Tap into these Sunshine Coast Hinterland highlights and you’ll soon find out why these spots beyond the beach are a carefully guarded local’s secret. I’ve been mad about this area since visiting several times as a kid, so we recently decided to revisit as adults and see if it has stood the test of time. I’m happy to report it’s every bit as scenic and charming as I remember—no nostalgia-tinted glasses—just soothing mountain landscapes, quaint towns, delicious food and wildlife-filled nature.
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Glass House Mountains
The Glass House Mountains are the rocky remnants of the area’s volcanic past. These distinctive peaks give the Sunshine Coast Hinterland its recognizable skyline. There are lots of great vantage points to enjoy the Mountains:
Begin with a short hike to the top of Wild Horse Mountain where an old fire tower has been converted into a 360-degree lookout. The 700m hike is short but steep, so not suitable for everyone. Make sure you take water with you, especially in summer.
If you’re feeling active, the hike to the summit of Mount Ngungun is the perennial favourite. Our hike up the Ngungun was halted by an impending electrical storm, so we enjoyed the stunning view under cover from the Glass House Mountain Lookout instead at Woodford Rd, Beerburrum.
Make your way up the Blackall Range to the dairy farming area of Maleny, with its quaint township and many things to do and see.
In town you’ll find lots of great places to eat and shop for local produce. Enjoy brunch at Sarah’s Unplugged, indulge in a gelato or locally made cheese at Maleny Food Co. Booklovers should also drop in for a coffee among the tomes at Rosetta Books. If you’re an art/photography lover there are a few galleries around, but I recommend holding off until our next destination, Montville.
Note: Weekends are big in Maleny, so shops and restaurants tend to close on Monday and Tuesday. If you happen to be around town at the start of the week, you’ll find few places open for dinner. If that’s the case, I suggest checking out Jen’s Woodfire Pizza located inside Finbar’s Lounge and the Bunya Bistro at the historic Maleny Hotel.
Historically, this area of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland was covered in sub-tropical rainforest, which was sadly cleared of its enormous hardwood trees—logging gold—and replaced by dairy farms. However, there is still a tidy trace of that rainforest intact. Look for Mary Cairncross Reserve, for just a gold coin donation you can wander the easy trails through the old forest viewing a variety of native wildlife including birds, butterflies and pademelons. The entrance has a wonderful, contemporary information centre and café as well as a picnic area. Right across the road are more terrific views of Glass House Mountains (get there at dawn for a breathtaking sunrise).
Another great view of the Glass House Mountains from the Blackall Range can be found at the Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World. The Gardens aren’t a cheap attraction and you can choose to just explore the Gardens or extend your ticket to include the aviaries of rescued native and exotic birds (mostly former-pets). They have a café onsite, but its also a lovely spot to enjoy a picnic. The gardens themselves are pretty, however lack interpretive leaving me constantly asking “what kind of flower/plant/tree is that?”. The sight steps down the slopes of the mountain range, but if you aren’t capable of the walk, they do rent golf buggies to people with drivers’ licenses.
A short fifteen-minute drive across the range and you’ll find yourself in the cute-as-a-button village of Montville. The historic main street dating back to the late 1800s, is filled to the brim with quality cafes, art galleries and boutique shops. My favourites include Little May Espresso – for food and coffee, Makersville for handmade Australian products and Montville Art Gallery stocking terrific local artists and the photography of Ben Messina in his Landscapes Gallery.
Kondalilla Falls National Park
Put on your walking shoes and pack your swimsuit, we’re going for a hike. Not far beyond Montville is Kondalilla Falls National Park—Kondalilla being an Aboriginal word for “rushing waters”. The Park has several short tracks, perfect for day hikers. If you can handle 300 stairs, I recommend taking the Kondalilla Falls Circuit. The 4.7km (3mi) trail will take you to both the top and base of the Falls, passing through lush rainforest and open eucalypt forest with views down the valley. It’s a steep walk back up the escarpment but you can reward yourself on a hot day with a dip in the rock pools at the top of the Falls.
Descend the Blackall Range and continue to the town of Eumundi. Ideally, time your visit for a Wednesday or Saturday morning when the sleepy town explodes with the ever-expanding Eumundi Markets. There’s more than a belly-full of fresh produce, locally made cheeses and other artisan food products as well as pre-prepared cuisine to get your teeth around. There’s also some terrific people-watching to be enjoyed. The one disappointing element was the non-food items, which largely consist of poor quality imports—there were very few, true local makers.
Sunshine Coast Hinterland map
These Sunshine Coast Hinterland highlights make a great weekender out of Brisbane, or can be strung together with the regions excellent beaches to create a week-long road trip. Any way you go, make sure you don’t miss this wonderful part of Southeast Queensland.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,