A rewarding drive into the striking Gold Coast hinterland with a worthy prize awaiting the traveller.
In the stunning Gold Coast hinterland, a former dairy farm has been beautifully reimagined into a contemporary country-luxe retreat.
10 December, 2021
It’s a picturesque drive winding up through bush and old growth forest, past old dairies and through historic villages
Behind the ‘Gold’ of one of Queensland’s best-loved holiday destinations is a surfeit of green. If you’re looking for a great drive, whether a day trip or overnighter, point the car west and swap the stop-start Pacific Motorway jams for roads less travelled – the salt-tanged air for a cool mountain breeze. The Gold Coast hinterland remains one of the region’s greatest secrets – a place locals head to to get away from the busy-ness of their tourist hotspot home – to hike the trails, enjoy the milder climate and admire the view of their coastal city from afar.
The traditional lands of the Yugambeh people, the region became a centre for logging in the late 1880s, but the ancient trees that managed to escape the loggers’ axe are now protected in national parks, including the 20, 000-hectare Lamington National Park.
It’s a picturesque drive winding up through bush and old growth forest, past old dairies and through historic villages to reach the verdant Lamington plateau.
Beechmont, (pop 842) named for the white beech that was once felled here, is just 40 kilometres from the Gold Coast or a 100 kilometres from Brisbane, the ideal distance for a drive from either city.
Travelling from the north, and if you’re not in a hurry, get off the motorway at the Oxenford interchange (exit 57) and take the more leisurely route via Tamborine Mountain. Over the decades, the mild climate, lush landscapes and inspiring views here have exerted a magnetic pull for artisans and creators and you might want to factor in time to stroll the boutiques and galleries, visit the craft brewery, the cheesery, or the numerous cellar doors.
If you’re driving from the south, take the Nerang exit near Hinze Dam, where the road climbs and winds from Lower to Upper Beechmont. With 360-degree views that change at every bend, you’ll want to pull over at Roisin Lookout, where the panorama stretches as far as Mt Warning and para-gliders hurl themselves off the escarpment to soar on the thermal currents.
In 2019, bushfires ravaged the region, destroying homes in Beechmont, great swathes of forest and the historic Binna Burra Lodge. The scars have healed surprisingly well though and as you drive through it’s hard to imagine the immediate post-fire devastation.
Just outside the town, at 1000 metres above sea level is Hazelwood Estate, a luxury farm and polo club with accommodation and a restaurant. The property was bought by CEO and founder of Roubler, Andrew Northcott and his wife Claire in 2014 and opened to the public in September this year.
“The intention was for a family weekender, keeping some cattle and training polo horses, but it’s such a beautiful area and we saw the opportunity to share that with visitors,” Andrew says. “Claire and I have a real passion for the region but we also love agriculture and nice food and wine. And from a commercial standpoint, we wanted to build something true to our values that we enjoyed, but was sustainable for generations.”
And so with funding from the QLD government, who were keen to see support the bushfire-affected region and to reactivate tourism, the former dairy farm was reimagined into a contemporary country-luxe retreat.
Sitting 1000 metres above sea level, Hazelwood Estate is a luxury farm and polo club with accommodation and a restaurant.
Chef-in-residence Cameron Mathews, formerly of the Spicers Group has had a stellar career, collecting a swag of accolades
The Northcott’s plan is to regenerate the land and to be carbon neutral and fully off-the-grid within the next 18 months. They’re on their way, with their own solar power plant and a 600,000-litre rainwater tank that fills from water collected from every roof on the property. They’ve also planted over 7000 trees and are practising regenerative agriculture with their wagyu cattle.
Spread across the undulating folds of the property, overlooking a small creek and treed slopes, is the accommodation – 16 cabins and three large ‘pavilions as well as a polo pitch and a day spa. The jewel in the crown, however is Hazelwood’s stand-alone restaurant, ‘Paddock’, a soaring, stone and glass pitched-roof contemporary interpretation of a barn, with bifold doors opening to a wide terrace. Diners are not only on-site guests, but day-tripping gourmands – from car clubs to couples.
Chef-in-residence Cameron Mathews, formerly of the Spicers Group has had a stellar career, collecting a swag of accolades. He employs a 'field to fork’ ethos, building the menu around food sourced from local markets, the property’s market garden and beehives, and the best Australian producers. While this may be a restaurant on a ‘farm’, don’t expect rustic – this is seriously sophisticated food.
To get the full experience, stay the night, have sundowners on the restaurant’s expansive terrace, or inside beside the fire if it’s cool, then settle in for the three-course dinner.
Paddock’s menu changes according to the season, with most dishes featuring the familiar with a twist or surprise. Picked Mooloolaba spanner crab comes in a delicate mussel broth, the sweet flesh tempered by a little acidity from green strawberries, while it’s cabbage rather than a meat protein that heroes on another entrée – slow-roasted and sauced with smoked coconut and garnished with duck ‘crumbs,’ pillowy nuggets of gnocchi is served in a salsa verde with dried olives and ricotta. A coal grill in the kitchen suffuses the dining room with a delicate, appetite–whetting whiff of smokiness and is used to great effect with vegetables, fish and meat.
Servings are generous but sized to allow maximum enjoyment of desserts, from a just-set strawberry gum panna cotta with black olive caramel and strawberries, to a pretty plate of explosively crunchy honeycomb with coconut gelato and smoked chocolate.
The wine list is equally impressive and another persuasive reason to stay the night. Curated by sommelier Luis Buchan, it features bottles from all Australia’s top wine regions as well as European standouts, including Barolo, Chianti and Sancerre.
If you’re there for dinner, perhaps take coffee or a digestive to savour on the terrace to appreciate the incredibly clear, starry sky. If it’s a day trip, make time for a visit to spectacular Lamington National Park, just a few minutes drive away before heading back down to sea level. Either way, your trip into the hinterland will certainly not be your last and you will soon find yourself looking for any excuse to head back un into the hills again.
Curated by sommelier Luis Buchan, the wine list is equally impressive and another persuasive reason to stay the night
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