A glorious stretch of Queensland coastline. Our Sunshine Coast hinterland road trip covers a glorious stretch of Queensland coastline extending about 120km (75 miles) from Bribie Island in the south to Rainbow Beach, near Fraser Island, in the north. Compared to the Gold Coast, commercial development is more restrained; though there are still high-rise towers and shopping malls, you are never too far away from a peaceful expanse of golden beach.
Noosa is the jewel in the coastal crown, an unlikely encapsulation of luxury, hedonism and natural beauty that rarely fails to charm. Back from the beach, the rolling green hills of the hinterland are peppered with quaint villages and mysterious volcanic mountains. The red-cedar loggers are long gone (as are the red cedars), replaced by craftspeople, alternative lifestylers plus bakers and baristas servicing the tourism boom.
GLASS HOUSE MOUNTAINS
Head north from Brisbane on the Bruce Highway approximately 56 km (35 miles) and turn left at The Glasshouse Mountains Tourist Drive, also known as Steve Irwin Way since the death of The Crocodile Hunter. This is where you will catch your first good glimpses of the Glass House Mountains. These unusual volcanic plugs are the remains of lava-belching volcanoes that issued from the earth some 20 million years ago. The craggy, eroded peaks in the National Park offer impressive walking tracks to panoramic lookouts, while the well-drained slopes of rich volcanic soil around the mountains are ideal for growing pineapples, which are sold at roadside stalls, along with avocados, macadamia nuts and other produce.
Continue on the same road, following the signposted tourist drive, which loops north to the hill township of Maleny. Maleny is a picturesque country town of quaint colonial architecture occupied by new-age shops, galleries and craft outlets. Many talented artists and craftspeople have made this their home, and you may just find that something special here that is genuinely Australian and original.
Head east on the Maleny–Landsborough road before taking a left turn to Montville. Again you will enjoy spectacular ridge-top vistas, plus a few glimpses of scenic Lake Baroon. Montville, which visually is even more of a chocolate-box town than Maleny, is ornamented with determinedly quaint shops offering all manner of arts and crafts. The main street is well worth a wander, with numerous options for eating and drinking, such as The Edge Restaurant.
Head east 15km (9 miles) to the Bruce Highway, then turn left towards Nambour to reach Eumundi. Another charming hinterland town, Eumundi is decorated with contemporary artwork and sculptures by local artists, mingling with the historic buildings are shops selling new-age paraphernalia and jewellery, along with plenty of cafés. But it is the renowned markets that have put Eumundi on the map. From Eumundi, it is 21km (13 miles) east via Route 12 to the coast at Noosa.
What is Noosa? The area includes Noosaville, set back on the Noosa River; Noosa Junction; and Sunshine Beach, but for most people the name means the compact area called Noosa Heads.
Located on the sandy shore of Laguna Bay at the mouth of the river and overlooked by a ruggedly natural headland, its ‘strip’ is Hastings Street, where the chintziest shops, finest restaurants and beautiful people all come together epitomising the Noosa fairytale. Among the great choice of restaurants is the perfectly positioned Bistro C, while all your information and booking needs are met by the Noosa Visitor Centre (Hastings Street; tel: 5430 5020; daily 9am–5pm). Directly in front of Hastings Street is Noosa Main Beach, where you can learn to surf or just enjoy the golden sand and gentle waves.