Giddyup to Gympie

When we think of a getaway on the Sunshine Coast, there are many attractions in the region worth searching out. From the gleaming sands of Fraser Island to the bountiful Mary Valley and the rolling hills of Maleny and Montville, there’s a diversity of beauty, history and cultural activity happening all over the Sunshine Coast, not to mention culinary talent often overlooked.

Gympie is a prime example. Ingloriously named after the local Aboriginal word for a stinging tree, ‘gimpi gimpi’, the area became famous for the state’s largest gold discovery in 1867, the settlement of ‘Gympie’ named the following year. The discovery of gold “…saved Queensland from the worst effects of the 1866 economic depression and provided an important boost during the first 50 years of the State.” (Qld Historical Atlas) The North Coast railway, linking Gympie to Brisbane, was completed in 1891 leading to major growth, Gympie serving as a service centre to the surrounding district ever since.

Whether you are passing through, visiting family, or making Gympie a weekend getaway, the historical aspects of Gympie will not disappoint. The site of the first gold discovery was Nash’s Gully, its slopes lined on both sides with prospectors’ tents. Now the former gully is Mary Street, home to many historical buildings which sprawl down the hill, marking the middle of town.

There’s plenty to fill a few days in Gympie. You can go gold panning at Deep Creek, visit the gold mining and historical museum, follow the Heritage Trail, ride the Mary Valley Rattler steam train, or have a meal in one of the town’s cafés. The town is also famous for the Gympie Muster, a country music festival held annually in August.

Three Gympie cafés show us the diversity of the town; they are firmly rooted in the past while showing us how the town has adapted to change.

Emilia’s at the ‘law’ end of Mary Street, (now trading as Vespa Espresso Bar), adds an international flavour to Gympie’s food scene. The café was founded in 2003 by chef Jodie Giorno and her late husband businessman/barista Giovanni. Emilia’s (named after Giovanni’s mother), embodies Italian style with its rich colours, velvet lounges and quirky paintings.

All of the cakes and slices, panini, tarts and quiches are freshly baked in Jodi’s kitchen. There’s also lighter fare such as tacos and salads, some gluten-free. Many locals pop into Emilia’s for cake and coffee, Primo by Noosa’s Puncheur Roasters, a full-bodied blend with notes of butter, caramel, cocoa and cinnamon. Some hold a meeting over lunch while others, like us, are travellers using the café as a quiet elegant stopover.

Emilia’s, 201 Mary St, Gympie Ph: 07 5482 8885

Farmer & Sun brings the surrounding farms into town with its ‘farm to table’ philosophy. Farmer & Sun opened its doors in 2012 and has flourished ever since. Owned and managed by the Waugh family, who have been farming in the region for over twenty-five years, Farmer & Sun is the result of their enterprise, after selling first from the farm gate, then through local markets, then in a fruit and vegetable shop which grew to include specialty grocery items, later expanded to include a wholefood café.

Comprising two co-joined shopfronts, the venue is decorated with antiques from the Waugh’s own collection. Wheelbarrows, packing boxes and even an old farm truck form part of the display, all part of the message: although grocery items may be sourced from Australasia, Farmer & Sun’s goal is to supply fresh seasonal produce to the local community at an affordable price.

Provenance (e.g. ‘From our farm’) is noted on much of the fruit and vegetables for sale, ensuring that buyers know that the shop supports over 60 local farmers, minimises food miles and gives locals the chance to eat produce that has been picked daily, the philosophy mirrored in the café with its hearty wholefood meals.

Farmer & Sun, 306-308, 1-5 Woolgar Rd, Gympie Ph:  07 5481 2055

SoMa SoMa is the ‘new kid’ on the block, yet it gives more than a nod to nostalgia with its generous serves and environmental stance.

Three years ago, Noosa locals Sandra and John O’Brien purchased an historic building on the top of the hill above the town of Gympie with the thought of restoring it to glory. What it has turned into is much more than that – a trendy café and wine bar specialising in wholefood cuisine and tapas.

A chandelier of globes hangs from bed springs, atmospheric paintings form interest points around the room where local craft work is on sale. The place has a comfortable industrial vibe, yet it’s as atmospheric as a film set.

Environmentally friendly in its recycling and food choices, SoMa SoMa caters well to a cross-section of diners, with vegetarian, gluten-free and vegan clearly marked on the menu.

Food is sourced from local growers, including foraged farm eggs, with the punchy coffee coming from local small batch roaster Flying West Roasters in Doonan. A different cuisine is featured each week, however the ground level idea is simple: show off local fare with a chef’s tasting plate, and local culinary talent at popup dinner events.

SoMa SoMa, 77 Mellor St, Gympie Ph: 07 5482 1467