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As I drive through lush valleys, farmlands and rolling hills, I often contemplate how much I’ve changed.
Many years ago, this kind of travel would have been a total bore to me. I was always about the beaches. If a beach wasn’t involved then the trip wasn’t worth it.
Now, when it comes to family road trips I favour heading inland to the open spaces, the mountain vistas, and the rainforest ways.
Recently, we learned about the Noosa Hinterland, and how it was a destination on the rise. We’d experienced, and loved, the other side of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland in the towns of Montville and Maleny, why not go a bit further north and see how it compared?
So we packed the car set off last weekend for a Noosa Hinterland getaway.
Places to visit in the Noosa Hinterland
I’m not sure if it makes any difference, to be honest, as I always seem to get stuck in traffic near Brisbane airport as you head to the Sunshine Coast. I think it’s one of the worst roads in Australia for traffic jams.
We left after lunch, in hindsight, I would have let Kalyra have the full-day off school and left tin the morning.
James Mckane Memorial Lookout
Upon arrival in Noosa Hinterland and through the cute villages we breathed a collective sigh and headed straight to the James Mckane Memorial Lookout in Cooran for sunset.
The Sunshine Coast knows how to do a good vista. You’ve all heard of the Glasshouse Mountains – those spiritual craggy peaks that arise out of the ground. At this lookout, you get more of the same, but the craggy peak vista is unlike the photos you typically see and are just as stunning.
There’s a picnic spot, a few BBQ’s, and plenty of space for the kids to play. It’s part of the Noosa Trail network which is a series of hiking trails.
Stay at The Dales Boutique B&B
Our accommodation was set amongst the rolling hills of Cooran on a two-acre property with nothing in between you and the gorgeous Mt Cooran, another one of those craggy peaks rising up from the ground.
You can sit out with a cup of tea and watch the peak glow in the early morning sun, and although we didn’t see any kangaroos often come to say hi from a distance as well.
The owners Liza and David are the sweetest, most hospitable couple. They warmly treat you like old friends and go out of their way to make your stay comfortable with a gorgeous home cooked breakfast and yummy cakes and shortbread for afternoon tea.
Dinners can also be prepared for you by request at extra cost.
I rarely get to eat pancakes, as mostly they aren’t gluten free and I’m the worst pancake maker in the world, so I devoured a plate of gluten free pancakes topped with passion fruit, strawberries, walnuts and home made ice cream that Liza made. Delicious.
Liza and David kindly invited us to enjoy a gluten free chocolate cake and homemade cardamon cream with them for David’s birthday on our return from our kayaking trip (see below).
OMG! I made cake for the girls a couple of nights afterwards and Kalyra was most upset I did not make Liza’s cream because “That cream was the best I’ve ever had. I wish you knew how to make it Mummy.”
We stayed in a private wing of their house with two bedrooms, our own bathroom and living area. Plus the outside patio was ours to enjoy. The morning sun was divine and I could not tear my eyes away from the view of the trees and hills.
The girls kept asking us why we weren’t staying longer and if we could.
Dinner at Clooney’s Restaurant
In the village of Cooran is the local’s favourite, Clooney’s Restaurant. It was warm and cosy with views out to the tree lined street. Craig and I both enjoyed a steak, mine was a reef and beef, his a fillet with peppercorn sauce.
Best of all was dessert. Craig, Savannah and I all dug into the signature gluten free honey and date cake (we were also told the brownies are homemade and run hot off the shelves!) and Kalyra enjoyed a pavlova.
It was a lovely way to unwind out of that Brisbane traffic and drive into Noosa Hinterland.
Kayaking the Noosa Everglades
Savannah said it best only a couple of kilometres into our paddle across Lake Coothraba. “I love it out here Mummy. It’s so quiet. Back there the noise always hurts my ears.”
After adamantly deciding she would not be kayaking upon waking, she was now paddling away, grinning madly and having an incredible time.
I was just as gleeful behind her. Not just because we were out in the middle of nowhere in a pristine natural environment with only the sounds of the birds flying and the water lapping against our boat, but because I was experiencing this adventure with her.
It was another of those moments where I unplugged and fell in love with my daughter all over again: her strength of spirit, her bubbly crazy personality, and her old soul.
It spoke to me for the entire 16km journey telling me stories and encouraging me to continue paddling even though my arms felt like they were about to fall off and I wanted to cry, “ I can’t paddle another stroke.”
“C’mon, Mummy. Go faster. We’re coming last. We can’t let everyone get ahead of us. Keep paddling. “
I couldn’t let my four-year-old out paddle me. She was still going. Four years old and she paddled for the entire 16 km trip.
We had a break and a delicious gourmet brunch in the sun. She curled up in a ball, wrapped up in the towel to warm herself up and gather the strength to paddle home.
As Vivian, our kayaking guide from Kanu Kapers told us, “You couldn’t have picked a better day to do this.” It was mid-twenties, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, barely a breeze and the water was so still and glassy.
Vivian had us stop for a moment of silence amongst the everglades to absorb that silence and listen to the rising birdsong that this would be one of my favourite experiences in Australia. It’s unique and wild. We barely saw another soul or boat which was so surprising for what it offers out there.
Serenity, wildlife, endless waters, lily pads and reeds to paddle and play in. You almost expect a crocodile to raise its beady eyes at any given moment. Thankfully, this is not croc territory!
The Noosa Everglades is one of only two everglades in the world.
You can hire kayaks and enjoy a self-guided tour or can join a guided tour like we did. You could be an even wilder adventurer and pack up the kayak with your bush camping gear and head out to the wilderness on a three-day adventure.
