Cul­ture-seek­ing in sunny Ma­roochy­dore.


A LOT CAN HAP­PEN in five years. It feels like only yes­ter­day that there were no late-night mu­sic venues on the Sun­shine Coast, and lo­cat­ing a cafe that didn’t be­long to a fran­chise was an im­pos­si­ble mis­sion. The Ma­roochy­dore CBD was in the dol­drums and vis­i­tors to the coast were mostly op­er­at­ing on au­topi­lot, driv­ing straight to Noosa’s golden sands. Try­ing to find a restau­rant with any atmosphere, or be­ing seated af­ter 7pm, was also a chal­lenge. The heart of the coast was equally blessed and cursed, with lo­cal surf clubs and fish and chip shops still re­tain­ing much of the hol­i­day ro­mance – and pa­tron­age – that has kept the place kick­ing since the Sun­shine Coast was of­fi­cially given its sunny moniker 50 years ago. That’s all changed – and the cat­a­lyst was a brownie. Three years ago, baker Alita John­son put the fin­ish­ing touches on one of her cakes and placed it on the counter of the beau­ti­ful new cafe-cumpho­to­graphic gallery she had just opened with part­ner Matthew O’Brien on Ma­roochy­dore’s Ocean Street. In­sta­gram went into melt­down. The sheer cre­ativ­ity lav­ished onto the top of each of her mini brown­ies and baked cheese­cakes – swirls of frost­ing, ed­i­ble petals, crunchy macadamia pra­line and drippy caramel – at TOME were un­matched by even the most fer­vent sweet tooth’s fan­tasy. Monthly night mar­kets had started up a year be­fore on Ocean Street, too – the passion pro­ject of lo­cal not-for-profit, the Ma­roochy­dore Re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (MRA) – to in­ject some life back into the CBD. So, fu­elled by sugar, pop-up bars, and the op­por­tu­nity to em­brace life af­ter dark with two hands, lo­cals and vis­i­tors to the coast sat up and started pay­ing at­ten­tion. “I think the coast has found the value in cre­ativ­ity,” says James Bir­rell, di­rec­tor of Ma­roochy Mu­sic and Visual Arts Fes­ti­val (MMVAF) and vice pres­i­dent of the MRA. “Over the last five years

Events like the Big Pineap­ple Fes­ti­val in the grounds of that iconic ’80s ‘big thing’, have put cre­ativ­ity back on cen­tre stage.

we’ve gone from [be­ing] a place with noth­ing to do to a place where we’re spoiled for choice.” While on one hand the Sun­shine Coast is all about sun, surf and sand, clean eat­ing, SUP yoga, and farm­ers’ mar­kets, on the other, you’ll find chic new whisky bars, lo­cal craft brew­eries, and un­der­ground live mu­sic venues all con­tribut­ing to a new cre­ative un­der­cur­rent, driven by young en­trepreneurs. Events like MMVAF and the Big Pineap­ple Fes­ti­val – a mu­sic fes­ti­val in the grounds of that iconic ’80s ‘big thing’ – have put cre­ativ­ity back on cen­tre stage, and the core of the Sun­shine Coast back on the radar for trav­ellers. “Peo­ple are crav­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and I think events are de­vel­op­ing and jump­ing onto what­ever ex­pe­ri­ences are in vogue,” says James. “We’re re­ally try­ing to put the visual arts on the same pedestal as the mu­sic, which is dif­fi­cult as the au­di­ence is just used to go­ing to a mu­sic fes­ti­val.” Sara Dil­lon, co-owner of Lit­tle Boat Espresso, faced a sim­i­lar chal­lenge when she first opened her Mar­coola cafe. “It took ages for peo­ple to change. I mean, peo­ple would just look at our menu [which in­cludes dishes like okonomiyaki pan­cakes with pork belly for break­fast] and walk away,” she says. “They wouldn’t even give it a go, just be­cause we didn’t want to do bacon and eggs. It was quite heart-wrench­ing at the start, but I just didn’t see the point in do­ing some­thing ev­ery­one else was do­ing, and I still don’t.” Creating mini des­ti­na­tions within the coast – away from the tourist strips of Mooloolaba and Noosa – is what busi­nesses like Lit­tle Boat do best, and when Sara and her busi­ness part­ner, Leon Rus­sell, opened sis­ter cafe, Winnie, in the un­der-the-radar town of Woom­bye in Fe­bru­ary this year, it didn’t take long for word to spread. “On the week­ends we get smashed with peo­ple from Bris­bane com­ing up for day trips,” says Sara. “I guess be­cause it looks cute!” The up­side of the re­newed en­ergy and cre­ativ­ity bub­bling away on the coast is the sense of pride that em­anates from these busi­nesses, and in turn prompts more young lo­cals to have a go. “Rather than peo­ple mov­ing away, which we’ve thought about as well, now I feel like I should stay here and build some­thing,” Sara con­tin­ues.

