Five stars and fishing reels

Beside designer apartments, Dorian Mode casts his fishing line and finds Noosa to be a town for all tastes.

'What do you mean there's no public transport from Maroochydore airport? You're kidding, right?'' The crematorium-tanned lady manning the desk shrugs and yawns simultaneously.

''So how does anybody get to Noosa from the airport?'' I ask. ''Cab,'' she says, pointing an arthritic finger at the taxi rank.

''C-a-a-a-b? And how much is that going to set me back?''

''If you have to ask, you shouldn't be staying in Noosa, drop-kick,'' she says - but it comes out as ''$70 to $85.''

Noosa, about two hours' drive north of Brisbane and 40 minutes' drive from Maroochydore, was originally home to several indigenous tribes: Udumbi, Dulingbara and Kabi. This is manifest today in ancient middens, canoe trees (where bark was removed for canoe-making) and bora rings, used for rituals.

European settlement came quite late. It was only after gold was discovered in Gympie that Noosa was settled; this was as late as 1920, primarily due to transport issues in the region. Nice to see little has changed.

As I egress my taxi with an empty wallet, the cabbie spies my fishing rod. He leans out the window, peering over cheap sunglasses. ''Best fishing? Go to the river out the back of the hotel for monster bream. Don't use regular bait but hot chips.'' Hot chips? Yeah, right, I think, waving him away with a grimace.

So here I am on Hastings Street and I've blown the budget simply getting here from the airport. However, I'm momentarily assuaged by my luxurious yet thrifty lodgings.

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Hotel Laguna is inaptly named. It's not a hotel but a block of serviced apartments. But it does feel like a hotel. Perched between Hastings Street and the sleepy Noosa riverfront, Laguna has a giant pool, poolside barbecue, laundry facilities and internet connection. It says on its website: ''The real Noosa without the price tag!'' And fair enough. It's affordable yet luxurious

However, having drained the wallet, I now have no money for food. Only one thing for it: I'll have to live off the land, like Bear Grylls in Man vs. Wild. If I only had a flint and raft materials (he's always making rafts, for some reason).

I like Noosa. It's much like where I live on the NSW central coast only with more jewellery and fewer fat people in bad clothes.

I like the interesting mix: posh shops, tropical soundtrack, balmy atmosphere, bush turkeys darting in and around the Porsches and whiffs of overpriced cologne. But mostly I admire the astonishing - for Queensland - lack of wanton development.

The locals should be applauded - they vigorously protect their way of life. Someone remarked ''you get an injection of green when you live here''. This is axiomatic by simply strolling around the place.

So, sans daily budget, I augment my deprivation by mooching over to Quay West Resort & Spa Noosa. The new digs overlook the glinting waters of Noosa Sound and has nine hectares of protected conservation sanctuary. Only a short stroll from Hastings Street, it's a good base for romantic escapes or family holidays.

I poke about the newly built Outrigger Little Hastings Street Resort & Spa. The resort looks spanking, with ocean and rainforest views from any of the 200 rooms, all with balconies. Close to Hastings Street, it mostly has one- and two-bedroom suites and two- and three-bedroom villas for guests.

However, tummy rumbles punctuate my resort stickybeak. The Bear needs to make camp and find food before the sun sets. Unable to bring myself to hunt a bush turkey along Hastings Street with a plastic fork, I head for the river behind Laguna.

With my high-tech Rovex Aluma rod and Fin-Nor MegaLite reel, I trawl a dazzling array of overpriced lures through the water. Nothing.

After an hour I return with $5 worth of hot chips. I eat a few before impaling one on a hook and dropping it at my feet. Suddenly the rod becomes a quivering arc. I land five curling bream in less than 15 minutes.

I view my box of lures with a mixture of disdain and melancholy. So much money invested in state-of-the-art fishing accoutrement, wasted.

I gut my tea as a group of well-heeled people beside me dine outside, in front of their zillion-dollar apartment. All starched tablecloths and designer cutlery. Very cool. Very Noosa.

As I clean my catch they regard me through upturned wineglasses. I sheepishly toss fish guts into their pristine river as wheeling gulls pick them off the surface. Poolside at Laguna, I cook the fish on the barbecue - remaining chips on the side. There is so much fish I share it with two lobster-tanned Scandinavian backpackers.

The following day I ask how to get back to the airport without hocking my fillings. ''Henry!'' the receptionist at Hotel Laguna says as I check out.

''Who's Henry?'' I ask.*

Dorian Mode travelled courtesy of Tourism Noosa.

FAST FACTS

Getting there

Virgin Blue has a fare from Melbourne to Maroochydore (2hr 15min) for $119 and from Sydney (95min) for $95. Jetstar also flies non-stop from both cities. Fares are one-way, including tax.

* Henry's Shuttle Service costs $25 each way from the airport ($12 children, $65 family). Phone (07) 5474 0199, see www.henrys.com.au.

Staying there

Hotel Laguna has studio apartments from $155. Phone (07) 5447 3077, see www.hotellaguna.com.au.

Quay West Resort & Spa Noosa has studios from $230 in low season. Phone (07) 5341 6300, see www.mirvachotels.com.

Outrigger Little Hastings Street Resort & Spa has rooms from $279, including breakfast for two. Phone (07) 5449 2277, see www.outrigger.com.au.

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