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Glass House Mountains – The Spiritual Heart of the Sunshine Coast

Timeless, haunting, shrouded in history, the spectacular Glass House Mountains stand as silent sentinels in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland.  Some 31 million years ago a massive volcano erupted south west of today’s popular Maleny Township. This volcano was active for an amazing 4 million years. After the final eruptions molten magma intruded underground into fissures and weaknesses in the layers of sandstone to slowly cool and harden becoming Trachyte and Rhyolite.  Over the next 25 million years the sandstone eroded exposing the harder rock that had formed between the layers of softer stone. It is hard to imagine but if you stand at the Glass House Mountains Information Centre you would be 300 to 400 metres underground 25 million years ago! It was through erosion and not eruption that the extraordinary Glass House Mountains emerged.   These mysterious magma monoliths, fire born and ancient, provide visitors with brilliant walks, breath taking views and a unique history to discover. They were named by Lieutenant James Cook on 17th May 1770 as he sailed north through Moreton Bay. They reminded him of the glass making conical brick kilns of his native Yorkshire.  There is a rich narrative that has been passed down from the first people of Australia and may date back some 65,000 years. Visitors are encouraged to learn more of these legends, a spiritual heritage as ancient as dream time.  The first European to explore the Glass House Mountains was Lieutenant Matthew Flinders. In July 1799 his ship, the Norfolk, was in need of urgent repairs so Flinders beached her in Pumicestone Passage. He decided to investigate Cook’s Glass House Mountains and subsequently […]

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Flaxton Gardens

A touch of Royalty comes to the Hinterland Alan Thompson, Owner and Executive Chef at Flaxton Gardens, has had quite an illustrious career in haute cuisine, beginning with his training in New Zealand. Alan decided to pursue a career in London, working as Head Chef for a number of well-known chefs over several years and finally opening his own fine dining restaurant in the early 1990’s known as 755  in Fulham, London, often frequented by English Society and Royalty.  Following several years of making his name in London, he moved to the heart of the Cotswold countryside where he purchased The Royalist Hotel  (now known as  The Porch House) – authenticated in the Guinness book of records as the oldest inn in England, dating as far back as 947AD. Alan purchased the Hotel in the late 1990’s at the beginning of the Gastro-Pub phenomenon, and over the next five years, developed the Royalist into a venue with an esteemed reputation.  “The Royalist has many curious features befitting such an ancient building: ‘witch marks’ above the fireplace to ward off evil spirits, a medieval frieze, and even a leper pit in the oldest part of the cellars. The hotel also features an adjacent pub, The Eagle and Child, where unpleasant pursuits such as bear baiting would have once taken place. The name itself is linked to the English Civil War when the building was used as headquarters of the Royalist army prior to the Battle of Stow in 1646 – a battle they would lose […]

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Maleny Botanic Gardens

Experience Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World

Stunning unique gardens, unparalleled valley views and captivating birdlife make Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World a must-see destination that can’t be described adequately in words or represented accurately in simple photographs.  The gardens are unique, and should be high on the “to do” list of any Hinterland visitor, as a truly unmissable attraction that is all-at-once exhilarating and breathtaking, but also relaxing.   To stand on the escarpment, with expansive terraced gardens just below you, and the magnificent Glass House Mountains in the distance, is an experience that just can’t be equalled.   The exquisite Maleny Botanic Gardens is perched on the side of the mountain, overlooking what is one the world’s most fascinating mountain ranges and the surrounding valley. And with that spectacular backdrop, visitors experience around seven hectares (19 acres) of terraced and manicured gardens, countless bright flower beds, waterfalls, rock walls, ponds and bridges, an actual floating fishing trawler, and a variety of plants so diverse that is literally uncountable.  It’s the perfect place to just get away, relax, wander around quietly, and enjoy nature’s wonderful flora offerings.  Along with the gardens, there’s an expansive walk-through aviary that is home to around 400 magnificent birds – including finches, South American Conures, parrots and colourful macaws – who like to curiously inspect the visitors, perching on their arms and the heads, and even play with jewellery if they can get away with it.   Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World is a unique attraction hand-built by owner Frank Shipp, who continues to terrace and beautify more and more land to create what is an ever-growing mountain oasis.  “It’s all about happiness, laughter, that’s what keeps me going,” Frank said.  “People need a little laughter and joy in their lives; it doesn’t have to be stress all the time, and […]

