A hinterland hiatus
The Sunshine Coast offers some of the best beach and bush Australia has to offer, writes Tatyana Leonov.
Text: Tatyana Leonov | November 2017
We’ve pumped up our pace and I’m huffing and puffing as we get higher up Mount Ngungun and deeper into the bush. It’s not the hardest mountain I’ve scrambled up, but with our bellies and backpacks full it’s not the easiest ascent either. We make it to the top just in time to watch sunset – a glorious display of candy pinks and fiery oranges dancing over the horizon.
There’s something to be said about climbing a mountain in time to experience sunset, wherever you are in the world. My husband and I have taken our time cruising around the Glasshouse Mountains in our Golf Alltrack this morning, and after a hearty lunch of burgers, climbing a mountain seemed like the best thing to do.
It is the best thing to do here. An easy hour’s drive from Brisbane along the Bruce Highway, the Glass House Mountains are a cluster of rocky volcanic peaks located in the Sunshine Coast hinterland – and climbing at least one mountain reaps great rewards. And, even if trekking uphill is not your thing, the mountains offer a wonderful escape on ground level. They jut out like crooked teeth from the landscape below and simply driving around admiring the unusual landscape is an enjoyable way to spend a day.
We manage to fit driving and climbing into one day. Our morning drive from Brisbane and then around the mountains was all about admiring the many views that come with the freedom of a car. We took unsealed roads to test our Golf’s all-wheel drive capability (easy pass), we took sealed roads that lead to picturesque lookouts, and we stopped often to get out and stretch our legs.
After lunch, our hike was more about immersing ourselves in the challenge that comes with tackling a climb. It wasn’t a massively difficult trek, but by the time we’d looped up and back we were ready to check in to our accommodation… thankfully our descent was much quicker.
There are plenty of accommodation options in the area, spanning everything from B&Bs and cottage rentals to private retreats veiled by tropical trees. We’re staying at one of the most interesting options – Glass House Mountains Ecolodge. Owned and managed by Keith Murray, the lodge comprises of 12 different rooms and each and every one of them comes with a good dose of quirk. There are family rooms that overlook the lush rainforest, Balinese-inspired bungalows, a church loft bedroom (a genuine restored timber church dating back some 125 years), and rooms housed in old Victorian train carriages.
>>It’s a breath of fresh air staying at a property where eco principles are not only followed, but also discussed. <<
As we drive around the area the following day we quickly pick up that locals love to chat. We head for the township of Maleny first (a beautiful drive through rolling hills covered by a patchwork of farms) and find ourselves nattering away to the locals almost as soon as we get out of the Golf. There’s the barista who divulges where to find the best chocolates in town, the boutique owner who wants to chat art, the ladies in the park who simply want to know where we’re going. We tell them that we are just ambling about admiring the pretty colonial architecture. They nod in agreeance as if they already knew the answer… evidently, holidaymakers visit Maleny all the time to do exactly that.
The Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is located a few minutes prior to reaching Maleny, but since we wanted coffee and cake first, we turn back for the quick drive. The 55-hectare reserve offers a lovely respite from the heat, and we spend an hour or so strolling along the walking tracks that weave their way through the rainforest terrain, then check out the recently opened Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Discovery Centre. The centre is crammed with kids playing around with the interactive displays and it’s great to watch young people so engrossed in the act of learning.
Driving back through Maleny again we don’t stop this time, knowing we have one more quaint town to check out before reaching the coast. Montville is another gem teeming with quirky shops, cute cafes, funky art studios and plenty of cheery people. We park our Golf nearby the Clock Shop (if you’re after a cuckoo clock this is the place to come) and get out for a stroll… and yes, we do indulge in coffee and cake again.
Somehow, we still manage to fit in lunch when we do get to the coast – delicious buckwheat crepes at the Velo Project in Mooloolaba. Mooloolaba is home to a beautiful beach and buzzy esplanade, but we only have a quick look before jumping back in our Golf to head further north – taking the Sunshine Motorway, then veering left onto Emu Mountain Road, then snaking our way into Noosa National Carpark.
>>Montville is another gem teeming with quirky shops, cute cafes, funky art studios and plenty of cheery people.<<
We leave our Golf here for a few hours and set off to explore by foot. The rocky coastline has a variety of trails, with many of them leading to impressive coastal vistas. We end up stopping at a viewpoint looking down onto the coastal stretch that is Sunshine Beach, happy and content not to move any further.
Tatyana Leonov can't keep away from an adventure and spends a lot of time on the road searching for that exceptional travel story. She writes for a diverse range of magazines, newspapers and websites, both in Australia and overseas. When she's not on the road she's in Sydney typing away at her desk... or planning her next adventure.