With the world still impacted by the global pandemic that is COVID we still cannot entertain the thought of international travel for a while yet so decided to hire a car and do a road trip for a few weeks.
All too often a trip to this area involves a visit to the city of Brisbane and then the coastal areas of the Gold Coast to the South and Sunshine Coast to the north. South East Queensland is Australia's fastest-growing region and has so much more to offer than the glitz of the Gold Coast. Land use is diverse in this region, with urban and regional areas, forestry in native and plantation forests, national parks, and rich agricultural and dairy areas. We wanted to see what we could find exploring the back roads and in the hinterlands and we were not disappointed.
The first stop was the famous Glass House Mountains. The first thing that struck me about these odd-shaped mounds was that they are more like hills for someone who comes from a city eclipsed by a mountain!! Be sure to stop at the Glass House Mountains Lookout. Here you will get a 360-degree view offering panoramic views of the mountain peaks, Caloundra, Maroochydore, Brisbane, and Moreton Island. There is a short walking track starting at the lookout that leads you through open scribbly gum forest, down through a wet eucalypt forest gully and returns back to the lookout.
A bit of history......Named by Lieutenant James Cook during his epic voyage along Australia's east coast, the Glass House Mountains are intrusive plugs formed by volcanic activity about 27 to 26 million years ago. Molten rock-filled small vents or intruded as bodies beneath the surface and solidified into hard rocks—trachyte and rhyolite. Millions of years of erosion have removed the surrounding exteriors of the volcanic cones and softer sandstone rocks, leaving the magnificent landscape features you see today. The mountains are a special meeting place of cultural and spiritual significance for the traditional owners of the Sunshine Coast, the Kabi Kabi and Jinibara people, who held ceremonies and social activities in the region.
Maleny is a gorgeous little town filled with lots of tea rooms and antique shops and lies in picture-postcard dairy country, interspersed with rainforests. Since settlement during the 1870s, the local population has grown to just a few thousand. Located high in the Blackall Range this was initially a timber region but Maleny has supported the surrounding areas with milk production for years and is famous for its cheese.
Visit the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve comprised of 55 hectares of subtropical old-growth rainforest overlooking the Glass House Mountains landscape that somehow survived the extensive logging that took place in the hinterland. See the breath-taking, heritage-listed Glasshouse Mountains from the Viewing Deck. Visit the Rainforest Discovery Centre with its Elevated Glider Gallery Boardwalk that showcases the diverse plant and animal life. This beautiful, tranquil reserve truly is a living museum!
First settled in 1887, Montville is known as the 'Creative Heart of the Sunshine Coast.' Montville boasts glorious views of the Sunshine Coast & Hinterland and is often referred to as Maleny's "upmarket cousin".
The Clock Shop lives in an iconic German chalet-inspired building and has Australia's most extensive collection of original Blackforest Cuckoo Clocks.
Montville Chocolate Country is a hidden gem for all chocolate lovers. Embark on a sweet journey, as you delight in the decadent thrills of truffles, chocolate bars, honeycomb, and novelty gifts, all handcrafted onsite by a wonderful team of passionate craftspeople.
If fudge is your thing then go no further than Montville's Main Street confectioner 'Fudgbyboombahs'. You will find an ultra-delicious range of flavors in-store including butter candy macadamias; butterscotch vanilla fudge; and rocky road fudge. Try stopping at just one when there are over 70 delectable flavours to choose from!
The Montville Art Gallery is housed in a gorgeous 1920s Queenslander showcasing works from more than 30 award-winning artists.
If you happen to be in the area on a Wednesday or a Saturday be sure to visit the Original Eumundi Markets, known as the biggest and the best artisan market in Australia. Started in 1979 the markets are now teeming with an eclectic mix of local artisans, performers, and colourful characters. Shop for unique handcrafted goods and fashion, try a range of international street food and see plenty of local entertainment.
Gympie is now a regional city but was an old gold mining town. It is now widely accepted that Gympie, officially named in 1868, is a local Aboriginal word - "gimpi gimpi" - for a stinging tree. There was a time prior to 1868 when the town was known as Nashville after James Nash who discovered gold and "saved Queensland". I will remember Gympie for the amazing mosaics that are part of the theatres of the war memorial. Beautifully telling the stories of those who served.
Decided to mix it up a bit today and "see the sea" before we head inland. Bribie Island offers beautiful coastal scenery and is the only island in Queensland connected to the mainland by a bridge.
A visit to the Bribie Island Community Arts Centre and a walk in the Bicentennial Gardens is ideal if you want to see the local fauna and flora. Think Banksias, Melaleuca, Boronias and the Bribie Island Pine. There have been sightings of 90 species of birds in this small area so it is one for the bird watchers (twitchers) as well.
Another enjoyable walk is along the esplanade near the Bongaree Jetty. Bongaree is proudly named in honour of an Aboriginal explorer from Broken Bay, near Sydney. Bongaree accompanied Flinders on his expeditions and helped encourage communication between the white explorers and the traditional caretakers of the areas they visited.
Heading inland we made a quick petrol stop in the quiet rural town of Kilcoy and found a great mural at the local BP service station. This mural was recently completed by local artist, Ross Holloway - great job!!
Gatton was our base for a couple of nights as we explored the area. Gatton is known as 'Australia's Famous Salad Bowl' due to the large number of organic farms and market gardens that surround the town. We recommend a visit to the Lockyer Valley Cultural Centre to check out the creative talents of the local artists as well as get a fabulous range of brochures to whet your sightseeing appetite. Attached to the centre is the Queensland Transport Museum paying tribute to transportation history. On the day we visited we were fortunate enough to come across a rally of vintage cars with drivers and passengers suitable attired!!
