Mount Tamborine – Off the Beaten Track

It’s the green behind the gold, a lush hinterland of rainforest, waterfalls and rich farming land that extends back behind the golden beaches of #AustraliasFavouritePlayground.

While the golden sands and rolling surf of the coast have their own dynamism, so too does the Gold Coast Hinterland. Forced up by the force of ancient volcanoes, steep escarpments look down over verdant pastures whose volcanic soils raise crops to feed city dwellers.

It’s time to reconnect with nature. For those of us who live on the Gold Coast or in Brisbane, the hinterland offers a completely different range of activities to enjoy. On a couple of days away, we include bushwalking and nature experiences, award-winning wineries and upmarket cafés in our itinerary.

On the way up to the mountain, we visit The Fox and Hounds Country Inn, a piece of Mother England transported here piece by piece. We dine on Beef and Guinness Pie and Pork Ribs with beer-battered fries in the British room under the watchful eye of Queen Victoria. There is a stuffed stoat watching us from the mantelpiece above the fireplace, palace guards making sure our behaviour is civil, and football scarves hanging from the ceiling.

In quite an extensive menu of British favourites, cold standbys include a Ploughman’s Platter for two and an authentic Pork Pie made by Tony Wensley, former Bakery Manager of Melton Mowbray’s ‘Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe’, which regularly serves royalty, including the Queen.

Other traditional fare on the menu includes Toad in the Hole, Pig in a Blanket, Bangers and Mash, Lamb’s Fry, weekend roasts and Giant Yorkshire Pudding on Sunday afternoons. These are hearty meals, packed with flavour and cooked to perfection. Any lingering doubt about British food is long gone, washed away by a cider or London Pride ale. This is ‘fine fayre’ indeed, but now it’s time to venture outdoors to walk off lunch!

As well as the delightful Tamborine Mountains Botanic Gardens, there are many bushwalks to do in the Mount Tamborine area with varying degrees of difficulty giving access to waterfalls, views and different types of flora, fauna and scenery.

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk offers one of the most accessible experiences of the rainforest, suitable for almost everyone. We depart from the Eco Gallery with its educational displays and walk 1.5km on its circular trail. Wandering along its steel walkways suspended high above the forest floor, we enjoy the rainforest from the canopy with a birdlike view of the forest below. Birdwing butterflies can be seen skimming from tree to tree, bird calls reminding us of the forest’s diverse but elusive wildlife. The walkways lead on to pathways across the forest floor, where we view the rainforest from a different perspective. Then we reach a 40m long cantilevered span, the platform at its end soaring 30m above the valley, seemingly suspended in space, giving us spectacular views through the rainforest canopy to the creek below. For some, the height of the skywalk may be daunting, however there’s no doubt that this is one of the most exhilarating rainforest experiences we have enjoyed.

The Scenic Rim is a renowned as one of Southeast Queensland’s food bowls, producing a huge range of gourmet delights. As we travel around Mt Tamborine, we stop at farmgate stalls along the roadside selling their produce such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, rhubarb, pickles and jams on an ‘honour’ system.

A range of cafés and restaurants on the mountain serve excellent produce-driven meals with winery cellar doors offering tasting opportunities to thirsty travellers.

Mason Wines at Mt Tamborine venue is one of their three cellar doors owned by the Ballandean Mason winery. The restaurant, once the old winery and barrel room, is now a dining room complete with fireplace and an alfresco deck overlooking an idyllic vineyard estate.

With Head Chef Andrew Quarantini (ex-Old Church) and Pastry Chef Tammy Cole on board, the restaurant has been raised to destination status. Serving meals as well as share platters of local produce that are perfect fare for vineyard grazing, we dine with a glass of easy-drinking Mason Verdelho in hand. Local suppliers are championed in a guide to ingredient provenance on the menu, the restaurant intent on sourcing the best ingredients from local markets, producers and suppliers, as close to home as possible when seasonally available.

While one of Tammy’s dessert platters may be tempting, the ‘pièce de resistance’ is the Melting Chocolate Egg, the shell disintegrating when hot chocolate sauce is poured over it; performance and disassembly in one. With fabulous food and friendly attentive service served in a relaxed environment, Mason Wines joins some of the best vineyard experiences we’ve enjoyed around Australasia.

With distilleries all the rage, we visit one of Australia’s most famous and internationally awarded distilleries, Tamborine Mountain Distillery. Founded in 1993 by Alla and Michael Ward, Tamborine Mountain Distillery’s liqueurs have been awarded many Gold Medal wins in world spirit awards in Europe, America and Asia, including the coveted China Wine and Spirits ‘Liqueur of the Year’ Award and the Asia Pacific ‘Spirit Producer of the Year’ Award.

