So anyways, we’re smack in the middle of the strawberry season. But isn’t it just the start of spring? Ah yes, but here on the Sunshine Coast our season runs from May through to October. The first strawberries begin appearing around Mother’s Day and come Melbourne Cup Day they’re gone.
Fun fact 1: Queensland supplies the winter production of strawberries for the rest of the country and most of them (about 85%) are grown here on the Sunshine Coast – although Bundaberg is now also growing strawberries and there are some producers even further up north on the Atherton Tablelands.
We’re lucky – the strawberries that we buy at our weekly farmer’s market haven’t been anywhere near cold storage. They’re low on food miles and taste the way that strawberries are meant to taste. The way they never seem to taste in the city.
Fun fact 2: Strawberries have to be picked when they’re ripe. They won’t ripen any more once they’ve been picked.
Picking your own…
There’s something about picking your own fruit though – and luckily, we have places where you can do that. What’s not to love? Some Vitamin D, the smell of warm strawberries all around, the promise of the freshest tastiest fruit and a strawberry icecream at the end of it.
Fun Fact 3: Technically the strawberry is not a berry, but a member of the rose family. Don’t say you don’t learn anything here!
The South Burnett region is a wine-growing region in South-East Queensland almost exactly two hours due west of where we are on the Sunshine Coast. Both these facts – the wine and the short distance – made it a perfect place for a last-minute weekend getaway now that intra-state travel restrictions have been lifted.
The plan was simple: do our usual morning walk at 6am, come home for breakfast and to pack, hit the road once the school traffic is done, stop somewhere halfway for morning tea and arrive in plenty of time for wine tasting and lunch. Too easy.
Our morning tea stop was in Kilkivan, a small town (pop 700ish) on the Wide Bay Highway not far from Gympie. As far as I could work out, Kilkivan was where gold was first discovered in Queensland. It’s also famous for the Kilkivan Great Ride – a scenic horse ride that people of all abilities come from miles around to participate in.
As for us, we just stopped for tea (me) and coffee (Grant) and an over-priced ordinary sausage roll (shared). As an aside Grant’s bought himself this portable Nespresso gadget at the camping store and was very chuffed with the result…
What happened after that might have been my fault – although I place most of the blame at Rhonda’s feet – Rhonda is the name we’ve given to our satnav.
The part that could have been a little bit my fault is that I figured that if we were lunching at Barambah Cellars and staying at Barambah Station, it was fair to say that if I put Barambah into the sat nav we’d get there…right? Yes, I thought so too.
So we headed back down the highway and turned off near a place named Kinbombi onto a narrow road. It possibly should have been a hint that things weren’t quite right when the three caravans we were following all pulled over at the turn-off and consulted maps before turning back onto the highway.
The road was lovely, but quickly narrowed, with some fabulous views across the valley.
Then Rhonda instructed us to turn right…so we did…and crossed a cattle grid onto an unsealed road. Okay, we thought as we crossed another, the car is AWD, no problems. By the third cattle grid (and confused cattle), Grant asked, ‘Are you sure we’re on the right road?’ Then Rhonda said, ‘You have arrived at your destination.’
Ummmm… we were in the middle of flipping nowhere. Barambah, it would appear, is a locality rather than a town. We had one tiny bar of reception at the exact point where Barambah (if it existed) was, and I used it to plot a course to Barambah Cellars.
We’d gone about 100m down the road (and I use the term “road” loosely) when we came to a closed stock gate – one of those ones with a sign saying it’s an agricultural biosecurity area. We’ve come to a stop at the gate and Grant is wondering how far back he has to reverse before he can find somewhere to turn around and in the meantime, Rhonda is telling is to “proceed to route proceed to route” – the route being straight through that gate. Giving up we re-traced our way back onto the highway and resolutely ignored Rhonda for the next half an hour.
Lunch, when we finally got there, was at Barambah Cellars – a joint venture between three wine-growing families. Because of social distancing, the tastings are done as seated “wine flights”. We order an 8 flight for me (naturally) and a 5 flight for the designated driver.
The wines are good – Italian varietals mostly, like sangiovese, nebbilio and temperanillo. We also tried the viognier and rosato. With a Greek-style platter to share, it was the perfect lunch.
