Lonely Planet named Southeast Queensland’s Scenic Rim among the world’s top 10 regions to visit in 2022. Here’s how to make the most of a trip to one of Australia’s hottest emerging travel destinations, where sustainability underpins the visitor experience.
Such was the natural beauty of the volcanic region southwest of Brisbane, early–20th-century writer and adventurer Arthur Groom named it the Scenic Rim. Thanks in part to Groom’s conservation efforts, the arc of national parks cradling this agricultural center remains a key draw. But the Scenic Rim is also home to plenty of other attractions. Don't miss these fantastic experiences.
Lace your boots for the Scenic Rim Trail
Tracing a rainforest-clad ridgeline in Main Range National Park, on the western fringe of the Scenic Rim, the spectacular Scenic Rim Trail is Queensland’s newest multi-day hike. The brainchild of the Turner family, owners of boutique hotel group Spicers Retreats, the 29-mile (47km) trail (which takes four days to hike) weaves through World Heritage-listed Gondwana Rainforest, with superb views across the farmlands of the Scenic Rim along the way.
The guided Spicers’ experience includes luxe eco-lodge stays tucked off the main trail, complete with gourmet catering. The public Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service campsites, on the other hand, are as basic as they get. Though with camping costing just AUD$6.85 per person per night, hiking the trail independently is a bargain.
Or take on one of the many other hiking trails
The six national parks of the Scenic Rim are laced with hundreds of miles of hiking trails, from short rainforest strolls to full-day treks. Lamington National Park, which also forms part of the Gondwana Rainforests, has the most extensive trail network, with an array of paths – that lead to waterfalls, koala hangouts, and more – in each of the park’s two main access points: Binna Burra and Green Mountains.
There’s also a good range of day hiking options in Main Range National Park (most trails begin at Cunninghams Gap, where the Scenic Rim Trail ends), some fun family-friendly strolls in Tamborine National Park (try the easy Curtis Falls Track), and a challenging climb to the summit of Mount Barney (4442ft/1354m) in Mount Barney National Park.
Escape to Tamborine Mountain
From cellar doors to rainforest experiences, produce markets to art galleries, there’s lots to do in the lush, cool hills of Tamborine Mountain. With a range of guesthouses to choose from, many visitors make a weekend of it. But as the region is only 45 minutes’ drive inland from Gold Coast, and an hour south of Brisbane, the most accessible corner of the Scenic Rim is also ideal for day tripping.
Start your day with coffee – or perhaps brunch – at Tamborine Mountain Coffee Plantation, where the beans travel just meters to your cup. Hit the trails of Tamborine National Park or gaze out over the rainforest canopy at the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk, then taste Scenic Rim wine at Witches Falls, one of the area’s top wineries, or perhaps something stronger at Tamborine Mountain Distillery or Cauldron Distillery. Or leave your itinerary (and the driving) in the hands of Kiff & Culture, which runs gourmet day trips from Brisbane and the Gold Coast.
Traveling with adventurous kids? They’ll love the high ropes courses and fossicking for thunder eggs (volcanic spheres containing crystals) at ThunderBird Park.
Take a DIY winery tour
There are more wineries to be found in the emerging Scenic Rim wine region beyond Tamborine Mountain, beginning with O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards, where tastings can be paired with alpaca selfies at Mountview Alpaca Farm, right next door. Just down the road, Sarabah Estate has a cellar door, bistro, and a bar. Other wineries in the region with cellar doors include Albert River Wines, The Overflow Estate 1895, Bunjurgen Estate, and Kooromba Vineyard and Lavender Farm. Even if you’re not drinking, it’s a beautiful drive along the winding country roads linking the vineyards.
Sample craft beer with a twist
Craft beer is also big in the Scenic Rim, with two breweries – Fortitude Brewing Co. and Red Baron Brewery – at Tamborine Mountain alone. But it’s worth making the effort to seek out the Scenic Rim Brewery at Mt Alford. Set in a heritage-listed general store, this small, family-owned brewery doesn’t only serve tasty brews with fun names like the Shazza, a mid-strength ale with plenty of character, but also some of the tastiest pub grub in Queensland. Wendy Webster’s Dutch heritage shines in her home-style dishes that pair perfectly with head brewer husband Mike’s beers. Think moreish bitterballen (Dutch-style beef croquettes), proper bratwurst hotdogs, and even a Dutch-style ice-cream sandwich.
Visit an innovative camel farm
Former cattle farmer Paul Martin is passionate about showcasing the potential of Australian dromedaries in regenerative and sustainable agriculture at Summer Land Camels in Harrisville, where you can feed and ride former feral camels, or simply admire the alternative farmscape from the veranda of the onsite cafe. Occupying a historic Queenslander homestead, it serves a range of delicious (and lactose-light) camel-milk products in dishes ranging from superfood salads with camel feta to camel meatball fettuccine. Go on, try the camel-milk gelato.
Treasured since the era of the ancient Egyptians for its beneficial properties, camel milk also stars in the farm’s extensive range of skincare products, which are available to purchase.
Savor a long, local produce-driven lunch
If you can’t make it to Scenic Rim Eat Local Week, the region’s winter harvest festival, the next best way to sample the fruits of its rich basalt soils is at the Scenic Rim’s clutch of farm-to-table restaurants. Top tables include two-hatted (Australia’s version of a Michelin star) Homage restaurant at Spicers Hidden Vale in Grandchester, where zero-waste initiatives include pickling, fermenting, and dehydrating un-plate-worthy produce, and Koroomba Kitchen, where you can look out over lavender fields as you tuck into the likes of local Warrill Creek beef carpaccio, or lavender- and honey-glazed duck leg with braised red cabbage and local greens.
Elevating the local dining scene is newer arrival The Paddock Restaurant at Hazelwood Estate, where executive chef Simon Furley (formerly head chef at Homage) celebrates the region’s best produce in casual fine-dining dishes, which could include honey from the estate’s beehives.
Book a memorable eco-lodge stay
The Scenic Rim is renowned for its eco-lodges, particularly stalwarts Binna Burra Lodge – which has reopened since its heritage lodge was tragically lost in Australia’s 2019–2020 bushfires – and O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, both of which nestle alongside Lamington National Park.
Newer openings include luxurious Hazelwood Estate, a stylish country retreat in Beechmont that invites guests to slow down and soak up the region’s farming heritage sustainably via a range of activities, including a wagyu cellar door coming in 2022. Further west, five tiny house-style "WanderPods" overlook serene Lake Wyaralong within easy reach of The Overflow Estate 1895, which bottles a mean Vermentino.
Elsewhere, Nightfall Camp sets the bar for rainforest glamping, Spicers Hidden Vale fuses gourmet dining with heritage-cottage accommodations, and Mt Barney Lodge offers rustic, eco-conscious accommodations at the gateway to Mount Barney National Park, popular with kangaroos.
Safety recommendations and restrictions during a pandemic can change rapidly. Lonely Planet recommends that travelers always check with local authorities for up-to-date guidance before traveling during Covid-19.
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