The coast north of Caloundra kicks off with MOOLOOLABA, a mess of high-rise units, boutiques and flashy, forgettable dining experiences – though the beaches are long, sandy and excellent for surfing. Its sole land-based attraction is Underwater World on Parkyn Parade (daily 9am–5pm, last entry at 4pm; $28.50), with superb views of sharks, turtles and nonchalant freshwater crocodiles staring blankly at you through observation windows. For the real thing, Sunreef at 110 Brisbane Rd (Tel:07/5444 5656, Web: www.sunreef.com.au ) can take qualified scuba divers fifteen minutes offshore to where the HMAS Brisbane lies in 8–28m of water; the 133m-long destroyer was deliberately sunk as a dive site in 2005 and has already become home to a large array of marine life. A two-tank dive costs $145 plus gear rental, but it's an unpleasant experience in heavy swell; if you're heading north, save your dollars for the Yongala.
Buses set down on Smith Street, a short way back from shops and restaurants lining the hundred-metre-long, seafront Esplanade. The Esplanade has plenty of modern high-rise holiday apartments all charging around $300 and up for a two bedroom, self-contained unit: options include Sirocco (Tel:07/5444 1400, Web: www.siroccoapartments.com.au ) and Peninsular (Tel:07/5444 4477, Web: www.peninsular.com.au ). Alternatively, Sandcastles, on the corner of Esplanade and Parkyn Parade (Tel:07/5478 0666, Web: www.sandcastlesonthebeach.com.au ; Price: $161-200), offers older rooms right next to the Surf Club, while Mooloolaba Beach Backpackers at 75 Brisbane Rd (Tel:07/5444 3399, Web: www.mooloolababackpackers.com ; Price: hostel $26, Price: hotel $61-75) is a clean and friendly budget option where the price includes a free breakfast, bike, kayak and boogie-board loans, and barbecue nights. Eating options are everywhere, though the best deals and sea views are at Mooloolaba Surf Club's smart café, bar and restaurant on the Esplanade (daily noon–2pm & 6pm– late, plus Sun from 8am). Mooloolaba Hotel, on the Esplanade, hosts rock bands every Friday and Saturday, and opens its doors as a club on Sundays.