Life & Style Weekend - - ESCAPE - WORDS: CHAN­TAY LO­GAN For more itin­er­ary ideas go to vis­it­sun­

It be­gins when boy meets girl. In a land far, far away — Ra­jasthan, In­dia, to be pre­cise — am­bi­tious young hos­pi­tal­ity pro Ali Khan chances on Xochi Lind­holm as he’s about to be­gin build­ing his dream ho­tel.

Xochi, born in Queens­land but raised in Swe­den, helps ful­fil his vi­sion and they fall for each other while open­ing Ho­tel Helsinki House. The cou­ple even­tu­ally set­tle in a se­cluded slice of the Sun­shine Coast hin­ter­land to raise their fam­ily, run­ning the bou­tique Nar­rows Es­cape in Montville.

If our open-hearted hosts have their way, it’ll be happy end­ings all round.

They set the tone for what is un­de­ni­ably a love story. A for­est fairy­tale play­ing out on cush­ion-loaded ham­mocks hid­den in the trees and over long, dark nights cud­dled by rus­tic log fires.

Vis­it­ing Nar­rows with my part­ner on a de­li­ciously crisp win­ter week­end, the woo­ing be­gins the mo­ment we’re led to our free­stand­ing pavil­ion, one of six se­creted along­side a tum­bling creek.

Red roses are propped on the table along­side chilled cham­pagne, there are choco­lates on the pil­lows, can­dles in the bath­room and a soft sound­track.

One of the first things we do is fill up the deep spa and lie back in a dream of leaf­dap­pled

light, soak­ing up a view reserved for two through the many win­dows.

Guests can while away the hours with on­prop­erty walks, a movie li­brary lib­er­ally laced with rom-coms, a dip in the salt­wa­ter pool and in-room mas­sages.

With warm, but­tery crois­sants dis­cretely dropped at the door each morn­ing and a brim­ming break­fast bas­ket there’s lit­tle rea­son to budge be­fore lunch.

Montville, the hin­ter­land’s cul­tural heart, is just five min­utes down the road and its hap­pily hum­ming main street is crammed with culi­nary temp­ta­tion — and they do say there’s no faster way to the heart.

Cafes with sweep­ing views to the coast are dot­ted be­tween gal­leries and gift shops on the pic­turesque pa­rade, but we’re be­ing treated at the celebrity-chef-in­spired Al­ti­tude on Montville.

A quiet spot to take in the val­ley vista framed through floor-to-ceil­ing glass, warmed by an equally hyp­no­tis­ing fire, chef Matt Golin­ski’s lo­cal in­flu­ence de­fines the sat­is­fy­ing menu.

We mop up gooey baked lo­cal brie with toasty sour­dough and savour grilled Mooloolaba prawns on silky saf­fron risotto.

The hearty hos­pi­tal­ity con­tin­ues at Wild Rocket at Misty’s Mi­cro Brew­ery, which oc­cu­pies one of the most historic build­ings in Montville.

Re­pur­posed into a restau­rant by UK chef Peter Bret­tell and his wife Belinda, the for­mer Fancy Goods & Lolly Shop has re­tained ev­ery ounce of its choco­late-box charm.

From the beef sausages to the bread to the jam slathered on oven-warm scones, ev­ery­thing is made on-site. We dine by can­dle­light in a cosy sec­ond-storey nook, in­ter­rupt­ing a round of red wine to sam­ple an ale from the restau­rant’s own mi­cro­brew­ery.

There’s even more to love at free-spir­ited Montville, where we ex­pand our ex­plo­rations the next day.

A 15-minute drive spiralling through green pas­ture dot­ted with cows and punc­tu­ated by peek-a-boo per­spec­tives of the Glass House Moun­tains brings us to Spa Anise.

You don’t have to stay at the sur­round­ing

Spicers Ta­marind Re­treat (al­though that would be rather nice) to get a taste of this sooth­ing spa sanc­tu­ary.

Coax­ing calm with ar­chi­tec­ture that echoes the best spas in Asia, we’re not the only robed-up cou­ple re­lax­ing in the lounge. With dou­ble treat­ment rooms, no­body need miss out on a mus­cle-melt­ing mas­sage or fra­grant foot­bath.

What­ever your plea­sure, try to swing a ses­sion in the hy­drother­apy room first. We float in the for­est in the open-air min­er­alised spa, with a rain shower and steam room to pro­long the pam­per­ing.

Our heads are still in the clouds when we ar­rive for lunch at Brouhaha Brew­ery and swap the herbal tea for some­thing with a lit­tle more grunt.

Great beer is ex­pected when you’re at the source (and I adore the playful straw­berry and rhubarb sour), but the hy­per-lo­cal menu is equally im­pres­sive.

We nib­ble on seared Noosa scal­lops spooned with Fraser Isle span­ner crab and crispy HUM honey ba­con on to fanned shells, and dig into supremely sat­is­fy­ing milk stout and Maleny wagyu bangers and mash with pump­kin jam.

It’s a two-way street. Brouhaha shares the spent grain they use to make their beer with Maleny Wagyu, who then feed the grain to their cat­tle. The cir­cle of life in ac­tion.

If you can pass up the likes of sticky tof­fee and beer pud­ding, me­an­der down Maple Street for an­other sweet sur­prise.

Choose from a rain­bow of Maleny Food Co’s ac­claimed ge­lato or build a plat­ter from a fro­magerie stocked with more than 200 cheeses.

On the road again, we find our­selves on the most in­ef­fi­cient of routes — a be­guil­ing view around ev­ery cor­ner threat­ens to de­rail our progress to Maleny Botanic Gar­dens and Bird World.

While it seems each glimpse of the Glasshouse Moun­tains is more beau­ti­ful than the last, it’s worth wait­ing for what must be the finest. Flow­ing from tiered flower beds and re­flected in lake sur­faces, the pri­vately owned gar­dens frame layer upon layer of the panorama.

The par­cel of 44 scenic hectares was once the sole pre­serve of some very lucky cat­tle, but a hand-built net­work of man­i­cured gar­dens and flower beds, wa­ter­falls, rock walls, ponds, bridges and walk­ing trails now shares the love with the rest of the world.

The man re­spon­si­ble for this in­cred­i­ble feat bounces up in a buggy to of­fer a tour. Fuss-free and qui­etly spo­ken, owner Frank Shipp de­rives gen­uine joy in guests’ re­ac­tions to his cre­ation.

And he’s far from done. As we whiz by the big­gest va­ri­ety of plants in Aus­tralia and some of the rarest cy­cads in the world, he points out what will be the coun­try’s largest rose gar­den and a dozen other day­dreams in the mak­ing.

It’s hard to miss the colour and ca­coph­ony of the gi­ant walkthroug­h aviary, alive with around 700 finches, South Amer­i­can conures, pea­cocks and par­rots.

Some of the aviary’s res­i­dents — most of them res­cue birds — are en­thu­si­as­tic in their at­ten­tions, but shred­ded shoelaces are a price I’m will­ing to pay to cradle a fluffy-cheeked baby macaw.

Just when it seems ro­mance will take a back­seat to this joy­ful, flap­ping, squawk­ing (ad­mit­tedly, mostly from me) flight of fancy, it’s back to be­ing two.

The prop­erty is pep­pered with gaze­bos, pic­nic spots and seats screened from pry­ing eyes, so even on the busiest days it’s easy to find a place to pause over a treat from the cafe. We de­vour Devon­shire tea on the edge of an es­carp­ment, wa­ter­fall bur­bling in the back­ground and flow­ers in the fore.

It’s hard to think of a more likely set­ting for a love story to start.

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