Head for the hinterland: the Gold Coast creative scene

RoyalAuto magazine

This page contains archived content

To visit the new RoyalAuto website you can use the link below. 

The mountains west of Surfers Paradise are full of tiny villages with a bustling arts scene and brimming with crafts markets.

Story by Craig Tansley.
March 2018.

The beach-fringed shores of the Gold Coast are an inviting prospect any time of year, but when a break from surf and sand is in order, head west to explore the Gold Coast’s thriving creative scene. There’s plenty to see and do in tiny hamlets sprinkled across the mountains. 

The hinterland has been a creative hub since the early 1900s, when writers, poets and artists first started moving to the region, attracted by the rainforests and mountains, the slow pace of life and the milder climate (it’s as much as five degrees cooler here than the coast).

Today, some of Queensland’s best-known artists have galleries and studios here.

Surfers Paradise  beach Gold Coast Queensland

Surfers Paradise.  Photo by Anne Morley

Mount Tamborine

Mount Tamborine is the epicentre for hinterland arts and crafts and it’s only a 25-minute drive west off the Pacific Motorway. Here you’ll find entire villages dedicated to art galleries, and artists’ studios you can drop in on, as well as the best arts and crafts markets in south-east Queensland.

A south-east Queensland alternative lifestyle hot-spot, The Gallery Walk has more than 60 arts and crafts stores on one street (Long Road): from fashion boutiques to bohemian jewellery stores to bring out your inner hippy

Most art galleries throughout the area are situated within the rainforest. The Arthur Hamblin Gallery is set in the region’s prettiest winery, Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard & Winery. Head over for lunch and a tasting as you view the works of Hamblin, the father of Australian outback art.

Painting by Arthur Hamblin. 

To watch artists as they work in their forest studios, consider Ambience on Art Tour or an Art Essence Tour. They’ll pick up from your resort and take you into studio spaces to meet local artists you wouldn’t otherwise get to see, including renowned acrylic painter Louise Grove Wiechers, whose work is exhibited all over Queensland.

Time your visit around a local market – all the colourful characters come out of the forests for it. The Country Markets, held every second Sunday of the month from 8am to 2pm at the Mount Tamborine Showgrounds, best capture the region’s ‘boho’ spirit. Local musicians play while artists sketch and there’s a wide collection of local arts and crafts for sale.

The Local Producers Markets are also worth a visit – they’re held every Sunday morning at the Mount Tamborine Showgrounds.

Best views: 
Hilltop On Tamborine – set among 11 hectares of native bushland with views across to Surfers Paradise. You’ll see the best local art here – with gallery space showcasing artists on a two-week rotation.

Distance from Surfers Paradise: Approximately 45-minute drive.

Eat and drink: Tamborine Mountain DistilleryThree Little Pigs Bar and BistroTea & NicetiesDriftClancy’s Irish Bar and Restaurant


Sunset view of the hinterland.


The best-selling artist in recent Australian history, D’Arcy Doyle, lived in the tiny community of Mudgeeraba. Now each June and July the Mudgeeraba Memorial Hall hosts Australia’s top visual art awards, named in Doyle’s honour. The best landscapes in the country are judged here, and the winning works are hung for the public to see.

Best views:
Head to The Panorama in Tallai for some of the Gold Coast’s best views.

Distance from Surfers Paradise: Approximately 25-minute drive.

Eat and drink: 
MorselsEcostudio FelliniThe Wine BarrelMudjira Village Eatery


Springbrook is one of the hinterland’s best-known regional villages and its tiny main street is home to the region’s most offbeat cafes and art galleries. The artists of the village have come together to form a co-operative, Craft Corner Gallery, to sell their arts and crafts. Local artist Damon Pettit’s studio and gallery, Bushman’s Art, is also home to some of the best local artistic fare.

Distance from Surfers Paradise:
Approximately one-hour drive.

Eat and drink: 
The Fudge ShopDancing Waters CaféThe Lost Fawn Café


Sunset near Murwillumbah. Source: Getty Images

Across the border ...


While it’s located just south of the mountains of the hinterland, Murwillumbah is worth the drive. The road here over the mountains of the Currumbin Valley is the region’s prettiest scenic route – and the Tweed Regional Gallery and Margaret Olley Art Centre is one of Australia’s most acclaimed regional galleries. There are six exhibition spaces here hosting some of the most famous touring international and national exhibitions. The gallery is surrounded by gardens overlooking the Tweed River and Mount Warning.

You’ll also find an art centre commemorating the career of the country’s most celebrated painter of still life and interiors, Margaret Olley. More than 20,000 items from her famous home studio in Sydney have been relocated here for the public to view.  

Distance from Surfers Paradise:
Approximately one-hour drive.

Eat and drink: 
The Balcony RestaurantMavis’s KitchenJuJusKeith


royal pines RACV resort view of Surfers Paradise Gold Coast Queensland

View of Surfers Paradise from RACV Royal Pines Resort.  Photo by Anne Morley

Book a summer break at the RACV Royal Pines Resort and take advantage of some great member rates