TRAVEL: Make your escape into the Bunyas
THE South Burnett is home to hilly country plains that flow for as far as the eye can see. Farming land, country towns and vineyards are scattered throughout the region, and are often the basis for a great weekend trip.
However, in stark contrast to the countryside most travellers witness, a unique wilderness abundant with wildlife and leafy forest also calls the region home and is, surprisingly, only a short drive from Kingaroy.
Rising more than 1000 metres up into the crisp clean sky of the South Burnett is the Bunya Mountains.
Situated 150km from the coast, and less than an hour's drive from the heart of Kingaroy, the Bunya Mountains is a must-see for any visitor to the region.
As I discovered, it doesn't take long for travellers like myself to be transported into another world on the journey from Kingaroy.
The grassy fields, prime agricultural land and country communities which normally line the roadside are quickly left behind as your car rises into the hills and is enveloped in thick forestry.
Although it seems like a secluded paradise, the Bunya Mountains is home to a vibrant community which thrives on tourism.
Pulling into Dandabah Village you find gated housing estates, coffee shops, a restaurant, camping facilities and private cabins for rent.
All of this is encased by a subtropical wilderness that is home to the world's largest stand of ancient bunya pines which peek through the rainforest canopy.
It's not just an amazing sight but an interactive world of adventure suited to any traveller's fitness levels.
Numerous walking trails disappear into the forest to give visitors a truly amazing experience.
Keen to explore, I, like dozens of other eager travellers on the day, threw on the joggers and entered one of the many trails on offer.
Signs pop up along the track providing information about the plants and animals that call the forest home as well as the diverse indigenous history.
My trail took me along a bubbling creek deep into the forest and down to the Festoon Falls.
It's only a short walk, but one which is an eye-opening experience.
While most trails wind in and out of the thick rainforest, some include great vantage points from which to enjoy amazing views of the South Burnett and southern plains.
When you leave the rainforest, coffee, merchandise and great food are on offer.
Metres from the walking trails sits Elz Bistro, a bustling restaurant offering great coffee and hot meals.
It's veranda-style setting gives you the choice of sitting in the fresh air overlooking the forest or nestling next to a crackling fire indoors.
The menu offers a bit of everything for the famished, but the Bunya Burger washed down with a Bunya ale is a great choice to satisfy the tastebuds.
Depending on the season, bunya nuts can be purchased or tasted too. If the rainforest journeys and great food aren't enough, there are also horse and carriage rides and even wild bird feeding at The Bunyas general store to enjoy.
Dandabah Village is only one stop-off for keen hikers. Plenty of other trails and parks are a short drive away.
It is important to bring warm clothes as the crisp air will bring home to you what a winter's day can really feel like.
Whether you are an avid hiker, looking for somewhere to holiday or somewhere to simply escape for the day, the Bunya Mountains certainly offers something for everyone.
The writer was a guest of Southern Queensland Country Tourism.
EAT: Elz Bistro in the Dandabah Village.
STAY: Deshons Retreat in Kingaroy, or camping facilities and cabins at Dandabah Village.
VISIT: Bunyas general store and walking trails near Dandabah Village.