Head for the hinterland

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Shopping at Mount Tamborine
Shopping at Mount Tamborine

Byron Bay’s hinterland is famous for being home to some of Australia’s most creative artists, writers and musicians, the Gold Coast hinterland attracts just as many – but without any of the fanfare. Who knew it: these mountains west of Surfers Paradise are full of tiny villages with bustling arts and crafts markets and art galleries and studios.

It’s been like this 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.

They’re easy to access too. Mount Tamborine is the epicentre for hinterland arts and crafts and it’s only a 25-minute drive west off the Pacific Motorway. And there’s more to see in tiny hamlets sprinkled across the mountains, and south to Murwillumbah.

Mount Tamborine

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. The Gallery Walk in Mount Tamborine has more than 60 arts and crafts stores on one street (Long Road). There’s everything here from fashion boutiques to bohemian jewellery stores to bring out your inner hippy (Mount Tamborine is a south-east Queensland alternative lifestyle hot-spot). There are quirky cafes and restaurants too, making it ideal for a day visit. If you’re looking to explore beyond the Gallery Walk, there are art galleries throughout the Mount Tamborine area, most in the rainforest. The Arthur Hamblin Gallery is set in the region’s prettiest winery, Cedar Creek Estate Vineyard & Winery. Come for lunch and a tasting as you view the works of Hamblin, the father of Australian outback art. For the best views in the area, head to 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.

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To watch artists as they work in their forest studios, consider an art tour, such as 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.

Tweed Regional Gallery
Tweed Regional Gallery

Mudgeeraba and Springbrook

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. This year’s awards run between 27 June and 8 July.

Springbrook is one of the hinterland’s best-known regional villages and its tiny main street is home to the region’s quirkiest 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 arts and crafts.


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.  

Written by Craig Tansley. Photos: Getty
March 20, 2018

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