It’s a sunny spring day and our car is slowly rolling along pretty tree-lined Memorial Drive. The hillside town of Eumundi is bustling. Tourists and locals alike zigzag across the main street, exploring all it has on offer. Smiling and eyes wide, they duck in and out of the boutique stores carrying paper shopping bags filled with aromatic candles, locally penned books and handmade textiles.
It’s a Saturday and the town’s biggest drawcard – the famous Eumundi Markets – is in full swing. Considered to be Australia’s largest arts and craft market, featuring around 600 stalls, the markets span a wide, open space and into the main hub of Eumundi Square. These markets are a vibrant collaboration of artists, designers and foodies who bring a fresh vibe to the charming old town.
It may be small – there are only 1900 people who call Eumundi home – but the town is a thriving arts hub where heritage-listed sites meld with the colourful charm of talented artisans, musicians and community-minded souls.
Eumundi’s roots are deeply planted in the fabric of the Sunshine Coast. The first European residents settled in the region in 1879. Prior to this, the land had been used as part of three cattle runs. When the cattle leases expired, residents sought to secure a parcel of land in the area. A boom of new selectors ensued and by 1885, 47 selections were taken up. As the township was established, land became available and by 1900, shops started to appear. There was a general store, saddler, blacksmiths, bakery, butcher shops, auctioneers and agents.
Eumundi became an important centre of the timber and dairy industries. And with industry comes the workers, and it was the town’s Imperial Hotel that hosted many of these men. Today, the heritage-listed hotel stands tall and proud on Memorial Drive, and its presence is a reminder of the town’s rich history.
Established in 1912, The Imperial Hotel has stood the test of time despite some challenges. Destroyed by fire in 1927, it was rebuilt and has since remained a staple – a hub of community life. Through the decades The Imperial has morphed into an uber-cool venue. I recently read this description, “[It] is what happens when a heritage-listed century-old pub in the heart of Eumundi drops acid, joins a commune, and discovers its inner hippie.” It’s pretty spot on. Yet its old bones, carrying more than a century of secrets, are steadfast.
Despite the busy street, we park the car with ease and make our way into the rear entrance of the sizable pub. It’s been a few years since I set foot into The Imperial – I’ve been missing out!
To our right is the latest addition, the Eumundi Brewery – home of the celebrated handcrafted flagship brews. The onsite addition was built back in August 2017 and gives visitors the chance to not only sample direct from the brewery tanks, but to also indulge in a tour and taste.
Today, however, we are here to wine, dine and immerse ourselves in the grand pub’s history. We turn to the left and wander down a laneway adorned with hanging plants.
On the outside, The Imperial retains its classic Queenslander façade, but once indoors it is a stylish, urban space with bright coloured murals, cute sitting nooks ideal for chatting with friends over a drink, and a blend of contemporary and traditional furniture. Upstairs is an expansive deck overlooking the main street, but we settle downstairs in the parlour-style dining room.
Plate after plate of delicious-smelling food is being delivered to tables, while icy-cold beer splashes into glasses. The menu is a fusion of traditional Aussie pub food, and current food trends – cheddar, jalapeno and black bean corn fritters, karage chicken with kimchi, watermelon poke salad with toasted sesame seeds, tuna tikka masala burger on a charcoal brioche bun. We are in trendy Eumundi after all.
Generally speaking, the Sunshine Coast’s hospitality and entertainment scene has grown in leaps and bounds in the past decade. Hinterland cafes and beachside espresso bars continue to pop up in response to the region’s health-focused lifestyle, and the growing interest in superfood and dietary trends. It’s not difficult to find a nutrient-packed green smoothie or wholesome quinoa salad bowl in this part of Queensland.
But sometimes – if you are anything like me – you crave a little bit of country. Something that reminds you of the good old days. I find there is something soul-warming about walking into a classic pub. The solid timber bars, dated stools, faint beer scent and stock-standard bar mat induce a sense of nostalgia.
My parents met in one of these pubs and enjoyed a loving 35-year marriage, and as a child I spent many summer holiday afternoons with my cousins, munching on packets of Samboy salt and vinegar chips and sipping red lemonade, in a small RSL in the town where my grandparents lived. It was where the 2000-strong community came together to socialise, discuss town issues and host important events.
These venues are a reminder of early community life, standing steadfast against the test of time.
So, with summer days beating down, and sentimentality running through our blood, we figure there is no time like now to celebrate the golden oldies – our quintessential Aussie pubs. What are you waiting for? Hit the road (with a designated driver, of course), explore the Sunshine Coast in all its beauty, and visit some of our oldest pillars of the community. As well as The Imperial, here are a few we think are worth visiting.
