Noosa is probably the most famous settlement on the Sunshine Coast. Seen as a blissful summer holiday destination, a lot of the focus centres on Hastings Street, a leafy boulevard where the rich and famous wine, dine and shop.
Hastings Street, however, has other significance. It’s symbolic that the street leads to the Noosa National Park on one end and Noosa Spit Recreation Reserve on the other, parkland that guards the mouth of the Noosa River.
As we explore further on a long weekend, we discover another Noosa off the beaten track, a land of untouched beauty, country villages, farmland and artisan producers.
Woombye, the oldest settlement on the Sunshine Coast, formed the halfway stopover on the way to Gympie’s goldfields. We make our own stopover at Cavu Distilling, where co-founder Michael Conrad (formerly of Newstead Brewery) gives us a tour. In this industrial working distillery, it’s all about the quality of the product, the infrastructure being a work in progress.
“We’re inspired by the great Jamaican rums which are rich and aromatic,” Michael tells us. “Our vision is to make it Australia’s finest rum. Flavour is the goal, organic is the philosophy. In line with that philosophy, we’re using the only organic molasses in Queensland,” he adds, telling us that their first rum will be available in February 2022.
In the meantime, the distillery is using their gleaming 6000 and 2500 litre pot stills to produce Sunshine & Sons gin and vodka. They are both excellent spirits. Distilled over volcanic rocks collected from Sunshine Coast headlands, waterfalls and beaches from Pomona to King’s Beach, the vodka is soft textured and minerally, best sipped straight from the bottle. Sunshine & Sons gin uses nine botanicals including orris seed, the alchemist that brings out the best qualities in everything else. Serve it with a good tonic and a cube of ice.
Sunshine & Sons gin and vodka is available online and at major liquor outlets.
Sunshine & Sons, 104 Nambour Connection Rd., Woombye Ph: 0414 885 775
Settled in the 1880s as a timber town, the remnants of Cooroy’s history are clearly visible in the town. The Cooroy Mill Place Precinct spanning one side of the main street houses workshop facilities, sculptures and The Butter Factory Arts Centre where you can see local and national artists’ work on display.
In a building of rustic timber and exposed brick, winter sun washes over diners through floor to ceiling glass. It’s the smallest brewery on the Sunshine Coast. Situated at one end of the restaurant, Copperhead brews a selection of seven brews in small batches of 200 – 300 litres per batch to be drunk in house or to take away as tallies or growlers. Try a tasting paddle of five of their most popular beers with your meal: American Pale Ale, Irish Red, Pilsener, IPA and a Strawberry and lime sour as you dine on quality eye fillet with hops jus and broccolini or King Prawn Linguini with cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic, lemon and EVOO.
Noosaville is a relaxed holiday destination spread out along the meandering Noosa River. We book into Rimini, one of the affordable holiday complexes in walking distance from the river, boutiques and dining establishments.
It’s common to see couples and families walking along the riverbank at sunset, soaking up the tranquility. We buy grilled coral trout and sweet potato chips from Red Emperor Fish & Chips and settle at a picnic table on the riverbank to watch the changing colours as the sun slips slowly below the skyline.
Restaurants and cafes are scattered along the foreshore, with plenty of great dining choices. In the past, we’ve enjoyed many meals at Maisie’s. With a 100-year old history, the restaurant was named after one of the matriarchs of the area, Maisie Massoud whose fish and chip shop fed the troops for free during World War II.
Noosa Boathouse, with its unrivalled views up the river, is a romantic place to dine, especially at sunset. In the floating restaurant, tied up here on the riverbank since the 2000 Olympics, Executive Chef Shane Bailey sources from sustainable local produce. His generous meals are based on sustainable produce from local farmers, Gympie beef and locally caught fish. It’s hard to go past the seafood specials that change daily according to the local catch.
On another evening we dine at Whisky Boy where Chef Geoffroy Marcq (ex-Berardo’s) cooks simple meals very well. Nothing rivals a great chargrilled steak, either served plainly with chips, salad or with smoked garlic and potato purée, corn and manchego fritters and salsa verde. It’s your choice of luscious!
If you are travelling through or in self-catering accommodation, Noosa Farmers’ Market needs to be on your list of ‘foodie finds’. Local producers gather every Sunday beneath the gum tress fringing the AFL field selling an assortment of seasonal organic fruit and vegetables, dairy products and freshly baked bread, dips and spreads, meat, gourmet oils and rubs, fresh juices and made to order meals for market-goers to enjoy. We brunch on Embassy XO’s famous duck buns and pork belly bao, a feast on the run.
A stop for lunch at Land & Sea Brewery keeps everyone happy. Our meals, including Salmon and Asian noodle salad, are delicious, with diners spoiled for choice with drinks from either the brewery (beer) or the distillery (gin or vodka), the two businesses housed under the same roof.
Producing white cane (unaged rum) and white malt (unaged whisky), gin and vodka, we try a tasting paddle of the three gins, each one very different.
We can wholeheartedly recommend pairing the Asian-influenced meals with their Fortune Pho Gin, made in collaboration with the team from Sum Yung Guys, using Asian botanicals and fish sauce. Serve it with Long Rays tonic and a slice of dried porcini mushroom. Totally cool!
