Crafting a New Tour & Uncovering Hidden Noosa
“We are your fly and flop destination up until now” said Juanita from the Visit Noosa Association. I’d not heard that term used before and I had a short chuckle before she continued. “We are now trying to broaden and deepen the profile of Noosa towards more of an adventure destination. We disperse visitors into the less known, but equally as stunning river and hinterland areas”.
Cycling group on Brisbane Valley Rail Trail
So began the journey of crafting a new tour and uncovering hidden Noosa for Grasshopper Adventures. The makings appeared before me. The Noosa Everglades, one of only two such environments in the world. The under development — Noosa Trail, a network of easy to use routes for walking, bicycling and even horse riding. A beautifully warm climate where our many southern customers can come and enjoy a ride. The various layers of clothing required in a southern NSW spring or the unpredictability of a Victorian summer, left behind. It all looked so easy, but then I was reminded that a day of beautiful riding and a day of paddling through wetlands, does not a great bike tour make. I was going to have to find more activities and a broader area to make a worthwhile adventure.
Linville along Brisbane Valley Trail
The Charm of Linville
The Brisbane Valley Rail Trail is the longest of its kind in Australia at 160km. It follows the route of the original railway (since removed) from near Ipswich, up to a town called Yarraman. Mostly an unpaved, gravel trail, it has a bike-friendly gradient. This due to being built for an old steam train to climb up the valley. The route passes through farmland, forests and country towns, one of which is the tiny town of Linville.
The Linville Hotel
The Linville Hotel
I remembered this place as a guest on a tour a couple of years ago had recommended it to me. Jane had been on an organized ride of the trail that spent a night in Linville. Some of the group had opted to use their own tents in the campground. Still others had spent the night in the Linville Hotel. I remember she said that this was one of the moments from that ride that really stayed with her. She recalled the friendly manner of the locals in the bar at the Linville. The publicans gave the group a warm welcome after they rolled in from a fun day riding on the trail.
So I called the number for the Linville and got the delightful Leah on the other end of the line. I couldn’t have asked for a more helpful reply. Leah helped me to understand a couple of logistical aspects to the trail in her area. She also took me through the fundamentals of the Linville Hotel, including the appealing menu that can be found in the bar. I could smell the onions on the hot plate by the time she had finished speaking. The Linville earned a place in the itinerary easily.
Platypus along Mary River
The Cute & Unusual Platypus
By this point, we had two nicely contrasting aspects to the tour: the coastal hinterland and the Everglades, juxtaposed with the rustic landscape of the drier Brisbane Valley. As I scoured the map for routes in between the two, I came across Imbil. There I noticed another small section of rail trail. More than that, I noticed mention in someone’s travel notes about the platypus.
I don’t know if everyone else has this experience, but I am often asked by kids under 10, what my favorite animal is. So often am I asked this, that I had to actually give it some thought. The natural choice is the platypus, otherwise known as Ornithorhynchus anatinus. As far as animals go, you aren’t going to find a more unusual creature. Despite it sporting a venomous little spur on its hind legs, it is one of the cutest critters around.
Seeing mention of a platypus in Imbil was enough for me to reach out to the authority on these creatures in the area. Ian Harling takes curious visitors out on the nearby creek in hopes of sighting Anatinus. What a nice bloke Ian is. He was so helpful and welcoming, that just like that, Imbil, the creek, Ian and the platypus all made it into the itinerary. What’s more, Ian gave me a lead for my next item on the to do list. “Ian, would you recommend any accommodation in your area?”. He certainly would as it turns out. That’s how I came across Malcolm and Christine at the Amamoor Lodge.
Members of the Slow Food Network — Noosa Chapter, Malcolm and Christine, run a charming bed & breakfast. The property sits just a bit further along the Mary valley from Imbil in a village called Amamoor. It is neighbored by smallholding farms producing vegetables, beef and even Persimmons. Much of that fresh produce winds up on the table at the Amamoor Lodge. The village is one of the stops on historic steam railway, the Mary Valley Rattler that commences its journey in Gympie. These two lovely people kept the trend going and were very welcoming of our idea to bring groups to stay at their property. They suggested ways in which they could make special allowances to cater for our needs and they assured me that they could fill our stomach’s to a high degree of satisfaction after our days of biking and kayaking the Mary Valley. Their menu changes with the seasons and is full of ingredients locally sourced. After a day out biking and kayaking, that is just what we need.
The Exceptional Bunyas
I was just about to wrap up crafting the new tour itinerary when I got talking to an acquaintance. Some years ago he relocated from Siem Reap Cambodia (my adopted hometown) to Noosa. Jady is an environmental scientist and member of the board with Noosa Biosphere Reserve Foundation. The organisation is responsible for the conservation efforts in the amazing Noosa Everglades among other things. I was speaking with him in the hope that he would give a talk on the Biosphere to our groups (yes he certainly would), but during our conversation, he brought my attention to the Bunya Mountains. I like many people have heard of the Bunya Pine, but aside from having a rough idea of what it looks like, I don’t know a lot else about it. So, I thought I’d better learn.
The Bunya Tree
The research into the Bunya Tree (it’s not really a pine), led me to understand this amazing tree’s significance to the aboriginal inhabitants of the area. That in turn led me to learn about the great Bunya Dreaming corroboree that occurred at the Bunyas once every three years when the trees produced a bumper harvest of the massive Bunya Nut. This led me to learn a little about the indigenous people of the area: the Wakka Wakka and the Gubbi Gubbi. Sadly that led me to understand some of the significant injustices that had been metered out on particularly the Wakka Wakka. They were one of the tribes moved off their land and into the Cherbourg Mission. Well, that is a whole other story. Suffice to say that the community of Cherbourg is one that is making the best of a historically bad situation these days.
The Bunya Mountains are a stunning location and with an elevation of just over 1000 meters above sea level, they have a cool, crisp climate, even in the summer. There are a number of good hiking trails with those on the Eastern side being lush, green rainforest on the western trails being along the cliff tops of drier forest with panoramic vistas. The Bunyas were the missing ingredient to the perfect tour in my mind and so finding the walks here and incorporating them into the tour has really topped it off and I am so pleased to be able to bring this tour to market as it were.
Bunya forest hike
With state borders still being closed as I write this in September of 2020, it looks like our first tour of this diverse and intriguing area will be in the Australian autumn of 2021 (April). As expected, the tour has had a warm reception from our past guests and as a travel experience, I would put it right up there with some of our best rides in Asia. I know that’s a big call. There are no major, well-known highlights in the tour, but that’s the point. It’s all about going deeper into an area that many of us thought we already knew, and surprising ourselves with the beauty of what we find there.
For now, it’s only our Australian guests who will be able to enjoy this tour, but before too long, that will change and our North American friends and those from all over the world will be able to visit Australia. When they do, it will be our pleasure to introduce them to a hidden Noosa — part of Australia that has often been overlooked by international visitors.
See tours in Australia
A special thanks to Visit Noosa (@visitnoosa), @harrisoncandlin, sqct.com.au and Kanu Kapers for sharing some of the above images.