Secrets of the Sunshine Coast

Sunshine Coast Hinterland, Queensland

Maleny, Montville, Mapleton and everything in between. A taste of the good life.

Mention Australia’s Sunshine Coast and immediately images of golden sandy beaches, perfect surf and even more perfect sun-tanned bodies come to mind. Not surprisingly as the 70 kilometres of pristine coastline north of Brisbane is world renowned as a holiday-maker’s paradise. But there is another side to the Sunshine Coast that many visitors simply don’t experience. The Sunshine Coast Hinterland, some of Australia’s most beautiful rural countryside, just a few kilometres inland from the coast.

Dinah and I live on the Sunshine Coast in the coastal community of Twin Waters, literally a few hundred metres from the beach. Twin Waters is a truly beautiful place to live and we are blessed with perfect weather almost all year around. We are also blessed with the best of both worlds…coast and country.

Recently, Dinah received a Hinterland Food and Wine Tour as a birthday gift from our three sons. While we had often visited the hinterland and the villages of Maleny, Montville and Mapleton, this was the opportunity to be chauffeured in style with Coast to Hinterland Tours. Our tour started with pick-up at our door at 8.30am by our guide Geoff. It was a personalised tour so just Geoff, Dinah and I in a spacious SUV. As most of us can testify, it is one thing to drive, it’s another to be driven. So, rather than looking out for the sharp bends and on-coming traffic, we could sit back and relax and enjoy the journey while listening to Geoff’s history and quirky tales on the area.

Spectacular views and a platter for two

Our first village stop was about 40 minutes via the M1 and Landsborough, then up the Blackall Range to the township of Maleny with its population of just under 4000. Just before Maleny we called into Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve on Mountain View Road. The reserve comprises 55 hectares of some of Australia’s best subtropical rainforest overlooking the spectacular Glass House Mountains’ landscape and comprises many large and varied species of trees and forest vegetation. We’d recently enjoyed significant rainfall, so everything was lush and green, and the sky was crystal clear affording us the best view of the spectacular Glass House Mountains that we had ever seen. In almost 10 years living on the Sunshine Coast, we had never visited Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, so this was a special treat. A must-do here is the forest walk where you can see myriad giant rainforest trees and lush undergrowth and, if you are lucky, a wallaby or two grazing in the forest. We were lucky! The reserve is an absolute must for a visit.

Check it out at: www.mary-cairncross.sunshinecoast.qld.gov.au

Back in the SUV and on to Maleny to explore the town and morning tea at the Maleny Food Co. And not your average morning tea either. Rather, a sumptuous platter of local cheeses, crackers and dried fruit. This was something special and we were able to take away with us for later all that we didn’t consume. The Maleny Food Co also offers award-winning gelato and sorbet which is made fresh daily, as well as an excellent walk-in fromagerie, or cheese shop, stocked with artisan cheese varieties from around the world, cured meats and deli lines. We left with some incredible cheese delights. Call in and browse for yourself at: www.malenyfoodco.com

Following morning tea, we had time to explore the streets of Maleny and the many and varied artisan retail outlets and bookshops that populate this creative little village.

A taste of the good life

The Sunshine Coast is fast becoming known as an excellent wine destination with wineries such as Flame Hill offering outstanding award-winning wines. Our next destination, Clouds Vineyard is just one such destination. You can’t miss it on your way into Maleny. Set in beautifully landscaped grounds on the edge of the escarpment, the huge wine barrel-shaped building is a landmark in the area and is the wine tasting room and restaurant. This is an iconic destination for locals and visitors alike, showcasing wines from South East Queensland’s Granite Belt as well as local craft beers and produce. We tasted four varieties of their Stanthorpe wines – Chardonnay, Rose, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, making a mental note “Next time, order lunch as well!” Enjoy a taste of Clouds for yourself at: www.thebarrelmaleny.com.au

Listen, do you want to know a secret?

