It’s 10am on a bright spring Saturday morning and as I ease my car into a rare free spot not far from the main street of Eumundi, I’m sure I can hear the thrum of the crowd from the iconic Saturday markets.
As my companions and I head down towards the town centre, we’re swept along by the crowd of families and couples, teenagers and grandparents, locals and visitors.
It’s easy, on days like this, to forget that Eumundi has a lot more to offer than just the markets. I have to admit it’s been a while since I’ve been here during the week. It was probably about five years ago that I visited on a Monday – an indulgent, child-free day when I browsed the bookshop and had a leisurely coffee in a cafe that I pretty much had to myself.
Wendy Birrell is the manager of Discover Eumundi Heritage & Visitor Centre and she assures me that there is a lot going on in the town. Wendy encourages Sunshine Coast locals and visitors (whether they are there on market day or not) to head straight into the centre when they arrive. “If they are wanting to know what to do in the town, we’ve got our finger on the pulse.”
Staffed by a team that are largely volunteers, the centre is open six days a week (it is closed on Sundays). And it isn’t just a great place to discover what to do in Eumundi – it also houses a treasure trove of artefacts related to the region. “Unlike some museums we only collect things that relate directly to Eumundi,” says Wendy. “We know exactly who owned them and who used them.”
It’s also where you’ll find Wan’din’in Arts Space, which opened three and a half years ago to showcase art that, says Wendy, is created by artists predominantly from the Sunshine Coast, Noosa and Gympie.
Wendy has lived in the region for 23 years and she tells me the town has changed in that time (what parts of the Coast haven’t?), but for the most part has reassuringly stayed the same. “Certainly there has been a large increase in population and a lot of tree changers. There has been an influx of new people. But I think Eumundi is quite lovely in the fact that, in the main street especially, the houses and building still have a nice feel. There are not a lot of new buildings in the space.
“I often run a town walk, which takes people to show them how the buildings used to look and how they look now. People are surprised by how much there is to do in Eumundi. There are a couple of fabulous pubs, great live music, good food, a great bookshop and more and more smaller and unusual shops are setting up.”
If it’s good food you’re after, my tip is to head straight to The Imperial Hotel. This gorgeous pub has been watering and feeding the town since 1911 and the beautifully preserved Queenslander is well worth a visit. Hotel manager Paul Thomas assures me the food is certainly not your average pub grub. “It’s top-class food and we use local produce where we can,” he says, adding that the new summer menu is well worth inspecting.
Now home to the Eumundi Brewery, and filled with quirky corners and colourful artworks, it’s a lovely mix of old and very contemporary. It’s a special building, says Paul, with a great ambience.
Paul welcomes a mix of locals and tourists to the pub. And now that the Imperial is home to the Eumundi Brewery, there are also those keen to take a tour of the brewery and taste the four brews offered on tap. While the brewery supplies dozens of venues around the Coast with its canned lager, there’s nothing like sampling a Eumundi Lager in the town that is its home.
While the hotel boasts a long history, it’s also set for a long future. “It is growing and getting bigger and better,” Paul says, adding that his team now caters for weddings.
Okay, so you’ve got your bearings at Visit Eumundi and filled your belly at the Imperial, now it’s time to get to those markets.
Started in 1979 as an artisans and farmers market, the enterprise quickly grew from the three stalls that were set up on that first market day to close to 100 stalls just six years later. By 2000, when there were 350 stalls, they started operating on Wednesdays as well.
Jan Ammitzboll is the market operations manager at The Original Eumundi Markets. She’s now busy working towards the 40th anniversary celebrations of the markets and says it’s been a good opportunity to reflect on the changes that have taken place in that time. While some stallholders have been selling their wares for many years, Jan has seen many others outgrow the markets as their businesses grow. “Often the markets are used as an incubator.”
She tells me it’s the quality and mix of products that keep drawing the visitors every Saturday and Wednesday. “It is also such a beautiful location – with the beautiful trees. And the products are unique. There is also great music.” Jan says the markets are a great place for locals to bring their out-of-town visitors and have a wander. “There is something for everyone. From kids right through to older people.”
A Eumundi resident for the past six years, Jan agrees the town has grown a lot, as “loads of young families” and other new arrivals are drawn here for the affordable homes and community. “It is a great lifestyle. The town has a great reputation. It’s close to the highway and pretty handy to Mooloolaba and Nambour, and close to Noosa.
“Eumundi has a really nice vibe – really cool.” And it’s not just the markets they are visiting. “People come during the week and have a picnic in the park or on the terraces under the trees.
“With our 40th coming up next year we have lots of images before the trees grew. They were just these little sticks that are now these beautiful trees.”
Like the trees the markets will continue to grow, Jan says, with more improvements in the pipeline. “We have further beautification planned for next year.”
She adds, “We attract more visitors on the Coast than any other attraction. Considering we are here only two days a week, that is pretty good.”
I couldn’t agree more, Jan.