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  >  Destinations   >  Australia   >  The perfect Sunshine Coast hinterland getaway

The Sunshine Coast hinterland in Queensland has a fabulous food scene, great markets and National Parks and more breweries and wineries than you can raise a glass to. On the drive up the coast from Brisbane, the Glasshouse Mountains peeked through the clouds on our left and well-fed cows raised their heads to watch us pass as we exited the freeway and made our way towards the Mooloolah Valley. With such charming rural scenery outside the window, it was hard to believe we were less than an hour away from the Queensland capital. The only thing that stopped us pulling over to take photos along the way was the fact we couldn’t wait to get to our luxury Sunshine Coast hinterland accommodation.

Walking in the National Parak
Walking in the National Park

Sunshine Coast hinterland accommodation

Tucked away at the end of a long, secluded driveway in the heart of the lush Mooloolah Valley, our stylish three-bedroom self-contained Sunshine Coast hinterland accommodation looked like it was straight from the pages of a designer homes magazine. Decked out with modern furnishings that tied in with the country vibe, a cosy fireplace, heated undercover pool, high-end appliances, and a large deck overlooking the valley, it was the best accommodation near Maleny and Montville for our family. It didn’t take long before we met some of our accommodation’s regular visitors, the colourful red and green parrots that dropped in to dine on the native bird seed that was provided as part of our stay. We had only been here a few minutes but it was easy to see that this Sunshine Coast Luxury Entertainer’s Haven held the promise of a wonderful holiday.

King Parrots
King Parrots at King Parrot Retreat

And then there was the media room. With a television that was as big as a door, a surround sound system, and a couch that was large enough to hold every one of the seven guests that our accommodation could sleep, our 18 year old son gave a shout of happiness and disappeared until the sound of the king parrots feeding on the balcony drew him back outside. I was equally impressed by the high speed wi-fi and fully equipped office with a computer monitor, printer, and shredder which meant I could get some work done if I needed to while we were here. We grabbed a bottle of Champagne and made our way out to the deck to watch the sunset and begin making plans to tear ourselves away from our luxurious accommodation and start exploring the region tomorrow.

Champagne at King Parrot Retreat
Cocktail hour at King Parrot Retreat

Getting your bearings

The Sunshine Coast hinterland is made up of a collection of small towns scattered throughout the Blackhall Ranges, around an hour’s drive from Brisbane. Down the road from King Parrot Retreat, the Mooloolah Valley village had an excellent butcher and a bakery selling what would have to be some of the best pies on the Sunshine Coast and old-school bakery treats like doorstop-size vanilla slices. There was also an IGA Supermarket, good Indian, Chinese and Thai takeaways and a couple of other dining options.

Montville
Montville art galleries

Jump in the car and drive for around 20 minutes and you’ll arrive at Montville and Maleny, two pretty rural communities with an artistic heritage and a stunning ridge-top location. Montville is a kitchy-cute tourist hot spot where galleries line the street, sitting side-by-side with gift stores and cafes serving Devonshire tea. The closest spot to King Parrot Retreat is Maleny, a laid-back country town with a friendly, community vibe. Venture slightly further afield and you’ll get to Eumundi and its famous market packed with interesting stalls and local artisans.

Eating and drinking

A shimmering rainbow created a colourful sash for the sky above the lush landscape as we poured icy cold milk from the nearby Maleny Dairies onto our muesli and added a spoonful of creamy yoghurt to a bowl of fresh fruit for breakfast. Weekends bring a rolling feast of local produce markets which make it tempting to self-cater but we were keen to visit some local drinking and dining spots.

We fell in love with the Maleny Dairy which is surrounded by fields of contented cows and pretty rural scenery. This is a working farm with milk tankers parked outside and fresh milk and yoghurt available for sale in a ‘no frills’ fridge outside one of the factory doors. Tours are available daily for anyone who wants to learn more about the dairy and meet the cows that call it home.

Cows at Maleny Dairies
Meet the cows at Maleny Dairies

Down the road on the main street of Maleny, we dropped into Monica’s Café for some of the best (and biggest) burgers we’ve had for ages. Maleny’s bustling main street also has an IGA Supermarket that does double-duty as a deli with shelves that are packed with delicious local goodies. If you don’t have time to check out all the little providores, you’ll find everything you need to make your culinary dreams come true here. We loved the local Sunshine Coast coffee beans that came with the espresso machine at King Parrot Retreat so much that we bought a kilo to take home.

The following day, we dropped into Flame Hill Vineyard for a tasting overlooking the vineyard where chickens wandered between the vines. Cellar door tastings in the Sunshine Coast hinterland are friendly rather than fusty and we enjoyed sampling five of the winery’s delicious drops although we did think the $10 per person tasting charge was rather steep considering this didn’t come off the cost of the wine we purchased. We returned later in the week for lunch which was a much better way to try a couple of wines and also enjoy a delicious meal in beautiful rural surrounds.