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Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve

Visit our world class tourist attraction, Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve and discover rainforest that once covered the entire area By Richard Bruinsma Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve at Maleny has been transformed in recent years to become a high class eco-tourism attraction. It includes a wide array or attractions, from the tranquil and easy walks through the subtropical rainforest that is the centrepiece of the 55-hectare reserve, through to lovely picnic grounds – complete with barbecues, sheltered picnic tables, expansive lawn and play equipment for the children – and the new and modern Discovery Centre and café building. The Discovery Centre includes numerous displays that provide an insight into the world that exists among the thick foliage and towering trees. It features a number of displays, interactive learning activities, and multi-media presentations that all help to reveal more of this wonderful natural attraction. Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve provides a understanding of the rainforest that once covered the entire area, and provides an opportunity to take a relaxing wander among diverse birdlife and native animals, as well as a wide array of plant life, from the towering buttressed trees that stretch to the canopy, through the tiniest of mushrooms that feed on the rotting vegetation in the undergrowth below. The reserve sits on the edge of Maleny’s southern escarpment, and provides a stunning uninterrupted view towards the Glasshouse Mountains on the plain below.     The picnic grounds and barbecues are free at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve; however, entry to the walking track […]

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Take the Great Walk from Lake Baroon to Flaxton

Challenge yourself to take a Great Walk that will take you very up close and personal with nature. By Richard Bruinsma The very term Great Walk in itself is almost enough to wave away the idea completing that challenging hike aside and think instead about coffee shops and quaint boutiques. But there comes a time when these alternate but beautiful attractions in the Sunshine Coast hinterland should also be added to the bucket list and given true deserved consideration. One part of the Great Walk is the walking track between the Montville side of Lake Baroon and Flaxton – a 15km walk that conveniently includes the popular Kondalilla Falls day walk and picnic area. The section of the track from Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls is around 10km, and a convenient finishing point for those not wanting to complete the full walk. Or, of course, a good start point for those wishing to head the opposite direction. The walk is graded a Level 2 difficulty by Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service, which also suggests allocating between five and seven hours to complete the one-way journey. However, as a male of moderate fitness, I was able to complete the walk comfortably, including various stops to take photo graphs, in an easy three hours. In total, the Great Walk stretches 58km, from Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls at Flaxton and, then, from Flaxton to Mapleton Falls National Park, and the national park itself as the fourth piece of the puzzle. Thankfully, that […]

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Three of the best restaurants in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland!

By Angus Richard Long gone are the days in Australia where John Galsworthy noted that: “The French cook, we open tins.” One of the key attractions today for local and overseas visitors to the Sunshine Coast Hinterland is the freshness, creativity and diversity of our food culture which manifests itself in brilliant restaurants. Here for your enjoyment are just three that you must experience when next immersed in a well-earned break in this rich and iconic region. The legendary Terrace Seafood Restaurant at Cairncross Corner has consistently delighted diners for over twenty years. Signature dishes include their amazing Seafood Platter with a highlight of gravity defying prawns. Their Seafood Chowder is a must. This is where you get to eat the crockery (it is served in a freshly baked cob loaf!). Finish with their Brandy Basket which looks and tastes so good you could probably enter it in an art prize and take home the trophy.     Pomodoras sits on the banks of the Obi Obi Creek where you can literally dip a toe in the water and be relieved that the Platypus are friendly. The relaxing contemporary restaurant is famous for its Beef Carpaccio and locally sourced Buffalo Burgers. It is a wonderful, tree shrouded, creek kissed place to dine.       In picturesque Montville seek out Lisa and Gypsy’s Table. A homely low set timber building at the top of the main street that recalls the country’s early settlement. The warmth of wood, soft furnishings, comfortable furniture, […]

