This article was first published on More Gold Coast - your insider's guide to the Gold Coast.
Mount Tamborine is the green behind the gold, is less than an hour's drive away from Surfers Paradise and is filled with rainforest, waterfalls and fantastic food and wine.
It' s a food lover's hunting ground with verdant market gardens, primary producers, farmers' roadside stalls, neat cafes and award-winning restaurants. Come with us on a discovery tour of Mount Tamborine, then take a drive there yourself to discover more.
Tamborine Cooking School
There's no better way to become acquainted with local produce than to cook with it! Tamborine Cooking School is run by Terri Taylor, a classically-trained chef, in the comfort of her purpose-built kitchen. Terri's sprawling Queenslander is set on two acres of land, much of it a well-tended garden on the edge of an escarpment. Take in the expansive views from the western veranda across the valley towards Beaudesert, before retreating inside for a steaming cup of local coffee!
Terri completes some of the time-consuming work beforehand, leaving attendees the final prep. As you work you'll be introduced to the local products used in the class (cheese, wine, oil, rhubarb, avocados and kiwifruit; all products of mountain farmers) as Terri answers questions about their seasonality and where to buy them.
Whether you are a novice or accomplished cook, there is something new for everyone to experience, interesting people to meet, and new tastes to try. Best of all there's a subtle transmission of knowledge, experience and ideology which takes place.
Tamborine Mountain Distillery
Founded in 1998 by Michael and Alla Ward, the fame of the Tamborine Mountain Distillery now reaches down from the mountain to the world beyond. Australia's smallest operating pot still distillery is also the most internationally awarded distillery in Australia. Their liqueurs have won the coveted China Wine and Spirits 'Liqueur of the Year' Award and the Asia Pacific Spirit Producer of the Year Award.
Tucked away from the road behind gilt iron gates, the Tudor-style distillery and house complex is cute as a button. Built by the Ward family from recycled cedar and stone, it's surrounded by graceful fountains, Greek statues and wildly flourishing gardens. The shop is a little treasure trove of collectibles, many imported, showing off Alla's Ukrainian/Russian heritage.
There's a great range of gifts not seen elsewhere: matryoshka nesting dolls, jewellery, locally made jams, not to mention the TMD liqueurs for sale, each one in a gorgeous hand painted bottle. It's impossible to come away empty-handed.
Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard
The property of former television executive John Pengliss, the Cedar Creek Estate now includes Glow Worm Caves, a wildlife sanctuary, the Queensland Wine Centre, as well as the restaurant and winery. It's very pleasant to enjoy a relaxing meal overlooking the beautiful Wild Duck Lake. Cedar Creek is also a pretty location for a group booking or a wedding.
The Polish Place Restaurant
Phil and Ania Sowter have been operating The Polish Place for over thirty years. Perched on the side of the mountain with stunning views across to Beaudesert, the cafe restaurant serves genuine hearty Polish food and delicious cakes and desserts.
During summer you can dine out on the terrace overlooking the valley below, joined by a flock of noisy lorikeets who'll help you enjoy your meal. Although there are a number of Polish specialties on offer, the duck is highly recommended, however you'll need to pre-order the dish before arrival. Black Forest cake, apple pancakes and hot chocolate are also firm favourites.
Barely a thirty minute drive from the centre of the Gold Coast, Songbirds is one of our most lauded restaurants, the winner of numerous awards and even 'Restaurant of the Year' within its twenty year history. Without doubt, it's one of our most beautiful venues as well, located in gorgeous surroundings in the heart of the rainforest.
Songbirds is only one place where we catch a glimpse of the treasures hidden in the green behind the gold.
Mt Tamborine Coffee
Established almost thirty years ago, the Mt Tamborine Coffee Plantation is now owned by Kees van Rijssen and his wife Maria. Surprisingly, the cafe at the front of the plantation of 1200 trees is only open Monday to Friday.
Bags of beans are available as well as coffee by the cup. We found the flavour dark and mellow with a slight tinge of green on the palate. There's a small range of cakes at the cafe as well, but a tour of the plantation requires prior arrangement.
