For all of Eumundi’s many charms, it’s the town’s legendary markets that have undeniably stamped this hinterland gem firmly on the national tourist map.
It began with a cake stall back in 1979 at the Country Women’s Association. Clearly, those ladies really knew how to bake – trade was so brisk that the Eumundi Historical Society put out the call to surrounding growers and makers and soon established the Original Eumundi Markets.
The rest is well and truly history, and the markets are now synonymous with the town itself. With hundreds of stallholders and tens of thousands of visitors each year, the Eumundi Markets precinct is a nationally renowned tourist mecca. It showcases a collection of wares from the region’s most talented artisans, creatives, growers, designers and producers, as well as from curators of international treasures.
While it seems as though this is one big market, there are in fact several markets operating side by side to create that effect. The Original Eumundi Markets, Eumundi Square, Parkside Markets and The Terraces all operate across the precinct, which is open every Wednesday and Saturday from 7.30am to 2pm. Eumundi Square is also open on Fridays from 8.30am to 1pm.
It’s been a while, I realise, since I was here last. I’m expecting a line-up to get into the car park, or a fairly long walk from my car, but I am pleasantly surprised by the clockwork-like precision of the car parking team and the shady path that leads me quickly towards the action.
There’s a buzz in the air – it could be from the throng of voices, or it could be the birdsong and insect noises emanating from the surrounding countryside – but mingled with the tinkling of wind chimes and the waft of things freshly baked and brewing coffee, it serves to draw me like a magnet towards the gathering crowd of marketgoers.
With a plan to peruse the markets as a whole and chat with some of the stallholders, I’ve optimistically put aside a good couple of hours.
I start at Eumundi Square, which consists of 90 permanent stallholders positioned around a central tree-shaded open-air space from which the upbeat tune of a live guitar soloist emanates.
I’m instantly drawn to a shop called Community Projects Worldwide. Among the plethora of treasures on display here are tiny Rasta dolls, colourful beaded Congolese walk masks, handmade jewellery and baskets, to name but a few. Business owner Pru tells me her fair-trade enterprise, stocking wares sourced from artisans in remote communities in Africa and other parts of the world, was established at the market about 16 years ago, and she has never looked back.
“It’s like a family here,” she tells salt.
Realising that I am at risk of spending my allocated time entirely in one shop, I begin to make my way around the square.
I visit Fabric Society, a textile shop specialising in colourful Indian block printed fabrics, including pure cotton bedspreads, robes, bags and cushions. I meet Mel from Willow and Gypsy, an enchanting shop adorned with dreamcatchers, moon wreaths and wall hangings, all designed and made by Mel, along with some of the most exquisite jewellery, raw stones, and crystals I have ever seen.
At Zephyr, I find a range of floaty pure linen and linen silk clothing and a range of locally made pure cotton muslin mosquito nets, giving the entire space a dream-like feel.
It’s not only women’s clothing featured at these markets; Jed, designer and owner of Voice Clothing, brings a laidback beach-meets-street vibe with his range of men’s clothing made using small exclusive runs of fabric he sources from Java and Bali.
Nature’s Boards is run by a local couple who design and hand make boards and serving platters from camphor laurel timber. The products smell divine and are the colour of rich dark honey.
At 4 Your Petz, I meet an adorable pup called Rolo, who greets me with a smile and invites me to peruse the range of pet accessories he has on offer. His humans tell me the majority of their products are made locally, including beautiful twisted leashes, bandanas, shampoos, conditioners, and doggie treats.
Wendy at Shop 101 for Hats Galore has everything from beanies to peaky blinders, to the Afroblonde range, made from old truck canvases. She also has Southern Edge Ponchos from New Zealand, spun from possum, merino and silk.
Chez Provence offers French table linen and soaps sourced directly from Nice in France. One of the bestsellers is the Savon de Marseilles – the soap of Marseilles – made the same way for 300 years, with olive oil and Mediterranean salt water.
Meri, at Noosa Bed Body Baby, tells me that with her range of bamboo and organic cotton sheets and babywear, “the emphasis is on sustainability and products that are good for your skin and good for the planet”.
A range of luxury moisturising soaps, shaving soaps, shampoo and conditioning bars, beard oils and balms, all made locally from scratch at Boreen Point, are on display at Salt Lake Soaps, while Soul Potions Noosa offers pure essential oils with an emphasis on native local ingredients.
I chat with Heidi at Eclectic Dreams, who designs unique upcycled denim jackets and other pieces, creating new designs using all sorts of motives from art nouveau to Alice in Wonderland.
I’m already out of time, and I haven’t left Eumundi Square yet. I’ve only managed to see a fraction of the stalls here, having grossly underestimated the sheer number of fascinating, unusual, beautiful and enthralling ranges of homewares, clothing, artwork, jewellery and gift shops to browse through.
I walk briskly into the Original Eumundi Markets section with the purpose of finding lunch. I am instantly distracted by a man expertly coating macadamias, cashews and peanuts with warm caramel. The assistant gives me a taste of each, and I am sold on all of them, tossing three bags into my newly purchased large handwoven Kenyan basket (“perfect for market shopping”, Pru assured me).
I find myself lured into the Aladdin’s cave of stalls in this area that offer more treasures and delicacies than I ever imagined, from pottery, produce and paintings to jewellery, clothing and curios.
The motto here is ‘Make it, Bake it, Sew it, Grow it’, and each maker and grower reflects that individualism to a tee. Who could have imagined you could have so many stalls, and none of them the same?
I desperately want to visit the fortune teller, but that will have to wait for my next visit. A reflexology foot massage would be nice, too (note to self: way more time required).
There is simply too much food to choose from. I am torn between dim sims, Hungarian street food, Turkish gozleme, gourmet calamari and roesti. I decide on a roesti and salad, and it’s delicious.
My two hours were up about an hour and a half ago, and I have only seen, tasted and experienced a small portion of what is on offer here. The unmistakable strains of a didgeridoo mix with a harmonica to produce a soulful soundtrack for my exit, and I vow to return very soon, allowing an entire day at least.
I’ll be back, Eumundi Markets, and I’ll make sure to bring my basket.