The Eco-Traveler: Exploring the Sunshine Coast Hinterland


The Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia is a popular holiday destination. It’s easy to see the appeal, with lovely beaches and national parks alongside good restaurants and boutique shops. Perhaps most famously, it’s home to Australia Zoo, made popular by Steve Irwin the “Crocodile Hunter”. It’s an area that is gorgeous in its natural beauty and although it has avoided the high-rise monstrosities of the Gold Coast south of Brisbane, it’s hardly an undeveloped paradise.

In the hinterland it’s a different story. As you travel inland, you leave the beautiful beaches behind but also the suburban shopping malls and resorts. Instead you trade it for the breathtaking sight of the Glasshouse Mountains and eco-villages such as Crystal Waters Permaculture Village near Maleny.

Permaculture is a system of sustainable farming – or gardening, depending on the scale – that combines regular organic principles with an extra design layer. The key is to design the garden so that it works as an eco-system and is self-balancing and self-sustaining. Permaculture principles can be applied as effectively in an urban garden as a family farm.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should say that I lived in Crystal Waters for a year when I was in high school and I have several family members there. To me, it’s not a tourist destination but part of my family heritage.

However, it’s certainly open to visitors. It’s best to make contact in advance as it’s difficult to see what’s going on without a tour. But it’s worth the effort. You can stay in the visitor’s area as a paying guest and it’s a wonderful place to relax for a few days – swimming in the waterholes or “billabongs” in the Mary River, watching wallabies feed at dawn and dusk, visiting the monthly markets in the village area, and exploring the surrounding rainforest. Or, if you want to learn more about permaculture you can exchange volunteer labor in return for lodging and board as a WWOOFer or “willing worker on organic farms”.

Of course, you don’t have to go all the way to Australia to learn about permaculture – it’s a worldwide movement and wherever you are living, from Costa Rica to Cardiff, Wales, there are plenty of opportunities to learn.

Image: britannica