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Indulge your senses at Flame Hill

Flame Hill Vineyard – impressive wines and beautiful fresh produce Flame Hill Vineyard and Restaurant, positioned on a plateau on the highest point in lush green Montville, is notable not only for its stunning views, but also for the unique wines produced from its two vineyards, and the sustainable production of the ingredients used in its delicious meals. Under the guidance of passionate owner Tony Thompson, the vineyard not only grows the grapes for its impressive wines, it also farms its own beef, venison, poultry and eggs, and grows its own fresh vegetables and herbs – it’s no wonder the dining and experiences are truly unique. The vineyard is proud of its over-arching focus on producing good food and wine in an ethical and sustainable manner. Flame Hill also breeds its own high-quality Angus beef, which is grass fed on site at the Montville property; the cattle graze in the pastures around what is lovingly known as the “Chook Hilton”, the home of the poultry and eggs that are also produced on the lush property; and it has a market garden on site for the fresh vegetables and herbs that are served in the restaurant. To accompany the meals, or to be savoured nicely on their own, are two beautiful wines produced from the local grapes – Montville Shiraz and Flamehill Verdehlo – and wines produced from their southern vineyard, Kurrajong Lyra, at Ballandean in the Granite Belt of southern Queensland. Perhaps the secret of these estate-grown, hand harvested wines stems from the deep emotional […]

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Horse Riding through Hinterland Rainforest

There are numerous beautiful, relaxing and sometimes-challenging bushwalks through various national parks in the Sunshine Coast, and a small number of them are also available for horse riding. Among the trails open to horses are the trails around Mapleton National Park. The park offers three longer trails – the Turpentine Trail at 7.8km return, Piccabeen Circuit (6.7km) and the Kureelpa Falls Circuit (8.5km) – which are shared between walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders. There is a hierarchy of who gives way to whom – all users give way to horses. Local residents Chloe Hutton and Matt Norman are among those who regularly ride their horses through trails. One of their favourites is the Piccabeen Circuit, which has a full distance of 6.7km return. The Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing website reports that the trail makes its way through tall blackbutt forest and rainforest and includes “several crossings of Gheerulla Creek”. “It’s a beautiful track, it’s nice and even for the horses,” Chloe explained. “There’s a few creek crossings that are also beautiful, and even better when they are running as they are now after the rain.” Her partner Matt added: “The track is really well looked after, it’s just a nice peaceful ride. “It’s a great place to bring young horses too, there’s not a lot out there to scare them so they are able to get used to riding in different areas, easily.” To get to the Mapleton national Park (not to be confused with Mapleton […]

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Wittacork Dairy Cottages

Experience a working farm with Wittacork Cottages

We visit Wittacork Cottages in Maleny to experience a modern working dairy farm stay and so much more. By Kerry Brown Just getting to Wittacork Cottages is an unforgettable drive; the road to the dairy is narrow and winds the entire way along a ridge with lush green paddocks rolling gently as far as the eye can see. You can almost sense you are about to experience something very special, and you are. This modern working dairy farm is located just outside of Maleny. The 500-acre property includes pristine rainforest overlooking Lake Baroon and adjoins the Kondalilla and Obi Obi Gorge National Parks. A hearty helping of country hospitality awaits when hosts Rob and Anne Cork meet you on arrival. When they first moved to the dairy in 1992, it was fairly run down so they worked incredibly hard to revive and modernise the farm. When the dairy industry was deregulated in 2000, they were determined to find a way forward. Rob said the couple knew they had to diversify to keep the farm working. “We researched and visited other farm stays before we devised our own way of doing it here,” he explained. “We talked to people and knew that there was an interest in what we do here at the farm. “People love seeing the dairy and feeding the animals, especially the family groups, then they can walk through the rainforest tracks or even walk to Lake Baroon; it’s a fair way but worth the effort.” Guests can […]

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