Australia, and Queensland in particular, is in no short supply of country towns. And Gold Coast can boast of quite a few perfectly charming country towns within a couple of hours’ drive from the city. From the Scenic Rim to the Southern Downs and up to the Sunshine Coast plus a few other regions in between, these small towns highlight slow-living, rolling hills, verdant pastures and a couple of our favourite things: country town hotels and bakeries.
There are historic and nature walks to explore, sandstone buildings to see, scenic lookouts to ascend and a bounty of wineries, breweries and more local produce to eat and drink your fill as well. So, when city life gets a little too fast-paced and you need a break, a breath of fresh country air and a drive to unwind, pick one of these charming country towns and you’ll be all set.
1. Canungra, Scenic Rim
Canungra is a tiny and charming town found under an hour’s drive from Gold Coast. It’s located on the eastern edge of the Scenic Rim and is the gateway to Lamington National Park as well as the Gold Coast Hinterland. It’s the ideal location to begin many bushwalks and birdwatching adventures in the region and that’s not to mention the many spectacular views and breathtaking lookouts.
The historic Lahey’s Tramway Tunnel, which is a 90-metre hand-dug sandstone tunnel, is well worth checking out and so is The Outpost Cafe—famed for its award-winning pies. One of our favourite activities, though, would have to be a visit to Mountview Alpaca Farm where you’ll be able to meet some very cuddly alpacas. Located on-site at O’Reilly’s Canungra Valley Vineyards, you can add a vineyard picnic basket on top of your experience for a wonderful day out in the country.
Distance: 32 kilometres
2. Tamborine Mountain, Gold Coast Hinterland
Part of the wondrous beauty and appeal of the Scenic Rim belongs to Tamborine Mountain. The lush mountain plateau is home to a plethora of landscapes and environments that you can explore, including bushwalks, waterfall excursions and more. There’s even a chance to walk among the treetops for a bird’s eye view of the greenery and wildlife with the Tamborine Rainforest Skywalk.
Distance: 40 kilometres
3. Maleny, Sunshine Coast
Not only is Maleny a picturesque country town, but it also boasts panoramic views of the Glass House Mountains—home to a swelling number of artists, craftspeople, writers and musicians. The Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve is where you’ll find the best sights as well as the Rainforest Discovery Centre.
Cafés are in no short supply in Maleny either and a couple that make a country getaway a tranquil and homely affair are Shotgun Espresso and Monica’s Cafe. At the same time, award-winning restaurant The Tamarind is a must for anyone who is keen on forward-thinking Asian cuisine and a night or two at Spicers Tamarind Retreat makes for one of the most romantic weekends away you can have near Brisbane.
Maleny, though, is probably best known as the home of one of Australia’s most renowned dairy producers, Maleny Dairies. Lactose-intolerant or not, a farm tour through gorgeous paddocks is up there as a must-do in Maleny. You can try the delicious range of milks, yoghurts, custard and cream, cuddle with some farmyard friends and BYO picnic or use their on-site BBQs.
Distance: 174 kilometres
4. Montville, Sunshine Coast
Quaint and charming country towns don’t get much better than Montville, which you’ll find just a little further north from Brisbane than Maleny. It’s often called the creative capital of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland for its quality art galleries and studios including glass art at Illume Creations and award-winning artists at Montville Art Gallery.
On the main strip of town, you’ll find Fudgbyboombahs as well as fine Belgian chocolate at Chocolate Country. But when it comes to a caffeine fix, head for either Little May Espresso as well as Poet’s Cafe, which is where you’ll be able to find the sandstone and Australian red cedar-crafted The Chapel. It can only be viewed by appointment but the views from the lookout will take your breath away.
Not far from the centre of town, you can find Spicers Clovelly Estate which houses the renowned Long Apron Restaurant if you’re keen on a fancier feast on your weekend away from the city. However, the real jewel of Montville has to be Kondalilla National Park and its incredible 90-metre waterfall plus rock pools and plenty of lookouts. Monville is the perfect getaway for city-dwellers.
Distance: 180 kilometres
5. Maryvale, Southern Downs
Just over two hours driving along the Cunningham Highway, you’ll come across Maryvale. It’s the gateway to the Southern Downs region and sits on the edge of the Scenic Rim, just minutes from scenic lookouts of the heritage-listed Main Range National Park. Pasturelands surround the regional community so you’re sure to find some of the freshest local produce when you visit.
