A Canberran's Guide to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland | HerCanberra

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A Canberran’s Guide to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland

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There’s an awful lot to love about sunny Noosa on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, but if you head inland to the hills of the nearby hinterland instead, there’s a whole new world of delight to discover—at a slightly slower pace.

Beginning just 90 minutes north of Brisbane and taking in the Glass House Mountains and beyond, the hinterland covers a lot of ground.

With an abundance of rolling hills, forests and waterfalls to explore and cute villages to discover, it’s up to you how to travel, but from burgers to degustations, climbing mountains to sipping cocktails, there’s pretty much something for everyone.

Now with direct flights between Canberra and Maroochydore, it’s even easier to get to the Sunshine Coast, pesky border restrictions aside. And it turns out the hinterland is just as much a foodie haven as its bigger Noosa cousin with a wealth of farmers and producers churning out quality fare and with some of the finest dining on the Sunshine Coast.

Here’s a little taste of what’s on offer.

Eat and Drink

The rich volcanic soils of the hinterland are a food producer’s delight, evidenced from the array of quality fare on offer and the rich history of dairy farming in the area.

You can explore on your own or join one of the many food discovery tours on offer, featuring cheeses from local dairies, chocolates, distilleries, wineries and more.

Look out for cool craft breweries like award-winning Brouhaha in Maleny or Copperhead Brewery at Cooroy taking local brews to a whole new level with good food on the side or the new boutique Eumundi Distillers (gin anyone?) which joins Eumundi Brewery at the grand old Imperial Hotel.

Wild Rocket at Misty’s

Wild Rocket. Photo author’s own.

The quirky historic building that houses Wild Rocket in Montville, the artisan heart of the hinterland, beckons locals and visitors alike for hearty meals and good times.

Once the village general store, it’s now home to chef/owner Peter Brettell and wife Belinda who’ve been scouring the region for 10 years for the best in local produce and organic meat to transform into goodies of all descriptions.

The large traditional menu provides generous dishes from across the globe—glazed duck to fragrant curries—with an occasional nod to Peter’s English roots, like bangers and mash.

Beer lovers can sample small-batch brews from the onsite micro-brewery and linger in the beer garden on sunny days—which is most of them in Queensland.

142 Main Street, Montville | wildrocketfood.com.au

The Long Apron

 

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Set on picture-perfect Clovelly Estate, part of the Spicers Collection of luxury retreats across Australia, the twice-hatted Long Apron offers a fine dining experience long to be remembered.

Refined but relaxed, it takes inspiration from French classics to create a feast for the senses: spanner crab with hibiscus; organic beef cheek with dark chocolate, macadamia granita with citrus salad.

New head chef Andy Birsch’s menu echoes the retreat’s commitment to sustainability with a focus on local produce, complemented by the property’s own garden and bees.

Wine lovers will delight in the wine list that traverses France and Australia acknowledging old and new, with champagne of course.

Choose lunch or dinner but don’t second guess yourself—just go for the adventure of the degustation. No time limits here: this is an experience to be savoured.

Spicers Clovelly Estate, 38-68 Balmoral Road Montville | spicersretreats.com/restaurants/the-long-apron-restaurant

Spirit House Restaurant and Cooking School

The tiny village of Yandina is home to a culinary icon of the Sunshine Coast. Peering over a tranquil lake in a garden wonderland of verdant greens and bamboo, the Spirit House (feature image) has been delighting guests with modern Asian flavours since 1997.

Now in the capable hands of the founders’ sons, it continues to serve signature dishes like their famed coconut soup with lemongrass and smoked salmon or whole crispy-skinned fish with tamarind sauce which has featured on the menu since day dot.

To discover some of their culinary secrets, join one of the famed four-hour cooking classes which run seven days a week. Book early to ensure a seat at the restaurant but if you miss out, shared plates and cocktails at the chilled onsite Hong Sa bar is a good alternative.

20 Ninderry Rd, Yandina | spirithouse.com.au

Rick’s Garage

 

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For a bit of retro fun and whole lot of automotive memorabilia, head to Rick’s Garage, ex-mechanical repairs and now diner, in Palmwoods for a hearty serve of American diner culture.

We’re talking wings, burgers and fries (rather excellent fries) with some iced donuts thrown in for good measure. As evidenced by the array of motorbikes out the front, this pumping diner is a favourite among bikers exploring the surrounding hills on wheels and is constantly humming with people and live entertainment.

There are beers galore, including the local brews, and a whisky bar to boot. Tip for young players: consider opting for the kid’s size milkshake as the adult variety is a meal in itself.

14-16 Margaret Street, Palmwoods | ricksgarage.com.au

Play

The Pottery Studio

Discover the mysteries of pottery and release your inner artist with a fun class at The Pottery Studio in Nambour.

With expert tuition on tap, this little studio on the outskirts of town offers a range of workshops: try a wheel throwing class or explore hand building, or there’s a Clay and Wine (or coffee) option for extra giggles.

