A HEAVENLY Hawaiian girl is dancing the hula on the dashboard as I bounce along in the back of a Teale-coloured kombi, circa 1966. The sun is threatening to set over the Noosa River, where a cheeky chorus of rainbow lorikeets is chattering like a gaggle of Hastings Street gossips. It’s been a scorching autumn day and I grasp for the breeze on my face as we chug along into the cooling evening.
Even Elani, the hula girl, appears to nod in approval, as does Old Skool Kombis owner Scott Montague, whose hands are wrapped lovingly around the huge, white wheel as if it is precious cargo. Valued at $70,000, this retro ride takes up to eight passengers on tours of Noosa, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, the coast road from Noosa to Coolum or custom-made trips from anything to a private picnic to a surfing safari.
“I make sure passengers enjoy it and it’s relaxed because that’s what kombis are all about,” Scott says.
“It was always my passion. I’ve always had kombis and I turned it into a business to pay for it. Everybody loves them around Noosa, it’s an iconic surf wheel.”
Fortune favours the brave. And on this balmy evening, arriving at our Noosaville destination, fortune also flavours the brave. I have the great privilege of attending the official opening of Fortune Distillery, Noosa’s only distillery providing Australian spirits. It’s adjacent to their Land and Sea Brewery, which opened 14 months ago, and which boasts Harley and Honda motorcycles above the bar, and old-fashioned pinball machines and a surfboard or two in the corners.
On this edgy evening, there’s a tattooed muso perched on the back of a 1954 fully, restored old school Chevy from the United States. Slick? You ain’t seen nothing yet. On the menu there’s a white malt as well as a vodka, but it’s the signature dry gin which uses eight botanicals, including North Queensland honey dew melon, which steals the show here. The dudes behind the distillery are all pointy shoes, hairy faces and tattoos but say this new venture is less about the hipster set and more about the next stage of life.
Brand Creator Tim Crabtree says he launched Land and Sea as Noosa was calling out for a lifestyle-based brewery.
“We live in Noosa, it’s a beautiful part of the world, we go to the beach all day, and eat fine food, nothing sets it off like a beautiful craft beer,” he says.
“The plan was to expand our range while keeping a similar sort of ethos…let’s create a spirit brand that echoes the same sort of lifestyle. There’s an element of fun, personality and hijinks in the brand.
“Let’s take our Land and Sea customers and move them on 15 years where they wear fine clothes and drink fine drinks.
“It’s also aspirational, it’s chasing the dream a little bit.”
At this point in the conversation I pause and wonder why I’m still stuck in the craft beer phase, when I should be wearing fine clothes and drinking fine drinks. Hell, I should have a Noosa beach house by now. I decide it’s best that I take another sip of that fine gin while I contemplate what I’ve been doing with my life.
What I do know is that I’m in Noosa previewing the Noosa Food and Wine Festival which will be held from May 16 to 20. Fortune Distillery will be there, collaborating with local businesses such as the Peter Phillips Gallery which will showcase a retrospective of renowned pop artist Peter Phillips. It’s the first time the Noosa Food and Wine Festival, in its 16th year, has explored art and food together and to celebrate, Fortune will be releasing a Peter Phillips gin. Two events will be staged at the gallery over the weekend where celebrated chef Josh Lopez will create a six-canape course inspired by six decades of Peter’s work. At the second event, a full degustation menu which also pays homage to Peter’s work will be served on this beautiful acreage property.
There’s much to ponder on this Indian summer evening as I jump back into the kombi just in time to snatch a Neapolitan sunset. We chug back along the river, taking a brief detour to witness the renovated boardwalk from Hastings Street to Noosa National Park. Warm salt air wiggles through the window and the boardwalk is lit up with fairy lights. It feels like Christmas. We dine on Fraser Island spanner crab risotto with sea urchin butter at Locale, one of the restaurants which will be involved in the Noosa Food and Wine Festival Noir Noosa event, a black-tie dinner along Hastings Street which will celebrate Moet and Chandan’s 150th anniversary. Sated by all this talk of food, and the fab food itself, we wander back to our hotel, the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort, which is not only a stylish stalwart of the Noosa scene, but also of the Noosa Food and Wine Festival itself, hosting a number of swanky events.
Noosa Food and Wine Festival Director Sheridah Puttick says there are some exciting additions to this year’s event. Expect a Noosa-inspired cocktail called Tan Lines; the new exclusive River Lounge; the Red Snapper brunch serving gin Bloody Marys; and chefs from Bikini in Bali’s Seminyak. The highlight which catches my eye, however, is the industry day on the Monday, where Australia’s leading food rescue charity OzHarvest will create a brunch from festival leftovers for the hospitality industry. In fact, all of the food left over from the festival village itself is recycled by OzHarvest.
