Whilst the Sunshine Coast Hinterland isn’t as spectacular as what the lush and dramatic Gold Coast Hinterland offers, there’s still plenty to do, including some very pretty scenic drives.
If you’re after some views of the Sunshine Coast, short bushwalks or are keen to poke around local shops, the Blackall Range Tourist Drive (#23) would make a perfect choice.
Another option for a Sunshine Coast scenic drive would be the Glass House Mountains tourist drive with some pretty cool views of the volcanic outcrops that are the Glass House Mountains.
Pretty much from anywhere on the coast, you’ll be up in the hinterland within 30-40 minutes (unless you’re coming from Noosa, from where it’ll probably take around an hour). Depending on how much time you have, you could just do the scenic drive and stop at the lookouts or you could also explore some of the towns and walks along the way.
I’ve been up in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland countless times and I always find somewhere new to explore.
Blackall Range Tourist Drive (#23)
Just like the Glass House Mountains Tourist Drive (#24), this is an official tourist drive on the Sunshine Coast and you’ll see the brown #23 road signs dotted along the route. The signage is really excellent so you won’t have any trouble finding your way.
Unlike the official Glass House Mountains scenic drive though, this route is fabulous. Not only do you get picturesque views of the hinterland and the coast, there are also quaint little towns along the way, rainforest walks, waterfalls, lookouts, and plenty of cafes and restaurants to indulge at.
How to Get There
The Blackall Ranges are about 100km north of Brisbane, and easily accessible from the Bruce Highway.
If you’re already on the coast, you can turn the Blackall Range Tourist Drive into a great scenic drive loop.
The route is about 55km, which you can comfortably drive in an hour or so. I’ve never managed that though as there are so many spots to stop at (I could also just be slooow). Anyway, plan at least half day, or better yet a full day, which would make this scenic drive a much more relaxing experience and give you time to explore the region.
Start either in Nambour in the north or approach the drive from Landsborough in the south. You can then loop back to the coast or back to your starting point by taking the Bruce Highway (not the most inspiring road, I agree) and Steve Irwin Way.
Or if you’ve got plenty of time on your hands, combine it with my suggestion for a Glass House Mountains Scenic Drive, and explore that part of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland as well.
What to See and Do
Since I’m not much of a restaurant goer (though afternoon tea never goes astray… 🙂 ) or shopper, you won’t find too many ideas for eating out or shopping here. I’m really more into lookouts and walks than meandering around towns and poking my nose into too many shops.
HINTERLAND TOWNS: MAPLETON, MONTVILLE & MALENY
Visiting the three “M-towns” – Mapleton, Montville and Maleny – along the route is kind of obligatory.
And admittedly, they are rather neat little towns with Maleny probably being my favourite by far. This could be entirely due to its incredible gelato-selling Maleny Food Co. store. But it also got a fabulous main street with some cute cafes and indie shops that sells anything from used books, clothing, antiques to gorgeous timber knickknacks.
Mapleton is nice and sleepy with a bakery, pub and a couple of other eateries. It’s also got a nice waterlily pond but what I like is that it’s close to Mapleton National Park, more on that later.
Montville, on the other hand, is that perfect little, almost kitschy but not quite, town where you can stuff yourself full of slightly overpriced food – but with gorgeous views as the backdrop.
If you don’t like eating, you can also buy a ton of things you don’t really need. Like German cuckoo clocks or German Christmas decorations… Who would have thought that there’s an appetite for such things on the Sunshine Coast but there it is!
Montville is just a bit too touristy for my liking these days, which is why I really enjoy Maleny because it’s got a bit more of a locals’ feel. And being able to indulge in some delicious gluten-free gelato obviously helps strengthen my conviction!
BLACKALL RANGE LOOKOUTS & WALKS
Alternatively, you could just get some traditional Germany Christmas decorations. Who doesn’t like buying them all year round?! Can’t say that I’ve ever considered that but hey, why not?! Most of these are actually genuine so they come with a hefty price tag.
A few hours later, mostly because I have to look into almost every shop and it takes me just about forever to decide where and what to eat, we got some pretty cool views of the Glass House Mountains. Strange that you don’t get these kinds of views when you actually take the Glass House Mountain tourist drive… hm.