Why tussle with the havoc of trying to find a park at the beach when there’s a literal wonderland of splendour popping off just a few hours outside of the Gold Coast. Hiking, wine-tasting and panoramic views await you just a few hours in any direction from our surf city.
Load up the wagon with snacks, blast your summer playlist, and punch one of these locations into the GPS. Here are just eight country towns near the Gold Coast that are well worth the drive.
223km south on the Warwick, Stanthorpe is our favourite township on the Granite Belt. The region is lush with fruit farms and vineyards, and even a couple of microbreweries, making it a foodie’s paradise. Being that Stanthorpe is the apple capital of Queensland, a trip to Sutton’s Farm is an absolute must. This family-run gem is a temple of apple-worship boasting jams, juices, ciders, vinegars, and literally everything else you could turn an apple into. Yes, that includes apple pie, and the Sutton’s apple pie is renowned so make sure you get a double serving.
Built in the foothills of the Lamington National Park, Canungra is an ideal pitstop. The township is perfectly situated for a carb-loading sesh ahead of a long bushwalk. Stop by Bean In cafe for a feed and then burn it off on one of the Lamington National Park trails, or a lush rainforest hike. If you’re after a slightly more bacchanalian jaunt, check out O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyard. Besides a cracking selection of wines at their cellar door, the vineyards also contain the Mountview Alpaca Farm where you can feed, pat, or have a picnic with a whole pack of the fleecy babies.
Sunshine Coast Hinterland
Food is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of the Maleny township. The Sunshine Coast Hinterland makes for prime local produce, which comes together in a modern Asian symphony at the sumptuous Tamarind restaurant within Spicers Retreat. Chef Rory Thorpe isn’t cagey about his culinary secrets, hosting intimate cooking classes to pass on the tips and tricks that make Tamarind a dining institution. Naturally, as a booming dairy economy, Maleny is home to the famous Maleny Dairies. Even if you have only a casual appreciation for yoghurt, milk and ice cream, you’ll absolutely froth a visit to the place where all the magic happens. Then there’s always Maleny Cheese where you can witness firsthand the whole cheesemaking process and pick up a haul of some premium cheeses. For more outdoorsy adventures, check out the Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, go for a dip in Baroon Pocket Dam, or have a picnic in the Maleny Botanic Gardens.
Mount Nebo And Samford
Moreton Bay Region
In the Moreton Bay Region, a few kilometres northwest of Brisbane, Mt Nebo and Samford are ideally situated for a day exploring the D’Aguilar Range. This national park and mountain range hosts a sprawling subtropical rainforest, furrowed with dozens of walking tracks revealing breathtaking views of the bay. One absolute must-visit for any first time visitor are the Cedar Creek Falls. Shady and cool, the creek makes for an absolutely idyllic summer spot, with plenty of rockpools and falls as you go along. If you’re looking to get back in touch with nature, a day trip to the Nebo/Samford region will give you a maximum dose of tree time with minimal driving.
Another one in the Scenic Rim, Mount Alford is ideal for anyone who likes a tipple. Just under an hour west of the Gold Coast, Alford is home to the family-owned Scenic Rim Brewery. Their six varieties of suds are super smashable crowd pleasers and we highly recommend getting a souvenir case to take home. If you’re packing more of a wine palate, Alford has totally got you covered. The Kooroomba Vineyard has not only an absolutely smashing cellar door, they’ve also got a lavender farm that grows up to six types of lavender in their purple fields, and makes for an especially fragrant wander. Round out your visit with a short trip to Bunjurgen Estate’s cellar door and you’re laughing.
Tucked in the deep hinterland, Montville is nothing less than lush. The shining jewel in their hortiscape is the Kondallilla National Park. Boasting natural watery wonders of a 90 metre waterfall, rockpools and babbling brooks, the park is a verdant rainforest that’s perfect to explore during all seasons. For lunch, head to Spicers Clovelly Estate and check out the Long Apron. Utilising fresh, seasonal produce sourced from the Spicers property and surrounding area, the Long Apron specialises in contemporary European cuisine that’s a fresh and vibrant testament to the region. Oh and don’t forget to pick up some fudge for the road with a visit to Fudgyboombahs.
Visiting the Witches Chase Cheese Company is such a well-observed ritual that it’s practically illegal not to. Their cheeses, dips and pates have won dozens of industry awards and really showcase the best of the region. All that cheese naturally calls for something to wash it down, which is why we recommend stopping by the Tamborine Distillery. It’s a whole destination in itself, with a vast selection of liqueurs, vodkas and schnapps to titillate and delight. If you’re in the market for a more aquatic experience, the waterfall situation at Mount Tamborine is also a goddamn delight in spades, and perfect for some respite from summer.
With a population of 300, Kenilworth is the small but mighty destination packing maybe the best attraction on this list: the Kenilworth Bakery. Country bakeries are always a joy to visit, not in the least because everyone is usually famished from the drive, but Kenilworth’s flour palace is packing one hell of a punch. I’m talking about the 1kg donut challenge. Read that again. The challenge to eat one of these $20 donuts has become so popular that patrons need to book in advance before taking it on. Anyone who can finish it in one go gets bragging rights, a plaque on the wall, and a well-earned nap. If the idea is almost sinfully indulgent, earn the beast with a couple of laps of the absolutely gorgeous Conondale National Park nearby, complete with waterfalls, walks and all the wildlife your eyes can ogle.
While you're out there, find seven places to go glamping around the Gold Coast here.
Image credit: Scenic Rim Brewery