So many visitors overlook the hinterland when they visit the Sunshine Coast. They might do the tourist loop around Maleny and the Glass House Mountains, but there are plenty of other places to see away from the coastline.
Go to Eumundi on a non-market day (markets are Wednesdays and Saturdays) and see the village at its low-key best, with friendly locals, groovy galleries and well-patronised pubs. Or head up to Pomona, where you will find lovely old weatherboard buildings, mountain scenery and the fabulous old Majestic Theatre, which still screens silent movies.
The small town of Kin Kin is also worth a visit. The atmospheric and much-loved Country Life Hotel, which disappeared under several metres of water in a flood last year, is back in business and is a good place for Sunday lunch, or a cold beer on a hot day. The service can be a bit hit and miss, but the spit roast is pretty damn good.
If you have kids, you'll find big adventure playgrounds at Landsborough (on Steve Irwin Way) and in the little hinterland town of Kenilworth, where youl also find some of the best cheeses and yoghurts around. If you're doing the tourist loop around Maleny and Montville, take some random detours and see what you find. There are more walking trails than you could poke a hiking boot at, yet it’s never very far to the next coffee stop.
The Sunshine Coast doesn't tend to come to mind when you think of Aussie wine regions, but there have been big dollars invested over recent years and there are some decent drops to be had.
Check out boutique wineries such as the picturesque Dingo Creek in Traveston (time your visit to coincide with their annual jazz and blues festival in April), Blind Man's Bluff in Kenilworth or Yandina's wacky Little Morgue Winery, housed in a former funeral parlour.
Tourists tend to stick to two or three big-name national parks while locals have the rest of nature's offerings all to themselves.
See a bat colony in a historic railway tunnel in the Dularcha National Park near Landsborough, or go four-wheel driving through subtropical rainforest in the Yarraman State Forest.
The Conondale National Park, west of Maleny, has some of the best bird-watching around, if that's your thing, or try scrambling to the top of Pomona's Mt Cooroora, which is the setting for the gruelling King of the Mountain foot race each July. The best runners get to the summit and back in about 20 minutes, but mere mortals need a couple of hours.
For information on all the national parks and reserves on the coast, check out the Environmental Protection Agency's list.
If you want beaches without the crowds, try some of the lesser-known spots such as Mudjimba and Marcoola on the central coast, Currimundi Beach on the southern coast and Marcus and Castaways Beaches up towards Noosa.
Behind the scenes
Don't be one of the thousands tramping through the major attractions plan ahead and see them from a different angle. Big-name attractions Australia Zoo
and Underwater World
offer behind-the-scenes tours where you get to talk to the staff, meet the animals and find out what really goes on. Australia Zoo
also has a really cool 'Zoo Keeper for a Day' program in school holidays, for kids aged seven to 12, but you’ll need to plan ahead to get a spot.
And if you're going to Aussie Zoo, be sure to also visit the huge new Australian Wildlife Hospital next door. So long as you're not squeamish, it is every bit as interesting as the zoo you can watch operations and see the vets working on injured wildlife.
Got any more near the beaten track suggestions? Have your say using the comments form below.
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