Witches Chase Cheese Company
For those who love food, a visit to the Witches Chase Cheese Company in Mt Tamborine is a must. The cheese factory is housed with Fortitude Brewing and Long Road Bistro in a large airy complex at one end of the burgeoning tourist mecca, Gallery Walk.
Look through the floor to ceiling glass and watch Head Cheesemaker Adam Papprill hard at work.
There's an impressive range of cheese available at Witches Chase for taste and sale: vintage cheddar, Millsy's cheddar (Bronze Medal 2015 Melbourne Fine Food Awards washed rind, goats' cheese, goat and cow Feta, haloumi, Misty mountain blue, red leicester, Tamambert, or the decadent triple cream brie, a smooth 'melt in your mouth' delight.
You can buy a platter of cheese to share at the venue, fruit pastes or delicious honeyed yoghurt. But the best thing is buying a few of your favourite cheeses and taking them home to share with a bottle of great pinot noir (or even a pint of beer if you must)... This cheese is the food of kings (well, princes anyway), and it's right on our doorstep!
Across the walkway is Fortitude Brewing Company, its huge stainless steel vats housed in a glass-fronted room. Fortitude Brewing Company is a microbrewery founded in Brisbane in 2012 by Gerard Connors, Jim O'Connor and Ian Watson. IPA, Pacer and Golden Ale are bottled on site with the rest of the range available in bottles or flagons. It's a great place to taste the artisan beers on offer, either by the glass or in a paddle of five tasters for $15. There are also pizzas available for purchase, so a session for the locals is not out of the question.
Long Road Bistro, also in the same complex, provides reasonably well-priced bistro and grill food and snacks. We'd filled up on cheese, so some crumbed olives and coffee filled the extra spaces. The atmosphere is relaxed and the service obliging. With more time, we'd stop for a meal in this modern bistro.
With the complex close to the tourist-friendly Gallery Walk, a large car park at one end of the building anticipates the hordes of expected visitors. Without detracting from the delicious cheese or the fine artisan beer or the many points of interest on Gallery Walk, to us Mt Tamborine is so much more. It's about the little gems tucked away in nooks and crannies off side lanes where you are welcomed with a country smile, as makers down tools to tell you about their produce. So, pack your cheese and beer in the esky, get back in the car, and go find those other places on the road less travelled.
Witches Falls Winery
Of the many wineries on Mt Tamborine, Witches Falls is one of the most renowned. Owner Jon Heslop began his life in the wine industry as a cellar hand in a big winery, moving into winemaking in the Hunter Valley eleven years ago. Believing the Granite Belt too far away from major population centres, he set up Witches Falls on Tamborine, bringing fruit grown at Ballandean to Tamborine to be bottled. He loves the Tamborine area for its produce and events.
Witches Falls' Wild Ferment range is barrel fermented for 12 - 18 months to mature. It's worth stepping out from the usual varieties to try the Viognier, Garnacha (Grenache), and Merlot - a strong wine with great structure and firm tannin which would cellar well, and Classic Tawny Port.
Cheese and wine is a marriage made in heaven, and Witches Falls Winery works with Witches Chase Cheese several times every year on cellar door events at the winery. Join the Cellar Door Club to receive event notifications.
Spice of Life
If your accommodation does not include breakfast, you may want to check out Spice of Life in Main St.. Housed in a refurbished two-storey weatherboard house, Spice of Life is hard to miss. Buzzing with activity, the cafe also fulfils the purpose of being a community hub.
If you're hungry, the Big Daddy breakfast is a plateful of eggs, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, hash browns and chipolata sausages. Feeling virtuous? Then head for the Kale Breakfast: pan fried kale, chorizo, sweet potatoes and Spanish onion on flatbread with a balsamic drizzle. Photos of regulars at events in the cafe dot the walls, and there are shelves of cookbooks and gourmet goods for sale. To grab and go, the bakery next door to Spice of Life has hot sausage rolls and pies, bun and lots of retro cakes - all at a local price!
Read more of Marj's reviews on Good Food Gold Coast.
Gold Coast restaurant reviews
Outdoor activities for you and your kids
Gold Coast must-do markets