Plan your road trip through the Scenic Rim
Each year, Eat Local Week in the Scenic Rim sees the spotlight shining on this spectacular region. But don’t wait for next year’s event to roll around, here are some good reasons for city-dwellers to jump in the car any weekend and check out for themselves what all the fuss is about.
The drive from city to serenity
Simply hitting the highway and heading out of the city is liberating in itself. Within an hour of leaving the last of Brisbane’s traffic lights in your rear vision mirror, you’ll find yourself in wide, open spaces surrounded by cows and crops. Enjoy cruising along long, flat roads ringed by distant mountains. Also expect to encounter a few short gravel roads, some winding rollercoaster-like stretches, and the occasional stock grid (city folk may need Google Images for a visual). Wind down the windows and enjoy the serenity.
Bargains you won’t get in suburbia
If the $2 bags of horse poo don’t suit your needs, fear not. The many roadside stalls will surely have something to take your fancy. Homemade chutneys, jams and organic produce, all at prices well below what you’d find for less-homely fare in your local supermarket. And putting the right change in the honesty box (maybe with a little tip for good measure) will give you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
The relaxed vibe of the country
No one seems in too much of a hurry out here, and you should take the opportunity to join in and relax with the locals. Have some rough plans before you hit the road, but be prepared to linger longer when you find a spot that requires/deserves a little more of your time. Don’t rush … the Rim dates back to prehistoric times and isn’t going anywhere soon. Explore at your own leisure in the knowledge that, now you’re hooked on the peace and quiet, you’ll be back again soon to continue your journey of discovery.
Rural history at our doorstep
Generations of families have been involved in farming on the Scenic Rim, and check out the Harrisville Historical Society Museum to view artefacts highlighting the heritage of the township and its surrounding regions. The local farmers/producers have been doing what they do for a long time, with products ranging from beef, pork, poultry, and a huge variety of fruit and vegetables … increasingly of the organic variety. And if you’re a fan of cheese, wine, craft beer, relishes, chutneys, jams (do we have your attention yet?), this is the place to visit. As mayor Greg Christensen says: “Visit the farms, eat the food, drink the wine and get excited about all this region has to offer.”
The scenery for which it’s famous
Have your phone/camera at the ready, as every twist and turn in the road will reveal another photo opportunity. Check out #visitscenicrim if you don’t believe us. Point the lens in any direction and snap away … you can’t fail. If you time your visit for sunrise (unlikely for any day-trippers from the city!) or sunset, you’ll be rewarded with a glorious range of subtle colours with which to frame your picture-postcard vistas. Get on Instagram or Facebook using the #brisbaneanyday tag and give your fellow city-dwellers a taste of what they’re missing.
Owners the Pennell family have been baking in the Scenic Rim and surrounds since the 1930s, with current baker Aidan Pennell’s grandfather starting the original business in Boonah. With subsequent retail outlets now operating in Aratula and Kalbar, there’s plenty of opportunity for you to pick up what Aidan refers to as “old-styled baked goods, but with a modern twist”. A recent specialty is wild fermented sourdoughs, with Instagram followers from all over the world taking note of what’s new in that space. From day one more than 80 years ago it’s been a true family affair, and of the current 20-plus staff, 50 per cent are family, with four generations of bakers now associated with business.
Just down the winding road from the Aratula bakery you’ll discover the picture-postcard views from the lookout and picnic area above the lake. It’s a popular spot for boating, bushwalking and fishing enthusiasts (licence required) and the lakeside caravan park has a variety of accommodation available. As a day-tripper, lay down the picnic blanket, cover it with your recently purchased baked goodies, and take some time to chill before hitting the road again for the next stop on your list of “must-visit” locations.
Steve and Monika Patrick bought the then-closed Harrisville hotel in 2011 and re-opened it six months later, continuing to build its reputation as an authentic country pub. Its wide verandahs offer a peaceful rural outlook and are the perfect spot for a cold drink on a hot day. The Patricks serve up warm hospitality with their popular fare – try the $12 lunch special on the steak sandwich and chips, you won’t be disappointed. The couple’s latest project involves the transformation of four old railway carriages into unique hotel rooms. With the Royal a popular wedding venue, the carriages will provide rustic accommodation for family and guests, and a great backdrop for bride and groom photos.
It’s amazing how things work out. Almost four years ago, Andy Kendrick’s partner Erin Talbot headed off to the local health food shop to buy a loaf of bread for their daughter Poppi, and came back with a commitment to buy the shop. The deal went through, and the original Poppi’s Pantry has now expanded into its new location in the former bank building on Boonah’s main street. Simple and wholesome is the motto at Poppi’s, and you’ll benefit from the holistic approach to the food on offer, such as the biscuits made using pulp from their cold-pressed juices.
A day trip from the coast to look at available acreage almost three years ago led to a major life change for chef Andy Cooper and baker wife Toni. Instead of acreage, they ended up buying a restaurant that had been closed for five years, a victim of Kooralbyn’s gradual slide from its glory days when the golf resort was world famous and the international school saw the likes of Olympic gold medallist Cathy Freeman and golfing superstars Adam Scott and Jason Day pass through its gates. The town’s now undergoing something of a resurgence, with the resort reopening after major renovations, the school returning to its prime, and the Coopers’ restaurant/cafe gaining an increasing following. Take a spot on the shady verandah, order a coffee and enjoy a slice of Toni’s carrot cake … it’s to die for.
Owners Paul and Robyn Lee refer to themselves as the “accidental farmers”. After a previous life in the mining industry, the couple bought 70-odd acres in the Canungra Valley and then thought: “What are we going to do with this?” The answer was “macadamias”, so they planted 500 trees and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, the price of the tasty nuts plummeted (although not in the supermarkets Paul quickly points out!) so through necessity they started roasting and packing their own product to maximise returns. It was a wise move and business has boomed. They recently opened four tourist cabins among the trees, and if as we encourage you plan to spread your Scenic Rim visit over two days, love a quiet location with great views (and endless availability of yummy nuts), look no further.
The Scenic Rim seems to be the place to go when looking for a “tree change”, and Lou and Matt haven’t looked back since buying the olive grove and adjacent cafe about two years ago. Initially thinking the cafe would just be a weekend hobby, Lou said it had “just soared…gone off its head to be honest” and was proving increasingly popular with both locals and tourists as they learn of its existence. In a leap of faith, Matt’s left the civil industry in which he was working and is now pouring all his energy into this project.
There’s now 1500 olive trees on the property, about five minutes’ drive from Rathdowney, and a commercial processing shed for bottling the olives in brine. Tapenade and dukkah are also among the products produced. And keeping things local, their popular olive oil is produced by Scenic Rim Olives. And the ironic thing … Lou isn’t even a big fan of olives, although consistently positive feedback reassures her that theirs rate highly with connoisseurs. And all is not lost … she is partial to the tapenade.
When it comes to wine, as the home of true Champagne it can be hard to please the French. So the fact that Kooroomba reports that its unusual Verdelho Marsanne blend has been well received in Paris is high praise indeed. Situated in the Fassifern Valley at Mt Alford, the property’s vineyards and lavender fields are surrounded by the distant peaks of the Rim. The cellar door, restaurant and lavender shop are open Wednesdays to Sundays from 10am, with all available wines produced from grapes grown on the property. Owned and operated by born-and-bred local Doogan O’Hanlon and his wife Verity, their vision for expansion includes a wedding chapel and luxury accommodation, so stay posted.
And finally…expect the unexpected
After all, where else would you find a sign warning you of turtles on the road. The pace out here is slow. Get used to it, and join in.