Hugging the coastline where sparkling blue water laps golden sand, discovering the seaside strip of Coolum Beach is like stepping into a world where laid-back lifestyle meets vibrant holiday town.
This friendly beachside town – with its lively food, art and entertainment scene – is a popular holiday or day trip destination and attracts its fair share of locals to enjoy its idyllic setting.
To the local community it is simply home and an absolute slice of paradise at that. You won’t have to ask anyone twice about why they love living there – it is almost evident as soon as you reach the ‘Welcome to Coolum Beach’ sign.
It is believed the name Coolum is derived from the local Aboriginal word “gulum” or “kulum” meaning blunt or headless, and refers to the shape of Mount Coolum, which has no peak. Prior to European settlement, the Coolum district was the traditional land of the Inabara or Yinneburra clan of the Undanbi tribe of Aboriginal people and part of the larger Kabi Kabi group.
In the late 1800s sugarcane was planted in the area and by the 1920s a considerable expansion of the industry took place. Cane farming provided the main source of financial stability in the district until the beginning of tourism in the 1960s.
Today, first and foremost, Coolum draws visitors in for its spectacular beaches, and of course, nearby Mount Coolum attracts many a hiker for an obligatory summit photo.
The main beach directly opposite the town centre is patrolled year-round and great for swimming and surfing. To the north, Stumers Creek has an off-leash dog area and towards the south, First, Second and Third bays attract plenty of photographers.
Coolum Beach has a proud surf club culture and lifesavers have patrolled the waters since 1919, with the water also the playground of pro surfer Julian Wilson. The Coolum Beach Surf Club is open daily and a great place to enjoy a bite to eat and watch the waves roll in.
The shopping and dining precinct runs along David Low Way and is fronted by a large grassy beachfront park and skate ramp. It’s the perfect place for families and friends to enjoy a barbecue, play cricket or kick a ball now that spring is in the air. With a range of fine dining and casual eateries you’ll never go hungry in Coolum. From a plethora of cafes, including French, Japanese and Thai cuisines, it’s best to take a stroll and see what tickles your fancy, or grab a takeaway and have a picnic. If you’re looking for dinner, Mr Mancino is perfect for Italian cuisine, or Bombay Bliss does wonderful Indian from its exquisite venue with sunken lounge seating. Canteen Kitchen and Bar is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and offers an eclectic mix of dishes showcasing the Sunshine Coast’s best fresh produce. Alley Cat Coolum is also a great all-round venue for coffee and food by day and drinks and live music by night.
There is a fantastic coffee culture around town with plenty of places to find your morning cup before going for a swim or walk along the beach. A town favourite is Compound Surf and Drink Coffee which is nestled in the back streets of Coolum and well worth seeking out.
Coolum is also bustling with community events for all ages including the popular Salty Saturdays at Jack Morgan Park. Held on the second and fourth Saturday of the month from 1pm to 7pm, it showcases live music, free entertainment, delicious food and is a chance to support local artisans.
The town is also playing host to the Skyline Attractions giant Ferris wheel until November 1. The wheel offers breathtaking views from comfortable gondolas, which rise 35 metres into the air.
Coolum Civic Centre is the entrainment hub of the town and is popular for local theatre productions, events and functions. The Sunshine Coast Council multi-functional facility is a sister site to Venue 114 at Bokarina. The town also has a colourful arts scene and is home to many creators. Coolum Art Collective has been active since 1968 and holds two major exhibitions each year. The upcoming Spring Art Exhibition is on from September 30 to October 2 at Coolum Civic Centre, with more than 200 works on offer.
As one of the town’s most well-known painters, Owen Cavanagh has a solid reputation for creating stunning surf art and murals, including the piece along the Sunshine Motorway near the Sunshine Coast Airport. Owen recently opened Studio 53 Art & Surf Culture on Quanda Road where he showcases his art as well as other local artists and renowned surfing pieces.
Coolum is also a fitness mecca with a range or gyms and fitness groups scattered throughout the suburb. There is everything from functional training to boxing gyms, and studios to practise yoga and Pilates.
Just to the north is the Coolum Sports Complex, which is also home to a range of local sporting teams including netball, touch, rugby league, football, cricket and tennis. There is also an aquatic centre, and just out of town within the industrial area is the Blast Aqua Park Coolum, which is a great day out for all ages.
Opening Fitstop Coolum in November 2019, Ryan and Amanda Shackley live and breathe fitness and have an absolute love for the local community.
Speaking with salt, Ryan, who grew up surfing the waves at Coolum, says the locals are the heart of the town and create a lively and inviting culture.
“I absolutely love owning a gym in Coolum and Coolum has my heart and soul,” he says.
“Coolum has an absolutely amazing community. We are tight-knit and like a family – it is so infectious. We have members that own cafes and local businesses, so when you walk along the front street everyone knows each other. It has that real small-town feel. Everyone is so welcoming too. I see it in the gym when people come in from the outside area, and it’s the same when you go down to the local community cafes. The culture is amazing.”
Noting a great deal of positive growth in Coolum in recent years, especially since opening his gym, Ryan says Coolum is thriving. “The growth in the town has been exponential. Seeing business grow, people grow and local community events grow – seeing the Ferris wheel – it is really putting Coolum on the map.
“I grew up as a kid surfing at Coolum so to know Coolum as it used to be versus what it is now and what it is going to become in the next three to five years is absolutely amazing.”
For anyone heading to Coolum for a getaway, Coolum Beach Holiday Park is one of the best spots on the Coast. Right on the beach and with newly refurbished amenities, it attracts many campers and caravanners looking for a seaside break. It’s also perfect for a holiday-at-home staycation. There are also hotels and resorts to choose from close to the town centre.
While you’re in Coolum make sure to visit Mount Coolum in the Mount Coolum National Park. Climb the steps to the summit – which is 208 metres above sea level – and enjoy stunning 360-degree views stretching from Point Cartwright and the Glass House Mountains in the south to the Blackhall Range in the west, and Noosa Heads to the north.
Coolum really has it all and is perfect for a visit this spring.