Queensland is full of surprises.
The more we explore our newly adopted state the more diverse we discover it is and the more excited we get about living here.
You probably already know that its home to some of the best beaches in Australia and that other famous natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef. And you may have read about our recent Outback Queensland adventures.
But have you heard of the Bunya Mountains and the South Burnett Wine Trail in Southern Queensland Country?
We hadn’t until our recent weekend getaway to the Southern Queensland Country region which was another pleasant surprise. And it’s SO GOOD to be taking weekend getaways again!
As much as we loved our eternal 18 month trip around Australia it’s so nice to have the opportunity to take short weekend getaways, to have a beginning and an end.
Weekend getaways allow you to escape the hustle and bustle, to forget about the normalcy of life and everything on our ‘to-do’ list. Life is good by the beach on the Gold Coast, but we always enjoy escaping to the country for fresh air and serenity.
Introducing the Bunya Mountains!
Bunya Mountains National Park is situated between Kingaroy and Dalby, and is a spectacular wilderness range overlooking the South Burnett region.
Caz and I left the kids with nan and pop for the weekend and headed off on a Friday afternoon. From the Gold Coast the Bunyas are about a three and a half hour drive, and Brisbane to Bunya Mountains is a three hour drive.
We arrived at dinner time and met Eleanor, the friendly owner of Elz Bistro and ordered dinner to take back to our mountain chalet. It was a nice contrast coming from the sound of the ocean to eat by the sounds of the crackling log fire and rug up on the couch afterwards.
The Bunyas must be one of the only places in the Sunshine State to experience a real winter.
I had the hearty lasagne and Caz the grilled Atlantic salmon, washed down with a bottle of local red from the South Burnett wine region.
After dinner the only chore was stoking the fire and choosing what music to play, with no kids to feed or put to bed we were reminded what Friday nights can be like.
Stay: Bunya Avenue Chalets
We stayed at the Bunya Avenue Chalets and Eleanor and her husband Wayne (owners of the Lyrics Restaurant and Elz Bistro) were lovely hosts. Tell them Caz & Craig said hi!
It’s not often we get the pleasure of a sleep in, and instead of tiny feet running through the house at 6 am demanding breakfast we woke up naturally and to the site of wallabies hopping around outside.
Our chalet was big enough to sleep eight and was surrounded by Bunya Pine trees.
I’d never heard of a Bunya pine before, and as Eleanor explained they are more rounded on top than a normal pine tree, and they produce large pineapple-shaped cones with 50-100 edible nuts each surrounded by a thick outer casing.
The Bunya Mountains are home to the largest stand of ancient bunya pines in the world.
Breakfast: Elz Bistro
After our lazy start to the day we headed to Elz Bistro for breakfast and sat on the verandah by another log fire with beautiful views overlooking the National Park, with one dominant bunya tree nearby.
From the menu I went for the salmon, ham, eggs and avocado on Turkish bread, whilst Caz went for the Big Breakfast accompanied by a hot coffee. And BIG it was.
Bunya Mountain Hiking Trails
We chatted with Eleanor some more about the day ahead, learning that the park has 35 kilometres of Bunya Mountain walking tracks (from 500 metres to 10 kilometres long) and she suggested we start with the popular Scenic Circuit walk, a 4-kilometre return from Dandebah picnic ground.
The Bunya Mountains were declared a National Park in 1908, the second oldest in Queensland. The park is a mix of moist rainforest, dry rainforest, grasslands, open forests and woodlands. It’s also home to about 120 species of birds and many species of mammals, frogs and reptiles.
It’s not often we get to go bush walking at an adults pace and I usually end up with little Savannah on my shoulders. This walk would normally take around 1 hour and 20 minutes, but we were slowed down by the numerous photo opportunities.
The size of the trees along the walk were impressive, as good as I’ve seen in Queensland, and Caz is never shy about giving them a big tree hug to feel their energy.
The Scenic Circuit walk passes through the pine forest and a variety of mountain scenery.
Through rainforest, eucalypt forest, past Tim Shea Falls, onto natural grassland balds and to Pine Gorge Lookout giving us panoramic views. And we easily recognized the dome-shaped crowns of bunya pines emerging above the canopy.
We have to come back again and do this walk with our kids, being suitable for all ages and fitness levels. I’m sure they’d especially enjoy walking through the giant strangler fig, which is on record as being at least 400 years old. Very cool.