And yes, we brought home a few bottles…
The Stockman’s Cottage at Barambah Station
Our home for the next two nights was this cottage – the Stockman’s Cottage at Barambah Station.
Located about 5km out of Moffatdale and the wineries, Rhonda starred again and tried to get us to turn off the highway into a fenced paddock. Thankfully our host’s instructions saved the day.
This cottage had everything we could need and more for a weekend getaway. With a fully equipped kitchen and nothing open for meals close by, we chose to buy groceries from the supermarket at Murgon (about 16kms away) and cooked our evening meals outside on the portable gas burner we’d brought with us. Not only did it save us from having to clean the stove when we left, but we could also pretend that we were cooking over a campfire. #sadbuttrue. Besides, the stars were amazing.
With very little phone reception there was nothing for it but to open one of those bottles of wine, set out some cheese, grab a book from the bookshelf, and settle back and listen to the serenity – and the lowing of the cattle.
The station has been running since 1843, with the homestead (up the hill from our cottage) being built in 1905 (or thereabouts). These days the owners run mostly Santa Gertrudis cattle, with some Angus and a few Wagyu on their 4000 acres.
We walked each morning – our usual 5-6 kms – yet didn’t get as far as a boundary fence – this is a massive property. Instead of our beach walk, we walked through paddocks, with watchful bulls, and skittish cows.
Bunya Mountains National Park is 100km down the road, and we drove down there (via Kingaroy and back via Nanango) for a look on Saturday, stopping to have lunch at one of the cafes in the tourist village – scones and cauliflower soup.
On the way back we stopped in at the Peanut Wagon at Nanango for some fabulous all-peanut peanut butter.
Unfortunately, the weather had closed in so it wasn’t ideal for sightseeing or walking, but we will be back – there are some great walking tracks that I’d love to try.
Normally the wineries around here are the star attraction. With social distancing making it difficult for cellar doors to open without substantial changes, only Barambah Cellars was open when we visited. The others are expected to be open again by July. This also meant that we had problems sourcing and buying local produce as this wasn’t available in the supermarket – although we did manage to find some local produce for sale in the bakery at Goomeri which also, apparently, serves the best coffee in the region (according to our host). Given that we’d travelled with an empty esky with a view to spending some money in the region, this was a tad disappointing.
We were, however, there for the country air and the break and will be back when everything is open again.
We found our accommodation on AirBNB. The property listing is here.
I’ve been struggling a tad of late. I’m behind in delivering my novel, and a few other bits and pieces are getting on top of me.
After giving myself a talking to I’m beginning to get on top of things again. What has also helped is that I’ve been forced to take a couple of days off – the last two Tuesdays – in the day job. It’s a reduced hours covid thing, but something that has occurred right at the right time for me. Last week it rained, but this week we packed some soup, sandwiches and a thermos of hot water for tea and off we went to explore Noosa Botanical Gardens at Lake MacDonald.
The first thing you need to know about this place is that it isn’t in Noosa. It is, in fact, just out of Cooroy in the Noosa Hinterland. The only other thing that’s worth knowing is that this place is beautiful.
In fact, it’s so beautiful that I’ll do a bit of showing rather than telling.
Note to self: come back in the summer when these poincianas will be a mass of red flowers.
If you want to know more about the gardens and its history, check out this link.
I wouldn’t blame you if you haven’t heard of Eudlo; I hadn’t until a fellow guest at Jimmy’s Catering pumpkin night – I don’t think I’ve told you about their single ingredient dinners yet, have I? – mentioned that Sweethearts at Eudlo was a great place for a weekend brekky.
Eudlo? I’d seen the signs – there’s a turn-off on Tanawha Forest Drive just past the Maroochy Botanic Gardens. You can also get there from Palmwoods – and I’d seen it from the Brisbane train (which I usually catch from Palmwoods). Surely there couldn’t be a cafe there worth driving for? But she was adamant. Absolutely it’s worth the drive, she said.
I still laugh when someone says that: worth the drive. It wasn’t that long ago that getting to the shopping centre just 5kms away in Sydney took almost 10 mins – if there was no traffic. Now we talk about whether a destination in the hinterland just 20 mins away is worth the drive.