Build­ing a plat­form to show­case the Sun­shine Coast’s surf his­tory was one of the un­der­ly­ing mo­ti­va­tions for Mitch Sur­man when he and part­ner Bry­die Black­burn (along with friends who have since sold their share) opened Glass Cof­fee House & Surf Gallery in Cot­ton Tree in late 2014. Here, salty-haired pa­trons con­gre­gate un­der um­brel­las out the front or munch on av­o­cado toast in­side, sur­rounded by surf para­pher­na­lia. “I don’t al­ways get time to tell peo­ple why the boards are in the roof,” says Mitch. “But be­cause we have a lot of those boards – one of my friends is a col­lec­tor – we’re able to show­case what was made back then. “There’s such a rich his­tory in surf­board de­sign, and surf­boards in gen­eral, on the coast that I wanted to show­case that and pass it on.” But it’s not just the old logs on dis­play – Mitch is also a surf­board shaper, in­spired by those who came be­fore him and mak­ing his own stamp on the in­dus­try with his MS Surf­boards cre­ations; lined up like nine-foot pieces of art in­side the cafe. Dreamy surf pho­tog­ra­phy by close friend Se­bas­tian Ro­bi­son adorns the walls in large white frames. Hav­ing a place to dis­play their wares was also the driv­ing force for the boys be­hind lo­cal craft beer la­bel, Your Mates Brew­ing Co. Matt Hep­burn and Chris­ten Mc­Garry quit their jobs in 2013 and of­fi­cially launched Your Mates out of a Mof­fat Beach shed in 2015. Since then they’ve sold over 30,000 litres of beer and in Septem­ber last year they seized the op­por­tu­nity to ex­pand their brew­ing em­pire in a dis­used store­room to Nam­bour. What was once the thriv­ing epi­cen­tre of the coast in the 1920s, the old su­gar­cane town suf­fered a stigma for years un­til cre­atives blew out the cob­webs and started open­ing quirky bars, live mu­sic

venues, whole­food cafes and co-work­ing spaces. Hav­ing a beer in The Base­ment feels just like hang­ing out at a friend’s house in the late ’80s. The brick­lined flag­ship is filled with tall con­crete-topped ta­bles and over­stuffed brown leather lounges, while a vinyl col­lec­tion beams out Fleet­wood Mac and Bob Dy­lan and a pool ta­ble takes pride of place. Here the Mates’ full range is poured freely, while also giv­ing a stage to lo­cal mu­si­cians and co­me­di­ans. “I think a lot of peo­ple have un­der­stood that if they ex­press them­selves cre­atively it helps de­fine the iden­tity of the coast and each lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence or art piece or mo­ment that hap­pens helps build that iden­tity,” says MMVAF di­rec­tor, James. “Ev­ery­one’s cel­e­brat­ing cre­ativ­ity and be­com­ing quite en­trepreneurial about it.” Whether mak­ing art with food, craft beer or a mu­sic fes­ti­val, there’s cause for cel­e­bra­tion in this pocket of the coast, with its mag­num opus seem­ingly just around the cor­ner. If you start look­ing, you may be the first to find it.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: Fresh from the waves at Alex Heads; A salty-haired lo­cal; An In­sta­gram-able cake from TOME; Ex­cel­lent Bear Bones Espresso cof­fee at TOME. OP­PO­SITE: Soak up some hol­i­day vibes at Alexan­dra Head­lands.

CLOCK­WISE FROM LEFT: Co-owner of Lit­tle Boat Espresso and Winnie, Sara Dil­lon; Winnie has be­come a des­ti­na­tion cafe for Bris­bane daytrip­pers; Beach­side liv­ing in Alex Heads; A light in­stal­la­tion at MMVAF; An Ocean Street mu­ral; OP­PO­SITE: Nice night for...

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