The hilltop towns of Maleny, Montville and Mapleton are great bases to explore the Sunshine Coast Hinterland – an area full of exceptional produce, artisan crafts and tranquil villages. After all, it’s not just about the beaches in this part of Queensland. Turn inland for a 30-minute drive and get ready to find it hard to leave.
Handmade cheese and old-school sweets are country town classics, but the hinterland throws in a few surprises, too. Indulge in a French-flavoured high tea or an Asian-infused lunch paired with live jazz. And don’t be surprised if you find yourself checking out real estate listings – many visitors have come for the weekend and never left. Which is easy considering the Hinterland is less than two hours drive from Brisbane. If you’re making that short trip, here are five places to tick off.
To some, the town of Eumundi is just another town on the Bruce Highway. But to those in the know, it’s home to Australia’s most legendary country market. What started in 1979 as three stalls now resembles a pop-up township. More than 600 stalls sell everything from local artwork to fashion to health food. The crafts are all made by local artisans and have a distinctly bohemian bent, so if you’re after crystals or scented candles you’ve come to the right place.
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But it’s the breadth of produce that sets this market apart. Come hungry and fill up on bagels, Brazilian tapioca, decadent donuts, French crepes, gourmet baked potatoes or dumplings, and then fill your take-home basket with handmade chocolate, chutney and pickles, honey, kombucha and black garlic. The market is open Wednesdays from 8am to 2pm and Saturdays from 7am to 2pm.
The purest local milk and untold patience are the secret ingredients for the exceptional boutique cheeses produced by this award-winning cheesemaker. Maleny Cheese sources its milk from five small dairy farms in the Sunshine Coast hinterland (as well as its own farm, Obi Obi Dairy) breathing new life into the region’s once-rich dairy industry and supporting local farmers in a truly paddock-to-cheese-board experience.
Choose from three types of cow’s milk cheeses: feta, cheddar and soft. The feta varieties are flavoured with herb and garlic, or sundried tomato and olive (or plain), while the three-year-aged cheddars feature intriguing infusions such as wasabi and port wine, and come dip-sealed in wax. Rarest – and therefore most sought-after – is the buffalo brie, made from milk sourced from a small herd of water buffalo from a farm on the Maleny Plateau. The Maleny Cheese Cafe is located right on the farm, and you can even watch the cheese being made in the adjacent factory. Order lunch from a cheese-centric menu (think raclette, baked brie, cheese croissants or a charcuterie platter) and pair it with a local wine or a barista-made coffee.
The Long Apron High Tea
Francophiles will want to flock to this monthly high tea event held at Spicers Clovelly Estate, an elegant, French-provincial-style homestead set on a hinterland hilltop in Montville, 15 minutes from Maleny.
You’ll be welcomed to the manicured gardens with a glass of Taittinger champagne, to be enjoyed under the magnolias, before sitting down to a light French lunch of lobster on brioche, confit duck, zucchini and goat’s cheese roulade and finger sandwiches, finishing with a selection of delectable French sweets, and cups of tea served in fine china. The high tea event might only be once a month, but The Long Apron restaurant is a worthy destination any time, plating up authentic French country-style dishes made from premium local ingredients. Head chef Geoff Abel boasts impeccable farm-to-plate credentials, having owned Flock Eatery in Redcliffe, just north of Brisbane, a trailblazer for sustainable dining. The degustation menu has both vegetarian/vegan and omnivore options, with optional wine pairing (expect an impressive selection of burgundy, bordeaux and champagne).
Sweets on Maple
You’ll feel like a kid in a candy shop (literally) when you walk through the door of this nostalgia-inducing confectionary store in Maleny. Polished timber cabinets overflow with old-school chocolate bars, nougat, lollipops and liquorice, while glass jars behind the counter are filled with a dazzling array of glistening lollies (we wouldn’t be surprised if there was an ever-lasting gobstopper lurking somewhere in there).
They’re especially famous for their creamy homemade fudge, with dozens of flavours rotating through regularly. The best-seller is the salted caramel fudge, but you can also find some unique flavours of Australia, including lemon myrtle and wattleseed. All fudge is preservative-free, which means every slice (also called a tablet) is freshly made. Equally adored is their range of Maleny chocolate, made just a few hundred metres down the road. There’s also a great selection of imported sweets, cakes, sauces and biscuits from England, Germany, New Zealand, America and South Africa, for anyone yearning for the sweets of home.
Jazz in the Forest
Jazz music performed in a rainforest-like setting accompanied by Asian cuisine might seem like an odd combination, but just accept that it works. This eclectic event happens on the first and third Sunday of every month at Spicers Tamarind Retreat, a serene, Asian-inspired hideaway at Gardners Falls, just a short drive from Maleny. The concept is simple: book a table, enjoy a delicious lunch and listen to the soothing sounds of a live jazz band.
Led by Sunshine Coast-born head chef Daniel Jarrett, The Tamarind restaurant (part of the wider retreat) has won numerous awards for its exceptional modern Asian cuisine, with a focus on the flavours of Thailand in its ever-changing à la carte menu. Produce is always sourced locally, including from The Tamarind’s own kitchen garden. The seafood comes from sustainable fisheries and all meat on the menu is ethically farmed. Ordering the banquet takes care of decisions and is perfect for sharing. Be sure to take a stroll in the tropical gardens after lunch, and if you’re still finding it hard to leave, you can always book a room and stay a while.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Spicers Retreats.