The Sunshine Coast hinterland is not, in our opinion, suitable for exploring in a motorhome. Next best option is to simply book a suitable tour and sit back and enjoy the ride and commentary. Bonus if there’s a wine tasting as you don’t have to drive home afterwards!
We were up bright and early and picked up outside Cotton Tree Caravan Park by Michael in the Con-X-ion mini-bus. Next stop, after a quick tour through Maroochydore and past the Sunshine Castle at Bli Bli was to collect a further 3 passengers.
Once we were all on board introductions were made and Michael explained how the day would work, where we would be going and so on. It turned out that there were only 3 Aussies on board – the two of us and Michael. The rest were mainly Kiwis and a few Poms. Not surprisingly there was some discussion about how things were going at the Olympics, but it was all in fun and was a great ice-breaker. Michael finished his introduction with a bit of an aboriginal dream time story about Maroochy, Coolum and Mudjimba.
First stop on our tour was the Ginger Factory at Yandina. There was plenty of time for our new friends to take the factory tour or the train-ride around the grounds, but in a case of “been there –done that” we settled for coffee and delicious ginger scones and a pleasant stroll through the glorious tropical gardens. We also had time to visit the Macadamia factory although we didn’t stop at the Pioneer Gourmet Coffee factory this time.
Then it was back on the bus and we were off through the back-roads accompanied by a very interesting commentary by Michael. We drove through Nambour to the Dulong Lookout. The scenery was amazing and gave a perfect indication as to how hilly (mountainous is an exaggeration) the hinterland areas are.
From the lookout we drove through the small villages of Mapleton and Flaxton before stopping at the incredibly picturesque village of Montville, where we stopped for our lunch break. Michael had explained that the traditional industries in this area, including timber cutting, had declined over the years and some places, like Montville, had been very successful in transforming into successful tourist destinations. Walking around Montville we all agreed that this was certainly a very interesting and welcoming place. As we only had a finite time before having to get back on the bus, we chose to have a light lunch and explore rather than indulge in some of the other fine dining options available. Before long it was time to get back on the bus, but we will have to come back here another time and have a much longer and better look around.
As we were leaving Montville, Michael took us past ‘Remington’s Shute’, or at least a sign to remember the place where ‘Remington’s Shute’ had been. The story was that the timber cutters would fell selected trees and drag them by bullock to Remington’s Shute where the logs would be launched to slide down the steep hill before being collected and transported from the bottom of the Shute. This saved a lot of time trying to cart the logs a considerable distance down-hill, and was a lot safer too.
Our next stop was at Maleny Cheese factory where there was a rush to taste the many delicious cheeses made on-site. We caught a brief glimpse into the factory itself where they were making flavoured yoghurts, which are also delicious. There is a café on the premises and a small shop with more local produce, but the focus of most of our travel companions was on the cheese. A good selection of cheeses joined the ginger jam, nuts and a few things from Montville in our bag.
It was only a short drive to the village of Maleny, where we got off the bus for a quick ice-cream and a look around. Before we left Maleny Cheese, Michael had commented on a carved wooden koala, and suggested that we should have a look around the buildings in Maleny. He pointed out the carved wooden gorilla on top of the newsagency, and told us that the owner was African. A quick look at the shoe shop highlighted a carved Kiwi and advice that the owner was indeed from New Zealand. He left us to our own devices to see what other carved animals we could find. Maleny is another village which appears to have successfully transitioned from traditional industries to tourism as a way to keep the village alive.
From Maleny, Michael took us to McCarthy’s Lookout, again highlighting the magnificent views throughout this area.
Next stop was for a wine-tasting at The Big Barrel – home of Maleny mountain wines. We enjoyed a taste of several white and reds, and finished with an 8 year old Port and an 18 year old Port. Our bag was a bit heavier when we left.
Last destination for the tour was a quick stop at the Aussie World pub, which looks suspiciously like the well-known Ettamogga Pub, although there isn’t a car on the roof. We had time for a refreshing ale, but again decided to explore some of the other interesting shops. Aussie World itself is actually a large “fun park” but there wasn’t time to explore there. Aussie World is also a bus terminal for Con-X-ion buses and several of our fellow bus passengers transferred to other buses to take them back to their home destinations.
From Aussie World the bus headed back, dropping our new friends off at various hotels in Mooloolaba and finally dropping us back at Cotton Tree.
What a fantastic day we had! We would never have seen so much, or learnt so much, if we had attempted to drive ourselves, either in Bertha or something a bit smaller. As it was we were picked-up and delivered door-to-door, met a bunch of friendly and funny fellow tourists, and enjoyed a great sight-seeing and tasting tour around a beautiful part of Queensland with a very knowledgeable and entertaining bus driver. It doesn’t get much better than that!
To finish off the day, after unloading our bag of treasures in Bertha and a welcome cup of coffee, we had a brief rest before walking around to the Maroochy Surf Club for a very nice seafood dinner. After-all, we had been tasting and grazing all day but hadn’t actually had a “meal” in all that time.
Still living the dream!