I’m half tempted.
“I loved that paddle, Mummy. I didn’t like the last bit where were coming last but I loved everything else.”
Me too darling. I loved spending that time with you paddling out in nature and seeing your champion spirit.
Tours of the Noosa Everglades to consider
- Self Guided kayak tour of the Noosa Everglades
- Noosa Everglades canoe trip with lunch
- Eco Safari to Australia’s Everglades
- Cruise and Canoe Australia’s Everglades
Click play to see more of this amazing experience and our time in the Noosa Hinterland in our video.
Lunch at Kin Kin General Store
What a gorgeous little village Kin Kin is. There’s not much here, but all you need is the General Store, come Post Office, come Black AntGourmet Cafe.
It was our late lunch spot after kayaking. We were so famished after expelling all that energy that we ordered a decent size lunch.
The food was amazing! It’s not the fish and chips food you’d expect from a corner store. It was modern, creative and fresh – and decently sized.
They have gourmet burgers which you can have as a wrap or salad.
I had the barramundi korma with poppadum and mango salsa salad. Craig went for the Cajun salmon on coconut rice.
You always know a hinterland village place is great when bikers make it a pit stop on their weekend cruises.
The General Store also sells local products and free range local grown meats. The restaurant also holds a variety of theme nights through the year.
Dinner at Apollonian Hotel in Boreen Point
The Apollonian Hotel is a typical Queensland country pub with its wide verandas and set on 3 acres and surrounded by rainforest gardens, and large lawns.
It has a historical vintage feel with its fireplaces, high ceilings ornate bathroom decorations and black and white tiled pool room.
I think a lot of memories have been made in this pub. We met our friend Cory, form Sunshine Coast tourism for dinner. It was hearty pub grub, sure to warm the heart of any Aussie or international visitor wanting to understand why we love meals like this in settings such as this.
It’s full of characters and good stories.
The Sunday spit roast is the place where all the locals meet. Our hosts, David and Liza told us how good it was.
Morning hike up Mt Cooroora
I decided to sneak out early on our last morning to hike up Mt Cooroora in Pomona. It was only an 8-minute drive from our B&B.
It was so beautiful to drive through the dales at this time with the mist rising off the green fields and the sky awakening in pastel pink.
I left a little later than optimal as I missed the sun rising out of the ocean from the lookout. I got there not long after but enough time for it to be blazing the earth with its power. The thermometer told me it was six degrees, but my vanishing layers spoke otherwise.
Mt Cooroora is famous for the King of the Mountain race held each year and the weekend before our time in the Noosa Hinterland.
The crazies amongst us race to the top – as in run. Now this is a very steep mountain. I did not go to the top, only 1km up to the first lookout. That was enough.
I was out of breath and the last bit climbing up to the lookout was steep and accompanied by a chain rope, a rock scramble, and a very steep ladder.
I was glad I was on my own and not coaxing the girls up them. Although after Savannah’s super human effort kayaking the day before, she’ probably would have run up it.
It was worth it though, the views out over the hinterland across the ocean were stunning.
It was nice to sit on the rock on my own and thank the sun for another magnificent day.
I was on my own only at that lookout space. Everyone else was on the path running up to the top of the mountain or running back down. And I as worried I was going to be the only one walking through the forest and up the mountain.
It wasn’t only super fit either. Young children and elderly passed me by as well. Made me feel a little self-conscious and determined to be the King of the Mountain…next time!
The Ginger Factory in Yandina
I didn’t like ginger back then, which is the only reason I can explain never visiting. It’s a popular tourist attraction and even for locals who visit regularly with their local passes for a coffee with friends in the cafe while their kids play in the playground and take endless boat and train rides.
The setting is just gorgeous, and now that I love ginger, I was really excited to visit.
We started at The Ginger Cafe with a taste of ginger scones with ginger tea and cream, whilst the kids decorated their ginger bread men. Divine.
We took a walk through the rainforest and then jumped aboard the steam train for a ride around the property, through the rainforest gardens and past the sugar fields to learn all about the ginger factory that started as in Buderim as Buderim ginger with ginger beer.
I was sure to grab an ice cold one from the fridge on the way out. It was delicious. Years ago I would have shuddered at the thought of drinking one of those, now it’s the only soda drink I treat myself with every now and then.
My favourite experience was Kalyra’s transformation from pouting, “This is so lame” upon boarding the Overboard boat ride, to exclaims of delight at how cool it was as we sailed on by the displays of different nations around the world. The Kiwis were doing the haka, the French the Ginger Rouge. In each display was a hidden Gingerbread man you had to find.
Always try things first before casting judgement Kalyra!
My true favourite experience was the Bee Talk. We’re now all in love with bees. Seriously. The had bee keeper almost had us signing up to become bee keepers and find our Zen.
In case you didn’t know, without the bees life would be dead within a few weeks. The bees are responsible for our food.
Love the bees. Look after them. If you can’t keep a hive and make your own honey, then plant lots of flowers and don’t waste water.
Don’t worry about us taking all the bees honey. They make too much of it and are constantly working to keep making it. That’s all they do for their short six-week lifespan is make honey all day long. It’s the lady bees that do all the work too.
If you’re scared of bees and one comes near you, just remain still, she’ll soon work out you’re not a flower and leave you alone.
After a honey tasting seesion we grabbed ourselves some bee pollen and Manuka honey from the store on the way home and it’s now a part of our regular health routine. Yep. Super food max out! You know that’s how we roll.
There are also tours of the ginger factory which we didn’t get time for.
And of course what visit to the Sunshine Coast would not be complete without a stock up at Costco on the drive home.