Sheridah says the Noosa Food and Wine Festival is about sustainability and building on the natural beauty of Noosa.
“It is about supporting our local industry. A lot of our businesses are in hospitality or accommodation,” she says.
“For me, it is about working with passionate people.”
The Noosa Food and Wine Festival will be held from May 16 to 20 http://www.noosafoodandwine.com.au
• Stay at the Sofitel Noosa Pacific Resort http://www.sofitelnoosapacificresort.com.au
• Travel around the region with Old Skool Kombis http://www.oldskoolkombisnoosa.com.au
• The Peter Phillips Gallery will be open to event ticket holders or by private appointment http://www.peterphillips.com
• Check out Fortune Distillery http://www.noosaheadsdistillery.com/fortune; and Locale Noosa http://www.localenoosa.com.au
The Global Goddess was a guest of Tourism Noosa http://www.visitnoosa.com.au
I AM cycling along Caloundra’s Coastal Pathway, scavenging snippets of conversation from the people I pass, like a cheeky seagull snatching fish and chips. On this wondrous winter day, someone is pontificating the benefits of full cream milk versus skim. I glide past without catching the answer. The air is seasoned with sea salt and pine needles on this retro ride which takes me from Moffat to Shelley Beach, and back pedals 50 years to when the Sunshine Coast was known as the Near North Coast and no one drank skim milk, nor did they smash avocadoes.
My journey back in time begins in a baby blue kombi van which dates back to 1962 as we wind our way from Maroochydore, Alexandra Headland and through Mooloolaba to Caloundra. The Eagles are crooning Peaceful Easy Feeling and I alternate between staring at the ocean and our long-haired driver Michael Turner, whose blonde locks speak of surf and sunshine. In Michael’s Deluxe Kombi Service, you can perch on a bench seat of a split screen Kombi, without a seat belt, open the sunroof and invite the Sunshine Coast in. After he’s dropped us at our accommodation, Michael plans a sneaky swim before his next appointment. Michael is my kind of man.
We arrive at Rumba Beach Resort, which was once the site of a former Salvation Army summer holiday camp, but these days boasts boutique one, two and three bedroom apartments which maintain that old-fashioned hospitality. Upon arrival, you’ll receive a “Rise and Shine” card which entitles you to complimentary coffee and muffins on your first morning. General Manager Bill Darby says Caloundra still carries a “country town” feeling where you can park the car and not touch it for a week.
“Caloundra is a relaxing, Queensland seaside holiday. It is not the kind of place where you feel you have to get dressed up,” he says.
“It is just beautiful. It is vintage. It is going through that renaissance.”
Over at Caloundra House Boats, Bruce Boucaut is putting the finishing touches to Australia’s first “water glamper”, a floating camping site with all of the benefits of land glamping, and which will be located anywhere in the inshore waters around Caloundra and the Pumicestone Passage. We eat afternoon tea Sunshine Coast style – Moreton Bay Bugs, Mooloolaba prawns and locally-caught sand crab – while Bruce shows us his latest projects, as well as a house boat which is already in operation and ideal for a weekend on Caloundra’s calm waters. Bruce will even pop over with a seafood platter for you, should you so desire. This is pure seduction, Sunshine Coast style.
It’s all hops and hipsters at the Moffat Beach Brewing Company whose brews have recently picked up one gold and two silvers in the National Beer Awards. In this casual, retro setting (there’s even a Space Invader machine), you’ll find the likes of Psychotic Girl, Hipster Doofus and Fu-Manchu on tap here. Owner and brewer Matt Wilson opened the café five years ago and immediately installed beer taps as “there was nowhere to get a beer around here.”
“I started brewing at home to educate myself,” he says.
“We thought we would do something different and it has worked for us. We wanted and needed to be different. That’s the opening we saw.”
Pull up a perch, have a coldie with Matt and watch the blue waters of Moffat Beach.
Later that night I find myself in Spinners Bar & Bowl, one of Caloundra’s newest attractions, which offers state-of-the-art ten-pin bowling facilities and a juke box with retro selections to convince you leap on to the dance floor replete with smoke machine. The joint is pumping with a colourful crowd which likes to adorn itself with piercings and tattoos. Fifty years ago, only sailors had tattoos and pirates wore earrings. (I’ve never actually met a pirate but I’m sure I’d find them fascinating). I feel slightly underdressed with no ink and only two modest ear piercings but with a bar and pizza menu to boot, pretty soon I am walking on sunshine on this journey through time with my new mates.