Upon return we had a quick look inside Cedarvale, an old slab hut located at the Dandabah picnic ground staffed by volunteers from the Natural History Association.
Spend a bit of time inside here to gain a greater insight into the Bunya Mountains’ history and get general information about the mountain range.
Taking advantage of the sunshine we sat outside for lunch at Poppies on the hill café with views over the forest. At Poppies, they make all their own food from scratch on the premises.
I went for the signature Bunya Burger, which is a bunya nut and beef patty and was impressed at how tasty it was. And to keep with the theme we enjoyed the Carrot & Bunya Nut Cake and a lovely hot chocolate to keep the insides warm.
After lunch we did a small section of the 10 km Barker Creek Circuit, accessed from the Paradise car park and strolled along slowly to walk off that yummy burger and cake, passing by Paradise Falls and Little Falls.
Feed wild birds at Bunya Mountains
The Bunya Mountains rainforests’ are known for their bird life, and wild bird feeding began in the 1970’s when Joe Walker (who built the kiosk), offered feed to the parrots to keep them out of his veggie patch.
The Bunyas is fortunate to be granted a licensed interaction plan, and for $5.00 per tray and for 30 minutes you can feed and get up close and personal with the King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas.
There are four different feeding times throughout the day, and bookings are recommended as places are limited. Learn more here.
In the afternoon, we retreated back to our cozy Bunya Mountains accommodation, our chalet to sit on the back deck in the sun along with the resident locals, the wallabies on the grass who had the same idea.
Once the outside temperature cooled, we headed inside and relaxed on the couch by the fire, glass of wine in hand and watched an episode of a travel TV show.
I can’t remember the last time on a Saturday afternoon we had the opportunity to sit still for 60 minutes uninterrupted and have a bit of mummy and daddy time. How good is it?! The beauty of a couples weekend getaway.
Sunset at Fishers Lookout
Before dinner, we jumped in the car for the short drive back out on the road too Fishers Lookout for a panoramic view and to watch the sun go down. We got a nice silhouette of the Bunya Pine trees against the setting sun.
Oh, and if you’re after some mobile phone reception whilst up in the mountains (which is limited), this is the place to go as it’s near the big TV tower.
Dinner: Lyrics Bunya Mountains Restaurant
Lyrics Restaurant is the place to go for an intimate, fine dining experience in the Bunyas!
We arrived a little early so ordered some pre-dinner drinks and soaked up more of that log fire warmth and ambiance. My drink of choice was an espresso martini and Caz ordered her usual mojito.
Lyrics has plenty of character and is a beautifully renovated restaurant and the food, top notch!
For entree, we went with the chicken skewers with bunya nut and peanut satay and BBQ Morton Bay bugs topped with a Mediterranean sauce.
And for mains I thoroughly enjoyed the Lamb shanks in a rich tomato and red wine sauce with potato mash, the lamb was cooked to perfection. Whilst Caz chose the Angus rib fillet.
Any time sticky date pudding is on the menu, you can be sure I’ll put my hand up!
Lyrics Restaurant is only open on Friday & Saturday nights from 6pm to late. On the last Sunday of each month, they do a seafood lunch delivered fresh from the trawlers in Redcliff. Bookings recommended.
Sunrise in the Bunya Mountains
As hard as it was to crawl out of bed and away from our simmering log fire the next morning, sunrise in the Bunya Mountains is worth waking up for.
Again it’s a short drive to an open panoramic view of the valley below.
Before departing we popped back in to Elz Bistro for brekky, a hot coffee, and to take in those forest views one last time!
Our getaway to the Bunyas was refreshingly different and the perfect mountain retreat from the Gold Coast. There are not many places in Queensland you can sit by a log fire surrounded by national park.
Next time we’ll bring the kids and I envision staying a few extra days to breathe that crisp fresh air into our lungs, to explore more of the nature trails, and to read a good book on the back deck whilst the kids run around amongst the wallabies.
Quick Tips for a Bunya Mountain Getaway
- There’s no fuel, ATM or alcohol on the mountain. Come prepared!
- Mobile coverage in the Bunya Mountains is limited / patchy (part of its charm!)
- It will be cold during winter, so pack warm clothing!
- Don’t forget your walking shoes!The nature trails are superb!
Getting to the Bunyas:
Be aware that GPS can go a little haywire in this area, so it’s best to print out your travelling directions.
