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Beyond Noosa

The Mary River is the lifeblood to the fertile, farming region of the Mary Valley, which falls behind the Blackall Range and is home to some of Australia’s most fragile wildlife residents – the Mary River Cod, the Giant Barred Frog, the Cascade Tree Frog and the Coxen’s Fig Parrot. A great way to explore this valley is by tracing the Mary River, which winds its way through the valley starting at Crystal Waters Eco Village and finishing in the historical town of Gympie

Kenilworth State Forest has more than a weekend’s worth of exploration for mountain bikers, walkers, horse riders and four-wheel enthusiasts. 

Kenilworth is at the heart of the Mary Valley and is a charming, colonial-style town with a well-appointed art gallery in the main street, a two-storey country pub on the corner and real estate offices advertising tree change properties in their windows.

Imbil, the largest town of the valley, originally grew out of a robust timber industry and still has one of the few remaining hoop forests in Australia. The Valley Rattler (a steam train) departs from Gympie and visits Imbil as well as its hinterland compatriots Dagun, Amamoor and Kadanga every Wednesday and Sunday.

Borumba Dam, also known as Lake Borumba, is one of the biggest drawcards for visitors to the region. The man-made dam was constructed between 1960 and 1964 and was built across Yabba Creek. It has a surface area of 500 hectares and at full capacity holds 33,300 megalitres. The dam is a water mecca for fishing enthusiasts, boaties, water skiers and canoeists. 

Amamoor is a sweet little town that has an old-fashioned general store where lolly jars line the front counter. It sells everything from a hammer to a bag of sugar. In August, the town swells to gigantic proportions with 60,000 jeans-wearing, boot-scooting country music folk, who descend on the village for the National Country Music Muster.
To the north of Noosa’s opulent, well-manicured streets lies a vast expanse of untouched, undeveloped beach that makes up the Great Sandy National Park. The stretches of beach banked by sheer sand dunes can only be accessed by four-wheel drive via Rainbow Beach or Tewantin and offer some great beachside camping spots. 

Just south of Rainbow Beach is Double Island Point. For the surfers there is superior gliding wave at Double Island Point with a right-hand point break with a length of 50 to 150 metres and on a good day up to 300 to 500 metres. Access is by four-wheel drive along the beach heading south from Rainbow Beach or heading north from Noosa North Shore. 

Not only is Rainbow Beach the frontier town to Fraser Island, it offers beach and ocean fishing, sky diving and some million-dollar camping views.  

Located near the southern end of Lake Cootharaba, Boreen Point is the only village on the largest lake in the Noosa River system. The farmers and fishermen who settled here have left their mark – a handful of houses show signs of having begun life as fishing shacks, and the street names include Mango Avenue and Orchard Lane. There is still a handful of commercial fishermen plying the waters in search of bream and whiting, but primary industries are no longer the lifeblood of this village of 300. Just 15 minutes from Tewantin, it is an easy daytrip from most of the Sunshine Coast.

For all its size – the lake is roughly 4km by 10km – the most striking thing about Lake Cootharaba is its depth. Hardly more than 2m at its deepest point, in many places it’s possible to walk hundreds of metres from shore without going more than waist deep.