Belmondo’s Organic Market is foodie heaven and a delight for the eyes. Located within Noosaville’s industrial precinct, this indoor market is a thriving hub of organic food, produce, coffee and wellness products businesses. Clandestino Roasters in Belmondos provides everything coffee: coffee prepared by a variety of methods, sample a Sparrow flight tasting board of a piccolo, espresso and batch filter coffee, or take a barista course. You can visit Belmondo’s for a great meal and coffee, leave with a bag of organic produce under your arm, or be inspired in the creation of your next meal. It’s an unmissable foodie experience.
A Sunset Cruise in one of Brisbane’s old cross-river ferry gives us a chance to enjoy Noosa’s ecology in peace. Travelling down the river from Noosaville to Noosa, we see some of the 50,000-strong bird population who migrate to the area annually.
Further north, Boreen Point is the gateway to a wilderness experience for adventurers. We’ve enjoyed many holidays canoeing across Lake Cootharaba from Boreen Point and up one of the estuaries to Harry’s Hut for a camping adventure. The Noosa Everglades are among the sixty distinct ecosystems in the greater Noosa area. With 44% of all Australian birdlife species found in this area, it’s little wonder that this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is a favourite with birdwatchers, nature lovers and adventurers. There’s so much to explore.
If you take the scenic route north from Tewantin to Gympie, you will pass through Kin Kin, where fifth-generation chef and farmer Jodie Williams has put the Kin Kin General Store and café restaurant on the culinary map. It’s the ‘little store that has it all’, a thriving licensed café and function centre, a catering business housed beside a farm shop of local organic produce and pantry items, the business also fulfilling the role of Kin Kin Post Office!
We eat brunch at Jodie’s Black Ant Gourmet Café, a French omelette with bacon lardons from Jodie’s pasture-raised pork, spinach, grilled mushrooms, tasty cheese and tomato relish, and fluffy Buttermilk pancakes with strawberry lavender compote and vanilla cream.
Open daily for breakfast and lunch, on Friday evenings woodfired pizzas are on offer, as well as seasonal specials. Don’t miss the Kin Kin Depot gift shop opposite, either. It’s full of hand-sourced treasures.
Beneath the statuesque Mt Cooroora, Pomona was once the original hub of the shire. Named after the Roman goddess of fruit trees, orchards and gardens, this rich, fertile area is now a hinterland town with vintage and craft shops, art galleries and cafés. The renowned Majestic Theatre where we hung out on holidays, watching movies from their canvas seating, held the Australian premiere of the movie ‘Australia’.
The quirky Pomona Community Markets are held on Saturday mornings twice a month selling fruit and vegetables, plant seedlings and handicrafts, while the famous Pomona King of the Mountain Festival challenging runners with a race up the mountain is held annually.
On the way back from Kin Kin we pop into the Amrita Park Meadery, where Andy and Nicola give us a tasting of their mead. Mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes combining it with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops. Amrita Park Mead falls is between 13% and 16% alcohol by volume. Sourcing honey from local beekeepers, Andy and Nicola produce at least seven different meads; a flavour to suit a variety of tastes.
Behind the huge wooden doors in the middle of Pomona, Robin Yates and his sons have brought the spirit of country into the village, providing a gorgeous space where locals socialize and tourists love to visit.
An industrial chemist and business owner, Yates has had a lifelong passion for distilling, which he carries out on the family farm a few kilometres away, bringing the bottled spirits to town.
Converting a 100-year-old bakery just off the main street of Pomona into a distillery, the team have used original brickwork and reclaimed timber beams from the Kin Kin bridge to create a beautifully rustic garden arbour, a stillhouse with sparkling stills, a gallery of nature photography and artworks and the handmade bar and bistro.
Making a vodka and three hand crafted gins, the Signature Dry Gin, Pomona Pink Gin and lavender and coriander seed-scented Butterfly Pea Flower Gin are available as a tasting paddle.
The bistro’s Asian-influenced lunch is best enjoyed in the informal garden pavilion, where you can share plates of delicious bao, duck pancakes, wings, curries and salads, washed down with your choice of drinks. We lunch on Dukkah duck leg with blackberries, roasted root vegetable salad with orange and sesame dressing and Chiang Mai chicken, a chicken Maryland in a mild coconut curry with egg noodles.
Taking the time to chill at Pomona Distilling Co. I can’t help but think that we’re in a photoshoot location straight out of ‘Country Style’.
In a community of riverside and hinterland villages there is so much to see, do, eat and enjoy if you take the time to seek out a Noosa experience off the beaten track.
NOTE: Good Food Gold Coast visited Noosa as a guest of Noosa Tourism.
Rimini Holiday Apartments, 7 – 15 Edward St Noosaville Ph: 54730000
Copperhead Brewery, 52 Kauri St, Cooroy Ph: 07 5442 6975
Noosa Boathouse, 194 Gympie Tce., Noosaville Ph: 07 5440 5070
Whisky Boy, 10/203 Gympie Terrace, Noosaville Ph 0403 600 406
Noosa Farmers Market, 155 Weyba Rd Noosaville 6am – 12noon Sundays Ph: 0418 769 374
Belmondo’s Organic Market, 59 Rene St, Noosaville Ph: 07 5474 4404
Noosa Sunset cruise, Noosa Ferry, Operates daily, times vary Ph: 07 5449 8442
Kin Kin General Store/ Black Ant Gourmet, 56 Main St, Kin Kin Ph: 07 5485 4177
Amrita Park Meadery, 417 Pomona Kin Kin Rd, Pinbarren Ph: 0420 284 289
Pomona Distilling Co., 18 Reserve St, Pomona Ph:1300 904 633