Built in 1912-13, Maryvale’s Crown Hotel is where you can meet many of the town’s local characters who are part of the reason why it was voted in Australian Traveller’s 50 Greatest Aussie Country Pubs You Must Visit. You’ll find home-cooked country meals like the Cowboy Rump and an open-air beer garden with a fire pit as well as cosy lounges and rooms inside.
For traditional Aboriginal art, craft and story-telling, visit Cicada Woman and Yirimbahm Gallery, and for horse riding, whip cracking and boomerang throwing, pop on over to Bestbrook Mountain Resort.
Distance: 184 kilometres
6. Warwick, Southern Downs
Warwick is more regional city than country town, but thanks to its sandstone buildings, the serpentine Condamine River and gorgeous parks and gardens, it’s got charm and style we can’t get enough of. The drive is on the longer side of two hours, but a day trip or weekend getaway from Brisbane will fill you with fresh country air and provide plenty of respite from the big city.
July is a fabulous time to visit Warwick with the Jumpers and Jazz festival in full swing as well as the Christmas in July dinners at the Abbey Boutique Hotel. If you’re into rodeos, then the last weekend of October is for you.
But aside from events, there’s plenty to do in Warwick as well, such as discovering the town’s rich history on a heritage walk or hopping aboard the Downs Explorer for a steam-train ride through the region. The Warwick Art Gallery deserves a mention.
Buildings of note include the Town Hall & Footballer’s Memorial, the Criterion Hotel, the Post Office, St Mary’s Catholic Church (both old and new), St Andrew’s Uniting Church, and St George’s Lodge. The Warwick Historical Museum is as good a place as any to start. But, Warwick has also got an antiques store and a bunch of shops to peruse—who knows what you’ll find in this thriving city just a couple hours away from Brisbane.
Natural attractions are never too far away in the area with Main Range National Park where you can lunch at Cunningham’s Gap picnic area, hike the Rainforest Circuit and take in the sights and sounds of Queen Mary Falls.
Distance: 211 kilometres
7. Kilcoy, Somerset
You’ll find Kilcoy just an hour-and-a-half drive from Brisbane on the D’Aguilar Highway. The town, best known for being its Yowie legend, is surrounded by rugged mountain ranges and rolling hills. There are plenty of lookouts to take in the beautiful scenery and maybe even spot the Yowie which is said to live in the hills. Make sure to visit the Yowie Park and get your picture with the statue.
The country town itself is quite charming with its landscaped parks and quaint shops. There are a couple of bakeries in town as well that serve up some quality pies including Coff & Co, which is probably the most famous of the lot—and for good reason.
Distance: 179 kilometres
8. Mount Alford, Scenic Rim
If you need just the one reason to from Gold Coast to Mount Alford, then at top of that list of reasons should probably be the Scenic Rim Brewery. The brewery itself is housed in a heritage-listed general store which adds old-world charm to its boutique craft beers and homemade cakes.
Just a hop, skip and a jump away, wine lovers can make a stop at Kooromba Vineyard. It makes for the perfect day outdoors: whether it be walking through the lavender fields and enjoying the mountain views, tasting the local vino, or dining at the gourmet restaurant on-site.
Distance: 117 kilometres
9. Kenilworth, Mary Valley
Is it really a country town if there is no country bakery? Well, Kenilworth not only has a bakery, but its bakery does 1kg donuts and for that reason alone it is on this list. However, Kenilworth is more than just its famous bakery.
The town with a population of 300 people retains its 1930s atmosphere and despite its small size contains a bunch of eateries, shops, art gallery, and a cheese, yoghurt and ice-cream factory. The Kenilworth Market is held every Saturday morning.
But as we mentioned, the star of the town is the Kenilworth Country Bakery. It’s almost 100-years old and its oven is wood-fired, making its treats and baked goods a delight to eat. They also do coffee served inside a doughnut, vegan sweets, dog treats and, of course, 1kg doughnuts. There’s a challenge too. You will most likely need to order ahead as they do tend to sell out.
Afterwards, you can walk the doughnut off in the Conondale State Forest.
Distance: 230 kilometres