Near Elanda Point, there are walking trails leading to Mill Point (4km return) and Kinaba (14km return) that depart from the national park car park. To see the lake from the water, canoes and kayaks can be hired at either of the campgrounds. Elanda Point also has sailboats and motor boats for hire. 
  • If you want to step back in time a little bit and have a cold beer in a country pub, this is it. The Kin Kin pub is a fantastic old Queenslander with the most amazing beer garden you will ever see. It is lush and green with either grass or an old table to sit on. If you’re after reasonable pub food with ice cold beer, and you don’t want to worry about your kids, this is the place.
  • If you’re looking for a cool place to relax, try Buffalo Park at Urunga Pde, Boreen Point. A leafy little spot right on Lake Cootharaba, you can take a picnic and relax with views across to the coloured sands at Teewah whilst the kids release some energy on the swings. 
  • If you’re a lover of classic old-style Australian pubs that ooze charm and have a great bar to perch at, salt recommends a visit to the Apollionian Hotel, Laguna Street, Boreen Point. Sit out in the bougainvillea-lined deck, order a counter meal and a jug full of golden beer and settle in for a lazy Sunday session.
  • If you like to submerge yourself in the great outdoors, salt has the best camping spot for you – Noosa North Shore, spanning from Tewantin all the way through to Rainbow Beach. Grab your camping paraphernalia, jump in your four-wheel drive and coast along the beach until you spot your ideal camping spot. If you are coming from the Sunshine Coast, catch the ferry from Tewantin to Noosa North Shore.
  • Are you a Sunday driver at heart and own a four-wheel drive? Do you love rolling down the car windows and exploring a new region with your friendly Tom Tom? Then you’ll love the Cooloola Way, which is an unsealed road that lies between Kin Kin Road and Rainbow Beach Road. This inland track parallels the Cooloola coast and is exceptionally beautiful and tranquil. It’s worth stopping at Harry’s Hut, which is an old hut situated by the Noosa River, that offers a day use area and camping spot. 
  • If steam trains are more your thing, the bushranger hold-up held at the Imbil Station every third Sunday of the month is an absolute hoot. the kids will ‘wow’ and ‘ahh’ at the guns that spurt paper and smoke into the air and adults will love the quirky humour of the volunteer actors.
  • A beautiful old art deco pub with a twist is a lovely surprise on a lazy daytime drive. The Kenilworth Hotel was built in 1926 and has all the grandeur and soul of a true Queensland treasure. 
  • Fishing is a popular pastime for locals and visitors to Rainbow Beach, whether it’s beach or ocean fishing. If you’re fortunate enough to own a tinnie or a boat, launch at Bullock or Carlo Point. Fishing charter trips are available.
  • For those who have an appetite for sand crabs and muddies, Tin Can Bay Inlet is a perfect spot to rest your crab pot. 
  • It’s a regular sight to see backpackers dropping out of the air at Rainbow Beach, which is a pretty spot to jump out of a perfectly good plane. 
  • Four-wheel drive enthusiasts will salivate at the thought of cruising up Teewah Beach – a 40km stretch of beach which provides access to the Teewah Beach camping zone, Freshwater campground and Double Island Point. Remember permits are mandatory.
  • If you own a 4WD then secure your surfboards, lower your tyre pressure and float to Double Island Point. Double Island Point is the next headland north of Noosa and is a jackpot of a surfing location. In ideal conditions you can expect to catch a wave for 300 to 500 metres.
  • Closer to Rainbow Beach itself is the Carlo Sand Blow. From the Rainbow Beach water tower at the top of Cooloola Drive, a walking track passes through woodlands to the blow. 
  • Want to truly get away from it all? A stone’s throw from Noosa’s glittering tourist strip is a cross-river ferry trip that will transport you to a world where pristine beaches, flora and fauna and unending landscapes remain untouched. The Noosa North Shore ferry carries two and four-wheel vehicles to the most northern area of the Sunshine Coast, gateway to lakes, 4WD beach access and the Great Sandy National Park (vehicle permits required). It’s an ideal way to enjoy an out-of-the-ordinary day trip with a boredom-busting choice of activities such as kayaking, beach fishing,  walking tracks and quaint townships to explore. The ferry operates continuously from the river end of Moorindil Street, Tewantin every day of the year, from $6 each way.
  • Not only is the winding, honesty box-fringed drive from Cooroy to Kin Kin as pleasant as can be, there is now a reward at the end. The Kin Kin General Store has a new owner – Jodie Williams, chef and lover of Kin Kin. Jodie has re-instated the general store (established in 1946), which not only includes the post office but now has Black Ant Gourmet running from its commercial kitchen. On weekends the store is flat-chat, serving bikers, horse riders and Sunday drivers with creamy, fair trade brews from her vintage coffee machine and gorgeous gourmet delights. What are you waiting for? Take a Sunday drive to Kin Kin, windows down, fresh air gusting, and treat yourself to fine coffee and scrumptious delicacies at the Kin Kin General Store. 
  • Grab your mini bmx bandit and make tracks to Cooroy … dirt tracks that is. Behind the bustling town centre is one of the best multi-use parks on the coast, featuring a purpose-built circular dirt bike track (suitable for 5-12 year olds) within easy viewing distance of picnic tables, bench seats and shady trees. Add a fully enclosed littlies’ playground and rad skate bowl for the teens and there you have it … one fun-filled family day out! From what we’ve seen, kids just can’t get enough. 
  • Get back  to some old world charm while still getting the best of modern-day foodie delights at the newly renovated Kenilworth Bakery. New owners have reworked the old bakery into a boutique space complete with feature fireplace, ample seating options, delightful homewares to browse and local produce to savour. salt chose a buttery ham and cheese croissant, and flaky Danish pastry to go – yes, just a little bit naughty but there are also yummy salad options, focaccias, quiches and frittatas to entice and oven-fresh bread done country-style. While away some time or take a little wander – there’s a huge park across the road just perfect for family picnics as well. 8 Elizabeth Street, Kenilworth.
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