Just on the outskirts of Gatton is the University of Queensland - Gatton Campus where you can see the heritage-listed Foundation Building. Built in 1896 it housed the twenty-three young men who were the first students to attend what was then the agricultural college. During WW2 the US Army requisitioned the building to be a General Hospital. Today the building is used as a conference centre but if only the walls could speak!!
A fantastic drive is the Cobb and Co Tourist Drive which follows the railway line and original road between Gatton and Ipswich. Check out some of the small rural towns each with its own story to tell.
Forrest Hill offers a glimpse of yesteryear with its many historic buildings including the Lockyer Hotel (1906), Forrest Hill Hotel (1898), station waiting room (1914), and the Gelato Bar (1910). Be sure to check out the mural on the side of Queen B's shop.
Laidley was a popular resting place for the Cobb & Co teamsters but today it is a quiet township that promotes itself as the 'Country Garden of Queensland'. Surrounded by rich, dark soils the area supports mixed farming, vegetable growing for the Brisbane markets, dairying, and cotton. Visit the Das Neumann Haus Museum (free entry) for a glimpse of what life was like in the late 1800s. The house was built in 1893 and now houses the visitor centre and a coffee shop. Wander the main street to see fine examples of early Queensland architecture. Check out the Anglican Church in Ambrose Street (built in 1910) with its distinctive architecture reminiscent of Germany. Be sure to visit the Cunningham's Crest Lookout to see 360-degree views of the Lockyer Valley and surrounding ranges. The lookout also features murals and mosaics depicting the European and Aboriginal history of the site.
The next stop was the inland city of Ipswich. Anyone who follows my travels knows I love to find street art wherever I go so the Ipswich Art Trail was for me. Meander the back lanes and streets of Ipswich to discover these wonderful works of art. Check out my photos to gain an appreciation for what is on offer. Google 'Ipswich Central Street Art Trail 'to download a map to help you navigate.
Back towards the coast as we head to the Gold Coast for our last few days. When one thinks of the Gold Coast it is often the glitzy skyscrapers that come to mind but the area is home to many beautiful national parks and forests and this is what we decided to focus on.
Burleigh Heads National Park is where the bush meets the ocean. Here you will find a wild natural headland surrounded by rainforest. The Rainforest circuit scales the hill to the summit 88m above sea level. Check out the view from the Tumgum lookout. The Oceanview track skirts the coastline leading around the rocky headland from the southern edge of Burleigh Heads township to the southern park entrance near Tallebudgera Creek. When you reach the creek check out the Jellurgal Aboriginal Cultural Centre to immerse yourself in the traditional lives of the Yugambeh people.
A 45-minute drive from the Gold Coast brings you to the Springbrook National Park. This 6,197-hectare park offers incredible scenic views as you stand atop an ancient volcano. Check out the views from Best of All Lookout. This aptly named lookout offers views to Murwillumbah, Mt Warning (the core of the volcano), and Brunswick Heads in northern New South Wales. It is an easy walk through a forest of gnarled 2,000-year-old Antarctic Beech trees. Think 'Lord of the Rings' landscape!
Mount Tamborine known as the 'green behind the gold' was inhabited by Aboriginal People for tens of thousands of years and, at the time of early European settlement, lay in the territory of the Wangerriburras. It is a remnant of a crater rim of a volcanic explosion that happened about 22 million years ago. Tamborine National Park covers 1160 ha on Tamborine Plateau and around its foothills. There are about a dozen different reserves as well as the small villages - Mount Tamborine, North Tamborine, and Eagle Heights - which stretch along the 8 km ridge of the mountain range.
The main areas to visit in the park are Joalah, Cedar Creek, The Knoll, MacDonald Park, Palm Grove, and Witches Falls. Joalah National Park is home to the Curtis Falls. There is an easy 1.5km winding track through wet eucalypt forest beneath towering flooded gums and then into cool and lush rainforest before you reach the rock pool at the base of the falls. Beautiful and peaceful. Take a walk along Gallery Walk to check out the 70 + businesses that are tucked into little country cottages. Pick up a wine or 2 from the Mount Tamborine Winery or a whisky from the Castle Glen cellar.
Another day, another national park!! This time it is the Lamington National Park. Think rugged mountains, lush rainforests, ancient trees, and spectacular views. Driving here is not for the faint-hearted as you maneuver around hairpin bends on the narrow, often single lane, road. Nestled in the foothills of the Lamington National Park we find the pretty little township of Canungra. This township owes its existence to the early cedar getters and sawmillers and in the early part of the 20th century was home to the largest softwood timber mill in Australia. Once again I managed to find a delightful mural.
We then visited the O'Reillys Rainforest Retreat where the family pioneered eco tourism in Australia in 1926. A popular location with visitors you can see some of our native birds up close during feeding times - Australian King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas. Take a look at the Stinson airplane replica from the ill-fated 1937 flight from Brisbane to Sydney which crashed in the McPherson Range. The wreckage was found by Bernard O'Reilly and there is a statue depicting his rescue of 2 survivors.
A couple of short walks can be taken by day visitors with longer walks available for those who chose to stay here. The Booyong Walk is clearly signposted opposite the entrance to O'Reilly's Reception and is about 800 metres easy walk along a wooden walkway. Stop and read the signs to learn about the flora and fauna in this area. Along this walkway you can join the one-way treetop walk. The Tree Top Walk was the first of its kind in Australia. It is 180 metres in length and is made up of 9 suspension bridges, with much of the walkway being up to 16 metres above the ground. A great way to view the forest but my fear of heights did not make for an enjoyable experience!!
All too soon our trip comes to an end. Rather like Thelma and Louise, we would prefer to 'keep on going' but alas have to earn a living.
Until our next adventure, it is bye for now.......