You don’t have to go too far off the beaten track to experience a new twist on an old favourite on the Sunshine Coast.
Amongst Covid-19 lockdowns and border closures, travel windows have become increasingly narrow.
On a positive note, it’s trained us to be happier with less. Right now I’ll take a short break with a few upgrades over wistfully dreaming of far-off lands – so with a babysitter locked in, my husband and I set out to elevate a regular Sunday night without straying too far.
We’ve upgraded from our aging SUV – manual, which only proves its vintage – to a sexy new Jeep Compass S-Limited, making us feel brand new. Settling myself into the premium new interior, I hit the Push Button Start, effortlessly connect to Apple CarPlay and head for the hinterland with more life upgrades in mind.
Some think of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland as starting and ending with the chain of touristed towns along the Blackall Range – Maleny, Montville and Mapleton – but there’s plenty more to see and do. Though we’re not technically ‘in the hills’, bucolic vistas proliferate as we drive towards Diddillibah for lunch at Guru Life.
Set next to a pick-your-own strawberry farm, overlooking a duck-filled pond, this once-humble roadside coffee stop has evolved into a breezy alfresco space and astro-turfed garden with a stage, playing host to a mix of entertainers including DJs and flamenco guitar soloists.
The menu sways from lightly battered slivers of local snapper loaded with minty mushy peas to twists on Indian staples like the paratha cheesy toasty, with coffee from their own roastery.
Suitably fuelled, blue skies flood the Jeep’s open panoramic sunroof and the Active Lane Management System keeps me in check as I wend towards West Woombye and our destination for the night.
While our camping days aren’t behind us yet, there’s something to be said for a set-up where everything is taken care of – like at Starry Nights, a pair of canvas-wrapped pavilions with hints of luxury.
Owner Shane Nelson ferries our overnight bags in a wheeled trolley as we chat about his own life upgrade from Canberra veterinarian to glamping guru. He and his wife, Nicole, purchased this 17-acre plot – sliced through with Petrie Creek – three years ago, and set about creating a new lifestyle business for themselves. Starry Nights opened in January 2021, and in time, eight tents will be spaced out here.
Drawing only on his high school woodworking experience, Shane built the frames for the tents himself, calling on a canvas maker to create the ‘walls’, which can be rolled up to let the surroundings permeate the mesh. Much of the furniture was also handcrafted after scouring “thousands of Google images” for inspiration, made with large slabs of timber sourced from nearby Bribie Island.
A king bed, flushing toilet, clawfoot bath and rotating central fireplace ensure all creature comforts are catered for, while a small kitchenette and barbecue are available to those who wish to self-cater.
Personally, I’m not here to cook, so we venture out again to put the Jeep Compass through its paces. The winding backroads that link us to lesser-known hamlets like Dulong, Flaxton and Hunchy are a popular route for Sunday drivers, but our commanding grille and thinner headlights show up other models like Miranda Kerr at her high school reunion. We zoom past paddocks of belted galloway cows alongside stately equestrian properties, and pull into lookouts to play eye-spy with the mountains of our coastal backyard.
There are Maleny and Kenilworth cheeses and a bottle of bubbles to be enjoyed back in our tent, so we return to light the fire and enjoy a soak in the tub as the last light of the day ekes away, a bush turkey the only one to see us through the transparent wall.
Most towns are an easy 10-minute drive from here, so we zip into Palmwoods, grab a bottle of wine, and choose from a chalk-scrawled menu that runs one wall of the literally named Pizza Pizza .
We tuck into prawn pizza livened up with fresh chilli and zesty salsa verde and toast to the simple pleasure of eating out.
Returning hand-in-hand along the moonlit path back to our tent, sleep is aided by the crackle of the fire and sounds of the bush. As if knowing our normal toddler wake-up call, a chortling chorus of kookaburras rouses us at 5:40am (just like real camping).
A breakfast hamper is provided, but I can’t resist the pull of a proper coffee at Grounded@Woombye , five minutes’ drive away. Locals converge here most Friday nights for live music, filling the sprawling white-washed house and back courtyard, but it’s the breakfast menu and freshly baked sweet treats that keep it humming on mornings like these.
Our getaway coincides with the 50th birthday of a local icon, so it would be remiss of us not to wish her well.
The on-site Diablo Co pop-up bar helped The Big Pineapple celebrate with a country music festival yesterday, but it’s nice to see her without the crowds, still rocking that same spiky ‘do I circumnavigated as a preschooler in the ‘80s when you could climb to her crown.
These days, the oversized fruit marks the home of Wildlife HQ and a high-ropes TreeTop Challenge, but a pending site redevelopment will ensure her heyday didn’t start and end with Charles and Princess Diana’s visit in 1983.
Settling back into the leather bucket seats of the Jeep Compass I muse that perhaps that’s the real secret to a fruitful life: a little upgrade to drive us on.
About the Jeep Compass
The reimagined Jeep Compass sees Australia’s compact SUV segment and raises the bar with unparalleled off-road capability, premium finishes and a redesigned interior.
Proving the makeover runs deeper than aesthetics, it handles any conditions thrown at it with Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) across the range, and loads on the tech with features including a 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 infotainment system, wireless charging and hands-free power lift gate.
Featuring a premium, sporty design, the refined Jeep Compass S-Limited is priced from $46,950 and is available in Jeep dealerships now.
The sleek, 19” multi-spoke alloy wheels, LED lighting and sunroof on the head-turning exterior; the nifty 360-degree camera, which makes parallel parking a cinch; and elevated interior featuring the 10.1-inch Uconnect 5 infotainment system, making navigating less-travelled roads all the more fun.