Now owned by Shumei Hou and managed by her partner, Gordon Chalmers, in 2019 the couple moved the distillery and tasting rooms to a purpose-renovated building just around the corner from Gallery Walk. There is a new emphasis on sustainability, with 40kw of solar installed on the premises and, despite the setback of recent restrictions, the couple are moving towards export overseas and experiential tourism at the venue with distillery tours soon to commence.

Using artisanal processes passed down through generations of founder Alla Ward’s family, as well as natural ingredients and Australian native fauna in their liqueurs, our tasting includes two of these: Wild Forest Plum Liqueur (displaying the characteristic sweet sour tang of the native Davidson Plum), and the steam distilled Lemon Myrtle Vodka. Both liqueurs bring an explosion of flavour to our palates and a smile to our faces. It’s a sweet reason to visit!

We are booked into Witches Falls Cottages to stay the night, and what a treat we are in for! We stay in a split-level Rainforest Spa Cottage, one of eight completely private cottages set in two acres of rainforest on the edge of Queensland’s oldest national park. Chocolates and port await us in the cottage. From a double spa in the glass-roofed bathroom which opens out onto a private walled garden and BBQ area to the comfortable bed and wood-fired fireplace, the cottages offer an intimate adults-only experience.

Every morning, your choice of a BBQ or gourmet breakfast hamper is delivered to each cottage: bacon, eggs, tomatoes and excellent German sausages (or smoked ham, cheese, cereal and yoghurt), fruit and fruit juice, with a loaf of homemade bread, butter and spreads bringing a touch of love to the hamper. Witches Falls Cottages are a Scenic Rim ‘Locavore’ accredited establishment, so it is no surprise that a note of the provenance of the hamper contents is included in the pack.

A self-cook dinner BBQ hamper has been arranged for us, delivered to the cottage by David, our host. In the baskets we find premium fillet steaks, German sausages, pre-cooked potatoes and corn to be heated on the BBQ, tomatoes, mushrooms and onions and a ready-to-eat salad as well as desserts, accompanied by a premium bottle of local Witches Falls shiraz. It’s the makings of a perfect evening: great food, wine and an intimate setting without disturbance.

While the Gold Coast is renowned for its coffee culture, many of us don’t know that the 2019 Golden Bean for Australian/NZ Grown Coffee (Milk based) went to coffee grown right here on Mt Tamborine by Tamborine Mountain Coffee Plantation. It’s the highest single honour a bean can receive from the largest competition in the world.

With 650 coffee trees on just an acre of land, Tamborine Mountain Coffee Plantation is a long way away from the usual coffee growing areas of the Equator, however coffee is thriving in its nutrient-rich soil.

As 99% of the coffee we drink is made from imported beans, we are honoured to try Tamborine Mountain’s award-winning coffee as part of a Coffee Tasting Board at the plantation’s café, finding it ‘mild yet with a complex flavour profile, medium to low acidity with a natural sweetness’.

A Crop-to-Cup Tour gives us a tour of the plantation and processing facilities. We learn of the plantation’s commitment to grow a pesticide and spray-free crop, the team hand picking the crop to maintain quality in the varied climatic conditions.

From a tour and meal to a brew sampling or cocktails on the deck, the Tamborine Mountain Coffee Plantation experience has the flexibility to meet a variety of needs.

Too soon our short break is over, a mix of adventure, education and indulgence. There are so many more places off the beaten track to explore another time…all this, just a short drive from Brisbane or the Gold Coast.

Fox and Hounds Country Inn, 7 Elevation Drive, Wongawallan Ph: 07 5665 7582 http://www.foxandhounds.net.au

Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, 333 Geissmann Drive, Tamborine Ph: 07 5545 2222 https://skywalktamborine.com/

Mason Wines, 32 Hartley Rd, Tamborine Mountain Ph: 07 5545 2000 http://www.masonwines.com.au/

Tamborine Mountain Distillery, 10 Macdonnell Rd, Tamborine Mountain Ph: 07 5545 3452 https://www.tamborinemountaindistillery.com/

Witches Falls Cottages, Cnr Main Western Road & Hartley Road, North Tamborine Ph: 07 5545 4411 https://www.witchesfallscottages.com.au/

Tamborine Mountain Coffee Plantation, 64 Alpine Terrace, Tamborine Mountain Ph: 07 5545 2777 https://www.tamborinemountaincoffee.com.au/

NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast travelled as guests of Destination Gold Coast.