The Gold Coast in Australia’s Queensland is an established holiday destination for many Malaysians. Even if you’ve never been there, you would have probably heard of it or read stories about the place.

Queensland actually has two main cities along its coastal line: Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Both cities are just a two-hour-drive apart, so getting from one place to the other is fairly easy. You can also hire a private helicopter service if driving or riding the bus is not your thing.

At Sunshine Coast, head to Noosa, a laid-back district with beautiful beaches, fantastic national parks, a lake and other natural wonders. Noosa Heads is the tourist area and where most of the happening events take place.

However, despite all the buzz, Noosa – actually, Sunshine Coast overall – is a sleepy town compared to its more glitzy neighbour, the Gold Coast. This is a good thing as you tend to feel more relaxed walking on Noosa’s white sandy beaches or trekking through the Noosa National Park in hopes of a koala sighting.

Well, perhaps you do need to worry a little bit about pesky seagulls stealing your chips or sandwich whenever you eat your lunch on the beach.

If you’re not a fan of sand in your shoes, then just make a pit stop at any of the beach front cafes or restaurants, like Sail’s Noosa, for a meal or two.

Travellers can also venture out to the Sunshine Coast hinterland and visit quaint towns like Eumundi or Montville. These places are about a 40-minute drive away from Noosa (you will come across plenty of roundabouts along the way!) and will offer you a refreshing look at local life.

Things are even more quiet in the hinterland, though there are a few popular activities you could check out. For example, the Original Eumundi Markets, Australia’s largest artisan market, takes place every Wednesday and Saturday. It is a lovely place to spend some time (and money) at, just checking out the local arts and crafts and chatting with the traders. And if you’re hungry, there is a dining area with a wide variety of fresh food to choose from.

Eumundi Markets has been around for decades.

On clear day, head to The Edge Cafe at Montville to get a good look at the Blackall Range. Adventure lovers may even want to try hiking in the area, or go for a short walk. It is best to get a licensed guide for this, though, as some of the trails can stretch as far as about 60km!

The hinterland also has a handful of farms that are accessible to tourists, like The Falls Farm and Hinterland Feijoas. During food festivals and other major events that take place across the Sunshine Coast, special tours may be offered to guests. During the recent Noosa Food and Wine Festival, the two companies not just offered up scrumptious meals to guests, but a VIP “guide” and cook too in the form of Melbourne-based British chef Matt Wilkinson. Wilkinson talked about the importance of utilising every part of a vegetable or fruit in everyday cooking.

“You can totally eat the leafy tops of carrots, did you know that? If your vegetable or fruit was grown organically, then it is most probably safe to eat every part of it. You just need to do a little research, and experiment in the kitchen. There’s no reason to waste a part of a vegetable, for example, if it is actually edible,” he shared.

Festival vibe

The Sunshine Coast has some popular annual events, like the Noosa Food and Wine Festival. Each year, people from all over the country and overseas visit Noosa to take part in the festival, during which selected restaurants, hotels and companies will hold events with specially curated menus.

Chef Matt Wilkinson cooking up a storm in the kitchen of the Hinterland Feijoas farm.

This year, more than a dozen acclaimed-restaurants were involved, with in-house chefs and guest chefs coming together to create amazing dishes using primarily local ingredients. One of these restaurants was Wasabi Restaurant & Bar, which brought renowned food horticulturist Peter Hardwick on board for the occasion. Hardwick is known for his work in developing Australia’s bushfood scene. But he’s more than just a forager; he does extensive research on native food plants, their potential in the modern culinary world, as well as cultivation work.

“Foraging has been around for ages, but unfortunately, not many people know every little detail about native plants any more. Research papers are a good way to document things, to preserve the knowledge,” he said during an interview at Wasabi.

“We need to find out how to grow some of these crops ourself. Unfortunately, sometimes you’re forced into production but if it helps with the sustainability of native plants, then it’s fine,” Hardwick added.

Some of the interesting things on our plate at the restaurant during the festival include barramundi cured in green ant gin, coastal succulents (kind of like those things you put in trendy terrariums), charred kelp cream, kangaroo loin smoked in paperbark and asa hemp milk.

“I hope people will embrace it and not be intimidated by it,” Hardwick said of incorporating bushfood into modern dishes.
The festival normally runs for four days towards the end of autumn in Australia. Dinner/lunch events, workshops and masterclasses are individually priced, although you could also just get a “festival village ticket” for an overall look at the festivities.

Visitors who are keen to join in next year’s celebration can check the official website (noosafoodandwine.com.au) for updates.