Mapleton National Park copy

12 Sunshine Coast Hinterland spots you’ve never heard of (until now)

With a name like the Sunshine Coast, it’s fair to say the coastline hogs most of the attention. But since this year marks the 150th anniversary of the naming of the Blackall Range – those humps of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland overlooking the beach action below – we thought it was about time we shifted the spotlight.

Beyond the famous 3Ms – Maleny, Montville and Mapleton, which were all established along the spine from 1867 – there are oodles of lesser-known spots worth sniffing out. (Especially if epic rock climbing and 1kg cream doughnuts get your motor running.)

If you’ve been there, done that, bought the fudge, save this list of secret Sunshine Coast Hinterland spots for the next time you’re looking for an adventure.

Kenilworth

Kenilworth Bakery | Secret Sunshine Coast Hinterland spots

Photo by Kenilworth Bakery via FB

If you love doughnuts and haven’t heard of Kenilworth yet, give yourself a quick slap around the chops, boy. This historic town built beside the meandering Mary River may have an interesting heritage as a 1920s rural hub but shot to social media fame in 2017 with its ridiculous(ly good) 1kg cream doughnut challenge. Think old-school bakery meets Insta-crazy food trends and you’ve got the Kenilworth Bakery.

They’ve been riding the fame train ever since with coffee served inside a doughnut, apple crumble doughnuts, and Golden Gaytime doughnuts. Homer Simpson would be proud.

If you’ve moved on from the doughnut craze but never met a cheese you didn’t like, make tracks for Kenilworth Dairies to sample their Red Malling Vintage and range of yoghurts.

Want to stay the night? Pull into Bluff Creek Campgrounds for pet-friendly camping, mountain biking and kayking on the menu. Oh, and glamping tents, too.

Yabbaloumba Retreat | Secret Sunshine Coast Hinterland spots

Yabbaloumba Retreat | Photo by @melissafindley via @visitsunshinecoast

A 12-minute drive from town will put you at the gates of Yabbaloumba Retreat, where Pitch Luxury Camping can also set you up for the night. At the heritage-listed Kenilworth Homestead you can even rent one of two vintage caravans, Uncle Arthur or Miss Georgia (available weekends and Queensland school holidays only).

Up for more exploring? From Kenilworth, continue on the scenic Maleny to Gympie drive north to Imbil and Amamoor State Forest.

Amamoor State Forest

While Kondalilla National Park is the well-known reality star of the Sunshine Coast, Amamoor State Forest is its shy cousin, who prefers country music and camping to the bright lights of Instagram. And being a State Forest rather than a National Park, man’s best friend is welcome to join you (in Amamoor Creek camping area).

It’s overrun with boot-scooters come Gympie Muster time but during the rest of the year, follow a series of walks from the day use area for platypus spotting, more than 120 bird species, beautiful hoop pines and huge red cedar and fig trees.

How to get there: Divert off the Bruce Highway about 20km south of Gympie to make your way to Amamoor township. You’ll reach the entrance to the forest 10km out of town along Amamoor Creek Road.

Kandanga Kitchen

Tummy rumbling from all that walking? Point your GPS towards Kandanga for a wholesome, farm-to-table meal at Kandanga Kitchen.

Using only chemical free, seasonal and fresh ingredients, sourced within a 10km radius, and complemented by locally-roasted Sunday’s Coffee Co. beans, what you pop in your mouth is only surpassed by the pretty views over the Mary River from this farm shed cafe.

Cooroy

Okay, it’s on the train-line, so Cooroy isn’t such a secret but if you haven’t visited in a while you might be pleasantly surprised its charming vibes.

Start with a wander through the Butter Factory Arts Centre to take in the current exhibitions and browse the artisan store, pop by Circa for a pastry worthy of any Parisian boulangerie, and settle in for lunch with on-site brewed craft beer at Copperhead Restaurant Brewery.

Crystal Waters

You might be only starting to delve into sustainability, fermentation and organic produce but Australia’s longest-running permaculture community has been all over it for 30 years!

A sneaky spot for a secret camping adventure, the best time to visit Crystal Waters Eco Village is when the monthly markets are on so you can nab a loaf of Les’s sourdough and watch the bellydancers and marimba players. Or just bliss out with your pineapple, like this guy.

Boloumba Creek Falls

While you’re in the Conondale area, head for Booloumba Creek Falls within Conondale National Park and see if you can find the caves amongst the massive boulders.

Heads up: You’ll need a 4WD to access the day-use and camping areas but do as the locals do and hike your way in. The sweet, fresh water is your just reward.

Mothar Mountain Rock Pools

Mothar Mountain Rock Pools | Secret Sunshine Coast Hinterland spots

Photo by @alenkacsomor

Never heard of Woondum National Park? Well, you’ve been missing out on the Mothar Mountain Rockpools – found after just a 20-minute drive from Gympie.

Plonk yourself amongst the granite boulders where Boulder Creek and Woondum Creek meet and look up into the towering eucalyptus trees overhead.

Baxter Falls

A suspension bridge? On the Sunshine Coast?! Where the heck has this been hiding all our lives?

You’ll find this bridge on the track to Baxter Creek – part of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. The 6.2km trail, starting from Flaxton Mill Road car park, leads you downhill to Baxter Creek and its waterfall, saving the steep uphill for your return.

Chenrezig Institute

You’ll feel your shoulders relax just walking along the pathway into the Chenrezig Institue in Eudlo.

Whatever your beliefs, everyone is welcome to pop in for a chai and cake and perhaps join a guided meditation. But it’s just as nice sitting under the colourful prayer flags and soaking in the serenity.

Mount Tibrogargan’s cave

You’ve got to be pretty adventurous to summit Mt Tibrogargan – the big daddy of the Glass House Mountains. But you’ve got to be seriously hardcore to climb your way into this cave and camp out for the night.

Safety first! Only attempt this if you’re an experienced climber with all the right gear. Otherwise, leave it to the experts and join a guided climb.

If you like your adventure a little softer, the walk around the base of this craggy peak still delivers an impressive perspective.

Mount Beerwah’s Organ Pipes

You’ll find these magnificent limestone pipes before climbing to the Summit of Mt Beerwah (2.6km). But before you go all gung-ho, keep in mind, at 556m this is the highest climb in the Glass House Mountains and involves a whole lot of rock scrambling, spider monkey style.

Know before you go: The Glass House Mountains are spiritually significant to the Jinibara and Gubbi Gubbi peoples. While Tibrogargan and Beerwah are open for climbing, traditional owners would prefer that you didn’t.

Ewen Maddock Dam

You don’t have to divert far from the Caloundra turn-off to find this secret slice of hinterland-y goodness.

Ewen Maddock Dam is part of the South East Queensland water grid, running for 660m across Addington Creek. All that water means plenty of room to stroll along the beautiful boardwalk and walking trails, tackle the mountain bike trails, pack a picnic, throw in a line or BYO kayak for a paddle amongst the reeds and water lillies. There’s also a swimming spot if you’re keen for a dip!

Do you know any more hidden secrets in Hinterland? We’d love to hear your tips below.