Lets face it, at any one time, we are all dreaming of a holiday. I get back from one trip and I’m already planning and getting excited about the next one. So when Sunshine Coast Tourism invited me on a road trip up to the Glasshouse Mountains and beaches, of course I jumped at the chance.
The great thing about this trip is, I am time poor. Between my two girls, my husband and our business, there never seems to be enough hours in the day, but a road trip is something that you can always squeeze in and the bonus is, it’s not an overly expensive exercise either.
Just a short two hour drive up the road from the Gold Coast and I was detouring off the highway in towards the Glasshouse Mountains. I must confess that since I was a teenager, I’ve been visiting the Sunshine Coast. I absolutely love it. But for some reason I have never ventured away from the beach so to be driving through pineapple plantations and macadamia farms with the magnificent Glasshouse Mountains in the distance was a real treat. I love holidaying, but to explore somewhere new is always a bonus.
First stop was to check in at the Glasshouse Mountains Eco lodge. Owned by the intriguing Keith Murray, I could have spent all day talking to him, listing to his plans, ideas and passion about the lodge, farming and the local area. The lodge is set on acres of plush land surrounded by the intimidating giant volcanic Glasshouse Mountains. This is one of the most eclectic places I have ever stayed. Accommodation varies from real train carriages brought up from Melbourne, bungalows or even a church where you have the whole building to yourself and sleep up in the lofty ceilings of the church. It’s so cool. The grounds are tranquil and peaceful, with a huge array of freshly grown produce and dotted around the place various forms of creative and quirky art. For breakfast, our hosts Des and Brad picked us fresh pineapple, macadamia nuts, dragon fruit, star fruit and more from the property. I can’t even describe how delicious it was. It’s amazing how much better foods taste when they are literally fresh from the farm.
From here, sunset was just a short five minute drive up the road at the Glasshouse Mountains Lookout. This would be an excellent place fro sunrise as well. Firstly, because the car park is literally right next to the lookout (no walking) and secondly it faces back to the east, the other mountains and the ocean in the distance. We took a bottle of local wine, some cheese and a few snacks and sat on the grassed area enjoying the peacefulness of the location and the spectacular views as the sky changed from deep blues to the soft pastel hues of last light. There are also barbeques available to make a real evening of the experience.
I’m obviously a sunrise/sunset girl. I love that first and last light of the day. There is something magical and rejuvenating about it so while on the Sunshine Coast I was super keen to see first light from seriously one of the best vantage points EVER – the top of Mount Ngungun. It did mean a 4 am alarm, but I’m not one for sleeping in, so this was no big deal and the thought of an early morning hike up the mountain was pretty exciting. Still being summer, first light is pretty early so we arrived at the base of the mountain about an hour before sunrise. I was so impressed and surprised to see how many other people had the same idea. It’s seriously the best way to start the day. I wouldn’t say the climb up is easy but it’s not overly difficult (depending on your fitness you may just need a few rest stops) and only takes around 30 minutes each was for the 2.8 km return walk. I think the hardest part is there are lots of steps, often with big jumps up, but hey, I’ll take this as a good workout and the vines and ferns lining the track meant you were completely immersed in this wonder of nature. Was really enjoyable in the balmy pre-dawn warmth. Don’t forget to take a torch if you are going in the dark – it is seriously black dark so you’ll definitely need it.
Once you get to the top of Mount Ngungun it’s just WOW! The most spectacular 360 degree views of the whole Glasshouse Mountains hinterland and then back to the Pumicestone Passage and the ocean in the East. We spent a couple of hours up here just taking in the incredible views and the sheer incredibleness of the place (sorry not the best way to express it but was just mind blowing).
After a good work out climbing mountains, what better way to relax and replenish for the afternoon but at a Grape Stomping Festival. This is literally what it sounds like! Held annually for the past 8 years at the Flame Hill Winery in Montville near Maleny, this winery is somewhere I would suggest is a must visit anyway, set in the rolling hills of the hinterland looking back over towards the Coast, it is just gorgeous. The wine is light and refreshing, perfect for a sunny Queensland afternoon.
The Stomp Festival is something else again. You need to buy a ticket and with good reason they sell out quickly. An afternoon of live entertainment, great food and wine and finishing with a “stomp” on the grapes, this is so much fun, a real family day with children playing on the grass and running around it’s a perfect atmosphere. I don’t think I’ve laughed that hard in ages. As I was driving, I didn’t drink, but was more than compensated having a laugh with many of the ladies attending. It felt like good old country wholesome fun. I am definitely booking my ticket to go back next year – but can assure you I wont be driving next time.
From the hinterland and the mountains, we took the short thirty minute drive down to Coolum beach. I love how you can have such diversity of farms, mountains, rainforests and wineries and then change to a completely different mood and environment of the beach so quickly.
The Coolum area for me is like a great hidden gem of the Sunshine Coast. I’m sure locals will disagree, but Noosa, Mooloolabah, Caloundra – these are the beaches that I think of when you say “Sunshine Coast”. I have never been to Coolum but will definitely go back. The beach itself was stunning. On one side of Point Perry lookout is a long stretch of sandy beach with the Surf Life Saving Club (great for breakie) and on the other side, a rocky almost cove like beach that was beautiful for sunrise and watching the local surfers doing their thing.
As far as food goes, was very impressed with the availability of great food and restaurants. My particular favorite was “Harvest” opposite Coolum Beach. Boasting modern Australian food, I struggled to pick from the menu because I honestly wanted everything. The seafood antipasto was to die for, as was the beef and ginger dumplings. The main courses looked delicious too, but being on the beach, I couldn’t go past the crispy skinned barra with soba noodles. If you are in the area, would definitely suggest you give this place a try. Was my most memorable meal of the trip, because not only was the food great, the service was fast and friendly and the relaxed vibe of the restaurant across from the beach definitely got me in wind down mode.
I think one of the things that I really love about the Sunshine Coast is its proximity to both the Gold Coast and Brisbane, while giving you the feeling of being a million miles away. This allows you to wind down and relax pretty easily and just chill on the beach or at one of the many hinterland locals. Alternatively you can go wild exploring nature, the rainforests, mountains, of course the amazing Australia Zoo for your cuteness fix or one of the many many amazing beaches. There are so many choices of things to please pretty much everybody. I could easily have stayed for a week, or a month, but loved that in just a few short days sneaking up to the Sunshine Coast, I actually feel like I have had a week or a month’s break.
I am already planning my winter escape up here again with the girls and plenty more adventures and exploring. Thank you again so much to Sunshine Coast Tourism, Anita, Liz, Fran and Cory (and all the people who helped us out over the weekend) for such an epic weekend. Can’t wait to come back.