In case you missed it, we are in the middle of a series about the 3 weeks we spent in Australia and Asia this summer. Follow the links below to catch up:
- 2 week Australia/1 week Asia itinerary + Flying on the Qantas A380
- 4 days/4 nights in Sydney – Restaurants and activities
- Day trips from Sydney
- 2 days/2 nights in Melbourne – Restaurants, activities, and day trips
- Driving the Great Ocean Road with 1 night in Port Campbell
- 3 days/3 nights in North Queensland – Cairns, Port Douglas, Daintree, Great Barrier Reef
- 2 days/2 nights in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast
- 2 days/2 nights in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland
- 2 days/3 nights in Kuala Lumpur
- 3 days/4 nights in Hong Kong
If you want to take a side trip from Brisbane, you can go south to the Gold Coast or north to the Sunshine Coast. Both offer beaches, coastal towns, and the “hinterland” (a mountainous inland region). The Gold Coast is the more touristy of the two coastal regions. It is known for its glitzy hotels, theme parks, and nightlife as well as its surfing and rainforest hinterland. The Gold Coast has five major theme parks, including Sea World, Dream World, and Warner Brothers Movie World.
In contrast, the Sunshine Coast tends to be less touristy and runs at a slower pace than the Gold Coast. The most famous attraction is Steve Irwin’s Australia Zoo, but the region also features unique destinations like the Buderim Ginger Factory and the Big Pineapple. What most attracted me to the Sunshine Coast, however, were the vast number of national parks in the region, including Mapleton Falls, Kondalilla, Glass House Mountains, Noosa, and Great Sandy National Parks. I really wanted a chance to spend a relaxing few days in the mountains and see wildlife and we were able to do that in the Sunshine Coast. Beach + mountains + wildlife=my happy place!
Where to stay:
Before our trip, we booked a guest flat in Montville through airbnb. Our private apartment on our host’s property in the beautiful Sunshine Coast hinterland ended up being the perfect place to stay. The location offers a quiet and relaxing setting, but is still close to the towns of Montville and Palmwoods. The flat was immaculate and had everything we could need, including breakfast and toiletries. We enjoyed having yogurt and cereal on the balcony each morning and taking in the incredible views over the rainforest out to the coast. Our hosts, Arthur and Megan, were welcoming and friendly and even invited us to their main house for a movie and wine. It was such a pleasure meeting them and they were a great source of recommendations for things to do in the area both before and during our visit. We highly recommend staying at their flat if you are traveling to the area (link above). Thanks Megan and Arthur!
What to do:
There is plenty to do in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, especially if you like nature! We enjoyed hikes, beautiful views of the countryside, and some local flair.
On the way to Montville, make sure to stop Gerrard Lookout in the Blackall Range. If you have time, bring lunch to eat at the rotunda while you enjoy the panoramic views from Mooloolah River out to Noosa Heads.
Another great place to have a picnic is at the Baroon Pocket Dam, which is built across Obi Obi Creek. Swimming, boating, canoeing, and fishing are permitted in Lake Baroon and there is a large picnic and barbecue area available.
One of the most iconic sites in the Sunshine Coast is the Big Pineapple. When the Big Pineapple first opened in 1971, it had rides and a pineapple farm. Due to numerous financial and management issues, it seems the Big Pineapple is not quite what it used to be, but it is definitely still a fun place for a photo opportunity. There is a tiny museum you can enjoy on your walk up to the top of the pineapple, which depicts the pineapple farming industry. There is also a small cafeteria and gift shop, but unfortunately they had run out of pineapple (due to theft of the fresh pineapples) and could not make any dishes with pineapple. That was definitely a bummer! I would imagine that the Big Pineapple is busier in the summer months of tourist season; check here for events and updates. Again, it is a fun photo-op, but don’t expect too much!
McMartin’s Farm is off the beaten path, but is worth it if only for the fresh strawberry ice cream. The farm has been family owned and operated since 1945 and produces strawberries, figs, custard apples, and lychee. You can pick your own strawberries (this is a super fun activity if you have kids) or just have a bite to eat in the cafe. There are homemade scones and smoothies, but the highlight is the award-winning strawberry ice cream! With 30% fruit and local Maleny Dairy, the ice cream is made on the premises and is completely worth a short drive out of your way for an afternoon snack.
For more “food tourism,” check out the Ginger Factory and Nutworks for educational and delicious tours of the ginger and macadamia nut factories. At the Ginger Factory, you can also enjoy the gardens, rides, shopping, and all the ginger food items you can imagine. I got a ginger drink and took home some ginger candy for my brother. Across the street, you’ll find Nutworks, where you can learn all about the fascinating process of macadamia nut farming, watch the processing (you’ll see that they are examined individually, which explains why they are so expensive!), and sample foods made with the nuts. We picked up several more souvenir items at Nutworks to take back home to our families.