Leaving Clouds, we headed along the Blackall Range north towards Montville, stopping to enjoy the spectacular hinterland and coastal views from Gerrard’s Lookout. On a clear day (and ours was), you can clearly see the Sunshine Coastline north to Noosa and south all the way to Brisbane. Our next stop for lunch was perhaps one of the most special destinations in the entire Hinterland region – Secrets on the Lake. Set in rain forest on the shores of Lake Baroon, Secrets on the Lake is simply breathtaking. Elevated tree-top walkways connect a series of tree-house cabins, accommodation that offers a spectacular sense of freedom and a ‘back-to-nature’ experience that can’t be replicated anywhere. At ground level, the main chalet-style building houses one of Queensland most highly regarded restaurants. We enjoyed a sumptuous 2-course lunch of confit of duck followed by the best sticky-date pudding we had ever tasted whilst enjoying a glass of French champagne and the spectacular view out over the lake. Visit Secrets on the Lake at: www.secretsonthelake.com.au

Chocolate heaven

If all of this wasn’t enough, our next stop on the tour was the bustling hinterland village of Montville and Chocolate Country. This little shop is chocolate heaven with an unbelievable selection of chocolate, all hand-made on the premises by Chocolate Country master chocolatiers. A gift pack of a selection of chocolates for Dinah and I and we were in heaven!

The tour included time to explore the streets of Montville. Here we could spend an hour or so checking out the quirky and delightful shops, boutiques and art galleries that have made this village a mecca for visitors. There are also numerous great places to sit and enjoy the mountain air over a cup of coffee or lunch. Dinah and I have visited Montville on numerous occasions and enjoy the experience. There is always something new to see here.

Our final stop on the tour was Mapleton and Mapleton Falls. Of all of the hinterland villages, Mapleton is our favourite. It is a little smaller and quieter than Maleny of Montville with the iconic Mapleton Tavern sitting proudly overlooking the lush green valleys to the coast. This is a great place for lunch with the veranda offering, in my opinion, some of the best hinterland views. Its proximity to Nambour and the Sunshine Coast means that on weekends it is extremely popular with visitors, so it is best to book a table to be sure. Telephone: 07 5445 7499.

 On to Mapleton Falls, leaving the best till last. Mapleton Falls National Park is part of a network of parks that protect the Blackall Range’s remnant forest communities, providing essential wildlife habitat and scenic places for nature-lovers. A walk through rainforest and eucalypt forest to the lookout provides spectacular views of the 120m falls tumbling down the escarpment from Pencil Creek into the Obi Obi Valley. Originally called the Baroon Falls, in 1915 the name changed to Mapleton Falls. In 1919 Mapleton’s residents erected a flying fox with a viewing cage that took people across the watercourse and gorge to view the Falls. Not for the faint-hearted! All that remains today of the flying fox is a shackle in a huge gum tree. The visit was a special teat as the recent rains had ensured that the Falls were flowing at capacity.

What a great day, Coast to Hinterland Tours

4.30pm. Time to climb back into the SUV for the 45-minute journey home. What a great day! Geoff was an excellent guide and host, and a lot of fun. And the tour was amazing, even for we residents of the Sunny Coast. If you are planning a visit to our beautiful region, I can highly recommend this inclusive day tour to see some of the secrets of our Sunshine Coast. You’ll find that there is more to us than just our beaches.

For a taste of the good Sunshine Coast life, contact Geoff or Mark at Coast to Hinterland Tours on 0426 677 120. Email: mark@toursunshinecoast.com.au or go online at: www.toursunshinecoast.com.au

Picture Gallery

Main Picture: Our sumptuous cheese platter from Maleny Food Co.

  • View over the Glass House Mountains from Mary Cairncross Nature Reserve
  • The rainforest walk
  • The rainforest is a living place
  • An old Golden Fleece petrol sign at the servo in Maleny
  • Not bad for morning tea! Thanks Maleny Food Co.
  • The iconic wine barrel restaurant and tasting rooms at Clouds Vineyard
  • A liquid lunch – appetiser, entree, main and desert!
  • Secrets on the Lake restaurant and reception
  • The best table in the house, with the best view in the house
  • Arguably the best sticky date pudding – ever!
  • Happy Birthday, Dinah
  • Elevated walkways link the tree-house cabins
  • Rustic buildings dot the estate
  • Chocolate Country in Montville – chocolate heaven
  • Preparing our chocolate gift boxes
  • The Obi Obi Valley from Mapleton Falls lookout
  • The spectacular 120 meter Mapleton Falls cascade
  • Remembering the flying fox and waterfall viewing cage erected in 1919
  • All that remains today of the Mapleton Falls flying fox