It's the quintessential beach day as we turn and head for the hills. While the Sunshine Coast is known for its glorious moderate weather (hence the name) and unspoiled beaches, the verdant hinterland has its own allure. Here you'll find quirky cafes, award winning restaurants, artists, local producers, rainforest treks, wineries and fabulous accommodation to boot. Those that can tear themselves away from the magnetic pull of the coast are rewarded with fresh country air, charming villages, rolling green hills and panoramic vistas at every turn.
Several meandering routes take from the coast to the hinterland however the scenic Hunchy Road brings you to the heart of Montville in about 40 minutes. Make your first stop at Lift, a gallery and concert space cum cafe and sound spa situated between Maleny and Montville. Here a liberal dose of art and holistic therapies are on offer at this inspiring creative space. Lift's discovery centre explores sound and light with Tibetan singing bowls, chimes, tuning forks and other sound artifacts available to try. Or for a truly relaxing experience book in for a sound or harp therapy treatment in the Lift Therapy Centre. Sometimes a classic concert is on offer; other times qigong or sessions such as understanding your dreams (bookings essential).
From there make your way to the Maleny Botanic Gardens. One of the most remarkable private-funded gardens in Australia, Frank Schipp has carved out a dream landscape that looks back towards the Glass House Mountains. Opened just over three years ago, this spectacular five-hectare evolving space also boasts one of the largest aviaries in Australia (open on weekends) featuring everything from tiny finches to cheeky macaws.
Flame Hill Vineyard is another spot to take in the hinterland's panoramic ocean and mountain vistas, while partaking of a tipple or two. The Montville winery arguably produces the best wines on the Sunshine Coast (try their standout shiraz and verdelho). Ethically and sustainably produced from their own vineyards and farms, both the wine and food at Flame Hill Vineyard is prepared and served with conscience. The Deck Restaurant, housed within a contemporary Queenslander, features a la carte fare from seasonal produce matched to estate grown wines.
One of the hinterland's most revered dining experiences is Spicer's Clovelly Estate's signature restaurant which delivers European-inspired menus in a French provincial setting. Chef Cameron Matthews' dishes blend classic methods and the finest local and home grown produce with superb results. Book a table on the stone flagged terrace for the seven-course degustation menu, or share a meal as a group over the French Table. If you don't fancy driving after imbibing, book a room so you can roll into bed after dinner.
No trip to the Sunshine hinterland is complete without a visit to Colin James Fine Food. Find yourself in fromagerie heaven in the Cheese Shop, or treat yourself to artisan ice-cream, gelato and sorbet churned by hand using local Maleny Dairies Guernsey milk, cream, processed fruit and quality Italian ingredients.
By now you'll be hankering for something energetic to burn off all that wonderful food and wine. The Sunshine Coast hinterland offers several inspiring walks, ranging from the "Footsteps of Flinders", which climbs and treks six mountains in 24 hours, through to the relatively little known Hinterland Great Walk, a 58-kilometre trail that traverses the Blackall Range, a landscape shaped by volcanoes and sculpted by water. Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat offers a brilliant "Luxe Trekking" package that takes all the hard work out of hiking. The package includes two nights' luxury accommodation, breakfasts, a dinner in Montville, a barbecue dinner plus a full-day guided walk with local operator Tropical Treks.
Of course, there are easier ambles too. A good option for a more leisurely stroll is Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, which offers relaxing walks through subtropical rainforest in a 55-hectare reserve overlooking the Glasshouse Mountains. Afterwards have a coffee and a mosey around the incredible new Mary Cairncross Discovery Centre where you can learn about the rainforest and the Glass House Mountains, plus take in more of the hinterland's inspiring vistas.
With rosy cheeks, lungs full of fresh air, and the car boot full of produce and clinking wine bottles, you'll head home all the better for having explored the hinterland's rural riches.
The Sunshine Coast hinterland is about 30 minutes' drive from Sunshine Coast Airport (at Marcoola, north of Maroochydore). Virgin and Jetstar fly to Sunshine Coast Airport. See virginaustralia.com or jetstar.com.
The adults-only Narrows Escape Rainforest Retreat offers luxury self-contained one bedroom pavilions from $360 a night twin share inclusive of breakfast, see narrowsescape.com.au.
Sheriden Rhodes was a guest of Sunshine Coast Destination
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