Green thumbs up for this plant-filled weekend on the Sunshine Coast
If you’ve spent the last two years fostering a healthy obsession with plants and all things gardening, then boy, do we have some news for you. From July 8–10, the Sunshine Coast is playing host to the who’s-who of Aussie gardening at the Queensland Garden Expo! To help you get your green thumb ready for three plant-packed days of soil-enriched gardening goodness, we’ve curated a jam-packed itinerary that will tantalise your taste buds and give you a much-needed breath of fresh air as you escape the city and let Mother Nature give you some love.
What better way to start a weekend on the Sunshine Coast than by tasting some of the local tipples? Nestled in the lush Sunshine Coast Hinterland Rainforest next door to the iconic Big Pineapple is the first stop on your boozy lap of the Sunshine Coast. Sunshine & Sons is a local distillery crafting seriously scrumptious rum and gin creations. Pop in to sample its Pineapple Parfait gin, Laguna Bay Dry gin, Nil Desperandum FIRST rum and ‘Mr Barista’ macadamia and coffee-infused molasses spirit. Make sure you’ve sorted your designated driver (and purchased them a take-home bottle for later) before strolling next door for another tipple or two at Diablo Co. The Diablo Co team prides itself on being 100 percent Queensland owned, made and consumed, and takes great pleasure in serving thirsty travellers some of its signature vodka, rum, ginger beer and liqueurs. The drinks are a delicious addition to the repertoire of all movers, shakers and cocktail makers, and a tasting will be sure to put a spring in your step for the adventures to come.
By this time, your tummy will be calling for something a little more substantial. Enter, Ricks Garage. Ricks’ famous diner is a short six-minute drive from Diablo Co and is known for mammoth burgers, fresh seafood and plenty of mouth-watering American fare. On Saturdays and Sundays, you can pull up a stool in the rustic diner and enjoy free live music from noon. Ricks hosts the largest range of spirits on the Sunshine Coast, so if you’re still thirsty, you can dive into the world of whisky while munching on a hearty meal made with plenty of love and local ingredients. For those in a rush, Ricks also has a newly opened bakehouse next door, known to serve a pretty mean chunky steak pie and perfectly flaky and flavour-filled Portuguese tarts.
We recommend getting your steps up and setting the scene for the Garden Expo tomorrow by spending your afternoon amongst the tranquil beauty and rolling landscapes of the Maleny Botanic Gardens and Bird World. Whether you’re an avid botanist, nature-lover or crave some time spent in nature, a trip to the Botanic Gardens is a great way to soak up the sun and serenity of the Sunshine Coast. Aside from strolling (or hiring a buggy) through more than 6 km of expansive gardens, you can also take part in one of the daily aviary tours, have a picnic under the gazebos and explore the fairy garden, treehouse and boat.
A few hours at the Botanic Gardens and a quick shower later will have you champing at the bit for dinner, and there is no better place to indulge than Piggyback in Palmwood. This funky, neon-lit neighbourhood favourite offers a menu full of fresh, fragrant Asian cuisine. Prepare to drool as soon as you get a whiff of the sticky pork belly with papaya salad, or the tamarind-glazed beef short rib served alongside a watermelon kaffir lime salad, coconut, crispy shallots, red curry dressing and green chilli. Dietary requirements need not be excluded, with Piggyback gladly offering full gluten-free and vegan menus. Of course, if you are feeling the effects of your busy day and would prefer to chow down in the comfort of your accommodation, then order some takeaway in advance so that you can still spoil your senses with its to-die-for dishes.
When it comes to accommodation, there are a few options to choose from depending on where you would like to rest that weary head of yours. Those preferring to sink into a slumber in glamping wonder should look no further than Starry Nights Luxury Camping. This effortlessly opulent camping experience sits gently beside the winding waters of Petrie Creek and is the perfect place to reflect on your weekend away, sip on some of your spoils of the day and soak up that fresh wilderness air. Starry Nights has a near-zero carbon footprint, with each of the 75-sqm handmade tents set on the hillside with recycled barn floorboards, basins hewn from stone, a cosy wood fire, organic linen, flushing toilets and a hot steaming bath or shower. Honestly, we’re relaxed just thinking about it. Alternatively, if you’re hoping to soak up the creature comforts of life in the country, then The Country House at Hunchy in Montville is calling your name. This multi-award-winning five-star accommodation is set in an expansive, modern Queenslander homestead and can host two couples in spacious king spa suites, each exquisitely furnished and featuring wrap-around verandahs with breathtaking views of the surrounding rainforest, Blackall Range and the coast. Staying at The Country House puts you just minutes away from Montville’s magic and the surrounding villages, mountains, lakes, waterfalls and forests.
After waking up from what will undoubtedly be the best sleep of your life and enjoying a morning brew, the next stop on your tour de Sunshine Coast is breakfast at Mill St. Kitchen and Pantry in Nambour. Here, the chefs work with local farmers to curate a menu bursting with nothing but the freshest seasonal produce. Depending on how much time you have, you’re welcome to take a seat and enjoy some fine breakfast fare, like the Mill St. benedict, the crab omelette or the delightful macadamia and wattleseed bowl. Alternatively, if you’re in a rush to keep exploring, you can quickly get caffeinated and take your pick from the grab-and-go cabinet packed with freshly made salads and cakes (we recommend purchasing a few snacks to munch on throughout the day, too!). As the name suggests, Mill St. also has a pantry overflowing with fresh local produce and bulk whole foods, so you can fill your car with some tasty souvenirs.
Now that you are freshly fuelled and ready to go, it is finally time for the main event! Just a four-minute drive from Mill St. Kitchen is the Nambour Showgrounds, home to the Queensland Garden Expo. This haven for green thumbs and novice gardeners alike is Queensland’s premier gardening event and attracts visitors from across Australia. During the show be sure to visit the Giant Kitchen Garden. This fully sustainable garden hosts a range of permaculture and organic gardening experts ready to answer all of your burning questions. Speaking of experts, keep your ear out for more than 120 free talks, lectures, demonstrations, workshops and plant clinics held across eight stages. You also won’t want to miss the annual floral design display and competition, where florists flaunt their creative flair with spectacular arrangements. To avoid missing out, make sure you buy tickets in advance and check the schedule while planning your itinerary.
It doesn’t matter how much you love gardening, at some point you will need to refuel and recharge. Fear not, though, Morts Brewing Co. in Nambour is here to wet your whistle so that you’re ready to enjoy a few more hours back at the expo. The team at Morts Brewing Co. prides itself on having no core range and always offering something different on tap. While you can’t be sure what beers will be available, you can trust that you’ll be sipping on a deliciously refreshing ice-cold beer.
From here, you’re welcome to head back to the showgrounds and dig your hands into more Garden Expo goodness. Why not treat yourself to an extra-special weekend and stay another night in luxury? That way, you won’t be stressed for time and can truly kick back and soak up everything the Sunshine Coast has to offer. Just like the tickets, accommodation options will likely book out quickly, so inform your fellow garden gurus and start planning this plant and pint-filled weekend away.
This article was created in partnership with our friends at Visit Sunshine Coast.