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Exploring Queensland's Spectacular Western Scenic Rim

Travel

After a chilly Melbourne winter, we’ve been doing a spot of desk dreaming of getaways in warmer Northern climates. Enter, our Brisbane contributor Jo Hoban, with this epic travel experience in Queensland’s southeast!

Having recently hiked the iconic Spicers two-day Scenic Rim Trail, Jo was bubbling with enthusiasm for the western Scenic Rim region, just over an hour’s drive inland from Brisbane. While there have been devastating bushfires in some parts of the Scenic Rim recently, this section has luckily avoided the burn so far.

Jo, along with photographer, Mindi Cooke, showcase some appealing stops for exploring, eating, drinking, and shopping, from Kalbar to Spicers Peak.

1st October, 2019

Jo Hoban explores the Western Scenic Rim on a two-day hike. Photo – courtesy of Spicers Retreats.

Jo Hoban
Tuesday 1st October 2019

Growing up in Brisbane, my parents would often take our family for short getaways to the western Scenic Rim region known for its picturesque mountain ranges. We’d visit country spots like Boonah, Lake Moogerah and Mt Barney. I have lovely memories of those times (aside from the sticky vinyl upholstery in Dad’s old 1970s Ford Falcon).

These days I live near Brisbane’s Mt Coot-tha Forest where I love walking the trails. When the opportunity arose to “spread my hiking wings” and do the Spicers two-day Scenic Rim Trail earlier this year, I jumped! The Scenic Rim Trail is located on the Western edge of the region and showcases a small part of The Great Dividing Range. Heading out that way again reminded me there are many wonderful, lesser-known places on Brisbane’s doorstep. And a range of exciting new businesses are breathing fresh life into the region.

Photographer Mindi Cooke and I took a little road trip to visit a few. Here’s the lowdown!

Left: In the thick of it. Photo – courtesy of Spicers Retreats. Right: One of the many breathtaking views along the way. Photo– Jo Hoban.

‘The rainforest was mindblowing’ Jo says! Photo – Jo Hoban.

ActivitySpicers Two-Day Scenic Rim Trail

The two-day Scenic Rim Trail is an enriching active travel experience run by Spicers Retreats, a company committed to protecting the environment, and providing sustainable ecotourism experiences for future generations. Experienced guides lead small groups through a region comprised of 30,000 hectares of World Heritage Listed National Park, Gondwana Rainforest, and Spicers Peak Station – a privately owned 2000-hectare nature reserve.

The trail showcases some of South-East Queensland’s spectacular high country and it is Queensland’s only addition to the Great Walks of Australia collection. All gear, food, drinks, and accommodation are provided, so logistically the experience is hassle-free. Some sections are steep and challenging so you need a good level of fitness. Hiking poles are provided to help increase stability, and they’re very helpful – I’m a convert! Our guide, Chris, was an affable and knowledgeable young man. He kept a caring eye on everyone, assisting as needed and providing an interesting commentary when relevant.

DAY 1 is spent making our way through the diverse flora and fauna of Mount Mitchell and eventually to its peak, where we’re rewarded with epic views out to Moreton Bay. We’re lucky enough to spot a juvenile koala in the wild, along with a red-necked wallaby, and a snake. In the afternoon we descend Mount Mitchell and traverse into Spicers’ nature reserve before heading up into Spicers canopy for the night.

DAY 2 sees us moseying along Oakey Creek bed before beginning a long, gradual climb up Cedar Mountain. We follow the mountain’s ridge and eventually scramble up over some rocks into the Gondwana heritage-listed rainforest. This ancient ecosystem is truly awe-inspiring ensconced in a light mist, with entangled vines, lush ground cover and a diverse canopy – a rare, and incredibly beautiful natural environment. The walk ends at Spicers Peak Lodge, where we’re greeted like long lost kings and queens and provided with welcome refreshments. Nature lovers and foodies will thoroughly enjoy this experience!

The Canopy is the perfect place to unwind after a hard day’s hike. Photo – courtesy of Spicers Retreats.

The accommodation offers ‘glamping at its best’. Photo – courtesy of Spicers Retreats.

A serene sunset at Canopy. Photo – courtesy of Spicers Retreats.

Stay: Spicers Canopy

Spicers Canopy is set on a lower plateau of the Spicers Peak Station property. It offers glamping at its best, and after a solid day of hiking it is so nice to be rewarded with a little relaxed luxury (not to mention a glass of wine!). Each African-safari style tent features king or twin beds with fine linen, bedside tables and a covered deck with a comfortable armchair perfect for taking in the views to Mount Mitchell. A communal main lodge has a generous lounge area and an open fireplace, a dining area, and sliding doors that open onto a wide verandah. There’s also an outdoor hot tub and cute firepit perfect for gathering for a pre-dinner drink or a stargaze.

A highlight of Canopy is the gourmet meals prepared on-site by a Spicers chef. They feature local produce, some of which is grown in the kitchen garden at the nearby Spicers Hidden Vale country retreat.

