Updated: Feb 8
✦ World tourism and travel has re-opened with vigour, yet with air travel plagued by high fares as capacity remains affected by years of torpor. Some travellers are skipping long-distance breaks until the scene settles down in favour of destinations closer to home.
Travel writer Susie Boswell says new airline Bonza solves both the fares and distance challenges.
For the first time ever new Aussie airline Bonza is bringing Queensland’s exclusive holiday drawcard - Noosa and surrounds – to within less than a couple of hours of our Hastings home.
From Wednesday April 12 the brash newcomer will fly its 186-passenger Boeing 737 MAX aircraft between Port Macquarie and the Sunshine Coast in around an hour and 20 minutes.
The playgrounds of Noosa are just a half hour drive north.
By car, you’d need to slash two days from your holiday break – it’s the better part of a day’s drive each way.
And: the Sun Coast airport located on the edge of Maroochydore, Bonza’s home base, lies conveniently midway between Noosa, at the northern tip of a 60km stretch of golden sands and clear blue surf, and Caloundra, a popular family magnet, to the extreme south. Along the way, the variety of attractions, activities, accommodation and overall budget options is wide.
Noosa - sun, sand, surf, culture & more!
Noosa’s noted for its beach, surfing and fitness culture, music and sports festivals, as well as for its exceptional dining. Elsewhere on the Coast visitors are lured by the Irwin family’s Australia Zoo, the Sea Life aquarium at Mooloolaba Wharf, protected swimming and gentle boating on the broad waters between Bribie Island and Kings Beach, by golf at Pelican Waters (Greg Norman’s mum, who taught him his skills, is a local member who holed-in-one there), by superb fishing and marine opportunities, of course… and fresh-caught, plentiful and well-priced seafood of every description (a must to be enjoyed at the outstanding Mooloolaba Fish Market on the spit).
Bonza’s inaugural Port Macquarie flight arrives from the Coast at 5:15pm and will depart with its first local passenger cohort at 7:15pm, in time for supper at the destination and a good night’s sleep before setting out well rested, bright and early, to begin taking in the region the following day. On the return, holidaymakers have pretty much a full final day before an evening departure home.
Bookings are already flowing in, no doubt thanks to the schedule starting right after Easter, at the start of the NSW autumn school break. They can be made via a travel agent, or the Bonza app, starting at just $49.
There are some optional additional costs on top of the bare-bones fare. Included in each booking is 8kg of carry-on baggage, with checked baggage for additional bags “available”, based on weight and length of the flight. Other optional add-ons are extra leg room and seat preferences, when booking on the app. On board, passengers can order from the “all-Aussie” menu with snack prices starting at $2.
The Sunshine Coast subtropical climate is equable all year round, with warm days even in mid-winter, a great escape when the cold bites down south.
And more good news!
Bonza executive Carly Povey says the airline is just now finalising work to open up its routes into and ex Melbourne’s Avalon airport – and that they will include a twice-weekly service for Port Macquarie passengers.
The Melbourne route is expected to be extremely popular, not only for its budget fares but because it will fly direct.
Websites are the way to go to plan your visit. For example, at https://www.visitnoosa.com.au/whats-on you’ll find details of events including the 2023 Runaway Noosa Marathon, on the weekend of May 27-28, along a flat, fast and friendly multi-lap course over a range of distances.
On the (NSW) King’s Birthday long weekend, June 2-4, the Hell’s Gate 38 will attract both athletes and spectators to the water: competitive and experienced ocean ski paddlers, some of the world’s best, vie against each other and the elements in a 38km race from Mooloolaba to finish at Noosa Main Beach.
There’s never a dull moment on the Sunshine Coast, even shopping can be a sought-after joy. Visitors from the regions have all the big-name capital-city stores, brands and labels beckoning in a range of cool shopping complexes, as well as the chi-chi boutiques on Noosa’s main drag, Hastings Street.
My own pleasure, though, is exploring the many sensational restaurants and cafes and delicious cuisine along Hastings Street and nearby, at the very edge of the Main Beach promenade and sand, and along the Noosa riverside. My favourite: The Sprit House, Australia’s best Thai restaurant, at Yandina.
Bonza’s new route is also the gateway to the traditional country music extravaganza, the Gympie Muster, just to the north of the Coast, and to the many spas and boutique accommodations in the Glasshouse Mountains hinterland around the villages of Maleny and Montville.
Looks like, for future Hastings travellers, the sky’s the limit!
FOOTNOTE: The Sunshine Coast will be keen to attract visitors from our region so keep an eye out online or via your travel agent for discounted packages, weekend specials, and value-added deals. Equally, Port Macquarie and the Hastings tourism providers are looking forward to welcoming increased visitation from south-east Queensland. Win-win. Well done, Bonza.
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