Even if you don’t create a masterpiece, it’s a chance to let your stresses go and just be in the moment. Don’t wear your good gear and be warned the teachers are pretty over Ghost references and some of them haven’t even seen the movie.

There’s another studio at Maroochydore which also offers classes for kids. It may well whet your appetite for more.

4/20 Brookes St, Nambour | thepotterystudio.com.au

High Tea at Flaxton Gardens

 

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In the tiny village of Flaxton, one of the prettiest settlements in the mountains, sits the rather grand Flaxton Gardens atop a hill.

Starting life as a vineyard and pottery, it’s evolved into a dazzling wedding and event venue and the home of high teas for special occasions. Boasting colonial splendour, manicured gardens and sandstone for days, it’s a perfect setting for a spot of fancy nibbles and fine china.

Choices abound: perhaps a tapas affair from tempura zucchini and grilled chicken brioche to macarons and lemon myrtle panna cotta, a seafood spread (High Sea!) or a smokey stack of barbeque delights—and not a scone in sight!

Morning or afternoon sittings are available Wednesday to Sunday. Leave time to wander the grounds and take in the spectacular views across the hinterland all the way to the coast.

313 Flaxton Drive, Flaxton |  flaxtongardens.com.au

Eumundi Markets

No trip to the Sunshine Coast is really complete without a visit to the famed Eumundi markets, more than 40 years old and ever-evolving. It’s the biggest art and craft markets in Australia but still manages a village vibe with live music and entertainment on the side.

There’s a dizzying array of homemade wares—all made or baked or made or grown or sewn—and the chance to meet the makers. Rain, hail or shine, the markets are held each Wednesday (8 am-2 pm) and Saturday morning (from 7 am).

Go with an empty tummy and arrive early to nab a good street park or fork out $6 at the ECCO car park in Napier Road if you miss out. Dare you not to buy something.

80 Memorial Dr, Eumundi | eumundimarkets.com.au

Ikatan Spa

 

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It’s the little things that make a day spa special, like iced pomegranate tea on arrival or a glass of bubbles, or perhaps big things, like hectares of lush tropical garden surrounds—or perhaps it’s both.

Tucked away in sleepy Doonan, 10 minutes from Noosa, Ikatan Spa is a slice of Bali paradise and oodles of pampering. Maximising privacy, timbered treatment villas are scattered along winding stone paths or you can take a foot or head treatment in the communal garden room to soak in the greenery.

Offering a menu of treatments outside the norm, Ikatan also allows guests to linger longer with tasting plates or nibbles before or after treatments.

Don’t miss the Asian head massage, created by owner Katrina Thorpe by blending techniques from five cultures.

46 Grays Road, Doonan, ikatanspa.com

Stay

Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat

 

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This secluded retreat just beyond Montville may have just been awarded Tripadvisor’s most romantic getaway in the world (yes, the world!) but that doesn’t mean you can’t escape there with your bestie or three.

With just six private villas nestled among subtropical rainforest, it’s all about relaxing in nature with an abundance of luxury. Resident owners Ali and Xochi have thought of everything to make your stay special: verandah hammock, overflowing brekkie hamper, freshly baked croissants, a heavenly bed, champers, local organic bathroom supplies and their own nature walk around a creek for starters.

There’s even a log fire as it can get a little chilly in the hills. Minutes from Lake Boreen and Kondalilla National Park, it’s perfectly located to explore further. You’ll wake to birdsong and leave refreshed.

78 Narrows Road, Montville | narrowsescape.com.au

The Country House at Hunchy

The Country House at Hunchy. Image author’s own.

Along a quiet winding lane in a secluded valley, some true country hospitality and a bit of luxury awaits at this modern Queenslander homestead at Hunchy, a tiny township in the foothills of the Blackall Range.

Hosted by tree-changers Paul and Karin Orwin, this light-filled B & B offers two spacious suites, a vast tropical garden setting, and walks and waterfalls at your doorstep.

Bring your stretchy pants for breakfast, a fine three-course affair showcasing Karin’s passion for cooking and home-baked pastries.

Just minutes from Montville, you can dine in town or stay home with a comprehensive menu on offer catering for all. Leave your curtains open for a chance at a spectacular hinterland sunrise over the ranges without leaving your bed.

813 Hunchy Road, Hunchy | thecountryhouseathunchy.com.au

The Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort

The Novotel Sunshine Coast Resort. Photo author’s own.

If you want to explore the hinterland but can’t tear yourself from the coast, this just refurbished resort sprawling over 36 hectares (that means really huge) of gardens and bushland provides the best of both worlds.

Located at Twin Waters, it’s a stroll to the beach and only 20 minutes to the hills. The vast private lagoon with its sandy beach is the star of the show, where you can partake in the included water sports like kayaking and catamaran sailing or lounge around sipping cocktails instead.

Choose between studio rooms, apartments or bungalows perched over the water. Wake early and you may meet some of the chilled resident kangaroos feasting on the lawns.

270 Ocean Drive, Twin Waters | novotelsunshinecoast.com.au

The writer was a guest of Visit Sunshine Coast. Feature image: author’s own.

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