Chickens at Flame Hill Vineyards
Chickens at Flame Hill Vineyards

We also discovered the Maleny Cheese shop and the Maleny Food Co., both of which had a great range of cheeses and nibbles for the evening cocktail hour. Maleny Food Co. also stocks locally made gelato which was available in a cone or a cup or larger take home packs. If you are heading out for the day, bring an insulated bag with a freezer brick as it’s unlikely you’ll come back empty handed with so much delicious food on offer.

Gelato at Maleny Food Co.
Sample the gelato at Maleny Food Co.

Things to do near Maleny

It’s easy to spend an enjoyable few hours strolling around the town of Maleny. There are some lovely boutiques, a fudge shop and a second hand bookstore with a friendly and knowledgeable owner who makes browsing a pleasure. There are plenty of treasures to be found if you take the time to look through the shelves and the prices are reasonable. If you’re after a great second-hand holiday read, you’ll find plenty to choose from here.

If you’re visiting King Parrot Retreat with children, it’s hard to go past the fun of a day at the beach at Caloundra which is 20 minutes away by car. If you want to keep kids of different ages entertained (and their parents), you’ll also find the Queensland Air Museum at Caloundra. Here you can see a restored Ventura bomber that was rescued from a farm where it was used to store pig feed, an F1-11 and a huge Caribou transporter which is left open for visitors to explore. On open cockpit days it is possible to sit in the F1-11 and relax in General MacArthur’s DC-3. There are plenty of other great things to do at Caloundra as well.

Queensland Air Museum
Queensland Air Museum

It takes just 15 minutes to drive from King Parrot Retreat to Aussie World, a family-friendly fun park that is easy on the wallet. Cool down on the Flume Ride, ride classics like the Octopus and Rock n’ Roll or challenge the kids to a race down the Giant Slide. Rollercoaster fans come from around the world to ride the Wild Mouse, an original wooden coaster from the 1930s. Don’t be fooled by the lack of loop-the-loops. This ride’s tight turns have been known to make macho-looking dads squeal louder than their kids.

Riding the Redback at Aussie World
Riding the Redback at Aussie World

Mid way through our stay, we headed up the mountain and over the rolling hills to the town of Eumundi where the Eumundi Markets showcase fresh produce and whimsical arts and crafts every Wednesday and Saturday. Across the road, the Eumundi Brewery serves locally made brews on tap and offers tastings of Folktale Gin which is also made locally. Tours of the brewery run several times a day on Wednesdays and Saturdays when the markets are on. During the year, the brewers release limited edition brews in addition to the usual range which you can taste at the brewery.

Eumundi Market
Browse the Eumundi Markets

Foodies can cook up a feast at the Spicers Tamarind Cooking School near Montville which runs courses on a regular basis. Classes include a garden tour and finish with a shared lunch out on the deck. This is also a great spot for lunch on the weekend. Next to Spicers Tamarind, you’ll find Spa Anise where you can soak in a bubbling spa overlooking rolling green hills prior to your treatment.

Chef at Spicers Tamarind
Learn to cook great Thai food at Spicers Tamarind
Spicers Tamarind group lunch
Enjoy lunch after the cooking class

For outdoor adventuring, there are plenty of waterfalls near Maleny. Check out Mapleton Falls National Park, where Pencil Creek cascades 120m over an escarpment, and Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve which is spread across 55 hectares of rainforest. The view of the Glasshouse Mountains from the deck at the information centre here is superb. Kondalilla National Park is home to the tumbling waters of Kondalilla Falls (and more than 300 stairs if you do the Falls Circuit walk). For an easier walk, stroll along the path to Gardners Falls which are less than a 20 minute drive away from King Parrot Retreat.

Kondalilla National Park
Hiking the Falls Circuit at Kondalilla National Park
Gardners Falls
Gardners Falls

If the weather is less than perfect, the Sunshine Coast has plenty of good wet weather activities as well. Your biggest challenge during a Sunshine Coast hinterland getaway isn’t finding things to do. It’s tearing yourself away from your gorgeous accommodation and trying to squeeze everything in while you’re there.

Disclosure: The writer paid for her stay as well as all dining and other expenses.

Heading to the Sunshine Coast? We’ve got lots of helpful information to help make this your best trip yet including a review of Australia Zoo and Kanu Kapers Everglades Tours, SEA LIFE Mooloolaba, Sails Restaurant Noosa, Noosa Oceanrider, Noosa Dreamboats, and Betty’s Burgers Noosa. Don’t miss our tips for Things to do on the Sunshine Coast, Noosa Things to Do for Active Travellers, The Best Restaurants at Mooloolaba, The Ultimate Guide to Noosa, Things to do at Mooloolaba, Healthy Noosa Holidays, Where to Find the Best Views on Hastings Street, and How to Plan Your Noosa Honeymoon.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.