Apollonian Pub, Boreen Point
Dating back to Gympie’s gold rush days, this homestead-style building was relocated to the shores of Lake Cootharaba in 1987. The colonial hotel, which has been a popular watering hole since the 1860s, boasts wide verandahs and an outdoor beer garden. Don’t expect any fancy fare, but the beers are cold and the community friendly. Our tip? Get back to basics by joining in on the weekly Sunday spit roast.
Sunshine Coast Council’s heritage department reports the two-storey Beerwah Hotel was built in response to the growing volume of motor traffic passing through town due to the construction of the Bruce Highway in the mid-1930s. “Based on the designs of Brisbane-based architect AT Longland, this hotel was erected in 1937 by L Hammer, replacing an earlier building. Longland was also responsible for the rebuilding of the Hotel Francis in Caloundra,” the heritage report states. The now heritage-listed site is a kid-friendly venue and perfect for those with a penchant for live country music.
Sitting at the entrance to the township, this pub has grown with its community for more than 100 years. In its early days it was the meeting place for farmers, loggers and bullock drivers. Over the bar they debated politics, conducted business and swapped stories. Today, it is patronised by a melting pot of culturally diverse people – artists, tourists, environmentalists and businesspeople. Like most small-town pubs, it has its collection of regulars who say it is the venue’s laid-back, casual atmosphere that brings them back again and again. In addition to the bar, the hotel still boasts old-style accommodation, plus the traditional timber-floor and furnished Bunya Bistro. Personally, I enjoy sitting out in the leafy beer garden to take in the hinterland’s fresh scent and bird chatter. It’s easy to feel a million miles from everyday life. There is no shortage of choices when it comes to food. The menu is one of the biggest I’ve seen, catering to vegans, seafood lovers and those seeking a generous serve of parmy and chips. I recommend digging into the Frenchy parmy with its bacon, camembert, avocado and hollandaise sauce.
My five-year-old son is beating me at a game of Connect Four – for the third time. I’m not sure when he developed this competitive skill, and he is wallowing in his success. Needless to say, it’s a welcome relief for my ego when our meals are placed before us. Never before have I been so pleased to welcome a chicken burger. It is our first visit to the Palmwoods Hotel and I’m loving it – board games, a chilled, child-friendly atmosphere and hearty food. Not to mention wide open windows, comfortable chairs and potted plants hanging from the ceiling. But it is the bar that has really captured my attention. Behind the old-style server are two young women with hearts of gold. Their friendly service, the traditional furnishings and a good-old ‘nothing is too much trouble’ attitude warm my heart. Constructed in response to the growing township and rail services in 1912 as the Railway Hotel, it was renamed as Palmwoods Hotel in 1926. The original two-storey building with lattice-decorated pavilion and wide, open verandahs still stands, and other than a modern lounge bar on ground level, the pub itself retains much of its history. It is the heart of the town and the team behind the locally owned and operated venue pride itself on offering service and values of yesteryear.
As the only pub in Woombye for more than a century, this hotel has a rich history. Constructed as The Criterion Hotel in 1900 by Frederick Schubert, the venue is significant for its historical association with the early commercial development of the town. First known as Middle Camp, Woombye was a significant link in the Brisbane to Gympie route following the discovery of gold in 1867. The road connecting the two towns was completed in October 1868, and by the November, Cobb & Co coaches were ferrying passengers, mail, gold and goods between the two. Middle Camp boasted the only accommodation for passengers along this route. Known as Cobb’s Camp Hotel, the establishment was taken over by Frederick Schubert in 1881. He also purchased 160 acres of land and constructed a store and butcher’s shop, and began further developments. It was the beginning of the Woombye we know and love today. In recent years the pub has been celebrated for its classic architecture, which is reflective of a two-storey country hotel from the turn of the 20th century. The pub has been heritage-listed by Sunshine Coast Council. One thing we know is that this is one pub that will make you feel at home.
A grand old lady with solid bones, this pub is the oldest on the Sunshine Coast. Of course, it’s no surprise considering Yandina’s history. The township dates back to 1853 when pioneers settled in the area following the approval for three cattle runs, which extended northward from the Maroochy and South Maroochy rivers. Timbergetters started to arrive by the late 1860s and a timber-rafting operator became the first selector of Yandina. By 1868 James Lowe had built accommodation, a store and stables. The following year he was granted a publican’s licence and his depot became the Maroochie Hotel – the first commercial centre for the shire. But it was the railway in 1891 that morphed Yandina into a business centre, which soon housed stores, butchers, a blacksmith, post office, police station and boarding house. It was during this era that John Sommer built the Australian Hotel adjacent to the Brisbane-Gympie Road. Wanting to take advantage of the thriving Yandina township, Sommer hitched his hotel to a team of bullocks in 1891 and relocated the building on skids to the Yandina Hotel’s current site. After a number of name changes, and under new ownership, the venue was eventually renamed as Yandina Hotel in 2005. This pub has no airs and graces. What you see is what you get – good old-fashioned service, cold beer and some of the friendliest barflies around the Coast.