HomeTravelDestinationsQueensland's best-kept secret

Queensland’s best-kept secret

Maleny locals love Maleny, and so will you. There’s not much to dislike. It’s pretty, has great weather and people who are super proud of their community.

I love it when I meet people who are proud of and passionate about what they do – especially when that pride is so totally justified.

Matt Jancauskas is such a person. He’s one of the founders and the head brewer at Brouhaha Brewery, an up-and-coming craft brewery and gastropub set high in the Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Maleny. For a man who says he finds it difficult to smile for photos, Matt loves what he does so much that he simply can’t hide his pearly whites.

To put it bluntly, his beer and food are bloody good. Little wonder Matt is so stoked.

He’s part of an emerging culinary scene that’s catching up with its cultural origins. Maleny has long been, as Tourism Queensland’s Shelley Winkel puts it, “an arty, hippy town”, but more recently, the region, renowned for its award-winning dairy and quality local produce, has also become a fine food mecca on the Sunshine Coast.

But if you ask the locals, it’s always been the food capital of the Coast.

The Sunshine Coast hinterland is, let’s just say, very easy on the eyes. The food is top class. The people are warm and welcoming. But its most alluring quality is the sense of community that emanates from those who live there.

It’s refreshing. It’s unexpected and, most of all, it’s genuine.

It’s something I miss in my own hometown, Melbourne, which may boast some of the best food, coffee, craft beer and wineries in the country, but has also developed an ego to match.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Melbourne. And I feel as if I cheated on her when I went to Maleny. The minute I was on those windy roads in the Queensland hills, I relaxed and fell for this hinterland haven.

Maleny locals also love Maleny. There’s not much to dislike. It’s pretty, has great weather, a laidback vibe and people who are proud of their community. Ask the waiters where the produce is from, and they’ll tell you ‘Maleny’. They’ll even tell you the name of the farm and sometimes the name of the farmer. They love their dairy, with cheese, milk and yoghurt featuring prominently on most menus.

And although the food is indeed a drawcard, the local art scene could well be the catalyst for the area’s renaissance. Long known for its thriving arts and crafts community, Maleny is a hotspot of hip galleries and home to many fine artists, artisans and sculptors, such as ceramicist Cathy Lawley from Fried Mudd.

Cathy will take you under her wing for a quick clay sculpting class, and within two hours she’ll coach you towards creating your own quirky clay masterpiece – be it chicken, guinea fowl or garden nymph.

Or you could sit in on a watercolour session with local painter James McKay. We were lucky to get a spot outside the Mountain View Café at Cairncross Discovery Centre, overlooking our subject for the class – the magnificent Glass House Mountains.

With the patience of a mentor, James guided us all towards acceptable artworks far beyond what most of us expected could be achieved with little time and prior knowledge. And he’s happy to do the same for you, too! Don’t forget to sample the coffee and ask for the local produce platter featuring Maleny Dairy cheese, quince paste and tasty cold cuts.

Looking for lodgings? Head to the village next door and stay at Altitude on Montville. Another Blackall Ranges town, Montville is breaking away from its ‘death by doily’ reputation with this five-star hotel. The rooms are first-class (make sure you book one with a deck spa) and the restaurant is home to celebrity chef Matt Golinski, whose culinary mastery and passion for his hometown is exemplified in the seasonally inspired, produce-driven menus.

“This beautiful area holds a special place in my heart and Altitude on Montville offers not only a relaxed and memorable dining experience, but also an opportunity to showcase the bounty of incredible produce the region has to offer,” said Chef Golinski.

But the best things about the hinterland are free. Don’t miss seeing the sun rising over the Glass House Mountains, a walk through the subtropical rainforest at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, watching the sun set over the Sunshine Coast from the hills and, best of all, getting to know the locals.

More: Don’t miss breakfast at Altitude on Montville and the Milk Stout at Brouhaha Brewery.

Find out more at www.visitsunshinecoast.com and www.queensland.com.

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