‘Towns like this attract a lot of quirky souls’: a visitor’s guide to Queensland’s Scenic Rim

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‘Towns like this attract a lot of quirky souls’: a visitor’s guide to Queensland’s Scenic Rim

Rear view of a hiker walking along Scenic Rim Trail

Named by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 regions in the world to visit in 2022, the Scenic Rim is an unassuming character in the state’s tourism tale

Christine Retschlag

Last modified on Thu 4 Nov 2021 12.32 EDT

It’s home to an area called the Lost World, and for decades, the Scenic Rim did feel a little like the middle child, cowering around the hemline of Brisbane’s bright lights and the glittering Gold Coast, about 60 minutes’ drive inland and south. But while no one was paying attention, plenty was happening behind the scenes, and this kid shot up.

So much so that in Lonely Planet’s list of 10 regions to visit in 2022, the Scenic Rim rubs shoulders with the likes of Burgundy, Vancouver and Puerto Rico. Older and younger Queensland siblings (and smug Aussie cousins) … eat your heart out.

At about 10 times the size of the Gold Coast, this rich, green, mountainous region is home to seven distinct areas – most with names just as picturesque as “Scenic Rim” – and six national parks, including world-heritage-listed Gondwana rainforests. To cover the whole region and take part in activities, allow at least two days to visit.

Landscapes in Queensland's Scenic Rim

Tabitha Bird, author of A Lifetime of Impossible Days and the Emporium of Imagination, lives on the western side of the region in a town called Boonah, which is also the setting for both of her books.

“I was writing my first book and when I came out here I realised it had no setting, and then I discovered this was the perfect place with its characters,” she says. “Towns like this attract a lot of quirky souls.

“My second book has even more of the town featured in it and the locals love it. I often do things like a ‘getting lost drive’, the whole point of the drive is to get lost and discover the region.

The Scenic Rim was named by the Binna Burra tourism pioneer Arthur Groom in the mid-1900s. But Jenny Jenner, of Kalbar Sunflowers, says her visitors are still surprised by the area, a century later.

“People come out and say, ‘Why haven’t we found this place before now?’ It’s so scenic, tranquil and peaceful.”

“Visitors love being able to do an experience … picking flowers; riding camels or climbing a mountain.”

Don’t miss

The trail leading to Best of All Lookout

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given all the national parks, the Scenic Rim is home to hundreds of walking tracks.

For a challenging day hike, try the 7.4km Lower Portals Track in Mount Barney national park which leads to a deep freshwater pool. Cunningham’s Gap in Main Range national park has a breezy 1.6km rainforest circuit; while O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat has a 800m elevated walkway through the rainforest canopy, which is free and open to the public.

For serious hikers, the 34.5km Scenic Rim Trail, which meanders through private property and Main Range national park, is a four-day hike with small, free campsites along the way. These should be booked before setting out, as spaces are limited.

Where to sleep

After devastating fires in 2019, the rainforest and tumbling valleys at Binna Burra Lodge are bursting back into green. Camping starts from $40 a night or, if you don’t want to BYO, book one of their new safari tents, from $104. For quaint, historic cottages which tell a story, head to Mount Barney and Barney Creek Cottages (from $174) or to Rathdowney with its Tuckeroo Cottages and Gardens (from $128).

The Safari Tents at Binna Burra Lodge

Where to eat

The agricultural region has farm gates and cellar doors galore. Lavender lovers will adore Mount Alford’s Karoomba Vineyard and Lavender Farm which injects these fragrant flowers into its dishes. Nearby, sample the craft brews with quirky names like Shazza, Digga and Fat Man at Scenic Rim Brewery. Pick your potion at Mount Tamborine’s Witches Falls Winery (the 2019 Prophecy Syrah runs out the door).

For something more eccentric, Harrisville’s Summer Land Camels offers everything from rides to tastings – of fetta, halloumi, gelati and even a world-first vodka, all made from camel milk.

There’s also a Scenic Rim Farm Box, an innovative idea born out of Covid-19 lockdowns to bring the country flavours to the city. Visit Kent’s Lagoon shop, take some produce home, or even have it delivered.

When to go

Sunflowers

During sunflower season, in spring and summer, farm fields of gold burst into bloom. In 2021, drought-stricken Kalbar farmers, frustrated by strangers traipsing through their flower fields for Instagram opportunities, decided to launch a festival, and Kalbar Sunflowers blossomed.

Head here for ticketed events including sunrise yoga, sunset dinners among the flowers, and pick-and-pay for bunches to take home. There are still photo opportunities – but these ones actually contribute to the local economy.

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