal place to bring a shorter travel bike and absolutely hammer, nonstop!

If you do find yourself and your partner catching your breath trail side be sure to look up, the area also serves as an environmental sanctuary to Gympie’s population of koalas. Pre and post ride refreshments should be acquired from Soma Soma cafe. Their coffee is the best in the area, and the menu has a variety of delicious homemade meals including all day breakfasts, sandwiches, pastries, and acai bowls. The cafe has a great vibe and is a fantastic place to refuel after a few hours chasing singletrack at Victory Heights. 


A Mates Trip on the Sunshine Coast:

If a mates trip is more your thing, then we have a few suggestions to what would be a great weekend away with your buddies. There are literally hundreds of options for accommodation on the Sunshine Coast, but only one that boasts 6 gravity fed mountain bike trails on their property. Enter Garapine. Home of Australia's first Gravity Enduro race in 2009, Garapine has been a staple of the Enduro scene in Queensland for the past 12 years and is a must ride for this region. Further to this, owners Nick and Emma also offer custom group booking packages which can be tailored to suit your very needs, including options on accommodation, catering, shuttles… the list goes on!

With regards to the trails the network is all based around the top of the hill, with all 6 tracks starting within a few dozen metres of the main terrace. Rocks, roots, jumps, drops... Garapine has it all. Each track is worth at least two runs so you would need at least half a day of shuttles here to get the full experience. What better place to act as the home base for your riding trip with a group of friends.

Check out our Places that Rock Feature on Garapine!

Don’t be fooled though, Garapine is not the only place where you can do shuttle runs in the Sunshine Coast. The Hennessey Hill Downhill Track, home of the famous Beerburrum 4-hour downhill endurance race is a spot not to miss. The trail runs parallel to Beerburrum Woodford Road, and gives you a great opportunity to smash a large amount of runs in a short amount of time. Did anyone say PBR? This maintenance of this trail is funded by the Sunshine Coast council so you can expect it to be in decent condition all year round. The track is fast, flowy and aggressive top to bottom so best to pack your full face and knee pads for this rowdy little number.

Pull up not out at Hennessey.

If that isn’t enough of an adrenalin hit for you and your mates, throw on your climbing shoes and test your mettle in the shadows of Mt. Beerwah. Nestled in the heart of the Glasshouse Mountains, this hike/scramble mix is sure to get the heart racing and should only be attempted by those with a high level of fitness and coordination. Fortunately, if you are reading this you are likely a mountain biker and should have both of those in spades. The 4km return climb should take you approximately 3-4 hours so be sure to throw on your hydration pack for this one, you want to be hands free at all times. The Panoramic views at the summit are breath taking, and you can see right across the Glasshouse Mountains and out to the ocean and beyond.  

The Glasshouse Mountains Lookout Cafe is your closest and best option for food in the region, with a great bar looking out over the Luttons State forest. Our choice is the BLT with chips, although following all those activities you may need to make it a double serving to fill the tank back up! Our final destination recommendation for the beautiful Sunshine Coast is Parklands Reserve. Home of the Bushrangers MTB club, these trails are old school in feel and reward those with a high level of fitness and great cornering ability. You’re either going up or down when riding at Parklands and can expect to come across a variety of trails from green through to double black. A short travel trail bike would be ideal in this area, as a longer legged Enduro bike may come to feel slow and sluggish on the myriad of blue-rated singletrack in the area. It is also worth noting that there aren’t any water or toilet facilities at the trail head so come prepared.

That's a wrap:

There you have it folks. Whether you are looking for a relaxing getaway with your partner, a fun filled family adventure or a weekend riding trip with your mates, the Sunshine Coast has you covered this winter. Book your flights, pack your bags, it’s time to choose your own adventure on the Sunshine Coast - get lots more information on the Sunshine Coast visitor's infortmation site.