There’s a great brekky menu plus some pretty special cakes.
I was there to do some writing but was totally distracted by all the little bits in the garden. Speaking of distractables – it’s great for kids and dogs…
While you’re in Eudlo…
While you’re there, check out the General Store – it’s an absolute treasure trove of unexpected things…even a community library bookshelf of sorts.
One cuisine the Sunshine Coast does really well is Mexican – and not just the all in together sort of slop that Mexican food used to be (remember those office parties?). We’re talking new Mexican, tasty Mexican, amazing burrito bowls and soft shell tacos with fillings that haven’t seen the inside of an El Paso packet. Food that goes incredibly well with blue skies, bright colours, vibey vibes, and beer and tequila in an Instagram worthy setting.
Juan Fifty at 150 (get it?) Alexandra Parade – right across the road from the Alex Surf Club – is that sort of Mexican.
The decor has even more colour than the beach across the road, and the drinks menu has enough beers, tequilas and cocktails to make it worth making a night of – or whiling away a Sunday afternoon…not that I’d ever advocate a lack of moderation…no siree…drink responsibly people. There are even a few local faves on the craft beer list – like Your Mate’s Larry (a pale ale) and Donnie ( a dark ale) brewed right here on the Sunshine Coast.
And the food? We shared:
Chickpea Battered Brocollini ($8)
Battered cod fingers with a harissa bell pepper sauce ($9)
Pulled pork tacos with blackened Pineapple & Jalapeno Salsa Coriander, Cucumber, Slaw, Housemade Rainbow Corn Tortillas (2 for $16) and
Build your own burrito bowl with pulled pork and street corn and black bean salsa ($18)
The verdict? I think we might have found a new Mexican fave…
This is arguably Maleny’s most photographed paddock – it’s also probably it’s most generous.
One Tree Hill, with its iconic single tree and magic views over the Glasshouse Mountains, is a favourite with wedding photographers. Before you go tearing up there though, this is private property and a working farm. I took the pic above from outside the fence on a weekday when the traffic was sparse.
Between 308 & 349 Mountain View Road, Maleny. If visiting Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve drive further down Mountain View Road southwards. You’ll see One Tree Hill on your left. Note: you can’t park on that side of the road.
If you want to use the spot for photography, you need to make a booking ahead of time and make a small donation of $50. Every single cent goes to local community charities such as The Men’s Shed, the Maleny Historical Society, Busy Needles, Maleny Senior Citizens, the Naval Cadets and the Maleny Show Society.
Hear the serenity, check out the view. This is Witta.
Located just nine kilometres outside of Maleny on the Hinterland road to Kenilworth, Witta is well worth a stop.
Check out the General Store – which also happens to be the only store – and stay for a cuppa or a meal…the view is fab.
Better yet, time your visit for the Witta Farmer’s Market – or the Blackall Range Grower’s Market – held on the third Saturday of every month. You can follow them on Facebook here.
Supporting small growers and producers from the greater Blackall Range area, you’ll find everything from hay mulch to candles and tea, amazing pastry, some of the best honey you’ll taste, veggie and herb seedlings, jams and preserves and … you get the idea.
There’s something about a coffee shop that’s just about the coffee. As if it’s popped up somewhere, thrown in a super-smart, sleek and totally gorgeous coffee machine, sourced the best beans and then gone, ‘man, we better get something for people to sit on?’ That’s The Birds and The Beans.
Located at the top of Buderim Village in the old Vandy’s Garage – dating back to 1918, it was the first garage in Buderim – this cafe is a retro lovers paradise. Nothing matches, the old garage has been left largely intact – you can even have your latte out by the old petrol bowsers. And your coffee even comes with souvenir teaspoons – I knew I shouldn’t have donated all those old spoons when we moved.
Speaking of seats, you can chill out on one of the old couches and read a mag or catch up with friends, or settle in at one of the tables and get some work happening.
And for eating? This place is all about the coffee. You can buy a couple of toast-your-own slices of raisin toast for $2 a serve. They also usually have some crumpets and bagels on offer – if you’re early enough. The toaster is in the corner. Other than that there’s usually a few different slices or some cookies to choose from, sometimes some pastries. But really, you’re here for the coffee – or the retro vibe – but mainly the coffee
If pressed for a favourite, this would come out near the top. The black rice porridge with ginger syrup really should be tasted to be believed, and the avo smash is lifted with micro herbs, feta and radish. Just fabulous. I wrote about it here.