Now, for my favorite part of every trip: hiking! There is ample hiking available in the Sunshine Coast. We were able to see an enormous amount of wildlife in the region, probably because it was much less populated than anywhere else we visited in Australia.
One of my favorite hikes was in Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve. Even though it is just a short walk through the rainforest, this is where we saw the most wildlife. We saw six adorable pademelon (smallest in the kangaroo family), a humongous colony of hundreds of bats, and heard calls from the whip birds during our entire walk. The staff at the welcome center was informative and friendly and helped us identify some of the animals that we saw.
Another great place to hike is Kondalilla National Park. I recommend doing the Kondalilla Falls circuit. It was shuttered when we were there, but if you go just past the rock pools and climb over the barrier, you can continue along the trail to the spectacular Kondalilla Falls. The trail seemed to be in perfect shape aside from not having been cleared recently, but of course you will be hiking at your own risk. The hike takes you down to the base of the 90 meter falls where you can climb around on the rocks before you make your return ascent. The full hike is just under 3 miles.
Another locally recommended waterfall hike is the Mapleton Falls Hike. The lookout offers superb views of Mapleton Falls and the Obi Obi Valley. Unfortunately, the lookout and hike were closed due to damage by a cyclone in 2015. Check the link above to see if it may be reopened during your visit.
For a change of pace, drive 45 minutes to Mount Coolum National Park. Mount Coolum rises 208 meters above the Sunshine Coast and offers stunning views of the Sunshine Coast and hinterland. The summit track on (on Jarnahill and Tanah Roads) was another of my favorite hikes during our visit. Although the hike is only about a mile round trip, it is very steep and has many steps and inclines. Depending on your fitness level, you may need to allow a couple of hours (it took us much less). I promise it is worth the work though. The views are incomparable!
After your demanding hike up Mount Coolum, head out to the coast to take a rest while watching the surfers. If you’re up for it, the Coolum beach walk is an awesome place to walk up and down the boardwalk to stretch your legs. The entire beach walk is several miles, so it might be a fun idea to rent bikes and spend a day biking to all of the different beach towns.
Finally, do not miss the Glass House Mountains lookout during a trip to the Hinterland. The lookout provides phenomenal views of the Glass House Mountains, which are vertical columns and jagged peaks formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. They spike up from the plains and bushland in dramatic fashion and provide for a ceremonial site for many of the aboriginal people. There are also a few short hikes in the area.
Where to eat:
The biggest thing to remember if you are staying in one of the hinterland towns is that many of the restaurants close early (typically by 4). We definitely didn’t expect that the hinterland towns are more frequently visited by day trippers. If you have kitchen access, there are grocery stores in the area. If not, there are a few small cafes that close later, so it is possible to make do. Here are our recommendations!
For dinner, we ate at Daawat Indian in Maleny. It was one of the few places open after 6pm in the area, but ended up being an excellent family-owned Indian restaurant. We ordered enough food to last us for dinner the next night and ate our leftovers on our balcony overlooking the rainforest. What to order: Cheese and Garlic Naan, Butter Chicken, Chicken Vindaloo, Dhal Palak
Flame Hill Winery is a great place to go for lunch or a cheese board and a glass of wine. The winery is beautiful and promotes sustainable farming practices. It is located at the highest point in Montville, overlooking the Blackall Range, and offers stunning views of the region to enjoy! There is also lodging available and I would imagine it would be an incredible place to stay! What to order: Order some bakery items or cheese to accompany your wine, or choose to stay for a full dinner.
One of our favorite stops was the Maleny Cheese shop. We ordered a fantastic and filling cheese board and wine as an appetizer to our leftovers from Daawat. The cheese shop sells cow-milk cheeses including cheddars, fetas, and white-mold cheeses made from pure ingredients and a history of European craftsmanship. Our favorites were the port cheddar, herb and garlic feta, and triple-cream brie. Maleny Cheese also offers delicious yogurts in a variety of flavors. I didn’t have one at the store, but fortunately, our airbnb hosts had stocked our refrigerator with some. What to order: Large cheese platter with water crackers and wine.
And only because I loved it so much that it bears repeating, don’t forget to get the strawberry ice cream, made from Maleny Dairy, at McMartin’s Farm. Order a few shortbread cookies to enjoy with your ice cream!
As always, thank you for reading! Next up, we are moving on to Asia!
Big Pineapple, Nambour Connection Road, Nambour 2004
Ginger Factory, 50 Pioneer Rd, Yandina QLD 4561
Nutworks, 37 Pioneer Road, Yandina QLD 4561
Daawat Indian, 45 Maple St, Maleny, Sunshine Coast, QLD (Open 11:30-2:30 and 4-9)
Flame Hill Winery, 249 Western Avenue, Montville, QLD 4560 (Open 10:30-5:30)
Maleny Cheese, 1 Clifford Street, Balmoral Ridge, Maleny QLD 4552 (Open 10-4)
McMartin’s Farm, Lot 7, End of Sports Rd, Bli Bli, QLD (Open 8:30-4:30)