AUSTRALIA, QLD: A Taste of Sunshine in QueenslandIf you’re staying at Noosa, Coolum or Maroochydore make the effort to spend a day up in the Hinterlands and you’ll discover craft markets, rainforest walks, cascading waterfalls and by following your nose you’ll also find a glorious amount of food and wine to lick your lips at.
AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER: ©Shane Boocock 2009
Waking up to the sun rising over mist shrouded valleys and the sound of kookaburras squawking in the hinterland above the Sunshine Coast is more than going to make your day, it whets your appetite and taste buds for what lies ahead. I was relaxing on the deck of a private retreat aptly named Freestyle Escape delving into a fully cooked breakfast and envisaging what gourmet surprises the Sunshine Coast had in store for me over the next seven days.
In the heart of the hinterland, I zigzagged back-country lanes in search of the 3Ms, Mapleton, Montville and Maleny, quaint Queensland towns with old fashioned frontages that enticed tourists and locals alike with coffee shops, high-end restaurants, lovely old taverns, book shops, gift stores, soap and candle sellers, wine and cheese tastings and lodging from B&Bs to luxury lodges in vineyards estates.
If you’re staying at Noosa, Coolum or Mooruychidoor make the effort spend a day up in the hinterlands and you’ll discover craft markets, rainforest walks, cascading waterfalls and by following your nose you’ll also discover great food and wine opportunities galore.
Lunch on my first day was the newest fine dining restaurant on the Blackall Range, politely named the Reserve Restaurant, located just seven kilometres from Maleny. Their signature dish is ‘seared Hervey Bay scallops wrapped in pancetta on a bed of sweet pea puree with salmon caviar and beure blanc.’ They’re other specialty is ‘roasted half duck with braised red cabbage and mashed potato.’ This is a delightful spot to lose an hour or two with views over the hinterland.
On the outskirts of Maleny we casually dropped into Maleny Cheese for some tasting treats. This little place just on the outskirts of town has been producing cheese since 2004. Milk is sourced less then 10km radius for their licensed restaurant, deli shop and factory.
Funnily enough it’s not cheese they sell the most of its yogurt. Maleny Cheese’s Greek style yogurt is considered some of the finest in this region of Queensland. Try the mixed berry or their award winning passionfruit – sensational. For something out of the ordinary try their buffalo cheese and yes it comes from buffaloes. For visitors who like soft cheeses try their Le Brochon or their triple cream Brie – enjoy with a glass of Pinot Gris.
As if that wasn’t enough I also fitted in an hour to visit Flame Hill Vineyard for a little slurping of their fine wines. Flame Hill is named after the flame tree which is abundant on the property, but locally known as ‘Kurajong’ a native rainforest tree. There are just 3 acres of vines planted and Vedehlo makes up 50% and another 35% of Shiraz with some cabernet and chardonnay making up the rest.
Over in Montville, a thriving mountain holiday town full of craft shops of every description I stayed the night at the Clovely Spicers Estate, an special place to base yourself for some hinterland adventures.
Dinner was at Cloverly Spice’s newly opened fine dining restaurant, a richly decorated and somewhat French inspired setting with a open fire on cold winters night. The estate has only 10 rooms and suites so the atmosphere is definitely intimate. Without question the chef’s signature dish was the boulibasse with pips, mussels, and fish in a tomato, garlic, saffron and Pernod broth. To accompany the meal we sampled a glass of Catching Thieves ‘07 chardonnay from Margaret River, and a Ninth Island ‘08 Pinot Noir from Tasmania – to die for.
On my way back to the coast I strayed off my route and stopped off at Eumundi Markets, the area’s largest outdoor markets boasting hundreds of stalls selling everything that might be handy inside wardrobes, garden sheds or kitchens and bedrooms! Food wise they tend to sell produce such as macadamia nuts, fudge, crêpes, breads, herbs, and organic fruit and vegetables. Food-to-go includes Spanish tapas, Japanese desserts, German sausages, Mexican fajitas and traditional Thai dishes.
Now I’m not a golf nut so the Hyatt Regency Coolum seems a strange place to stay but it was their restaurants I was here to uncover. Located on 150 hectares with its own private beach I soon found out the best way to get traverse between my room and the main dining options was to either walk, hire a bike or hop on one of the resorts golf cart shuttles.
Their signature fine dining restaurant is called Eliza’s – a pavilion style long room with a central fire and high vaulted ceilings. We started with a glass of Edwards chardonnay ’07 from Margaret River. For entree I choose the wood smoked king salmon, and for mains I choose at the chefs suggestion the pressed bendelle farm duck with anise glaze, vegetable rampah rampah with a sesame seed steamed baby bok choy and a truffle mash - a very rich meal indeed. Finally I was enticed to sample the Belgium double chocolate soufflé with marinated orange fillets and vanilla bean ice cream – purely for sweet toothed guests.
The hub of the resort is the Village Square where many guests hang out when they aren’t hitting golf balls or playing tennis. Here you’ll find Bruschetta Restaurant and Bar, a pizzeria, takeaway food at T’go, a wine store, noodles cafe, a fashion as well as gift shop.
My next stop was The Spirit House, is a little bit of Thailand tucked away on the Sunshine Coast. It has such a reputation people flock here for lunch or dinner from all over Queensland. Their signature dish is Whole Crispy Fish – using gold banned snapper, but I particular liked the crispy salmon straws and the Mooloolaba barbequed king prawns.
Noosa Heads is sometimes described as a culinary destination and why not with over 240 eateries in the vicinity. Arguably the best known street on the whole Sunshine Coast is Hastings Street, where Berardo’s Restaurant and Bar is located. White on white is the restaurant’s theme with the most colourful part being the owner Jim Berardo and his love of food. From the menu I choose Harvey Bay scallops for starters and Nobby Head Snapper for my main course with a superb dish of cauliflower and broccoli all accompanied by a stunning bottle of Tatachilla ’04 Shiraz from McLaren Vale.
For people without cars, taking a day tour is very popular which is where I met eight Kiwi holiday couples from Christchurch, Hamilton, Wellington and Cambridge taking a food and wine tour to the Noosa Hinterlands.
It’s a perfect opportunity to meet local growers and producers and to sample some of their labours, from high-tech tomato and organic farming to lunch and wine tasting at vineyards, with a chance to tour a freshwater crayfish farm and ending with a local tasting at a boutique winery. Knowingly the Kiwi’s didn’t squawk but smiled with blushed cheeks, appreciating how good a day their little sortie into the hinterlands had been.
Know Before You Go Info:
T: +61 7 5435 2288
T: +61 7 5494 2207
Flame Hill Vineyard
Spicers Cloverly Estate
T: +61 7 5452 111
Hyatt Regency Coolum
T: +61 7 5446 1234.
Eumundi Markets Open only on Wednesdays and Saturdays
T: +61 7 5442 7106
Spirit House Thai Restaurant & Cooking Classes
T: +61 7 5446 8994
Sheraton Noosa Resort & Spa
T: +61 7 5449 4703
Noosa Food & Wine Festival. Daily general admission includes 2 tickets for food and wine.
T: +61 7 5455 4455
Berdardos Restaurant & Bar
Noosa Food & Wine Trail - Departs every Friday
T: +61 7 5448 6111
The Buderim Ginger Cooking School
T: +61 7 5447 8465
Shane Boocock fly Air New Zealand to Queensland courtesy of Tourism Queensland and Sunshine Coast Tourism.
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