Winnie is named after the owner’s son, Winston. They also have Little Boat at Marcoola – which is named after her other son, Otus, or Oatey Boatie. Too cute. Speaking of which…
Little Boat Espresso, Marcoola
I haven’t blogged this place yet – I’ll need to go back to get some better photos. Now, there’s a good excuse if ever there was one.
Little Boat is open from 6.30 – 2.30 every day at 3 Lorraine Ave, Marcoola. They also open on Friday nights – but for drinks only. You bring your own food from the Marcoola Markets…such a cool idea.
Another place without an ocean view, your outlook here is green and serene. Coffee is taken so seriously they have their own blend, and the food is…well, just look at it. And there’s plenty to choose from if you’re vegetarian.
I nearly wasn’t going to include this place on my list given that they only open for breakfast from Thursday – Sunday. Even then they don’t open until 7am – relatively late on the Mooloolaba strip. That aside, I had to give them a spot even if it’s just for their baked eggs. They are really that good. Naturally, there are other things on the menu – other good and very yummy things – but I do love the baked eggs…and the view. On a sunny day watching the world stroll by and the surf across the road, there’s not many better places to be than on Mooloolaba’s Esplanade.
Update June 2018 – this cafe is now closed
Two Point Oh, Maroochydore
Somewhere else I haven’t blogged yet is this relatively new vegetarian cafe in the Kontiki Building in Maroochydore. Again, it’s because I want to go back and take more photos. Yes, really. Have you seen their Instagram page?
The only way I can describe the food is to say it’s innovative…or maybe progressive? Whatever word you use to describe it, it’s the type of vegetarian place that the non-vego can walk in and not notice that the bacon is missing.
The smoothie bowls have been lifted to a different dimension from the acai that you see on every street corner here on the coast, and the avo smash is turned upside down with smoked beetroot hummus, smashed peas, feta, rocket and avo.
Oh, and the decor is stunningly simple and beautiful.
Open for brunch Monday – Wednesday 7:30 – 4pm and Sunday 8 – 3pm and Dinner Thursday – Saturday 5pm-10pm
I’m here working so often you’d think I was their resident writer.
Again, I haven’t blogged it and I really need to. Anyways, Chances was the first of the major tenants in The Wharf redevelopment – I’ve told you about that when we talked about Rice Boi and Saltwater. Yes, it’s a bar and it’s open late and it has a fabulous vibe and food for that sort of thing, but for now, we’re talking about breakfast.
They have all the usuals, plenty of muffins, a DIY breakfast, a breakfast stack that defies gravity (that’s it in the pic below), and a smashed avo that I swear I must have every time I’m in. And you must try the savoury mince jaffles.
You’ll find Chances on Mooloolaba Wharf, opposite Sea-Life, Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba. It’s open most days from 7am, but check out their Facebook page for more info.
Mooloolaba Surf Club
Many of the surf clubs do a good value brekky, and they’re well worth seeking out – and not just because they usually have the best view on the beach. Our “local” Mooloolaba Surf Club does breakfast each morning from 7am and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better view.
Ok, there are plenty of places up and down the Esplanade.
Acai Brothers do, well, I’ll let you guess… Then there’s Quarterdeck – open for the early birds. They don’t have an avo smash as such, but they do sourdough with a smash on the side which is, unusually for places doing avo on the side, a good sized serve.
Dejavu, another early opener, is in the middle of the main foodie part of the Esplanade opposite the beach. At $20, their avo smash is mortgage-bustingly expensive, but also humungous and, therefore, good value – especially if you’ve worked up an appetite with an early morning walk/run or a swim…or all of the above. Their breakfast wraps are also pretty yum.
I’m sure that I read somewhere that Gainsbourg has changed hands relatively recently and are in the process of changing their menu. I’m hoping this benny with smoked trout and quinoa fritters makes the cut.
Do you have a favourite brekky spot on the Coast? If so, let me know…I’ll add it to my list.