WE ALL know Noosa, right?
The Sunshine Coast's northern tourist mecca has world-class beaches, Australia's most-visited national park as well as upmarket Hastings St that lies a stone's throw from dazzling teal-coloured waters and the clean golden sands of Laguna Bay.
The town has long enjoyed a hallowed place in modern surfing history (recently receiving the coveted status of World Surfing Reserve - the 10th bestowed by Save The Waves, and third in Australia alongside the Gold Coast and Manly).
Everyone knows Noosa has a laid-back coastal vibe plus an enviable mild climate that has locals and visitors alike walking on sunshine throughout the year.
The unmistakable "Noosa style” is evident in oh-so-cool clothing, accessories and homewares seen in understatedly-chic boutique shopfronts and resorts or jumping out of the pages of glossy magazines.
And let's not forget its reputation for innovative menus across a diverse array of award-winning, fine-dining restaurants such as Wasabi Restaurant and Bar at Noosa Sound, and affordable family-friendly cafes such as Sirocco Noosa at Noosaville and Betty's Burgers and Concrete Co in Noosa Heads.
Yes, anyone who has lived within a 100km radius or is a frequent visitor might think they know Noosa.
But for this long-time Sunshine Coaster, my northern neighbour is so near and yet so far from being familiar or humdrum.
The trick is to keep looking at it from a different angle and always trying something new.
Then everyday Noosa never fails to impress.
Wild about life
NOOSA'S surf beaches are enjoyed by amateur and professional boardriders from across the globe each year. But there's one group of naturally adept surfers who are out all day, every day, whether the waves are pumping or not.
And today, we're on a mission to meet them.
The hour-long Dolphin Safari tour by Noosa Oceanrider (www.oceanrider.com.au) leaves from Noosaville's Gympie Terrace headquarters for a thrill-a-second jetboat ride venturing over the Noosa Bar and following the picturesque Noosa National Park coastline.
Noosa's Main Beach and national park tracks may be familiar to landlubbers but they may have never seen "secret spots” such as Paradise Caves, weathered rocky outcrops favoured by cormorants, soaring Boiling Pot cliffs from below, or deserted pandanus-lined beaches such as Alexandria Bay and rugged Hells Gates headland from the water.
Skipper Nick Stewart delivers on adrenalin-charged speed and serious "air” combined with safety on the 8.5m RIB Waverider, with commentary only an experienced local can bring.
And he knows when and where his dolphin mates like to hang out on a daily basis.
On this perfect Noosa morning, eyes are peeled after we turn off the engine and drift up and down the gentle swell just off Sunshine Beach.
We soon spot the pod of scallywags that seem to be playing hide and seek with us, like young children fearful of strangers.
But they're not playing games today.
It's tucker time and they're in search of baitfish for their breakfast.
So we try to plot their probable movements under the water and call out with glee when they surface for air, making heads turn and setting cameras whirring once again.
The scenery combined with our spontaneous, if only brief, encounter with dolphins in the wild is certainly something to write home about.
Down by the river
MAJESTIC Noosa River is no ordinary river.
It's a water-lover's playground with a funky flotilla of party boats - from pontoon hire boats to the MV Noosa Queen, plus tinnies, fishing charters, the Noosa Ferry, gondolas, yachts, hobie cats and sabots from the Noosa Yacht and Rowing Club, kayaks and canoes, stand up paddleboards and multi-million-dollar private cruisers plying the waters almost 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Hundreds of people call the river home in enviable waterfront mansions but a simple ferry ride will also motor past what the locals call the humbly-sized "Hillbilly Hilton” to much larger and grander holiday houseboats.
Walkers, cyclists and skaters meander the paths that are the lifeblood of Noosaville from one end of Gympie Terrace to another.
And the grassed areas, tables and gazebos are a favourite with picnickers.
But why settle for just any ordinary picnic in such an extraordinary setting.
Katrina Scott's Getaway Pantry (www.getawaypantry.com) specialises in five-star picnics, Noosa-style.
For a minimum of $50 a head plus food and drinks, Katrina can create a memorable lunch or dinner complete with crisp white tablecloth, comfy cushions, gold-plated cutlery, romantic music, fairylights or mood lighting and champagne flutes to toast life, love and holidays.
Mooloolaba prawns with chilli jam, Coffin Bay oysters au natural with a hint of lemon, honey soy chicken kebabs, organic beef sausages or wagyu eye fillet with a range of healthy salads ... the menu choices can all be effortlessly prepared and cooked by the water's edge.
Her business expanded into designer picnics two years ago and now she caters for locals and visitors seeking something unique while celebrating Noosa's laid-back charm.
For a special occasion, to impress corporate clients, for a marriage proposal or just because you can, bespoke picnic pleasure is only a phone call or mouse click away.
Food for thought
PADDOCK-to-plate goodness has a crispier edge at four Noosa restaurants.
The Ogilvie Group's Maravista Farm in the Noosa hinterland near Lake Cootharaba not only grows and supplies vegetables, herbs and flowers for the company-owned aromas Noosa and Locale Italian in Hastings St, and Rickys and Wood Fire Grill in nearby Quamby Place, it also plants according to chefs' suggestions to enhance their seasonal menus.
The farm's "culinary garden”, as it is known, is in the early stages of a project that gives hospitality staff a new level of involvement in the food process and ensures an unparalleled scale of freshness on diners' plates.
So when you order the fried local zucchini flowers with buffalo milk ricotta, smoked eggplant, caramelised Maravista Farm baby beets and pistachio at Locale Noosa or even the broccoli florets with brown butter and garlic side dish at Wood Fire and Grill, you don't have to be a discerning food critic to taste the fresh difference.
With a view to relax
YOU may have done laps of Hastings Street before but never like this.
Leave the galleries, boutiques, surf shops and gelato bars behind and step into the lap pool at Seahaven Noosa Resort's absolute beachfront accommodation.
Then take a breather and gaze out into the mesmerising emerald waters of Laguna Bay and slow your mind to the rhythm of gentle waves lapping the foreshore.
Only clear-glass panels and lawn separate the pool from the view and entertaining "people parade” -mothers taking their morning exercise while pushing prams along the public boardwalk; a sole swimmer enjoying his daily exercise; a family of cyclists in matching helmets gliding past; elderly couples chatting away like there is no tomorrow; the chuckles of young children running down to the water's edge for the first swim of the day; the dog-walkers; the lovers.
Or drink in the spectacular view through your lounge room's floor-to-ceiling sliding doors with a cool sundowner drink prepared in your home-away-from-home kitchen.
Seahaven Noosa (www.seahavennoosa.com.au) is owned by self-made billionaire and No.35 on Forbes' 2017 Australia's 50 Richest list: John Van Lieshout.
Mr Van Lieshout started the Super A-Mart furniture chain and tuned it into a retail giant. While he sold the chain in 2006, he retained the freehold to some stores and now operates a large property portfolio including Seahaven Noosa.
Massive refurbishments in the past year have seen apartments upgraded with luxury appointments, and improvements to the pools, gym, poolside gas barbecue deck and guest transit lounge as well as security.
Once you've enjoyed the charms of absolute beachfront living, you'll never want to holiday anywhere else.
The writer paid her own way in part and was a guest of Visit Noosa. See www.visitnoosa.com.au for bookings.