The next morning, it’s breakfast at Sandbar Café Kiosk overlooking Pumicestone Passage before we kit up and head across the passage with Fishing Australia’s Rob Paxevanos, an Aussie angling expert. There’s plenty of boat hire operators around these parts and the bream, flathead and whiting are apparently biting. I spend a good hour lure fishing from the beach off the tip of Bribie Island with a pitying pelican the only witness to my fishing frustration. Actually, I haven’t felt this calm in ages, simply standing on the shore, the sun on my back and the breeze in my hair. I’m fully focused on my fishing and I realise it’s just like a meditation class, with a pole. I haven’t jagged any fish but I reckon I’ve caught Sunshine Coast fever, and like so many Brisbanites over the past 50 years, I’ll be back.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Sunshine Coast Tourism http://www.visitsunshinecoast.com; and Tourism Queensland http://www.queensland.com
FOR one week every year, one magical week between Christmas and New Year, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland behind the tiny township of Woodford, exists the People’s Republic of Woodford. The Woodford Festival. If you’re looking for an antidote to a frenetic year, a chance to recharge your batteries, to find a destination that for one week only represents the way the world should be, head to “Woodfordia” where reality is suspended, if only for the briefest of times.
On this beautiful 200 hectare environmental parkland, which has withstood the scourge of floods and scorching summers, people are nicer to each other, they dance, laugh and sing. Talk to complete strangers. Engage in debates about the universe, global warming, coal seam gas, fracking, and euthanasia. Dance under huge tents, play the bongos, dine on exotic cuisine, strum guitars, learn how to paint, draw and craft things. They hug trees, hug each other. Trek to the top of the hill and honour the last sunset of the year and the first sunrise of the next. Sit under the Southern Cross and in a huge bush ampitheatre indulge in that unmistakable Australian sound emanating from new bands. Discover foreign groups. Honour the Indigenous custodians of the land in Jinibara Country on which they sit. Chat around the campsite.
If the Woodford Folk Festival isn’t Utopia, then it’s about as close to Nirvana as you will find. What other place on the planet do you line up to fill your recycled bottle with rainwater to discover the person in front has already paid for it? This is a destination where paying it forward looms large. Egos are suspended. Bonhomie reigns. The Global Goddess has been attending Woodford for about a decade, at first apprehensive that it was a bit of a hippie festival with which she would have no connection. Back in the early days I didn’t camp but drove home to Brisbane every night to the comfort of a warm shower and a soft bed. As the years wore on, I started out in a basic tent pitched in the campsite of my friends. I slept like the dead, to the sounds of distant beating drums. I awoke each morning to the cacophony of the Aussie bush.
These days, we’ve upgraded, our site becoming more sophisticated as we sleep in a campervan, our friends in a Kombi, a tarp strung between the two, mapping out our home for the week. There’s Moet in the esky and aged cheese and strawberries in the fridge. We eat fancy pancakes for breakfast. Brew real coffee. And sit down and pour over the program and plan the day ahead. This year’s program, just released late last week, promises to be a corker. Highlights of this year’s festival include singers Beth Orton, Tim Finn and Clare Bowditch; Environmentalist Professor Ian Lowe; former politician Bob Hawke and, yet-to-be-confirmed Malcolm Turnbull; comedian Denise Scott; writer Blanch D’Alpuget.
And there’s some acts always worth revisiting among the diverse performance venues on the site. The Global Goddess likes to spend her time in the Blue Lotus tent listening to talks on spirituality. Sometimes I sit on the hill and watch stunning Spaniards introduce me to fast and frenetic music with a tinge of Hawaii Five’O. Other days, it’s in Bills Bar you’ll find me, people watching as much as music listening, having a cold beer before heading down the hill to the Blues Tent. A couple of belly laughs in the Comedy Tent is also a nice way to end the evening and as I stumble back to camp to the glow of paper lanterns, I’m likely to stop several times, for a tea and a carob ball in the Chai Tent, a cold drink in the Pineapple Lounge, a bit of jazz, a circus act, some Indian or Tibetan music along the way.
Last year’s festival saw 2,200 artists and musicians perform across 25 venues to an audience of 113,000 people over that wonderful week. A steady program of tree planting over the years, in which attendees can “adopt” a tree, has resulted in the 101,000th tree planted in Woodfordia soil this year. Some years there’s dust. Others, it rains and there’s mud. Bring your gum boots. Embrace nature and creativity. Random acts of music. Robust acts of kindness. That’s my idea of Utopia. What’s yours?
For more information on the Woodford Festival please visit http://www.woodfordfolkfestival.com