- From the Gold Coast – we suggest you take the Brisbane Valley Highway.
- From Ipswich Road take Toowoomba turnoff. At Blacksoil (80km zone) turn right onto Brisbane Valley Highway. You will go through Fernvale; Esk; Toogoolawah; Moore; Blackbutt to Yarraman.
- From Yarraman Turn left onto the New England Highway heading for Cooyar – Toowoomba. Drive 21kms; turn right signposted Maidenwell – Bunya Mountains. Turn left at the Maidenwell Pub onto Bunya Mountains Road. There is 4kms of unsealed section on this route. When you arrive at the top of the mountain, turn right towards Dandabah.
- At the top of the range pass the TV towers on your right. Approx. 1.2km from TV Towers turn right into Bunya Avenue (signposted Dandabah).
- From Kingaroy side of mountain, approximately 10 km from Burtons Well, turn left into Bunya Avenue (signposted Dandabah)
South Burnett Wine Trail
Leaving the Bunyas we headed home to the coast via the South Burnett Food and Wine trail, which begins about 45 minutes drive down the mountain in Kingaroy.
This region is home to more than a dozen family-run wineries offering cellar door tasting and sales. With only half a day up our sleeves, including the drive home, we only had time to check out a few.
First port of call was Dusty Hill Winery, a small volume family-owned and operated vineyard in the Northern section of South Burnett overlooking picturesque Lake Barambah, near the small village of Moffatdale.
Whilst tasting their wines we chatted with Joe, the friendly owner who told us about how it all started and the history of their wine making.
Dusty Hill is 15 years young now and the family commenced building their dream during the seventh year of a drought, their vines planted on an unnamed piece of land on the side of a dusty hill.
From there they have grown to produce premium wines and built a property that is a destination in itself. On site there is a restaurant, a tavern, a wedding chapel and boutique accommodation. I love stories of passion and vision like this.
There is a nice selection of wines, the cellar door is open Thursday to Sunday from 11am to 5pm, and you are made feel welcome.
Besides coming back for more wine, we plan on returning to taste one of their designer beers in their Irish Tavern, the most recent addition to the vineyard.
Not to mention their Dusty Day Out Music Fest in October, that sounds like fun! Oh, and they have a kids playground. How many reasons do you need?
We grabbed ourselves a favourite bottle from the tastings.
This Northern section of the wine trail also offers access to 5 other cellar doors – Barambah Wines, Clovely Estate, Moffatdale Ridge, Tipperary Estate and Bridgeman Downs.
From there we headed to Kingsley Grove Winery for more tastings and lunch, stopping briefly in the town of Goomeri to grab a coffee from Wimberley & Sons, a cafe you’d more likely see in Brisbane or on the Gold Coast.
Kingsley Grove Estate is near the regional town of Kingaroy. It’s owned and operated by the Berry family, and Michael and Patricia have a fascinating past.
Originally from England, Michael is a former engineer and whilst tasting their wines we learnt how they’d spent many years living in places such as Vietnam and Hong Kong whilst Michael worked on large scale projects, such as the Hong Kong Metro system.
Settling in Australia, they founded Kingsley Grove in 1998 whilst undertaking viticulture studies at Melbourne University. The amazing thing is they run the whole operation themselves from start to finish, along with their son, and now have ten vine varieties planted on the site.
Michael showed us around their wine making process before we sat down to a wood-fired pizza for lunch, their weekend specialty, with views out over the property.
Last stop of the weekend we dropped into Taste South Burnett in Kingaroy to taste some more local wine and sample the local produce from around the region – in case you didn’t know Kingaroy is famous for their peanuts – taste their curry flavoured ones!
We chatted with owner Shannon who is enthusiastic and an expert on all things produce and wine in this region. Taste South Burnett is a delicatessen-type store and to Caz’s delight almost everything is gluten free.
Choose from jams & preserves, olives, olive oil, peanuts, Kingaroy cheese, locally-made biscuits & house-made fudge. Interestingly, Shannon pointed out that this is the first and I believe only place you can buy camels milk. Anyone for camels milk with their coffee or cereal?
Next time you think Escape to the Country, consider Southern Queensland Country. And in true country form, the people are super nice!
Our weekend getaway was in partnership with Tourism Queensland and Southern Queensland Country. To learn more about this region click here.
Have you been to the Bunya Mountains? Or explored the South Burnett Wine Trail? Please share any of your tips in the comments below!