The staff at Canopy are friendly, attentive and entertaining, which makes the overall experience very enjoyable.

Sarah Bottle of Elegance & Grace. Photo – Mindi Cooke.

Sarah Bottle of Elegance & Grace, and Jade Cook of Jade Beauty Skinstitute operate their businesses alongside each other out of this historic building. Photo – Mindi Cooke.

Shop + Experience:

Sarah Bottle of Elegance & Grace, and Jade Cook of Jade Beauty Skinstitute share an old shop space in the tiny, charming town of Kalbar – located between Spicers Peak Station and Brisbane.

Sarah stocks a range of gifts and homewares featuring locally made leatherwork, sculptures, and ceramics, while Jade has a beauty therapy treatment room and nails station within the space. She stocks Dermalogica and other select beauty products, and a small section of gifts and homewares.

On the day we visit, Jade is tending to a sick child, but Sarah warmly welcomes us and shows us around. A teacher by trade, Sarah moved to Kalbar a year ago with her partner and young children. The shop is now celebrating its first birthday, business is going well, and Sarah and Jade are excited for the future of their unique, combined offering!

Owner, Mike Webster, stands in front of the old general store’s original shelves and rolling ladder, which now stores locally made relishes, brewery merch and more! Photo – Mindi Cooke.

Beer from the Scenic Rim Brewery. Photo – Mindi Cooke.

‘A paddle tasting sampler did not disappoint’ Jo says. Photo – Mindi Cooke.

The historic building was built in 1884! This shed is the old creamery out the back of the Scenic Rim Brewery. Photo – Mindi Cooke.

Eat + Drink: Scenic Rim Brewery

What an unexpected gem in the tiny town of Mt Alford this is! Just a 20-minute drive from Kalbar, the Scenic Rim Brewery is well worth a visit. Housed in the old Mt Alford General Store (est. 1884) Mike and Wendy Webster purchased the run-down property in 2014, convincing three levels of government that it was a good idea to renovate, extend and install a brewery. They opened in December of 2016 and it’s been onward and upward from there!

Mike was previously a builder with a keen interest in home brewing – he created his first brew in his kitchen over thirty years ago. The couple’s Dutch and German heritage means their menu is dotted with delicacies such as Bitterballen and Bratwurst, amid other healthy (and not-so) treats.

But of course, the highlight here is the beer! And a paddle tasting sampler did not disappoint. My fave was their newest brew, Beauy and Blue Spiced Pumpkin Ale – so damn smooth, and naturally brewed with local Beaudesert Blue pumpkins and water harvested from the mountains and valleys of the Scenic Rim.

Scenic Rim Brewery
898 Reckumpilla Street

Mt Alford, Queensland

David pictured on site with Cellar Door Manager, Sharon Gage, and Ruby the dog. Photo – Mindi Cooke.

The vineyards were planted in 2012 by David and his team, and the first vintage was produced in 2013. The Overflow Estate 1895 is surrounded by Wyaralong Dam. Photo – Mindi Cooke.

The cellar door was designed by architect, Con Zahos. It responds exceptionally well to David’s brief: a barn style, though sharp, modern & edgy, reflecting masculine and feminine elements, that blends well with the environment and topography. All the timber in the construct comes from the Morgan’s property. Photo – Mindi Cooke.

Jo enjoyed a glass of sparkling and some bruschetta on her visit. Photo – Mindi Cooke.

Photo – Mindi Cooke.

Wine + Dine: The Overflow Estate 1895

15 minutes from the country town of Boonah, and 30 mins from Mt Alford and Kalbar, you’ll find this gem of a winery en route to Beaudesert. Owner David Morgan is a charming character who provides a wonderful introduction to the property, as we sit on the deck of his architecturally-designed cellar door.

David respectfully acknowledges that Indigenous people were on this land for generations. Though from the 1860s, the land became a farming plot. In 1895 Edgar Joyce, an Irishman, and his wife Nina Perse, bought the land and called it The Overflow. Fast forward 111 years and David Morgan and his wife purchased the land in 2006 from the Joyce Dynasty; they were inspired to create their own vineyard after visiting a friend’s Spanish Bodega. David extended the property’s name to The Overflow 1895 to pay homage to the previous owners.

The Vineyard’s rootstock was planted in 2012 and the Morgans have since nurtured the four unusual varieties that underpin their offerings; they are all grapes with Mediterranean origins well suited to the native terroir. Everything is done by hand at this vineyard, and the Morgans get so much pleasure from being able to share the fruits of their small team’s labour with visitors!

The cellar door offers a full menu and wine tastings on Friday, Saturday + Sunday (and a reduced menu on Wednesday and Thursday) – with live music every Sunday. The day we visit, I enjoyed a delicious local cheese and antipasto platter, some Towri sheep cheese ewghurt & tomato bruschetta, nicely complemented with a glass of their Storm Cru Sparkling wine. All divine! I can’t wait to return on a Sunday afternoon.

The Overflow Estate 1895
1660 Beaudesert-Boonah Road
Beaudesert, Queensland

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